posted 03-15-2000 02:59 AM
Pleshey is a fine motte and bailey. This is from Castles from the Air by the late Professor R. Allen Brown
J. H. Round once observed that: ‘There is no county perhaps that bears more clearly than Essex the imprint of the Norman Conquest.’ He was thinking then especially of place-names (Hatfield Peverel, Stansted Mountfichet ...), and was the first to show that ‘Pleshey’ too is French, from le pleissie, enclosure (as in the early castle of Le Plessis Grimoult in Normandy). Indeed nothing perhaps can better show the imprint of Norman settlement and new Norman lordship upon the English countryside than an aerial photograph of Pleshey, new castle and new fortified township planted in the open country of High Easter as the caput or centre of his honour chosen by the new Norman lord, Geoffrey I de Mandeville (Manneville, Seine-Inf., arr. Dieppe). The castle, too, though the prodigious earthworks (but surely not the motte?) may owe something to refortification in the second half of the twelfth century, stands revealed as a classic motte-and-bailey site. The motte, constructed of rammed-down layers, stands some 15 m above its water-filled moat. The present bailey has ramparts up to 12 m above their moat, and is still connected to the motte-top by an ascending bridge, albeit of fifteenth century brick. The early entrance to the castle here was probably hard by the motte to the north-east where there is an island in the ditch. There are traces of another (earlier?) bailey to the north where Back Lane curves round in the village.
Nothing, save a lingering prestige, remains of the splendours, architectural and other, once recorded here. Few sites would more reward a comprehensive programme of research, though up to the present only part of the (upper) bailey has been seriously and recently excavated by trial trenches.
The Geoffrey I de Mandeville of Domesday died about 1100, to be succeeded by his son William I, d. 1129, and his grandson Geoffrey II de Mandeville. The latter, created earl of Essex in 1140 by king Stephen, who subsequently betrayed him, is that (formerly notorious) Geoffrey de Mandeville who played so prominent a role in Stephen’s reign, to die in arms and in rebellion in 1144. His son, Geoffrey III, was granted the earldom and his patrimony by Henry II in 1156 although the Mandeville castles (Pleshey and Saffron Walden) were demolished about a year later. Earl Geoffrey died in 1166 to be succeeded by his brother, William, to whom a licence to refortify Pleshey was granted some time between his succession and 1180, in which year his marriage is known to have taken place in the castle. Pleshey goes proudly on, ever more splendid, to the end of the Middle Ages, via the great house of Bohun, earls of Hereford, and ultimately the duchy of Lancaster. In Richard II's time it was held by Thomas of Woodstock, duke of Gloucester, the king’s uncle, murdered in Calais. Hence the reference in Shakespeare — With all good speed at Pleshey visit me,
... empty lodgings and unfurnished walls, unpeopled offices, untrodden stones.
(Richard II, Act I, Sc. 2)
As for battles the whole of East Anglia seems remarkable free of major battles but it is possible that minor battles happened during the various baronial rebellions but I'm afraid I have no record (and no record may exist)
Neurotics build castles in the air, psychotics live in them, Psychiatrists charge the rent, art therapists do the interior design and nurses clean out the garderobes!