Tattershall Church, Lincolnshire

It is unclear when the first church was built at Tattershall, the oldest surviving remains today date from 1411 but these are the base of a font and a brass plaque which could have been moved from elsewhere. A rebuild was undertaken after Henry VI granted the church Collegiate status in 1439 and seems to have been contiguous with the construction of Ralph Cromwell’s magnificent brick Tattershall Castle which stands immediately next to the church. He was Chancellor to the King and thus a very rich man and he endowed Tattershall Church with two estates, the revenue from which continued to fund construction allowing the massive Cathedral-like structure to be completed by 1500.

The interiors were once adorned with the greatest stained glass in the county, but only the Great East Window survived a purge in 1754 – the reason for this destruction? Not Puritanism or vandalism, but simply because the vicar, Samuel Kirkshawe, had asked in 1735 “can this dark stuff not be removed and replaced with clear?”.

The medieval glass was sold to the Earl of Exeter who agreed to pay £50 to have clear windows installed. However, his bank draft failed and no one was prepared to cough up the money. So the chancel was left open and the “weather and wildfowl” took their toll of the interior woodworking which rotted away to nothing. Eventually the glass in the north, west and east walls was replaced – with clear glass – and the windows in the north and south transept were finally bricked up in 1900. Much of the glass removed – one might say stolen – by the Earl of Exeter can be found in St. Martin’s Church, Stamford, some also is in Burghley House and some found its way across to Warwick Castle.

Near the font is a plaque marking the grave of Tattershall’s most famous resident, Tom Thumb who was just 47 cm tall and died in 1620. A tiny house, purporting to be his, sits atop the roof of a normal sized house in the village.

Photo - Andrew J. Müller

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