Situated on the eastern boundary of Sherwood Forest, Kirkby-in-Ashfield Castle was originally a motte-and-bailey fortification that was raised to secure control of the area. It was later converted into a fortified manor. It remained occupied for at least four hundred years but today only earthworks survive.
At the time of the Norman invasion of 1066 Kirkby-in-Ashfield, which was situated on the eastern boundary of Sherwood Forest, was owned by Leofnoth and formed part of the Broxtowe Hundred. He was displaced by Ralph, a Norman Knight who also acquired numerous other lands across Nottinghamshire, and it was probably he who raised the initial fortification on the site. The configuration of this early castle is unknown as it has been destroyed by later works and agricultural activity but perhaps took the form of an earth and timber motte-and-bailey fortification. The castle later passed to the d'Estoteville family and thereafter to the Stutevilles.
Kirkby Castle remained with the Stuteville family throughout the thirteenth century. In 1284 its owner, Robert de Stuteville, was fined for failing to attend a Royal summons issued by Edward I. He was clearly forgiven for he hosted the King at Kirkby in February 1292 when the monarch was en route to Codnor. However, in 1340 the Stutevilles forfeited the site to the Crown after which it was granted to John Darcy, Lord Justice of Ireland and Keeper of the Tower of London. At some point during the fourteenth century the castle was converted into a moated manor and this may have occurred in 1345 when John Darcy was granted a licence to enclose a park at Kirkby.
The original remains of the castle have been obliterated by subsequent ploughing but earthworks associated with the manorial site can still be seen. This was originally a rectangular enclosure surrounded by a crenelated curtain wall. A series of four fishponds, an important source of food in the medieval household, stood nearby. Kirkby-in-Ashfield Castle passed through marriage to Sir John Conyers in 1466. It is not known when it went out of use.
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Kirkby-in-Ashfield Castle evolved from a (probable) motte-and-bailey fortification into a manorial site. Today earthworks of the latter are visible consisting of a rampart, originally the line of the curtain wall, and an earth mound.
Kirkby-in-Ashfield. The name of the site has Danish origins (Kirkby translating as village with a church).
Mound. An earth mound is all that is left of a tower built into the perimeter wall of the manor.
St Wilfrid's Church. The church was rebuilt in 1907 after the original structure was gutted by a fire.