Lincolnshire's landscape is full of the surprising and the unexpected - our rich heritage has fragments from lost times throughout the county - from the mounds of a prehistoric burial ground to the stump of a medieval cross or a great crag of ruin standing silently in a field.
I remember travelling round the county when I first came to Lincolnshire, and every now and again just stopping to wonder, 'What on earth is that?' The first time I drove through South Kyme was just such a moment....
Great battlemented stone tower
At South Kyme, just a couple of hundred yards from the church, stands a great battlemented stone tower. It's 77 feet high with four storeys and is extremely well built from Lincolnshire limestone. A spiral staircase reaches from the ground floor up to the battlements - at first sight it looks a bit like a church tower that's lost its church, but it is in fact the last remaining fragment of a great manor house.
South Kyme Tower and its adjoining manor house were built in the 1350s by the then lord of the manor, Gilbert de Umfraville. He was a rich and important man having been appointed the Keeper of the King's Peace in Lindsey, so he wanted a house that was appropriate to his status.
Not designed for defence
Kyme Tower would have been the tallest and grandest part of Gilbert's House with several other buildings attached to it and standing nearby - the south side of the tower shows the beam-holes at first and second floor level which joined it to another building. We do not know the shape or scale of this great house, but we do know that it was surounded by a watery moat. Some reports say it wa a great castle with four towers of which only one still stands, but this is not true - this house was a great status symbol designed to impress but not designed for defence.
Gilbert's house stood for nearly four hundred years as a home for the de Umfravilles, then for the Tallboy family and finally for the Dymokes who left it and demolished all but the tower in around 1725.
In modern times
During the Second World War, Kyme Tower served as a lookout post for the home guard under the command of Colonel Chambers and on the 19th July 1946 it received national attention in the Daily Express with the report that a bullock had climbed all 108 steps of the narrow spiral staircase and had reached the top - however it could not work out how to get back down again - and in the end two local men (James Hunt and Percy Coy) managed to coax it down backwards.
Kyme Tower is on private land and is normally not accessible, although good views (and photographs) of it can be obtained from the adjacent churchyard of St Mary and All Saints. This church is actually a fragment of the Augustinian Priory which was founded here in 1169 by Philip de Kyme. Although altered many times through the centuries, some parts of the present building date from the 14th century priory church which survived the Dissolution to become South Kyme's parish church.
Director, Heritage Lincolnshire