Kettlethorpe, Lincolnshire

Click here to edit subtitle

Katherine Swynford

Most visitors to Kettlethorpe are interested mainly in its associations with Katherine Swynford, the third wife of John of Gaunt, through whose children the royal houses of Tudor, Stuart and Hanover traced their descent from the Plantagenet Kings of England. This interest was stimulated by the publication in 1954 of Anya Seton's very popular novel about her called "Katherine". 

The manor of Kettlethorpe was conveyed to Sir Thomas Swynford in 1356 and on his death, five years later his son Sir Hugh succeeded to the estate. Katherine, who became the wife of Sir Hugh, was the daughter of Sir Payne Roelt, a knight in the retinue of Edward III's queen, Philippa of Hainault who is chiefly remembered today by her plea on behalf of the "Burghers of Calais". It is believed that the wife of Geoffrey Chaucer was a sister of Katherine Swynford and in that case it is quite possible that the poet visited Kettlethorpe at some time. 

Sir Hugh Swynford died in 1371 and his widow became the mistress of John of Gaunt who was then no more than 30 years of age. Little is known about her activities and it is uncertain how many years she spent at Kettlethorpe. Part of her life was probably spent in Anjou; for some, or all of her children of John of Gaunt by his mistress Katherine are believed to have been born at Beaufort. Some of her time, however, must have been spent in London and some in Lincolnshire, either at Bolingbroke, Lincoln or Kettlethorpe. 

There are documents which show that whether she was living at Kettlethorpe or not she was engaged in improving the property by the purchase of land and in 1383 Richard II gave her a licence to enclose and mark a park of 300 acres of land and woods at Kettlethorpe. 

Eventually, after some twenty years as his mistress, she married John of Gaunt, who had reached the age of 55, at Lincoln on the 13th January 1396. He only lived another three years, however, dying a few months before his son, Henry Bolingbroke, succeeded to the throne. Katherine survived him for only four years during which the king -her step son - conferred a grant of 1,000 marks a year which his father had made to her out of the revenues of the Duchy of Lancaster and on 9th November 1399 he made her a further grant of four tuns of wine a year from the prises of the Kings wines at Kingston upon Hull. 

On the 10th May 1403 Katherine died after having been Lady of Kettlethorpe for just over thirty years. She was buried in the Cathedral at Lincoln on the south side of the Angel Choir, her son Henry Beaufort being at the time Bishop of Lincoln. Her epitaph read as follows: Ici gist Dame Katherine, duchesse de Lancastre, jadys feme de le tres noble et tres gracious prince John duc de Lancastre, fitz a tres noble Roy Edward le tierce. Laquelle Katherine morust le x jour de May l'an de grace mil cccc tiers. De quelle alme Dieu yet et pitee. Amen. 
The tomb has been much damaged. 

The connection of the Swynford family with Kettlethorpe lasted for another 95 years and no more, for her great-great grandson Thomas Swynford died unmarried in 1498. 

Only the 14th century gateway (pictured left) and portions of the moat remain to show us that the manor house of the Swynford family occupied the site of the present house, although the southern front of Kettlethorpe Hall contains some stonework that may have come from the earlier house. If any memorials of the family existed in the church they must have disappeared when it was altered and reconstructed in 1809. 

Visitors, however, may be interested to see that amongst the names of the Rectors listed in the Church are those of Robert de Northwood who was presented with the living by Hugh Swynford; John Huntman who was presented "by the lady Katherine Swynford, Lady of Kettlethorpe" on 4th December 1395 - some six months before her marriage to John of Gaunt; and William Wylingham who was presented on the 16th July 1399 just after she became a widow. 

The material of the Gate House is almost certainly of the 14th Century but experts state that the structural details show it has been re-erected "the lower parts fairly accurately, but the upper parts with some freedom". 

It is thought that this re-erection probably took place in the early 18th Century after the re-building of the garden wall in which it stands. Charles Hall who succeeded to the estate on the death of his mother in 1713 and represented the City of Lincoln in Parliament from 1727 until 1734 probably undertook this, together with the building of the present house. His initials "C.H." and his crest "a talbots head erased" are to be seen on the western gatepost of the Gatehouse. His initials are also to be seen on the north wall of the cottage adjoining the Hall with the date 1722, so it seems probable that it was he that built the house and re-erected the 14th Century Gateway. 

In the Chancel of the Church there is an interesting memorial tablet to him bearing the following inscription: 
Charles Hall Esquire only son of Thomas Hall of Kettlethorpe Esquire, by Amy, eldest daughter of co-heiress of Henry Mildmay of Graces in the County of Essex and relict of Vincent Amcotts of Harrington Esquire. He died 21st August 1743 aged 53 years. A flattering epitaph follows. 

On his death the property passed into the hands of the Amcotts family whose Arms are to be seen on the great carved stone escutcheon on the front of the present house, which was reconstructed during the 19th Century out of a larger mansion. 

Drawings of this and the former church, which were made by Claude Nattes in 1793, are to be found in the Banks Collection from Revesby Abbey now in the City Library at Lincoln. 

These notes are for the most part prepared from the monograph written in 1911 by the late R.E.G.Cole, Prebendary of Lincoln, and published in Volume 36 of the Transactions of the Lincolnshire Archaeological Society.