Torksey Castle is sandwiched between the River Trent and the A156, the road between Lincoln and Gainsborough. In fact, the road at Torksey Lock is just about the only place from which you can see this ancient monument as the surrounding land is in private hands, and access is strictly limited.
It was built in the middle of the sixteenth century, by the wealthy Jermyn family of Suffolk, some say as a gift to an elder son, or maybe as a convenient resting place on the road to York. Whatever the reason for its building, it was to be a home for less than one hundred years before it was almost totally destroyed. The West front and part of the kitchen range is all that remains of this once impressive country house; yes, house, for it never was a Castle, nor could it have coped particularly well with any sort of attack. Maybe it was so named because of the angular projecting towers still evident today, or the crow stepped gables capping it off, giving it that crenellated 'castley' look.
Construction of the Hall
What we can say is that Torksey Hall (as it was originally known) was a home of two halves. That is, the lower storey was made out of thin limestone blocks, while upstairs, where the gentry lived, was constructed from the lavish new building material, brick. Remember of course that at this time, bricks were handmade from a wooden mould, and fired in kilns often built on site. All that labour involved must have cost a pretty penny, even in the mid fifteen hundreds!
The Hall was constructed along the line of an earlier flood bank, close to the river but not as close as it appears today. In modern times, this area is prone to flooding every winter, the present one included. If you were able to visit the site and see just how near the water was, you would be forgiven for questioning the sanity of the builder.
Why was the Hall built so close to the river?
Well, the river used to be very busy at Torksey, as it linked the then thriving port of Boston with the Midlands, and ancient laws allowed the Lords of Torksey to collect tolls from passing ships and passengers using the nearby ferry.
So the decision to locate there could have been a commercial one; but it was also an important strategic position from a military point of view, and this was; in the end, to be Torksey Hall's downfall.
Of Roundheads and Parliamentarians
The English Civil War had broken out in 1642, setting brother against brother and scarring the landscape. By the summer of 1645, the Hall at Torksey built by the Royalist Jermyn family, had fallen into Parliaments hands. Newark, some sixteen miles south, still held for the King and it was from there that a unit of some two hundred soldiers surprised the garrison at Torksey. The men stationed there were, as legend has it, taking the opportunity to drink heavily on account of their Captain being away in Lincoln on business. According to reports issued at the time, 140 prisoners were taken and the house was put to the torch.
It was never rebuilt. Thomas, the head of the Jermyn family, died before the monarchy was restored. The estate surrounding the slighted house was passed from pillar to post for the next three hundred years and the house itself was used, like so many before it, as a readily available source of building material for local residents.
The Hall quickly deteriorated into a ruin. A flood bank was built in the mid eighteen hundreds, leaving the Hall on the wrong side to be protected. The bank was raised further, by the River Trent Board in 1961, covering for evermore the square floor plan and the possibility of finding definitive proof of the main entrance.
A forlorn monument
Today, Torksey Castle stands alone in a damp field, a forlorn monument to a bygone age. The building fabric was stabilised by English Heritage in the early nineties, but it is only a matter of time before this once proud family home is lost to us forever.