posted 01-09-2003 09:07 AM
Pleshey Castle Ordnance Survey Map Reference TL 665145
Pleshey Castle, near Chelmsford, is described by Shakespeare as having “…empty lodgings and unfurnished walls, unpeopled offices and untrodden stones.” Today, the walls have vanished and the lodgings nearby are full. Originally a motte and bailey castle of the 12th century, Pleshey still has a motte 50ft (15.2m) high, a moat crossed by a 15th century brick bridge and a huge outer bailey that covers most of the village.
A rectangular building with angle turrets set on thin foundations with buttressing, once stood on the summit of the motte. The rampart of the kidney-shaped inner bailey to the south of the motte rises 12m above a ditch which is still full of water. Originally the entrance to the inner bailey was to the north-east, where there is an island in the ditch – a position which would have been dominated by the motte.
Excavations have shown evidence of late 12th century timber buildings erected against the timber-revetted rampart of the inner bailey. Footings of a chapel built around 1300, with 15th century alterations were also revealed. Two small round foundations of the late 12th or early 13th century were found below the chapel.
The castle is assumed to have been built by the first Geoffrey de Mandeville, who died around 1100. His grandson was created Earl of Essex by King Stephen in 1140, but the Earl later betrayed the King and ran amok throughout Essex and Cambridgeshire. The Earl, also called Geoffrey de Mandeville, and owner of Saffron Walden Castle, was the owner at the time the castle was first mentioned. He was persuaded by King Stephen to surrender it in 1142-3.
The third Geoffrey de Mandeville regained the earldom in 1156, but in 1158 King Henry II had Pleshey Castle dismantled. The Earl’s brother William re-fortified it in 1167-80. King John besieged the castle in 1215, and in 1216 it was surrendered to Prince Louis of France.
It later passed to the de Bohuns, Earls of Hereford. Eleanor de Bohun was the wife of Thomas of Woodstock, the Duke of Gloucester and uncle of Richard II. The Duke tried to rule the young king and opposed the marriage of his own brother’s son to his wife’s younger sister, Mary de Bohun. Richard set out with a party of soldiers for Pleshey and enticed the Duke away. On their way back to London the party was ambushed and the Duke was carried off to Calais on Richard’s orders. The unfortunate man was eventually strangled and brought back to Pleshey to be buried next to his wife. His family got their revenge three years later when the Duke of Exeter, who had been responsible for the ambush, was beheaded by a mob outside the castle walls.
In 1629 Robert Clarke, the then owner, pulled down most of the castle to build a house called the Lodge. This was later sold to Sir William Joliffe, whose monument can be seen in the church. There is a stone from the castle in the churchyard which has on it the name ‘Richard II’ inscribed in Latin.
Adapted from the following :
John Kinross – Discovering Castles in England & Wales – Shire Publications Ltd., 1973
Mike Salter – The Castles of East Anglia – Folly Publications, 2001
[This message has been edited by AJR (edited 01-09-2003).]