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About Ashby de la Zouch
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This town takes its name from the La Souche family, lords of the manor from about 1160. The Norman prefix distinguishes Ashby from other towns of similar name. It is best known for its ruinous castle which featured in Sir Walter Scott's novel Ivanhoe - it was the setting of a tournament between Ivanhoe and the Black Prince.
The ancient, crumbling walls of Ashby-de-la-Zouche castle keep once rose to a towering 95ft and had four floors. It belonged to William, Lord Hastings who was granted a license to crenellate in 1474. He added a seven floor tower extension to the castle's northern side, this formed the residential living quarters which had its own well.
Lord Hastings was rich and powerful, he had a fortified home at Kirby Muxloe, and was one of the celebrated characters of his day. He rose to become Lord Chamberlain at the court of Edward IV, this was a reward for his unstinting loyalty to the King during the turbulent Wars of the Roses. When Edward died, Hastings felt unable to give the same level of support to King Richard III. For this he was beheaded.
The lands and castle did not, as was usual in such cases, revert back to the Crown but remained with the family passing to William's son. For a long period the family enjoyed prosperity, laid on great entertainments for Kings, Queens, and the great and the good of decades. Eventually, the Hasting family where created Earls of Huntingdon, and for many years during the 18th-century the castle was the home of Selina, Countess of Huntingdon.
After many turbulent and historic years the castle fell slowly into disrepair. These days the wilderness ruins of Ashby-de-la-Zouche castle are used for many events including medieval battles organised by English Heritage. A visit here is highly rewarding, not only are the dramatic ruins hauntingly atmospheric of dark and mysterious deeds, but its lofty site offers stunning views of the beautiful surrounding Leicestershire countryside.
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