Kirby Muxloe Castle
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
- Date of most recent amendment:
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- Blaby (District Authority)
- Kirby Muxloe
- National Grid Reference:
- SK 52395 04603
Reasons for Designation
A quadrangular castle is a strongly fortified residence built of stone, or
sometimes brick, around a square or rectangular courtyard. The outer walls
formed a defensive line, frequently with towers sited on the corners and
occasionally in intermediate positions as well. Some of the very strongly
defended examples have additional external walls. Ditches, normally wet but
sometimes dry, were also found outside the walls. Two main types of
quadrangular castle have been identified. In the southern type, the angle and
intermediate mural towers were most often round in plan and projected markedly
from the enclosing wall. In the northern type, square angle towers, often of
massive proportions, were constructed, these projecting only slightly from the
main wall. Within the castle, accommodation was provided in the towers or in
buildings set against the walls which opened onto the central courtyard. An
important feature of quadrangular castles was that they were planned and built
to an integrated, often symmetrical, design. Once built, therefore, they did
not lend themselves easily to modification. The earliest and finest examples
of this class of castle are found in Wales, dating from 1277, but they also
began to appear in England at the same time. Most examples were built in the
14th century but the tradition extended into the 15th century. Later examples
demonstrate an increasing emphasis on domestic comfort to the detriment of
defence and, indeed, some late examples are virtually defenceless. They
provided residences for the king or leading families and occur in both rural
and urban situations. Quadrangular castles are widely dispersed throughout
England with a slight concentration in Kent and Sussex protecting a vulnerable
coastline and routes to London. Other concentrations are found in the north
near the Scottish border and also in the west on the Welsh border. They are
rare nationally with only 64 recorded examples of which 44 are of southern
type and 20 are of northern type. Considerable diversity of form is exhibited
with no two examples being exactly alike. With other types of castle, they are
major medieval monument types which, belonging to the highest levels of
society, frequently acted as major administrative centres and formed the foci
for developing settlement patterns. Castles generally provide an emotive and
evocative link to the past and can provide a valuable educational resource,
both with respect to medieval warfare and defence, and to wider aspects of
medieval society. All examples retaining significant remains of medieval date
are considered to be of national importance.
Kirby Muxloe Castle is a spectacular example of a late medieval quadrangular castle of the highest status and it retains extensive ruined remains which represent the two periods of construction at the site. The standing and buried remains of the 14th century manor house will provide evidence of the structures which originally existed here, while the quadrangular castle which superseded it is one of the earliest brick-built structures in the Midlands. The 15th century gatehouse and the south western tower survive in a near- complete condition and retain early examples of gun ports within their fabric. Surviving contemporary building records provide a valuable and detailed account of the castle's construction. Additionally, environmental deposits will survive within the leat and outlet channel which retain rare evidence of their sluices and weirs.
The monument is situated on low-lying ground adjacent to a stream channel, on
the north eastern outskirts of Kirby Muxloe and includes the standing and
buried remains of a quadrangular castle which is in the care of the Secretary
of State, and its associated leat and outlet channel. The manor of Kirby
Muxloe was owned by the Pakeman family during the 14th century and the
foundations of the hall of their stone-built manor house, constructed within a
moat, are visible in the courtyard of the quadrangular castle which replaced
it in the 15th century. The hall was of two bays with a passage at its south
western end to separate it from the service rooms. The foundations of the
buttery, pantry and passage to the kitchen remain visible. The solar or great
chamber of the 14th century house was situated to the north east of the hall
but this area has been disturbed by later building work. In c.1460 Kirby
Muxloe Castle passed to the Hastings family through inheritance. Sir William
Hastings undertook extensive building programmes at his residences in
Leicestershire: Ashby, Bagworth and Kirby Muxloe. Although a licence to
crenellate was obtained in 1474, work did not begin at Kirby Muxloe until
1480. The earlier hall was initially retained but demolished later in
order to use the stone for the foundations of the new buildings. In 1483,
following the death of Edward IV, William Hastings was beheaded by the new
monarch, Richard III, at which time Kirby Muxloe Castle stood incomplete and
the site was abandoned shortly afterwards.
The site has external dimensions of 110m north east-south west and 90m north west-south east. The waterfilled moat arms are up to 21m wide and the inner face is revetted in brick. The remains of an oak bridge were found in the north western arm of the moat, and may be seen between the supports of the new entrance bridge. The moat is fed by a 110m long leat which connects with the stream to the south of the castle, while the outlet channel is visible in the north western part of the site. The water flow was originally controlled by a series of sluice gates, the brick bases of which can be seen at the southern end of the leat. The remains of a brick-built weir are visible within the stream bed, adjacent to the southern end of the leat and are included in the scheduling. At the point where the leat enters the moat, there is a further weir with a sluice at its base to control the supply of water entering the moat. This sluice stood within a vertical brick shaft and a wooden plug remains in situ. Beyond the south western moat arm, undulations in the ground surface are thought to represent the site of a building. There is little evidence to indicate the character and function of this structure but it will survive as a buried feature and is included in the scheduling.
The moated island is rectangular in plan and measures 80m by 60m. Although Kirby Muxloe Castle was never completed, the standing remains (which are Listed Grade I and included in the scheduling) provide evidence for the layout of the site. Most of the foundations had been laid, the gatehouse largely built, and the western tower wholly built when work was brought to an abrupt halt by the execution of the owner. Except for the stone dressings, it has been constructed throughout in brick and is one of a group of early brick buildings in the Midlands. Square towers were to be constructed at each corner of the moated island, rectangular projecting towers were placed centrally within three of the sides and a gatehouse is located in the central part of the fourth (north western) side. The gatehouse and towers were to be of three storeys and were to be connected to each other by ranges of two storey buildings. Access to the moated island is via the gatehouse passage, although there are documentary references to a postern gate. The gatehouse has a rectangular plan with octagonal turrets at each of the four corners and its outer face has been provided with gunports. The turrets which face onto the courtyard contain spiral staircases, apparently to give access to lodgings situated on the first and second floors of the gatehouse (although the latter was never completed). The ground floor chambers are brick-vaulted, with those on either side of the passage serving as a guardroom and a porter's lodge. The front of the gatehouse bears the initials W H (William Hastings) with his badge both picked out in vitrified brick.
The three storeyed, south western tower (the only one of four to be completed) has gunports, which face onto the moat, built into the external brickwork. Each floor has a large room and an antechamber and there is evidence of fireplaces and latrines within the walling. The three unbuilt corner towers were clearly intended to be similar to the completed south western tower. Of the building ranges which were to be constructed between the towers, the north western range is the most complete. There is little evidence to indicate the character of the ranges and, except for a short length of walling to the north of the gatehouse, none of the 15th century work stands more than a few courses high. It seems likely that the great hall was to be constructed in the south eastern range, and the rectangular projecting tower near the centre of the south east curtain was to be built off-centre in order to accommodate it.
All fence posts and the modern bridge across the north western moat arm are excluded from the scheduling, but the ground beneath is included.
MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
- Legacy System number:
- Legacy System:
Books and journals
HBMC, , Kirby Muxloe Castle, (1986)
Thompson, A H, 'Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeology Society' in The Building Accounts of Kirby Muxloe Castle, , Vol. 11, (1916), 193-345
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
End of official listing