Sunday, August 21, 2016

Ashby de la Zouch Castle

When we arrived in the town we parked near the Museum and Library and set out on foot down one of the ancient alleyways which lead onto the wide main street.  There is a car park a little closer to the castle but it was full and as we wanted to pop into the museum later in the day we parked close by.
 
 We crossed the busy main street and cut through the brightly festooned covered market

The castle ruins looked wonderful in the sunshine.  We had visited before but many years ago so it was time for a re-visit.

In the photos above and below you can see both the kitchen tower and the main tower.

We seemed to have the place to ourselves although once we got in amongst the walls of the ruins one or two people could be seen gazing upwards or heard as their voices echoed around the dusty, shadowed corners.

The property began as a manor house in the 12th century and reached castle status in the 15th century.

In the 14th century the manor was in the hands of the le Zouch family who were of Breton descent. In 1399 with the death of the last remaining direct heir of this family there began a protracted dispute over Ashby.  In 1461 it came into the hands of James Butler, Earl of Ormond and Earl of Wiltshire.   He was executed after the Battle of Towton, one of the bloodiest battles of the Wars of the Roses. Ashby Castle was then given, along with many other tracts of land, to William, Lord Hastings, son of Sir Leonard Hastings of nearby Kirby Muxloe, who was in favour with King Edward IV and rose to high status in his court.  In 1472 he received licence to fortify four of his manors. Ashby being one of them.


Above is the arched passage between the great hall and the kitchensWe decided to climb up the steps of the great tower first.  My knees made it to the top.

Halfway up the ninety odd steps into main tower you can stop to catch your breath and look at the stone shields on the wall and the graffiti too.

There is also a seat on which to rest awhile.

There were wonderful views across the town in all directions.

The Parish church of St Helen's

Looking down on the kitchen tower which was our next destination


There were lots of fireplaces, wells and ovens in this part of the ruins and it was easy to imagine the sounds, the heat and the smells emanating from what would have been a hive of industry.

Above you can see a cauldron stand in one of the surviving hearths and a bread oven at the side.

We couldn't go any further up the tower but we could go down into the undercroft

and through the tunnel which lead us back to the foot of the great tower.

It is thought that the tunnel was put in place during the English Civil War.  During this war Ashby was an important Royalist base under the control of Henry Hastings, Lord Loughborough. There is an interesting display in the Museum about Ashby in the years of the Civil War where I found a reference to the tunnel in a letter written by a Parliamentarian in Leicester. 

'Sir, our forces are gone with Derby horse towards Ashby, but the enemy are very strong and their works good, they have vaults under the ground through which they can go from one fort to another at their pleasure'

   The castle finally surrendered in 1646 and the fortifications were removed.  Some of the remaining buildings were incorporated into a house called Ashby Place which was itself demolished in 1830.  In the 19th century the town and castle ruins became a visitor attraction after Sir Walter Scott set a scene of his novel Ivanhoe there.

The Chapel

 Earthworks and garden

The castle has been maintained and cared for by English Heritage since 1983.
Here is a - link - to more information

26 comments:

  1. Your knees are in marvellous nick, Rosie! I really enjoyed this post, thank you. Lovely pics. And a creepy tunnel! Looks like a good day out. x

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    1. It was a lovely day out and wonderful weather too:)

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  2. I like the stone seat on the stairway to the tower. I think I would have made use of it! I think the ruins and worn stonework is fascinating but I don't think I would be fond of the under-croft and tunnel as I would feel very claustrophobic! x

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    1. The tunnel didn't seem too claustrophobic as it been lit quite well. The seat was well placed:)

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  3. What a great place. I like your photo of the arched passage and fancy there being a tunnel underground still, quite unusual. Such lovely views over the town. Never been there but I have heard of it! :-)

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    1. Ashby is a fscinating place with lots too see and do:)

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  4. Your narrative brought the building to life - the thought of the smells and sounds of the busy kitchen, especially. I'd like to have joined you on the climb or that view and to pause for a few minutes to catch my breath on that stone bench.

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    1. Thanks, glad you enjoyed it. The seat was well placed for climbing the steps:)

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  5. You certainly took us on a great tour, what a wonderful place to visit.

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    1. Thanks, glad you enjoyed the tour:)

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  6. What fabulous views from the top. Everything still looking so green. I always love the kitchen blocks with their enormous fireplaces. You can imagine the sounds and smells emanating from there . A lovely visit. Thank you. B xx

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    1. The views from the top were wonderful and it was such a clear day:)

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  7. I love Ashby. I visit as often as I can. I hope, since you parked by the museum, that you found the wonderful tea shop just across the road. It's called Lizzie's (http://www.lizziestearooms.com/) and it has the most amazing home made cakes. The tea is served in vintage china and if you really like your cup and saucer you can buy it! (or plates, teapots and various other bits and pieces.) It's worth a trip back, just for itself.

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    1. I think we may have passed the tea rooms on our way to the castle but we had taken our own coffee and picnic as we were going on somewhere else in the afternoon. Perhaps next time we visit we will take tea there:)

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  8. What a superb castle - such an interesting post and great photos (love those views!). It was great to be able to read all about the history and the stone shields and graffiti sound fascinating. I don't think I've ever been to Ashby although it doesn't look that far from here. Will add it to my list of places to visit :) And I've just noticed there is a tearoom mentioned in the comment above :)

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    1. Always goo to have a recommended tea room. We may try it when we visit again:)

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  9. Hi again - Just remembered I have driven through Ashby on the way to Calke Abbey and even said it looked a nice town to visit! Blaming my age on lapse of memory !! :) It isn't far especially if you go up the M42 north!

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    1. I get memory lapses too!:) Yes, you would have passed hrough on your way to Calke:)

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  10. It looks like an interesting place, I enjoyed reading your information - perhaps another place to add to the list!

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    1. It is a good visit if ever you get out that way:)

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  11. Lovely informative post Rosie. Looks like it was a lovely day to step back into history. I often wonder how you choose where to go on your visits. Do you have a meeting every morning poring over maps to decide where to visit :)

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    1. I suppose we choose places we would both like to visit and plan to see two or three places close together if we can:)

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  12. Ah - this has been on the list for a long time. really enjoyed your tour and your photoas are excellent. What a beautiful window in No 6. Lovely - thank you!

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    1. Thanks, Mike, glad you enjoyed the photos. Hope you get to visit one day:)

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  13. The more I read about the various parts of England and all the interesting places there are to visit the more I realise how little I've seen of this country. The Midlands is an area that I've visited very little, usually I'm passing through on the way to somewhere else but I'm obviously missing a great deal. I love that photo of the arched passageway.

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    1. So much to see in that area and you'd love the next place we visitedafter the castle which I will write a post about later:)

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