Thursday, October 02, 2008

South Kyme Tower

click photo to enlarge
As you drive across the flat, Fenland landscape near South Kyme, Lincolnshire, and see the white stone of Kyme Tower in the distance it looks much higher than its seventy seven feet. But then, as you get nearer to the building, it seems to shrink, and looks smaller and somewhat forlorn, standing alone among the grass and trees.

The tower was built between 1338 and 1381 by Sir Gilbert de Umfraville, and was part of a more extensive structure, most of which was apparently removed in the eighteenth century. It was never quite a castle, more a moated, fortified house. There is a suggestion that one or more other towers might have formed part of the building, but the truth is that no one really knows. What remains has four storeys, prominent string courses, battlements, and a projecting, slightly taller, square stair-turret. Pointed windows with single mullions and simple tracery heads are placed regularly around the tower. The ground floor is vaulted but no floors or ceilings survive above this level. However, records show that the second storey had a patterned floor and was called the Chequer Chamber. Lincolnshire is not particularly rich in medieval fortifications, having relatively few standing castles, and amongst them Kyme Tower is a bit of an oddity because fortified houses are more typically found in Northern England, particularly the Border counties, where the threat of the marauding Scots was very real. What was the particular menace that caused such a structure to be built on the Fens I wonder?

An eighteenth century farmhouse looks across at the tower, and a few hundred yards away, out of the village in the fields, is the remaining fragment of a priory of Augustinian canons. This was founded before 1169. As with many monastic buildings it was pulled down during the Dissolution (1536-1541). The west end of the south aisle, part of the nave and the south porch were allowed to remain and serve as the parish church. Major restoration work in 1888 gave the building a neater form and it continues in use today as the church of St Mary and All Saints.

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 14mm (28mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/250
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -1.7 EV
Image Stabilisation: On