Ashby de la Zouch Castle – Home to William Lord Hastings

Reblogged from Ashby de la Zouch Castle – Home to William Lord Hastings

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An intriguing doorway leads into the Great Chamber where the family would have entertained important guests.  A fine 15th century fireplace has survived as well as a 16th century window.  Photo from the English Heritage Guidebook book

Following on from my earlier post THE RISE AND FALL OF WILLIAM LORD HASTINGS AND HIS CASTLE OF KIRBY MUXLOE , Lord Hastings also rebuilt and fortified his other residence in the Midlands, Ashby de la Zouch which had come into his possession in 1462.    Both castles were in the process of being remodelled and extended,  to befit his newly attained status,  from existing manor houses when disaster and tragedy overtook him in 1483.    Work was stopped quite soon at Kirby Muxloe but continued at Ashby de la Zouch where the rebuilding work was more more advanced with two towers and a new chapel already in use.  One of these towers contained a kitchen that was large even by the standards of medieval castle kitchens.  The other tower contained a complete set of domestic apartments.

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A doorway into the castle.  Photo English Heritage.

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Buck’s c.1730 engraving of the castle.  The doorway shown in the photo above can clearly be seen as well as the chapel still retained its traceried windows.  ‘Hastings Tower’ can be seen in the background.  National Galleries.

THE CHAPEL

The spacious and elegant chapel was built by Lord Hastings and would have been served by the priests and singers from his household when he was in residence.  There were stalls to the side of the chapel for people to sit while the high altar was at the far end on a dais.   There was two balconies, one above the other at the eastern end with  closets  where the Hastings family could observe the services in private.   The first floor closet was connected to the great chamber by a door which is now bricked up (1).

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The windows of the chapel today minus their wonderful tracery..

THE GREAT TOWER/HASTINGS TOWER

The pièce de résistance of the castle was the Great Tower also known as Hastings Tower which stood in silent testimony to the power and wealth of Lord Hastings.  Crowned with a projecting parapet of battlements and elegant turrets at the corners,  with the windows growing in grandeur the higher the floors rose,  it must have been a sight to behold.

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A surprisingly small door at the entrance to the Great Tower.   A projecting panel carved with Lord Hastings arms can be seen higher up.

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The Hastings arms panel..

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Fireplace in in the Great Chamber of Hastings Tower decorated with Edward IV’s heraldic sunbursts.  From an old postcard.

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Cutaway of the Great Tower c.1480.  The fireplace from the postcard above can be seen on the top floor. Ashby de la Zouch Castle English Heritage Guidebook.

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The same view today.  Photo waymarking.com

THE KITCHEN

Besides the kitchen in the Great Tower a new kitchen was built in what is known as the Kitchen Tower.  This kitchen has to get a mention.  It was basically the mother of all medieval kitchens.  The high vault was decorated with carved bosses of stone, a rare ornament in a kitchen.  This massive vaulted space was ringed with hearths.  Each of the hearths incorporated several cooking spaces, such as a cauldron stand for boiling, fireplaces for roasting and ovens for baking’ and ‘each cauldron stand was lit by a little window.’ (2).

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One of the surviving hearths with a cauldron stand to the left and an oven to the right.  Above the cauldron stand and out of sight is a small window.  

But to return to Lord Hastings.  All of Hastings’ power stemmed and depended upon his close friendship with Edward IV.  To continue reading click here.

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