Kirby Muxloe Castle

Kirby Muxloe Castle - English Heritage has conserved the remains of this stunning mansion built by William, Lord Hastings, which you can explore on a leisurely day out with the family in Leicestershire. Bring a picnic to enjoy in the castle gardens, and be sure to include a visit to Ashby de la Zouch Castle, where Hastings' resided when he began construction at Kirby Muxloe.

Visiting Kirby Muxloe Castle

Parking

Free parking is available onsite - Additional on-street parking available on Oakcroft Avenue

Two coach parking spaces are limited to reserved group tours only

Price

Adult entry w/donation - £6.50, w/o donation - £5.90

Child (5-17 years) w/donation - £3.90, w/o donation - £3.50

Concession and Family pricing available on official website

Free entry for English Heritage Members

Opening

The castle remains are generally open to the public 10 am-5 pm on weekends and bank holidays from May to August

Out-of-hours group visits and guided tours available on request

Location & Access

4 miles west of Leicester on the A47;

Off Oakcroft Ave, Kirby Muxloe, Leicestershire LE9 2DH

Castle is in the center of the village, signage is good

Know Before You Go

  • New "safety measures" will be enforced upon reopening, and visits must now be booked ahead of time. For the most recent updates or to book your visit, click here
  • NO toilets and NO food or drink facilities available on site - the Castle Hotel is the closest provider of such facilities 
  • A picnic area is available on castle grounds 
  • Dogs on leads welcome
  • Family-friendly - pushchairs permitted, children welcome to explore, space for games is limited

History of Kirby Muxloe Castle

Extensive records regarding the castle's construction have survived; This is quite fortunate for historians, as non-Royal castles typically were not as well-documented. However, the history of Kirby Muxloe Castle is a mere side story embedded in the life of William, Lord Hastings. Ultimately, the fate of the castle was directly tied to Hastings' power and wealth. And upon his untimely death, Kirby Muxloe was adversely fated to remain unfinished. 

Time Line

 


-1300s

The Pakeman family built a manor house on the site in Kirby Muxloe.

-1460–1464 (Hastings’ Royal Rise)

The Hastings family inherited the Kirby Muxloe estate. William was made Baron Hastings in 1461 and continued strengthening his royal bonds. He acquired most of his estates throughout and beyond the Midlands, particularly, at this time, including Ashby de la Zouch, where he moved his seat in 1462. Indeed, much of the lands were confiscated from his enemies in the War of the Roses. 

-1470–1472

Hastings benefited from the political tide shift and became an incredibly powerful and influential figure--even popular and respected, to boot. His political sway was reflected by his equally-massive wealth, which he put on grand display via his sumptuous estates.

-1474

Hastings was granted rights to crenellate four of his properties, including Kirby Muxloe. (The other three sites were Bagworth, Slingsby, and Ashby de la Zouch.) The manor house at Kirby Muxloe, in particular, received authorisation to become a castle surrounded by a 2,000-acre park.

Though, as part of a bigger, rather ambitious building project by Sir William to fortify his Leicestershire residences, construction didn't begin at Kirby Muxloe for another six years.

-*1461 - 1474*

Alternative details in William Hastings' legacy note a modest estate owned by his father, Sir Leonard, in Leicestershire and Gloucestershire, where the Hastings family had long-since resided. Records indicate that Kirby Muxloe had been rented out by the Pakeman family in the years preceding, retaining ownership until 14 April 1474, when the manorial rights were then passed to William.  

-1480 (Castle Construction Begins)

Castle construction begins at Kirby Muxloe. Hastings seemingly flaunted his power and immense wealth via his estates, and this project was no exception to his extravagant fashion. He employed Roger Bowlott as his clerk of works along with master mason, John Cowper, to oversee the construction and realise the grand castle plan. 

The castle was essentially built around the 14th-century manor house built by the Pakeman family. Nearly all of the existing manor was preserved and probably remained in use during construction, though some portions were taken down, and the stone was repurposed to build new foundations. (Foundations of the initial hall and its pantry, buttery, and kitchen passageway are visible inside the castle's courtyard.) 

Kirby Muxloe Castle was planned to be an ultramodern courtyard residence encircled by a sizable moat. Indeed, the handsome combination of red brick and stone detailing was the leading fashion prevailing at the time. Records note that Hastings paid at least four masons to work with darker bricks to design "pictures in the walls." 

-1481

Progress was made quickly under Cowper's supervision and expertise, with over forty men working on the site during peak production times. 

-1483 (Hastings’ Hasty Death)

Friday 13 June: William Hastings attended a council meeting called by Richard, Duke of Gloucester, held at the Tower of London. And in perhaps one of history's most shocking plot twists, the meeting minutes include Richard accusing Hastings of treason, followed by his immediate execution by beheading. 

Richard's true intentions and reasoning for these actions are but speculation. Notwithstanding, Hastings' conspiratorial death is a significant clue left unpuzzled in the "Princes in the Tower" mystery. 

As for the castle at Kirby Muxloe, development came to a halt once the news of Hastings' death had traveled to town. Just three days after the infamous beheading, the masons, bricklayers, and carpenters William had employed all terminated construction immediately. His family was made to endure some consequences, but Kirby Muxloe, along with his other estates, was ultimately restored to his widow, Katherine.

-1484 (Castle Construction Ends)

Katherine managed to resume construction of the castle at Kirby Muxloe in the months following William's death, albeit at a much slower pace. Considerable portions of the foundations were completed; the gatehouse and west tower were nearly brought to plan and made habitable with floors and roofs added. Records indicate, by this point, some 1.3 million bricks were laid for the project. 

Unfortunately, work stopped once and for all in 1484, with much of the promising structure left incomplete. And it was at this time the castle was abandoned and left to decay. Kirby Muxloe remained in the Hastings family into the 17th century. 

-1630

Kirby Muxloe was bought by Sir Robert Banaster, who later sold it to William Wollaston. The castle spent the rest of the century abandoned, whereupon it was robbed for building materials and eventually utilized for farming purposes.  

-1788

Clement Winstanley purchased the castle from the Wollaston family. 

-1790

By this time, the north tower remained standing, though in ruins. Winstanley was reported as wanting to pull the remains down with intentions to make a barn out of the bricks. Even so, his son (also Clement) stepped in and carried out some much-needed repairs instead. 

-1911

A survey of the castle expressed the need for immediate repairs. Major Richard Winstanley was concerned about the decaying residence but couldn't afford the upkeep, so he requested that the Commissioners of Works assume responsibility. 

-1912–1913 (Repairs & Restoration)

The Commissioners took over Kirby Muxloe Castle. The restoration was carried out by the Inspector of Ancient Monuments, Sir Charles Peers, credited with repairing brickwork, re-cutting the moat, removing the farmyard additions, and clearing the walls of the trees that were growing out of them. He also reconstructed the medieval bridge that was discovered leading to the gatehouse. 

-2006 (Further Restoration)

The castle underwent extensive restoration wherein a substantial portion of brickwork was replaced. It stands today as a remarkable example of a prestigious, quadrangular castle from the late medieval period.

Kirby Muxloe Castle Occupants

 

At first, some sections of the castle are believed to have been occupied, probably portions of the existing manor house. However, once construction halted following Hastings' death, the castle was never fully realized and soon abandoned. Kirby Muxloe was essentially left to decay for centuries, with some agricultural use around the late 17th and early 18th centuries.

Images of Kirby Muxloe Castle

Kirby Muxloe Castle Kirby Muxloe Castle
Kirby Muxloe Castle

Images Supplied and licensed from Shutterstock Standard Licence Package

Kirby Muxloe Castle Q&A

What Type of Castle Was Kirby Muxloe?

Kirby Muxloe Castle is characterised as a Masonry Castle. 

When Was Kirby Muxloe Castle First Built?

The castle was first built starting in 1480, six years after receiving crenellation approval. Construction stopped after only three years, and the castle was left unfinished. It was one of England's earliest--and last--quadrangular brickwork castles ever built. 

What Was the Main Use of Kirby Muxloe Castle?

The estate was planned to be a stylish courtyard residence. Like other castles of its time, Kirby Muxloe Castle was designed more as an imperial manor than a legitimate fortification. Today, it serves as a stirring reminder and memorial to William Hastings' ambition and unexpected death. 

How Big Was Kirby Muxloe Castle?

Kirby Muxloe Castle is a rectangle measuring 75m (245 ft) by 53m (175 ft) and was planned to have three side towers with the northwest corner accommodating the large, rectangular gatehouse. It might have stood some 30m (98 ft) tall had the building been completed. An array of structures inside the curtain wall runs 5.2m (17 ft) deep, forming a courtyard.

All this was protected by a water-filled moat, anywhere between 14m (45 ft) and 23m (75 ft) wide. The towers surrounding the castle extend 1.8m (6 ft) into the moat, and the island created measures 80m by 60m.

Who Was John Cowper and What Was His Contribution to Kirby Muxloe Castle?

John Cowper worked as an apprentice throughout the construction of Eton College, and he brought his expertise to create the fire-red brickwork at Kirby Muxloe. Indeed, the castle's design resembles that of the college. Cowper played a key role in the castle's development, without which we would not have the structure we do today, as his knowledge and master masonry influenced the speed of production.

Does Any of Kirby Muxloe Castle Still Exist?

Some parts of the unfinished castle have survived, and what continued standing overtime was given some much-needed attention over the last century. Remains of the southwest tower and gatehouse reside within the moat, which has since been overlaid with bricks. The gatehouse stands but one storey tall, though the tower is almost to plan, and the carvings and patterned brickwork can still be seen on both.  

Location of Kirby Muxloe Castle

The castle's location did not change over time, and what remains is located off Oakcroft Avenue at the center of Kirby Muxloe village, which is west of Leicestershire by about 4 miles.