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Church Post Code  LN4 4LR

Open to visitors

Visited July 2021

We made two visits to the Collegiate church of Holy Trinity, Tattershall during the summers of 2020 and 2021. The first visit was made on a beautiful warm July afternoon; a month or so after the first national covid lockdown had ended. The church here was closed that day due to covid concerns and we returned roughly a year later, with the church open and a coffee morning taking place. This is a church that I wanted to revisit due to the medieval glass in the fine east window.

Tattershall is an East Lindsey village in Lincolnshire, which can be found on the A153, which connects Sleaford to Horncastle, the village roughly half way between the two. Horncastle is nine miles or so away to the north; Boston is 14 miles or so away to the south east and the east coast in the form of Skegness is a circuitous 30 miles or so away to the east. Peterborough is 46 miles away which made it a 51 mile journey from my home. Google Maps suggests that I could cycle this in a little over four hours and walk it in 18 hours. Both of these seems highly optimistic and are not liable to be put to the test.


Tattershall is joined to neighbouring Conningsby; well known for its RAF base; the two villages being separated by the River Bain. The church of the Holy Trinity can be found off to the east of the village, in quiet peaceful surroundings; having Tattershall Castle as its neighbour to the west, this 15th century red bricked castle now cared for by the National Trust.

The church here dates back to the 15th century and is built on the site of a former Norman church which was dedicated to St Peter & St Paul. The idea behind this grand replacement church, with college and almshouses, was Lord High Treasurer of the Realm Ralph 3rd Baron Cromwell. The college was in a separate building away from the church with a team of clergy paid to say Masses for the donor, the King and the donor’s family and friends; this to help lessen the time that they were to spend in purgatory in those pre reformation catholic days. There were seven priests, six secular clerks, six choristers and 13 poor old people in the nearby almshouses.

 Baron Cromwell was to die in 1455, some 15 years before building work was started on this new church, with the work completed by others, including notably William Waynflete, the Bishop of Winchester, whose coat of arms is over the north porch. The college was demolished in 1545, following the dissolution of the monasteries.


The church that we see today consists of west tower, nave with north and south aisles and clerestories, north porch, north and south transepts and chancel. Building work started on the church around 1470; with building work ongoing for around 30 years.

The church guide describes the church of Holy Trinity as being ‘ unparalleled gem of 15th century English architectural splendour…’. It is easy to see how the writer came to that conclusion.

The west tower is of four stages, with plain parapet across the top and crocketed pinnacles at each corner. To be fair, the tower is relatively undistinguished compared to the rest of the structure though, despite there being a fine west window! The church clock in the traditional colours of blue and gold is affixed to the north side. The rest of the exterior, with the exception of the north porch, is a wall of glass!  The aisles extend to the western end of the tower; having five four light windows, with the clerestory above consisting of eight three light windows. There are windows of the same style on the west and east walls of the very large north and south transepts, with two four light aisle window and four three light clerestory windows. The windows lower down on each transept have particularly intricate tracery.

The very long chancel continues the theme; with five three light windows running along the north and south walls and a huge east window of seven lights. It is thought that the site of the old cloisters for the college was to be found against the south wall of the chancel. There are several bricked up arches on the south wall and a ‘squint’ so that people outside could look in towards the high altar.

There is mention made that the bellframe here was ordered in 1482, at the time that the tower was being built. There are six bells in the ring here today, with the oldest dated bells being two cast by Tobias Morris III of the Stamford bellfoundry in 1691, with each inscribed ‘Tobias Norris Cast Mee 1691’, with these being the fifth and sixth of the ring. There is no information as to the founders of those original 15th century bells.


Entry was through the north porch and it was interesting to see the traced outlines of several pairs of shoes, of differing styles, on the stone benches running the length of the porch. These appear to be men’s boots but one shoe is much slender with a pointed winkle picker toe!

We entered as the church was being set up for the coffee morning; with the locals being a friendly and helpful bunch and it was good to spend a little time looking through the graffiti at the west end with a likeminded soul!

This is a nave of huge proportions, possibly being made more so due to the fact that there were no pews or chairs set out. There is seating in the chancel and it appears that this is where the services are held. There are four bay arcades to north and south, with the eastern most bays being taller and leading in to the transepts. A nave altar stands at the east end of the nave.


There is no immediate view in to the chancel from the nave as the nave and chancel is separated by a 16th century stone rood screen; the one here stretches the width of the chancel arch; taking the form of three large arches. The central arch is open, giving access in to the chancel, with the two arches flanking it each filled in, with each of these having an altar set up in front of it. The altar in front of the most northerly arch is dedicated to St Peter & St Paul; this being the dedication of the previous Norman church here. Over the top of the arches and running the full width of the screen is a series of blind arches. A stair case leads to the upper level where in pre reformation days there would have been a carving of the crucifixion’ these being seen as idolatrous and destroyed by the reformers.

 Looking to the east, the tower arch is very tall, slim and elegant. The water had boiled and the tea was ready along with a slice of cake; the exploring halted for a few minutes as we took refreshments and chatted to the locals.

Entering in to the chancel and looking at the superb east window, with its lower sections filled with medieval stained glass contained within 28 panels. It really brought home what this church would have looked like before the glass was destroyed during the reformation and again after the rescued fragments were removed during the 18th century. At one point the church would have been fully glazed with stained glass of the highest quality. What we see here today is the relatively small amount that has survived. This church is an impressive structure today; in its day it must have been truly staggering!


The story as to what happened to the rest is strange and bizarre. In 1737, the vicar of the day, Samuel Kirkshawe complained that the large amount of stained glass was making it very dark inside; hard to see what he was doing and could the stained glass be taken out and replaced with clear glass? Nothing happened until 1754 when the Earl of Exeter agreed to take away the stained glass and pay for clear glass to be installed. This caused uproar among the congregation and the glass was removed quickly, by Lord Fortesque who was the Lord of the Manor, the day before a promised demonstration against its removal.

Promised payment for the re-glazing fell through with Lord Fortesque’s steward defaulting on the deal, stating that the chancel belonged ‘entirely to My Lord’ and in plain English, Lord Fortesque could do what the heck he wanted as a result!

As a result it appears that only the nave was re-glazed; the chancel left open to the elements until some of the original stained glass found its way back to the chancel some 50 years later; by which time much of the woodwork in the chancel had been badly damaged by the elements.

Of the glass that was removed, some can be seen at Burghley House near to Stamford. More can be seen at the church of St Martin in Stamford itself, with yet more at Warwick Castle.


Of the glass that found its way back to the east window, we have two scenes from Matthew Chapter 25; the parable of the Bags of Gold along with a scene from the Sheep and the Goats, I was naked and you clothed me. This would doubtless have been a series, along with the panel depicting baptism, one of the seven sacraments of the catholic faith.

We see several angels, some playing harps, some with feathers and one standing on a wheel; making this an angel of the order of Thrones or Ophanim. Mary, crowned as the Queen of Heaven and enthroned holds the Baby Jesus. Close by the risen Christ emerges from the tomb. There are two depiction of St James with scallop shell on his hat and carrying a pilgrim’s staff. St Paul, with receding hairline, holds a sword point down.

Throughout there are fragments of heads, a single crown, a disembodied foot. An angel points upwards towards Heaven, with a chalice with the bread and wine below. A fascinating collection!

The chancel is set out for worship with plenty of seating and the hymn numbers on a board hanging from the sedilia. There is no ancient wood here, with the ancient wood having succumbed to the elements during the years that the chancel was glass less and open to the weather. The altar is plain and simple and the reredos is in the form of a red curtain. Against the south wall, in their traditional positions, is a finely carved ogee headed triple sedilia and a piscina.


There are no fewer than seven altars set up here; with one at the east end of the chancel, the nave altar, and two altars within the rood screen, one in the north transept and two in the south transept. The font here is very ancient, predating the current church and coming from the Norman church that the present church replaced.

There is some decent graffiti, with several having full names and initials. John Dixon carved his name in 1689 with D Brandforth doing similar in 1658. I found the latter of particular interest, coming in the period between the ending of the English Civil War and the start of the Bubonic Plague. It is always interesting to see an interesting date along with the name. There is another one here, with one name, sadly unreadable, along with a date of 1776, the year of the American Declaration of Independence.

This reminded me of a name at Temple Bruer, elsewhere in Lincolnshire, where Imogen signed her name in chalk during the pandemic year of 2020.

We can also see a cartoonlike carving of a man, and a depiction of a church, in which is the name W Sharp. A serpent slithers along below the church.

Also of interest is a small faded pentagram. Today, these have an association with the occult but at the time that this would have been carved it would have been a Christian symbol depicting the five wounds of Christ.


A couple of ledger slabs record the final resting place of William Wright, apothecary and surgeon who died in 1735 aged 44 years, alongside his wife Mary who died in 1719 aged 31 years. Both stones feature the deaths head; a depiction of a human skull with crossed bones below. The stone to Mary also has a Latin inscription which reads ‘Pietas non morte delenda’ which translates as ‘Piety is not destroyed by death’.

Helpfully marked is a very small floor slab to Tom Thumb, who lived in the village and was reputed to be 18 inches tall; passing away at the age of 101 in 1620.

Making my way back outside there was time for a quick look around the church grounds. Large parts of the church grounds are without stones and there has been substantial gravestone relocation here at some point, with many stones moved to the outer edges. To the south of the church, on the far side of the church wall, there is an additional area for burial. There is nothing of any great interest or rarity here; and nothing has its own listing. There is a very decent view of the castle though off to the North West.

It was good to be able to revisit this fine church and to find it open. This is an absolute must visit if you are anywhere in the area. There is lots to see and the church has a fascinating history; at both ends of the scale to be honest, with the vision of the planners who built something of great beauty and the destruction of the chancel during the mid 18th century.

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