Some notes on the history of the village of Kirby Muxloe

Kirby's history goes back to at least the Domesday Book of 1086, where it appeared under the name Carbi.

We can claim an unfinished castle, being built by William Lord Hastings at the time of his sudden and unexpected death at the hands of King Richard III.

For further information about medieval Kirby, see our article, here.

We also have a claim for being, in 1940, "the most bombed village in the country", when nearby Leicester was under attack but some bombs clearly didn't reach their intended target.

We are fortunate that comprehensive parish records going back to the 1700's have survived and give us a fascinating insight into village life in the 18th and 19th centuries.

For more information, see our articles on the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, as they become available.

The notes below will give you a brief overview of our history.

The name "Kirby Muxloe"

Our village name has evolved through many variations over time, for reasons that are sometimes understandable and sometimes not! The first part derives from a Dane called "Caeri" and is the name shown in William the Conqueror's Domesday Book of 1086. By 1236, this has evolved into Kereby.

Originally, there was no second part, but at some point in time, it became necessary either to distinguish the village from another of a similar name or to divide it into two. The word "Muckle" was added, meaning "Greater", as in "Many a mickle makes a muckle" (lots of small things make a large thing). There were several variants on this. A Leicestershire map of 1645 showed the name as just “Kirby”, but one from 1695 had “Kirby Mullox”.

We have never found a Kirby Mickle, or Lesser, or Minor, or anything else that would indicate the counterpart place. It is possible that our village name was intended to distinguish it from Kirkby Mallory, some six miles away.

The "Muckle" was also written variously as Muckles or Muckless, despite there being no evidence that we ever had any less "muck" than any other Leicestershire village!

At some point, and it's not clear when, the name "Muxloe" starts to appear. At the front of the Parish Register that starts in 1703, it seems that a somewhat irate vicar has written "Kirby Muckless not Muxloe".

Despite all opposition, the name Muxloe gradually took over and, by the mid eighteenth century, had become firmly established.

It has been suggested that a wealthy Muxloe or Muxlow family "appropriated" it. Alternatively, it may be similar to the way in which the inhabitants of Padstow refer to their village as "Padstein", as celebrity chef Rick Stein has almost taken it over! If people referred to Kirby Muckles as Kirby Muxloe because more and more land was being bought up by members of the Muxloe family, then perhaps the family would not object.

In 1687, Mr. Thomas Hartshorn of Leicester and Mrs. Emma Muxloe of Desford were married in Kirby. In the same year, Edward Muxloe of Desford and Katherine Styan of Kirby Frith were also married here.

Nevertheless, it appears that no member of the Muxloe family lived in our village until some time after 1722. So whether our Muxloe name comes from the Muxloe family of Desford is uncertain. It's probably the best explanation that we have.

Local historian Jonathan Wilshere investigated the name derivation, but could also come to no firm conclusion.

Kirby Muxloe Castle

Kirby Muxloe Castle

The castle today

Brickwork Patterns

Patterns in the brickwork

Although it is called a "castle", and comes complete with crenellations (regular rectangular spaces along the top of a fortified wall, through which arrows or other weaponry can be shot), Kirby Muxloe Castle may better be described as a fortified manor house.

William Lord Hastings obtained permission for it in 1474 and work started in 1480. It is built almost entirely in brick, making it the earliest post-Roman brick building in Leicestershire.

Even more remarkable is that records of the construction process have survived. Over a million bricks were used, mostly costing 1s 6d per thousand.

There are patterns designed into the brickwork, some geometrical, some showing initials and some figurative. The exact purpose or meaning has been lost in the mist of time, but they may have been designed to illustrate the life of Lord Hastings.

In 1483, two years before the Battle of Bosworth where King Richard III met his end, Lord Hastings was summoned to London for a meeting with the King. What was said is unknown (unless you believe Shakespeare), but by the end of the day, Hastings had been executed without trial. Now whilst other things said about Richard III may be in doubt, of this fact there is no dispute.

Today, it is owned by English Heritage and can be viewed by the public, but check their website for opening times.

Further details of the castle are available on the Historic England website.

The Bombing of 1940

The Old Free Church

The original Free Church

Remains of the Old Free Church

Remains of the Old Free Church

(above photos courtesy of the Will Walker Collection)

The New Free Church

The New Free Church

The evening of 19th November 1940 saw a bombing raid by the German Luftwaffe on the city of Leicester and strategic targets in the surrounding area. On that night, the bombers narrowly missed the railway line near Western Park, but completely destroyed Kirby’s fine Free Church building, probably in an attempt to hit the nearby railway line in Kirby. Fortunately, no-one was killed. A resident died shortly after, probably brought on by shock.

A newspaper result later called us "the most bombed village in England". The Home Guard immediately swung into action and people whose houses were damaged to the point of being dangerous to live in were re-housed - some in the Club House of the Golf Course!

The ARP (Air Raid Precautions) Wardens' Report Book of the time has survived and it, together with the bombing reports submitted to the County Council, give us a view of what happened on that eventful night. We have also interviewed some of our local residents who remember what happened to them and their families.

To read more about reminiscences of that evening, have a look at some recollections.