Holy Trinity Church at Tattershall

During my exploration of Lincolnshire I visited Holy Trinity church at Tattershall.


Having received a charter from Henry VI to demolish the old Norman church of St Peter and St Paul, Ralph, 3rd Baron Cromwell, began his new church in  1439.   It was not until 1500 that it was completed and the intervening years saw the power struggle between the Yorkist and Lancastrian kings that is known as the Wars of the Roses.

In August 1453 a wedding took place in the church between Maud, the niece and co-heiress of Lord Cromwell, and Sir Thomas Neville.  There is an interesting short essay displayed in the church that explains some of the significance of this marriage. Rather than repeat it all, I’ve added my photo of it below.  Click to enlarge:


If you don’t want to read it all, or can’t make the text large enough it basically explains that this marriage led to bad feeling between the Nevilles and the Percys of Northumberland to the extent that there was a pitched battle at Heworth Moor in Yorkshire as Thomas Neville took his new bride home.  The troubles, as was common in the middle ages, centred around land and in particular the manors of Wressle and Burwell which had once belonged to the Percys, but had been given to Lord Cromwell by Henry VI.  It then goes on to explain a little about the roles of these families in the Wars of the Roses.

Another interesting feature of the church is the tiny grave of ‘Tom Thumb’ a local resident who died in 1620.  It is lovingly marked with flowers and a short poem in his honour.


The church also has a small tea room at the back of the nave, where drinks and home made cakes are served and is worth a visit for that alone.


Ralph, 3rd Baron Cromwell, also demolished his ancestors nearby stone castle to make way for a new brick built one which was also constructed during the 1440s.  The whole area must have been one vast building site during those years.  But as Lord Treasurer to Henry VI he certainly had the resources to show off his wealth and status.


I didn’t have time to go inside the castle on this visit so I’m hoping to go again sometime when I have more time and I’m able to climb all those steps!  Meanwhile there’s a short history of the building here:  http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-vh/w-visits/w-findaplace/w-tattershallcastle/w-tattershallcastle-brief_history.htm




Barlings Abbey

The remains of Barlings Abbey lie at Low Barlings about seven miles from Lincoln.  The abbey was built around 1154 by monks (known as canons) of the Premonstratensian order, on land given to them by Ralf de Haya.  It’s thought that they first settled on higher ground at Barlings Grange, but then moved to this site known as Oxeney – the island where the oxen graze.

The canons built a causeway of about half a mile to cross the fen and link the abbey  to higher ground and it still forms the foundation of the narrow lane which twists through the fields to the site of the remains.

The land is privately owned but access is allowed. Follow the footpath through the gate and you will see the remains of one side of the nave rising to the skyline. All around you will see grass covered mounds where other stonework peeps out from under the grass, giving clues to the once magnificent abbey church that stood here.

Not far from here Alice de Lacy is buried alongside her second husband Eble le Strange. Alice’s links with the abbey go back to its foundation.  She is a descendant of Ralph de Haya through her mother Margaret.  Both Alice and her mother are also descended from Nicola de la Haye, famously known as a constable of Lincoln Castle who defended it against a siege in the reign of King John.  Nicola is buried at the church of St Michael at Swaton and when Alice’s lands were forcibly taken from her after the execution of her first husband Thomas, earl of Lancaster, she pleaded to be allowed to endow the manor and church of Swaton to Barlings Abbey for prayers for her soul and the souls of her parents and ancestors.

When her second husband, Eble le Strange, died in Scotland in 1335, his body was brought home and buried at Barlings Abbey.  On her death in 1348, Alice asked to be buried beside him.  (Although she had taken a vow of chastity after his death she was later abducted and forced into a third marriage, but she wished to spend eternity beside Eble.)

Here is a detail of some of the carving on the remains:

Agriculture, and particularly wool production, made Barlings Abbey one of the richest and most influential of the Premonstratensian houses in England.

The canons wore a white habit and cap and were known as the white canons.   Unlike ordinary monks, they did not always stay within the cloisters of the abbey, but served as village priests and missionaries in the local community.   Edward III, lodged at Barlings on at least three occasions and his chaplain was a canon of Barlings and later its abbot.

The last abbot was Michael Mackarel.  At Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries he was charged with treason after being accused of involvement with the Lincolnshire Rising.  He was imprisoned in Lincoln Castle and later taken to the Tower of London where he was hanged in March 1537.

You can read more about Barlings Abbey here: http://www.lincsheritage.org/community_heritage/guides_information/witham_abbeys/site.php?key=barlings_abbey

The house at Low Barlings, complete with holiday cottages, stable block, 7.7 acres of land and the site of the abbey is currently for sale. So if you have some spare cash and you’d like to own this historic site, it can be yours for £650,000. If I had that sort of money I might just be tempted.  http://www.primelocation.com/uk-property-for-sale/details/id/rbln6964301/  One of the photographs on the site is taken from the air and gives a different perspective of the abbey ruins.

May is here and the may is out

The hawthorn tree at the bottom of my garden has burst into blossom just in time for May Day:

On a Hawthorn Tree
“Oh! come to see me, when the soft warm May
Bids all my boughs their gay embroidery wear,
In my bright season’s transitory day,
While my young perfume loads the enamoured air.”

George W.F. Howard (Earl of Carlisle 1802-1864)

Below I’ve posted an article I wrote for The Lady magazine some years ago. Just to update it, I have seen redwings most winters in the tree – and the hawthorn continues to bring me good fortune and success.



Elizabeth Ashworth

“Cast not a clout ‘til May is out” goes the old saying, though it is not the month of May, but rather the May Tree or Hawthorn to which it refers.
When I moved into the house where I live now it was December and I was unsure what the trees at the bottom of my garden were. But with the coming of Spring they blossomed into a frothy white mass and there was no mistaking the intense scent of the crataegus monogyna or common hawthorn.
The hawthorn is one of our most successful native trees. It colonises abandoned grassland and is known by many names including quickthorn, whitethorn as well as may. The tree is quick growing and long lived. It can grow to 30 feet high, but it is commonly used for hedging, its sharp thorns making it thick and impenetrable.
The white blossom which flowers in May and June marks the end of any cold weather and so it is safe to ‘cast a clout’, or put away your warm winter underwear, when it appears. The smell of the blossom is almost overpowering. Some say it smells of musk and has sexual connotations. Others think it has a slight scent of decomposition. Rural villagers in the middle ages thought that it held the smell of the Great Plague of London. The reason for its strong scent is probably that the flowers are fertilised mainly by carrion insects, who would normally lay their eggs in rotting flesh and the tree has acquired a whiff of that smell to attract them.
The leaves, flowers and berries, which are bright red and can be seen from September, can all be used as a medicinal herb. Hawthorn is used to treat heart problems and it has been medically proved that the berries do reduce high blood pressure.
When burned its wood gives the hottest of fires, but it is the mythology and legend which surrounds this tree that make it most interesting.
Because it flowers in the Spring it is associated with fertility. Hawthorn was traditionally gathered on May Day. When you read about medieval knights and ladies riding out “a-maying” on the first morning of May, the practice refers to the custom of gathering flowering boughs of hawthorn to decorate the halls and May Poles.
The seventeenth-century English poet Robert Herrick wrote:
“There’s not a budding boy or girl this day,
But is got up and gone to bring in May;”

Another old rhyme says:
“The fair maid who, the first of May,
Goes to the fields at break of day
And washes in dew from the hawthorn tree,
Will ever after handsome be.”

It was also an important part of the decoration for Spring weddings. Yet if you place it leaves under a pillow or scatter them around a bedroom it will enforce or maintain chastity and celibacy.
Hawthorn is associated with both good and bad luck. A branch of hawthorn over your door will ward off evil spirits. Hawthorn will also protect you from lightning and protect your house from damage by storms. But do not bring the flowers into the house or someone who lives there will die. But if it is worn, or carried, it will promote happiness in the troubled, sad or depressed. Fishermen should also carry some hawthorn to ensure a good catch.
It is commonly believed that Christ’s ‘crown of thorns’ was made from hawthorn. In the Middle Ages, Sir John Mandeville wrote:
“Then was our Lord ylad into a Gardyn…and there the Jews scorned him, and
maden him a Crowne of the Braunches of Albespyne, that is White Thorn,”
There is also a legend that hawthorn was brought to this country by Joseph of Arimathea. Weary from his travels he rested his staff in the ground, where it took root and blossomed as the ‘Glastonbury Thorn’. A church was built on the site and this hawthorn is reputed to have blossomed at Christmas time to celebrate Jesus’ birth. It is told that cuttings from the tree were distributed all over Britain and still flower at Christmas, although the present hawthorn trees at Glastonbury Abbey are thought to be from a cutting of the original, which was hacked down on the orders of Oliver Cromwell during the English Civil War.
At one time hawthorns were thought to be witches who had transformed themselves into trees. It was believed that witches danced and performed rites under the hawthorn and that they used the branches to make their broomsticks.
It is also associated with fairies, especially in Ireland. The hawthorn is sacred to fairies and is part of the fairy tree triad of oak, ash and thorn. Where all three trees grow together it is said that you may see fairies. But bad luck will follow if you dare to disturb a ‘fairy thorn’. In 1982, workers in the De Lorean car plant in Northern Ireland claimed that the business had so many problems because a ‘fairy thorn’ bush had been disturbed during the construction of the plant. Apparently this claim was taken so seriously that a new bush was planted, with all due ceremony.
I believe that my tree has brought good luck. It has certainly brought me a lot of pleasure. A pair of magpies nest safely amongst the thorns and many other small birds use it for cover, to eat from a birdfeeder hanging from one of its lower branches. In the autumn, the red berries attract blackbirds and also provide food for visiting redwings and fieldfares, though I have never been lucky enough to see any. Neither have I seen any fairies. But I enjoy watching it change with the seasons and I have been happy and successful since I came here.