Saturday, July 03, 2010

Kirby Muxloe Castle

Kirby Muxloe is a village five miles from the centre of Leicester. Even though it is about on the line where the city meets the countryside, it has a very urban feel.

So Kirby Muxloe Castle is a wholly unexpected pleasure.

It is a picturesque fortified mansion built for William, Lord Hastings, in the 15th century. It was never completed because Hastings was executed by Richard III in 1483.

Kirby was a quadrangular castle with a tower at each corner, but only one tower remains today. What you see are the substantial remains of that tower and the gatehouse, together with the surrounding moat.

It would have been a fortified house than a castle - defensible if need be, but built more for show. The foundations of the earlier house on the site can be seen on the lawn in the centre of the castle.

If you visit it a friendly young woman from English Heritage will take your entrance money and also sell you a guidebook. That guidebook also covers Ashby Castle (another possession of the Hastings family) and devotes rather more space to that better known ruin, but what it has to say about Kirby is interesting:

In it's present form Kirby Muxloe is largely the creation of a 1911-13 restoration. The site was stripped of later accretions (it had served for many years as a farmyard) and excavated. The foundations discovered were then consolidated.

At the same time the moat was re-cut and the remains of a medieval timber bridge leading to the gatehouse revealed. A replica was built to give access to the castle and this was repaired in 2006 during a restoration programme that also involved considerable brick replacement.

The TimeTravel Britain page on Kirby (linked to above) has more information on the moat, which was

lined with brick and filled by water diverted from two brooks. To ensure the moat filled and emptied properly, builders installed two masonry dams, sluices and an intriguing set of hollow oak logs, which could be blocked with leather-ringed wooden plugs. They also constructed a screen across the mouth of one of the brooks to prevent blockage from leaves and other debris.

In the early 20th century, when work was done to consolidate the site, one of the plugs, a tapering block of wood covered with leather, was discovered in place still doing its original job.

And if you do visit Kirby Muxloe yourself, be sure to eat at the nearby Castle Hotel.

1 comment:

Chris Matthews said...

I haven't been to this one - looks like a good day out. I wonder how similar/different the building is to Bradgate House? An unfortified castle, more for show but like you say if need be it was defensible. Probably the same clay used for the bricks - will have to check Pevsner guide in near future. Many thanks