Monday, 1 April 2013

April 2013 A-Z Blog Challenge starts today!

April 1st –and the start of another April A-Z Blog Challenge – with a special thank you to ARLEE BIRD, the founder of the Challenge – and also to all his hosts/helper. You can find Arlee’s blog at

First an introduction to my A-Z posts this year: About 13 years ago, a friend and I decided to challenge ourselves to visit every battlefield of the Wars of the Roses, the thirty year struggle for power between the rival families of York and Lancaster. Our visits during the next two years actually extended far beyond the battlefields, to many different places connected with the people and events of the time. So I hope you’ll enjoy this tour of late 15th century England. Being alphabetical, of course, it won’t be chronological, but I’ll try to make the ‘history’ part as simple as I can, despite the complexities of the period.
All the photographs are my own ©Paula Martin

Starting with A then - Ashby-de-la-Zouche
This is a small market town in Leicestershire in the English Midlands with the ruins of a large castle.

The early parts of the castle were built in the 12th century by the La Zouche family. It changed hands several times in the early 15th century, but in 1461 it was granted to William, Lord Hastings.
Hastings, born about 1431, was a supporter of the Yorkist cause in the Wars of the Roses, and was knighted by Edward IV on the battlefield at Towton in 1461. He became an important figure in the Yorkist regime, holding the position of Lord Chamberlain, one of the most powerful roles in the kingdom. In 1462 he became a Knight of the Garter, and two years later was granted land in Leicestershire, including Ashby.
Hastings Tower
He evidently decided to build on a scale to befit his high position in the kingdom. At nearby Kirby Muxloe, he began to build a completely new castle, and at Ashby he added several new buildings, notably the Hastings Tower, and also a chapel. The Tower had store rooms on the ground floor, and above this was the kitchen, which had a vaulted ceiling. The next floor contained the Great Hall, with a large square window in the north wall, and the top floor contained a solar (or withdrawing room) for the lord and his lady.
When Edward IV died in 1483, Hastings played an important role in restraining the efforts of Edward’s widow, Elizabeth Woodville, to get her family members into political power so that they could manipulate the new king, twelve-year-old Edward V. He supported the installation of the boy’s uncle, Richard as Lord Protector. However, two months later, during a royal council meeting in the Tower of London in June 1483, Hastings was accused of having conspired with the Woodville family, and was summarily executed in the courtyard.
This execution proved controversial at the time, and has received different interpretations by historians. Some consider it as a ploy by Richard to remove Hastings who might have been an obstacle to Richard’s royal ambitions. Others concede the possibility of a conspiracy and think Richard reacted to secure his position.
Richard (now King Richard III) did not seize Hastings’ lands, and his wife and sons were allowed to retain them. Not surprisingly, Hastings’ son fought for the Lancastrians at the battle of Bosworth in 1485. Later descendants rose to power under the Tudors, and were created Earls of Huntingdon. Royal visitors to the castle included Henry VIII, James I and Charles I. A less willing visitor was Mary, Queen of Scots, who reputedly spent a couple of nights there, in 1569 and in 1586.
During the English Civil War in the 17th century, most of the castle was rendered inhabitable by the Parliamentary forces, but the Hastings family later worked to preserve the ruins, which were eventually placed in the care of English Heritage (the government body set up to maintain historic monuments)
15th century fireplace in the solar



  1. Never been there, yet, Paula. Great post and lovely photos.

  2. I'd never been either, Nancy, but was quite impressed by the castle there.

  3. Wonderful to see Ashbey, Paula! I pass it on the way down to Devon to see my hubby's family. Fascinating history - ta for sharing.

  4. I really want to visit! What a lot of history surrounding it!

    Blogging AtoZ @ChickLitLove

  5. Fab post, Paula. Interesting and educational. I'll be following this series with interest (and be very erudite by the end of it) :)

  6. Love your theme. Very interesting post as I don't know a lot of English history. Love the pics. I love castles.

  7. Lots more history to follow, Lindsay!

    Laura - I'll be writing about many places that have a lot of history attached to them.

    Lyn - I'm trying to keep the history fairly easy, even though it was a complicated period!

    Suzy - lots more castles still to come! We have so many here in England.

  8. I am going to love your posts...the history of this time fascinates me. If I ever hop the pond, I will hire you as my tour guide :D

  9. Great post Paula, thanks for sharing.

  10. I remember hearing the name of this place and instantly loving it. What a wonderful combination of words! I had no idea it had a castle, so it will now go on my 'castles to visit' list :)

  11. A wonderful idea, I am looking forward to your posts, great to have so many fellow bloggers taking part of the challenge!

  12. Jenn, I'd love to be your tour guide! I've 'guided' Canadian friends in Cornwall and in Ireland, so I've already had some practice!

    Thanks, Rose :-)

    Gill, you can add Kirby Muxloe castle too, as it's very near Ashby and is a lovely place.

    Thanks, Claudia!

  13. Hello! I'm a new follower from the A to Z Challenge! Nice to meet you! :)

  14. Paula, this castle has the perfect name to start off your A-Z month! Great pictures and fabulous castle. I'm no fan of Hastings, as I'm one who believes he must have been involved in some conspiracy against Richard, but I'm glad his descendents preserved as much of the castle as they could. I so envy you for having so much history!

  15. Fantastic. I love your passion for history, Paula. When I come to the England again - I hope to get your guidance on places to visit.
    Looking forward to your future posts.

  16. How interesting! I can really appreciate it being that I'm taking an art history class. Amazing architecture back then and history back then!

  17. Castles are so romantic. I'm also a A to Z challenger, and have written a couple of contemporary romances. Great post!

  18. Great A post to kick off the challenge. I need to travel more. I love European history (especially English) and it comes alive with your photos.

  19. Very scenic geographical and historical lesson. What a neat place to visit. As a long-time literature lover and history buff, I find myself adding this to the list of spots I'd like to see!

    Happy A to Z!
    (I'm doing EIGHT blogs. Whew.)
    Here's one:
    A is for Absent - Rhymed Acrostics from A to Z

  20. I love seeing the castles and look forward to visiting these exotic historic places with you all month long!!


  21. Thanks for visiting, Margo.

    Elaine, I agree about Hastings :-)

    Corinne, there are so many historic places to see in England, you'll be spolit for choice.

    Linda, you'll see a lot of castle architecture if you pop back to visit my A-Z posts.

    Debra - with some castles, you can get a real feel for how people lived in the middle ages.

    Michael - you see history around you all over Europe!

    Linda - there are so many castles to see, all of them different.

    Kathy - lots of interesting places to 'visit' this month!

  22. Paula, such an interesting post this is. Loved the tid-bit about the solar aka withdrawing room. I wonder if it is the precursor to the modern-day drawing room.

    The pics are so fab, too.

  23. Thanks, Sonia. Even in Victorian times, they had a 'withdrawing' room where they adjourned after meals, and I'm sure that's what has been shortened to drawing room.

  24. About the only complaint I have living in Canada is that we don't have any real castles! Thanks so much for sharing yours and I look forward to the history lessons. :)

  25. Helena, we have so many here in the UK, we tend to take them for granted. I'll be showing you lots more in the next 4 weeks!

  26. Great post Paula. I'm popping over from the UBC challenge. I've been on a few castle tours myself on my visists to the UK, but nothing like your 2+ year adventure. Love the imagery & story.

  27. Thanks for visiting, Loralee. I'm now wondering which castles you visited - and whether I've included them in my 15th century tour.

  28. Cool places. I loved visiting old castles in Ireland years ago. Such a thrilling look into the past.

  29. What an interesting blog. I am fascinated by old castles. We don't have any here in the USA. You really did some deep research. It must have been such fun visiting all those places.

  30. Oh, I love that period! Suscribing. :)
    Glad to have found you through UBC. :)

  31. Great start to the month Paula - look forward to all the wonderful places to come!

  32. Wonderful theme! I love that these are all your pictures. Looking forward to learning more. :)

  33. Joyce - I love the castles in Ireland too.

    Sarah, we have so many castles we often take them for granted.

    Paula - many thanks for joining me here!

    Amy - fasten your seatbelt, it's going to be quite a journey!

    Elisa, many thanks :-)

  34. Fascinating beginning to your new blog posts, Paula - look forward to the rest!

  35. Hi Paula,Really enjoyed this. I have been through Ashby on a couple of occasions, lovely town but I knew little of the history.
    After Hastings turned against Richard I lost interest in him. I had no idea that his family were able to stay on his estate. Proving how fair Richard was.

    Thanks for this fascinating blog. I look forward to the next one.
    Could it be B for Bosworth!!!

  36. Thanks, Rosemary and Margaret.

    And you guessed right about B for Bosworth, Margaret - it's the ONLY possibility for B :-)

  37. Paula, I'm not as familiar with Enlgish history of this peoiod as I should be. How did Edward V lose his crown to Richard III?
    Loved the blog and will follow A-Z. Wonderful pictures, too.

  38. Hi Linda - all will become clear (or clearer, I hope) in later posts this month! Briefly, though, Edward V was one of the young 'Princes in the Tower'. He was never actually crowned, and due to Thomas More and Shakespeare, many people think Richard was the 'wicked' uncle who had him murdered. Plenty of other people think differently though!

  39. Thank you, Paula. I was familiar with the little princes in the tower mystery but just didn't make the connection. Now I've got it.