Leicestershire’s secret castles revealed!

How many castles can you think of in Leicestershire and Rutland? Ashby de la Zouch, Kirby Muxloe and Belvoir Castles tend to spring to mind straight away but not many people know that there are around 21 castle sites in the two counties! An exhibition at Leicestershire County Council’s Donington le Heath Manor House explores the many other castle sites in the area.

The colourful exhibition uses photographs, historical images and accounts as well as fun reconstruction artwork to paint a vivid picture of the development and later decline of castles in the area. A wide range of excavated artefacts from Leicestershire museum collections add further evidence of life at sites such as Sapcote, Kirby Muxloe, Oakham and Ashby Castles. Visitors can also take part in a two-player castle landscape game and build-their-own model castle.

Castles came to this country with the Normans in the late 11th century and were used as military bases during the invasion period after the Battle of Hastings in 1066. But they were not just military buildings. The exhibition at the Manor House explores how these structures were used by noble hunting parties, local administrators and and as high status dwellings for powerful lords and their families.

Most of Leicestershire and Rutland’s castles are no longer standing and are only visible as grass covered earthworks. The earliest castles were made of wood and many were not in use for very long and gradually rotted away. Others were rebuilt in stone, but even these once impressive structures have disappeared over time as crumbing walls were robbed for building stone. Much of the older buildings in towns such as Castle Donington and Mountsorrel were built out of the abandoned castles.

David Sprason, Leicestershire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Adults and Communities, said, “Many visitors to the exhibition will be surprised to learn of a castle near to where they live or that they drive past everyday. This project will hopefully help to inspire the people of Leicestershire to take pride in their medieval heritage.”

Palisades to Palaces – The Medieval Castles of Leicestershire and Rutland is open every day from 11- 4 pm until 30th September and admission is free. The exhibition will be shown at other venues around the County over the next twelve months. Click here for more information about Donington le Heath Manor House.

Click here to download a map of the castles in Leicestershire and Rutland (PDF file)

Source: Leicestershire County Council

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