Notes: The castle is well sign posted. Visitors should check opening times before visiting as it has very limited opening hours restricted to Summer months. The exterior can be viewed (across moat) at anytime.
WHAT IS THERE TO SEE?
The partially finished remains of a fourteenth century manor house that was in the process of being fortified, albeit for style rather than substance, when work came to a halt. Built largely of locally produced brick, the castle has a distinctive appearance.
1. Historians are fortunate that extensive records survive relating to the building of Kirby Muxloe Castle; a fairly unusual case for non-Royal castles. Amongst other things we know that the stonework was overseen by John Cowper, Master Mason, who was paid 8 pence a day. Given the extensive use of brickwork in the design it is not surprising to find a brickmaker as one of the key contributors; Anthony Docheman was paid 10 pence a week for this role.
2. John Cowper, Master Mason, had been an apprentice during the building of Eton College; he took that knowledge of brickwork and put it to good use in Kirby Muxloe.
Left unfinished following the betrayal and execution of its patron William Lord Hastings by the future Richard III, Kirby Muxloe Castle nevertheless still impresses. Built with a mixture of stone and locally produced bricks it owes much of its design to Eton College.
HISTORY OF KIRBY MUXLOE CASTLE
There has been a manor house at Kirby Muxloe since at least the thirteenth century but it was not until 1474 that moves were made to fortify the site; in that year William, Lord Hastings, sought permission from Edward IV to crenallate his manors at Kirby Muxloe, Bagworth, Ashby de la Zouch and Slingsby with work starting at the former in 1480 under the control of John Cowper, Master Mason. He had been an apprentice during the building of Eton College and used that knowledge of brickwork to create the fine mix of brick and stone used at Kirby Muxloe. Like other castles of its era, it was built more as a stately home than a proper fortification.
Unfortunately the castle was never to be completed; Lord Hastings had been a faithful servant of the Yorkist cause during the Wars of the Roses and had ably supported Edward of York, later Edward IV, in his struggle against the Lancastrians. Indeed Edward himself had knighted Lord Hastings in the aftermath of the decisive Battle of Towton (1461). He was further honoured by Edward with the title Baron Hastings and by the granting of huge swathes of land particularly around the Midlands; he acquired Ashby at this time. Unfortunately his fortunes took a turn for the worse in 1483 when the forty year old Edward IV died unexpectedly. His 12 year old son, Edward V, ascended to the throne but through the scheming of his uncle Richard, Duke of Gloucester, he was never to be crowned. Perhaps Richard had always sought after the Crown or perhaps he was merely doing all that he could to protect his interests from the Woodville family; either way Richard suspected that Hastings would never agree to the deposing of the young King and, despite a friendship between the two, removed him. On 13 June 1483 whilst attending a council meeting at the Tower of London, Richard accused his friend Hastings of treason and, without trial, had him taken out to the courtyard and promptly beheaded. This cleared the way for Richard to invalidate the marriage between Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville and accordingly disinherit Edward V; the net effect being the coronation of Richard III. The fate of Edward V, one of the ‘Princes in the Tower’, has never been solved.
The impact of the execution of Lord Hastings effectively stopped all work on Kirby Muxloe Castle. Richard III, perhaps regretting his perceived necessity of killing William, issued a special grant to his widow restoring the families inheritance but his descendants chose not to resume the work. The half finished castle drifted into ruin later and was later used as a farm until the Ministry of Works commenced clearance of the site in 1911.