So to the last day of the A-Z challenge and I’m fortunate to have the perfect castle for my choice of theme – Ashby-de-la-Zouch – the name even looks AtoZ ish.
Ashby is a small town in Leicestershire, the county of my birth. The manor house was given to the Zouch family in return for their military services. The Zouch clan hailed from Breton. When the last descent died in 1399, the manor went into a protracted period of probate. It was sixty years before a new owner was established – William, Lord Hastings.
Hastings was granted a licence to crenellate the manor house by Edward IV, his buddy. A licence to fortify a manor house was required between 12th and 16th centuries to ensure not just anyone could go around and build a castle without the permission of the king or one of a handful of important personages with an equivalent power. Hastings was much in favour, and appointed Lord Chamberlain, so he crenellated a handful of manors. Ashby-de-la-Zouch castle began life in 1474 and it was supposed to have four towers alongside the Great Hall and Great Tower. Only one got built – the kitchen tower – which goes to show the kitchen remains the heart of any home. Hastings also planned another castle at Kirby Muxloe, which also failed to be finished. You can see a picture under my moats post.
What went wrong? Hastings was a loyal subject of Edward. Even after he married the sister of the Earl of Warwick, the kingmaker, who betrayed Edward, he stayed with the king during his brief exile. When Warwick lost his life in battle with the king, Edward boosted Hastings status even further. After the king’s death, Hastings supported the appointment of his brother, Richard, as protector of the young king Edward V. All seemed well, until suddenly a plot was uncovered and Hastings was summarily executed. Edward V and his younger brother disappeared – the Princes in the Tower – and Richard was crowned king. The conspiracy theories about Richard III continue to this day. Was he a rogue who murdered his nephews, or a victim of a subsequent smear campaign? Regardless, he did have Hastings executed and it’s possible the rise to power had tipped Hastings into going too far with his ambitions.
Hastings descendants were allowed to keep the castle, which is unusual and perhaps a sign that Richard was uncomfortable with his decision. During the civil war, the Hastings sided with the Royalist cause, lost the castle during the siege and the outer fortifications were flattened. Not a lot remains.
I love this picture. The aerial shot shows the earthworks left after the slighting of the castle. In hunting around for good pictures, those not from my own collection, English Heritage are the best source. So I should mention before I end my last post who they are for those who don’t know.
Ruins were overseen by the Office of Works, (later the Ministry of Works), a government department set up in 1883. By the 1970s, they’d amassed over 300 monuments, including abbeys, castles and other historic sites including Stone Henge. Other than a plague on the wall and a money box for donations, they had little input into anything educational or informative. In 1983, the transformation to English Heritage began: visitor centres opened, guidebooks were provided and more information on site. By 2015, EH became a charitable trust. So if you ever want to find out more about ancient England take a look at their website.
Thank you to everyone who joined me on my A to Z of castles. I hope you enjoyed it.