March 5, 2024

Sudeley Castle & Tattershall Castle

Sudeley Castle

Sudeley Castle stands in beautiful gardens to the south east of Winchcombe. A castle here was besieged during the Anarchy but the present structure is an amalgam of a late medieval castle and an Elizabethan mansion. Ralph Boteler, commander of the English fleet in Henry VI’s reign, built it reputedly with the ransom of a captured French admiral. In 1458, Boteler received a pardon for crenellating Sudeley without a license, but he did not find favor with the ne Yorkist regime. He was compelled to sell the castle to Edward IV, who granted it to his brother Richard, Duke of Gloucestoer, later Richard III.

Katherine Parr, Henry VIII’s widow, lived here as the wife of Thomas Seymour. She is buried in Boteler’s chapel, which stands just outside the castle. In the 1570s, Lord Chandos rebuilt the outer courtyard as an up to date mansion, and the inner courtyard was slighted following the surrender of the castle to the Roundheads in 1644.

The castle’s two quadrangles were not quite in alignment with each other. Ralph Boreler’s outer quadrangle was probably a “base court’ with lodgings for retainers, but the existing ranges around it date from the Elizabethan reconstruction. Only the gate passage is original.

His inner courtyard has fared better, though not much better because of slighting. The western corner towers, both square, survive along with the much restored curtain between them. The slender Portmare Tower is named after the French admiral. Dungeon Tower is considerably larger, its name suggesting that it served as a donjon or tower house.

The only other remnant is part of the east wall, which clearly belonged to a very fine building, often assumed to be the hall but more probably a suite of state apartments. Because this work is superior to the rest, it is believed to date from Richard of Gloucester’s tenure.

Tattershall Castle

Tattershall Castle posses one of the most splendid of later medieval tower houses. It has justly been described as the finest piece of medieval brickwork in England. Ralph, Lord Cromwell, erected this tower in the years 1434046. Rising over a hundred feet to the top of its corner turrets, with a view stretching from Lincoln Cathedral to Boston Stump, it dominates the surrounding fenland, all the more so because the rest of the castle has perished.

There had, in fact, been a castle here since 1231m when Robert de Tattershall obtained a license to crenellate. Weir moats enclose an inner bailey and a concentric platform, which is divided into two outer baileys. Unfortunately, the thirteenth century curtain has been totally destroyed though excavations have left on view the stone bases of two rounded flanking towers.

The corner turrets rise well above parapet level and are finished off with decorative brickwork emulating machicolations. Between the turrets on all four sides is a covered fighting gallery projecting outwards on genuine machicolations. The gallery has embrasures in its outer wall and there is an embattled parapet above. This elaborate crown gives Tattershall its unique dignity, but the present isolation of the tower is misleading. Originally, it was connected to the main residential buildings of the castle and that is why the angle turrets do not project at all on the bailey side. The tower basically formed a suite of apartments for Lord Cromwell’s personal use so it was not a self-contained keep in the old sense.

There are five stories in the tower, including the vaulted basement, each level comprising one grand apartment with extra accommodation provided in the angle turrets. The first floor contained a hall. The second floor is conjectured to have been Lord Cromwell’s audience chamber. Above that was the solar.