Ashby-de-la-Zouch Castle – July 2013
The site originated as a Norman fortified manor house in the 12th century founded by Alain de Parrhoet, la Zouch, out of Breton, France. During the next three centuries it was extended by his descendants, but when the Zouch succession line ended in the 14th century, the castle changed ownership many times. In 1461, the castle reverted to the Crown after the then owner James Butler, the 5th Earl of Ormonde, was executed after the Battle of Towton.
The castle remained within the Crown’s hands for a few years until Edward IV bestowed it upon William, Lord Hastings. William was awarded a licence to crenellate in 1474 and quickly started major works to extend and improve the castle. The licence also granted him the rights to empark 3,000 acres of surrounding land. The principal building of this time was the Hastings Tower which was 90 feet (27 m) high. It is rectangular in shape measuring about 47 feet (14 m) by 41 feet (12 m) with walls nearly 9 feet (3 m) thick on the ground floor. The tower principal had four grand floors with an extension on the northeast side having seven floors. The tower and kitchens had their own well.
There was also a Great Hall and other grand rooms for entertainment sited to the north of the main tower. A visitor in 1644 described rich stained glass windows, depicting coats of arms. William’s descendants added to the castle and grounds, including grand landscaped parks and gardens.