Dating back to the 13th Century and once the home of the Pakeman family, Sir Simon Pakeman was the Lord of the Manor and a knight of the the Shire at Parliament. Pakeman’s Place was the chosen position for Kirby Castle, less grandly referred to as a fortified house by Lord William Hastings. It is now the location of an historic Grade I Listed building that has been beautifully restored by English Heritage. The gatehouse and West Tower exist amongst both the eminent and surpressed ruins that are now the renowned remains of Kirby Muxloe Castle.
A man of considerable wealth himself, owning estates, offices and land, Lord William Hastings acquired the manor through marriage in 1474. Sir Ralph Hastings of Wistow married Margaret Herle, daughter of the then Lord of the Manor.
As an ardent supporter of King Edward IV, he applied for a license to crenallate the house of the Manor, this would permit him to erect a castle or fortify a residence. It also gave him social status with recognition by the Monarchy which allowed him to move in rich and famous circles.
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, a time when men of repute had to defend and protect their families and possessions from any potential adversaries.
Kirby Muxloe Castle was one of the earliest brickwork castles in England and is reportedly the last of its type. A master mason by the name of John Cowper was paid the princly sum of eight pence a day to oversee the stoneworks, whereas the brickmaker in charge, Anthony Docheman was paid two pence above the standard rate and received ten pence a week for his skill.
The bricks were red and fired in a kiln either on or nearby the site. Heres food for thought, a field behind Elms Farm on Gullet Lane could have been the site for the kiln, formerly Pakemansale it was later named Brickmans Hill.
The gatehouse had black brick patterned in the shallow depth thin red brick. The initials “WH” are are visible above the gateway along with the arms of Hastings, a ship and possibly the lower half of a figure. The plan of the gatehouse had octagon turrets and the ground level rooms were vaulted. The rooms on either side were to serve as the porters lodge and the guardroom, they 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. 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.
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.
Although not completed it was advanced well enough to be inhabited by the Hastings family until around 1630. The west tower being the only completed construction is grandly visible across an impressive 60ft wide moat that was originally spanned by a timber drawbridge allowing access to the gatehouse.
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 situe when the moat was cleared during restoration.
Below is a video link to youtube courtesy of johncas1 taken on MayDay bank holiday 2009
Work ceased on the castle in 1484, shortly after Lord Hastimgs was beheaded for treason, one of the first of many supposedly executed atrocities of Richard III.
It was believed that in 1570 Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned here, though dubious, it was rumoured that every castle of imprisonment was in ruins. Given that 80 years of abandonment had passed by this time, it is understandable how these tales became legend.
In the 15th Century the stone from the demolised manor was used in the foundations of the Castle. The details of the house, buttery, pantry and passage to the kitchen are still visible in the courtyard.
and it is believed that some of the stone was used for the neighbouring farmhouse, now the Castle Hotel and restaurant.
A Parliamentary garrison was alleged to have been barracked there in 1645
The Winstanley family of Braunstone Hall were the procurers of Kirby Castle and the Surrounding estates when they were sold by the Hastings family in 1649.
In the eighteenth century bricks and stonework from a further demolished tower were used in other areas of Kirby, some it is believed that some of the stone was used in the neighbouring farmhouse, now The Castle Farmhouse and Restaurant.
Many tales are whispered of secret passages to the Old Whitehouse and even further a field to Bradgate, of course the likelihood of this being true is considerably small. However it is believed that a short passage to the farmhouse was supposedly uncovered in 1975.
The overgrown and neglected castle was passed to the Ministry of Works in 1911, since superseded by the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commision, and by the owner of Braunstone Hall, Major Richard Winstanley.
The castle is presently managed by The English Heritage and has undergone extensive conservation work, now reopened to the public in 2006. It is the host for occasional Civil War enactments.