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South Kyme Tower

In the civil parish of South Kyme.
In the historic county of Lincolnshire.
Modern Authority of Lincolnshire.
1974 county of Lincolnshire.
Medieval County of Lincolnshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: TF16854961
Latitude 53.03114° Longitude -0.25889°

South Kyme Tower has been described as a probable Masonry Castle, and also as a certain Fortified Manor House, and also as a certain Tower House.

There are major building remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.
This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law*.

Description

a moated enclosure roughly triangular in form. The enclosure is bounded by a linear depression approximately 10m in width; the northern arm runs along the south side of the lane, meeting the eastern arm at right angles; this latter runs along the eastern side of the present Manor garden. The third arm curves from the western side of the monument south eastwards to run as a depression past the northern edge of the present stable block. These features represent the remains of a medieval moat surrounding the manor house. The eastern arm of the moat has been recut in post-medieval times to run into the present course of the River Slea. Near the centre of the moated enclosure stand the remains of a fortified manor house constructed by the Umfravilles in the mid-14th century. The remains include a stone tower approximately 23.5m in height with four storeys and a battlement. At ground floor level is a chamber with a vaulted stone ceiling and an inwardly splayed window in each of the east, west and north walls. This chamber is approached through a doorway in the south wall, which also provides access to a stair-turret occupying the south eastern corner of the tower. The stair-turret rises through all four storeys, lit by narrow slit windows and terminating at roof level in an elaborately carved stone boss. On the first floor is a single chamber with a simple traceried window in each wall, and a doorway in the south wall which formerly led into the first floor of an adjoining building. This chamber is now unroofed, and the positions of the two upper floors are marked by beam holes and by further traceried windows placed above those of the first floor. The position of the tower's roof is marked by a shallow gable within and at a lower level than the battlements, which rise around the stair-turret. On the external face of the south wall of the tower, at ground and first floor level, are a series of beam holes indicating the position of an adjacent two-storeyed structure believed to have been of timber construction. Cuts in the stonework of the east and west walls indicate the position of further adjacent structures, and there are low earthworks of buildings to the south and east of the tower. The tower is thus considered to have formed part of a complex of buildings, originally a dwelling incorporating a timber hall to the south and later including additions to the east and west. These remains, representing the mid-14th century manor house of the Umfravilles, are believed to overlie those of an earlier manor house occupied by the Kymes, who refounded the adjacent priory 200 years earlier.
To the south of the moated enclosure is an area of low-lying pasture on the north bank of the river. Traces of channels are visible as earthworks running parallel with the southern arm of the moat and southwards from it into the river. These channels represent a series of water-control features designed to divert the main course of the river away from the moated site, and are probably late medieval or early post-medieval in date.
To the east of the moated enclosure is a further area of pasture; in the northern part of the field is a series of low earthworks representing the remains of a formal garden, including a raised L-shaped terrace. This garden is believed to have been laid out in the early 18th century, when the medieval manor house was abandoned and the present Manor constructed. In the southern part of the field are a pair of large interconnected ponds aligned east-west and linked to the moated site by a series of earthwork channels. These two ponds are considered to lie on an earlier course of the river; they were originally constructed in medieval times and later altered to become a feature in the post-medieval garden. In the southernmost part of the field is a regularly laid out area of low-lying land with water-control ditches running across it from north to south. They may have been seasonally filled pond bays deliberately created when the course of the river was moved southwards. (Scheduling Report)

Fortified tower. Mid C14 with additions, removed c.1725. Built for Sir Gilbert de Umfraville. Coursed limestone ashlar. 4-storey, square tower 77 ft high, with square projecting stair tower at the south-east corner which rises slightly higher than the main tower. Deeply chamfered plinth and 2 chamfered upper floor bands, topped with chamfered battlements. The south, entrance front, bears scars on the ground and first floors of the later attached house which has since been removed. The ground floor entrance doorway has a chamfered triangular headed, flush ashlar surround. Immediately above it is a similar doorway into the first floor level. To the left and at a higher level is a 2-light, reticulated tracery window in a chamfered, pointed surround. Above, centrally placed on the second and third floors are single similar windows with hoodmoulds. The west, north and east fronts are identical, though the west front bears scars of later additions since removed. Each front has on the ground floor a single light flat headed lancet, and on each of the 3 upper floors a centrally placed 2-light reticulated tracery window in a pointed chamfered surround with hoodmoulds. The stair tower has a slightly projecting chamfered face where it joins the tower's east face, which has 5 single-light flat headed lancets, and on the south and east faces it has 3 single-light flat headed lancets. Interior: the ground floor room has an octagonal ribbed vault with a large central boss bearing the arms of Sir Gilbert de Umfraville. The floor of the first floor room is reputedly patterned, hence its name 'the Chequered Chamber' thought this is not at present visible. No floors, ceilings or roofs survive higher up, though evidence for them does survive. The circular stone spiral staircase survives intact, with at the top a central newel post which rises as a colonnette to support the panelled vault above. The lower contains no fireplaces or guard robes, and it was presumably intended purely for defence, it stands within a large moated site. The attached house was demolished between 1720 and 1725, when chimney-pieces were bought by Mr Chaplin for Blankney Hall. This tower is the earliest of a series of fortified towers built in this part of Lincolnshire, it is the only one built of stone, the later ones like Tattershall Castle, The Tower on the Moor at Woodhall Spa, the Hussey Tower at Boston and Rochford Tower at Skirbeck are all built of brick. (Listed Building Report)

The site may also have been the location of the pre-Conquest manor of Earl Morcar, close to the possible site of the suggested early monastic foundation. By the time of the Domesday Book the estate was in the hands of the King, and subsequently it passed to the Kyme family, and they held it as a demesne manor until it was acquired by the Umfraville family. Consequently the moat may be earlier than the fourteenth century manor house. (Healey and Roffe)
Comments

It is has been suggested the tower is one (surviving or intended) of four corner towers of a courtyard castle, although more generally it is considered to have been a solar tower attached to a, now lost, timber hall. The relationship between this slender solar stone tower and the slender solar brick towers of Lincolnshire is not clear and is possible coincidental. This tower will be taking its influence from other stone towers of the C14 elsewhere in the country. Kyme was certainly not an influence on Cromwell's work at Tattershall Castle and the later brick towers clearly draw their influence directly from Tattershall.
Kyme does show a feature notably in some other castle ruins of having intact window mullions on the upper floor but broken mullions on lower levels. This may represent demolition practices designed to recover the large structural timbers of the roof and floors. Roof timber can be removed over the side of the building giving no reason to damage the upper storey windows but ceiling/floor timbers are most easily removed through the windows if the mullions are removed (c.f. Sherriff Hutton where Shaun Richardson and Ed Dennison did considerably work on the processes of demolition at that castle).
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Sources of information, references and further reading
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*The listed building may not be the actual medieval building, but a building on the site of, or incorporating fragments of, the described site.
This record last updated before 1 February 2016

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