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It was built by Sir William de Clinton, 1st Earl of Huntingdon, in 1345 to a rectangular plan, with octagonal towers at each angle, a gatehouse on the east, and a residential range on the west, the whole surrounded by a broad moat. Clinton died in 1354 but his widow, Juliana Leybourne spent time here even after her next marriage. Additions were made by Humphrey Stafford, 1st Duke of Buckingham who acquired it in 1437 by exchanging it for other manors in Northamptonshire. The castle is unusual in that it has survived largely intact.
Amongst the antiquities there is a 15th-century chair upon which Henry VII was crowned after the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, a table owned by Sir Everard Digby (cousin to the Digbys of Coleshill) around which the Gunpowder Plot was planned in 1605, and a 'Whispering Door' (two doors with a common jamb) brought from Kenilworth Castle.
The present family, the Fetherston-Dilkes, first came into possession in the 17th century. During the Civil War Maxstoke was garrisoned for Parliament. The first known Governor of Maxstoke Castle in 1642/43 was a Captain Layfield. The garrison musters reveal that between March 1644 to October 1645, the Captain of the garrison was Mr Henry Kendall Sen. lord of the manor of Austrey. His son Henry Kendall Jun. was his lieutenant. The garrison included several of their Austrey tenants: William Smart (a joiner's son), Henry Orton, Henry Spencer and John Crispe.
Maxstoke Castle is opened to the public annually (usually in mid-June), in aid of local charities tours for interested historical groups can be booked year round. It is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and a Grade I listed building.
- Ormrod, W. M. (23 September 2004). "Leybourne, Juliana, countess of Huntingdon (1303/4–1367), noblewoman". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/54433. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- P.R.O. Exchequer SP28/121A-122.