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TATTERSHALL TOWER

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much-ruined outbuildings, only the stately tower keep remains. A truly magnificent specimen of medieval brick building, rectangular in shape and embattled on the top ; it is flanked on each angle by four octagonal smaller towers. These were formerly provided with high-pitched roofs, of which only one is now extant, though I find from an old engraving, after a drawing by T. Allom, in my possession, that there were three of these roofs existing in 1830. Round the top of the building runs a projecting gallery supported by very bold and massive stone machicolations; these give a special character to the structure, and enhance its effective picturesqueness.

For a castle keep the open Gothic windows seem strangely inconsistent. From this fact one can hardly imagine that it was intended for serious defence, yet, on the other hand, there are plain traces of the double moats that once surrounded the place, and were presumably supplied by water from the river Bain, which suggest a considerable amount of precaution against attack. It may be that the moats formed part of a former stronghold, and were simply retained because they were there. The castle is built of small and very hard brick, said by tradition to have been imported from Flanders. Externally the structure, except for its time-toned look, sundry weather scars, and loss of its three turret-tops, is much the same as when the ancient builders left it ; within it is a mere shell, floorless and roofless. In the walls are some fine and well-preserved carved stone mantelpieces, some of which are adorned with

heraldic devices, and a representation of a full purse, symbolic, we imagined, of the post of Lord-Treasurer held by the owner. Over one fireplace we noticed an inscription in Norman-French, Nay le Droit, which, rightly or wrongly, we translated into “ Have I not the right?"

We ascended to the top of the keep, and beyond to the top of one of the flanking turrets, by a spiral staircase of innumerable steps that is happily complete and is contained within one of the angle towers. This staircase is provided with a handrail ingeniously recessed in the side wall. A Lincolnshire antiquary we afterwards met assured me that this is the earliest handrail to a staircase known. I merely repeat what I have been told on apparently good authority, but I must confess I should have imagined that this convenience was of more ancient origin; however, in this matter my antiquarian knowledge does not carry me far enough. From the topmost tower we had a truly magnificent panorama presented to us; we looked down upon a wide green world, enlivened by the gray gleam of winding water-ways, and encircled by a horizon darkly, intensely blue. Our visions ranged over vast leagues of flat Fenland and wild wold. On one hand we could just trace the distance-dwarfed outlines of Lincoln's lordly minster, on the other the faint form of Boston's famous "stump."

Before leaving Tattershall we made a sketch of the glorious old tower that uprises so grandly from the level land around, which sketch is engraved with this chapter, and will give a better idea of the

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IN FENLAND AGAIN

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stately pile than pages of printed description possibly could. It is a truly splendid specimen of medieval brick-work, and until I saw it I considered Layer Marney tower in Essex the finest example of brick building of the kind in England, Hurstmonceaux Castle in Sussex coming next; but now I have no hesitation whatever in giving the first place to Tattershall tower.

After finishing our sketch we once more resumed our pleasant pilgrimage, and soon found ourselves traversing a wide and wild Fenland district, over which the west wind blew fresh and strong. In a mile or so we crossed the river Witham, here running painfully straight between its embanked sides, more like a mighty dyke or canal than anything else, as though it were not to be trusted to flow as it would ; but this is, more or less, the nature of nearly all the Fenland streams. Then we had a long stretch of level road, good for cycling, which faithfully followed for miles the side of a great “drain” (unhappy term), the road not being more than four feet above the water. So we came to Billinghay, a sleepy, remote, medieval-looking town, or large village, set well away from the busy world in the heart of the Fens; it gave us a feeling that it might be a hundred miles withdrawn from modern civilisation. A more dreamy-dreary, if you will spot it would be hard to find in crowded England, and for this reason, though hardly to be termed picturesque, it fascinated us. It had such a quaint, old-world air, suggestive of untold rest—a peacefulness that is hardly of to-day.

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