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Kirby Muxloe - William Lord Hastings

William Lord Hastings acquired the manor in 1474. He then applied for a license to crenellate the house of the Manor, expanding it greatly and fortifying it.

The plans of this quadrangular castle with four roughly equal sides forming a curtain wall and a tower domineering each corner, were discovered amongst the Hastings family papers. Comprehensive accounts detailed total expenditure and were inclusive of receipts.

Work on the castle commenced in 1480.

Kirby Muxloe Castle was one of the earliest brickwork castles in England. A master mason, John Cowper, was paid eight pence a day to oversee the stoneworks, and the brickmaker in charge, Anthony Docheman was paid two pence above the standard rate and received ten pence a week for his skill. (An archer earned around six pence a day at this time).

The bricks were red and fired in a kiln either on or nearby the site.  This was an expensive operation but nhot as expensive as importing the bricks from the continent. And William Hastings got what he paid for - the gatehouse has black brick patterned in into the red brick. The initials “WH” are visible above the gateway along with the arms of Hastings (a black maunch - or sleeve), a ship and possibly the lower half of a figure.

William Hastings's black maunch visible in the brickwork
The planned gatehouse had octagonal turrets and the ground level rooms were vaulted. The rooms on either side were to serve as the porters lodge and the guardroom, and had windows to the court and housed a large fireplace. The first floor, accessed through stone archways and a spiral stairway, had windows that overlooked both the court and the moat and would have been where the drawbridge and portcullis were worked from. The basements of the turrets are below the water level and have earthen floors. There are ports for the cannons of which two are located beneath the water level, from plan to construction these would have been ineffectual unless the moat was dry. The circular gunports with sighting slits above appeared to be more for show than for actual use of attack. By  the1480s England was at relative peace and with his prominent position as Lord Chamberlain to Edward IV and the Captain of Calais, William Lord Hastings had no one to fear...or so he thought.

The hall and the north wing were to contain the main living rooms which were retained from the old house. Although nothing of the kitchen itself can be seen, the lines for the pantry, buttery and passage leading to it are visible.

With the untimely death of William Lord Hastings at the hands of Richard III in June 1485 work on the castle ceased and although not completed (the west tower was the only finished construction) it was sufficiently good to be inhabited by the Hastings family until around 1630. The  impressive 60ft wide moat was originally spanned by a timber drawbridge allowing access to the gatehouse and this is still the way in for visitors, though sadlly the drawbridge has gone.

The supply of water to the moat was via a brook. Two dams were built, the first to divert the water to the main stream if there was a need to halt the supply, the second which has a sluice beneath it opening from a shaft allows the moat to empty when unplugged. At the mouth of the smaller brook a set of diagonal oak supports screened the moat from rubbish, twigs and leaves. To plug the shaft a tapered piece of wood covered with leather was used, one of which was still in situ when the moat was cleared during restoration.