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Pleshey Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
The Mount; Plaisy; Plessy; Pleasing; Tumblestoun; Castel de Placeto; Pleisiz

In the civil parish of Pleshey.
In the historic county of Essex.
Modern Authority of Essex.
1974 county of Essex.

OS Map Grid Reference: TL66531437
Latitude 51.80408° Longitude 0.41388°

Pleshey Castle has been described as a certain Timber Castle, and also as a certain Masonry Castle.

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.
This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law*.


Pleshey Castle. A good example of the Motte and Bailey type of earthwork with a well preserved town enclosure or Burgus attached. The castle is ascribed to the De Mandevilles in the 12th century. It consists of a steep oval-shaped mount surrounded by a wide moat, a strong inner bailey on the South, slight traces of another bailey to the North, and well-defined remains of the Town enclosure also to the North. Excavations have confirmed that the castle ditch was backfilled in 1157-8 on the orders of Henry II. In 1180 licence was granted to fortify the castle, it being the administrative centre of the de Mandeville estates. Pleshey remained part of the Mandeville estates until 1227-8 when it passed to the Bohun family by marriage. The castle remained the adminstrative centre of the estates until at least the early 16th century. A survey of the estate in 1558-9 found most of the buildings to be ruinous. These included a hall, domestic structures, timber gatehouse, a stone chapel, and brick bridge. (PastScape)

The first extensive excavations were in 1907, by Col W N Tuffnell (the present owner's grandfather). Large buildings on motte and in upper bailey were uncovered. Hundreds of decorated, glazed floor tiles were removed to his house at Langleys where they were eventually buried. A rectangular building was found on top of the motte. No record of ths was published until the Morant Club uncovered the foundations again in 1921-1922. The building was 67 x 56ft externally, with a thin curtain-wall, supported on at least 3 sides by 11 projections, of flint rubble-work. Some were solid, some hollow. 3 types of construction were noted but no superimposition of foundations. They are likely to be of different dates but there is no evidence of this yet. This building on the motte was interpreted as a shell-keep within thin curtain walls. Rhatz thought it more likely to be the 15th century Great Hall, in the light of newly discovered 15th century documents. Christy suggested the following dates for the 3 types of construction: 12th century, 13th century, 15th or 16th century. Monitoring of the reinstatement of Pleshey Castle was undertaken in June 1993. No archaeological remains were revealed during the works. The reinstatement has been completed to the satisfaction of ECC Archaeology section. The castle at Pleshey was built by the mid twelfth century and consisted of a steep oval-shaped motte, surrounded by a moat, with a wide bailey on the northern side. In 1157-8 there was a general order to destroy all the de Manderville castles following Geoffrey de Manderville II's arraignment for treason. In 1167 permission was given to William de Manderville to refortify Pleshey and the construction works appear to have included the construction of a second southern bailey and probably the town enclosure. A survey was made of the castle in 1558-9 which recorded that the buildings were in a state of ruin and desertion. It however also lists some of the structures present, including the brick bridge, a hall, various houses, the Constable’s house, the kitchen and the outer gatehouse; all of these were timber-built and a chapel built of flint-rubble. The survey advocates that the bridge is left intact as access to the motte which had been turned into a rabbit warren. (Unlocking Essex's Past)

A licence to refortify the castle, was issued between 1166 and 1180. Not, in a meaningful sense, a licence to crenellate although has been called this by some. Translating the medieval latin licentia as 'permission' is erroneous. The term mean 'freedom to' i.e. it was a statement of good will from a higher lord rather consent.

The placename Pleshey is a corruption of le pleisse, a French term for enclosure, and this may suggest Pleshey was a new post-Conquest foundation not a Norman replacement/rebuild of a Saxon manorial site

It has been incorrectly suggested that a Royal licence to crenellate was granted in 1166-1180 (Click on the date for details of this supposed licence.).

Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

Data >
PastScape   County HER   Scheduling   Listing   I. O. E.
Maps >
OS getamap   Streetmap   Old-Maps   Where's the path   NLS maps  
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Sources of information, references and further reading
  • Websites (Gatehouse is not responsible for the content of external websites.)
  • Books
    • Osbourne, Mike, 2013, Defending Essex (Stroud: The History Press) p. 21, 22, 24, 27
      Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 75, 107, 128, 305
      Neville, David, 2003, Lost Castles of Essex (Ian Henry) p. 28-39
      Salter, Mike, 2001, The Castles of East Anglia (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 38
      Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 75-6 (plan)
      Higham, R. and Barker, P., 1992, Timber Castles (Batsford)
      Brown, R.Allen, 1989, Castles from the Air (Cambridge University Press) p. 183-4
      Colin Platt, 1984, Medieval Britain from the air p. 24-5
      King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 1 p. 146
      Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 276
      Williams, Frances, 1977 Pleshey Castle, Essex (XII-XVI Century): Excavations in the Bailey, 1959-1963 (Oxford: British Archaeological Reports British Series 42)
      Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 280
      Colvin, H.M., Brown, R.Allen and Taylor, A.J., 1963, The history of the King's Works Vol. 2: the Middle Ages (London: HMSO) p. 781 (C15 only)
      Rahtz, P., 1960, Pleshey Castle First Interim Report (Colchester)
      RCHME, 1921, An inventory of the historical monuments in Essex Vol. 2 (central and south-west) p. 8, 201-2
      Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
      Gould, Chalkley, 1903, 'Ancient Earthworks' in Doubleday, Arthur and Page, Wm (eds), VCH Essex Vol. 1 p. 297-9 online copy
      Mackenzie, J.D., 1897, Castles of England Vol. 1 p. 266-8 online copy
      Grose, Francis, 1785 (new edn orig 1756), Antiquities of England and Wales (London) Vol. 2 p. 129-31 online copy
  • Periodical Articles
    • Guy, Neil, et al, 2011-12, 'CSG Annual Conference April 2011' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 25 p. 91-3
      Speight, Sarah, 2004, ''Religion in the Bailey: Charters, Chapels and the Clergy' Château Gaillard Vol. 21 p. 271-80
      Priddy, Deborah, 1988, 'Pleshey Castle - the northern bailey: excavations at the village hall site, 1987' Essex Archaeology and History Vol. 19 p. 166-75
      Youngs, S.M. et al, 1988 'Medieval Britain and Ireland in 1987' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 32 p. 241 online copy
      Thompson, M.W., 1986, 'Associated monasteries and castles in the Middle Ages: a tentative list' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 143 p. 319
      Youngs, S.M., Clark, J. and Barry, T., 1986, 'Medieval Britain and Ireland in 1985' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 30 p. 134 online copy
      1986, Essex Archaeology and History Vol. 17 p. 148
      1982, Essex Archaeology and History Vol. 80 p. 17-22
      Youngs, S.M. and Clark, J., 1982, 'Medieval Britain in 1981' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 26 p. 183 online copy
      Youngs, S.M. and Clark, J., 1981, 'Medieval Britain in 1980' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 25 p. 200 online copy
      Macdonnell, E., 1981 'An Englishman's home: Pleshey Castle, Essex' Country Life 170 p. 718-19
      Webster, L.E. and Cherry, J., 1980, 'Medieval Britain in 1979' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 24 p. 247 online copy
      (Bassett) in Webster, L.E. and Cherry, J., 1978, 'Medieval Britain in 1977' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 22 p. 169-70 online copy
      Goodall, J.A., 1978, 'Two medieval drawings' Antiquaries Journal Vol. 58 p. 159-62
      Webster, L.E. and Cherry, J., 1977, 'Medieval Britain in 1976' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 21 p. 235 online copy
      (Bassett), 1974, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 18 p. 196 online copy
      (Sellers), 1969, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 13 p. 255 online copy
      1976, Essex Archaeology and History Vol. 8 p. 176
      King, D.J.Cathcart, 1972, 'The Field Archaeology of mottes; Eine kurze übersicht' Château Gaillard Vol. 5 p. 101-112
      Rahtz, 1964, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 8 p. 252-3 online copy
      Rahtz, 1961, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 5 p. 316-7 online copy
      Rahtz, 1960, Medieval Archaeology Vol. 4 p. 145-6 online copy
      Brown, R, Allen, 1959, 'A List of Castles, 1154–1216' English Historical Review Vol. 74 p. 249-280 (Reprinted in Brown, R. Allen, 1989, Castles, conquest and charters: collected papers (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 90-121) view online copy (subscription required)
      Christy, 1923, Essex Archaeological Society (new ser) Vol. 16 p. 190-204 (excavation of motte)
      Round, 1923, Essex Archaeological Society (new ser) Vol. 16 p. 268-72 (history)
      Viscount Dillon and Hope, W.H.St.John, 1897, 'Inventory of the Goods and Chattels belonging to Thomas, Duke of Gloucester, and seized in his Castle at Pleshy, co. Essex, 21 Richard II (1397) ; with their Values, as shown in the Escheator's Accounts' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 54 p. 275-308 online copy
      Clark, G.T., 1889, 'Contribution towards a complete list of moated mounds or burhs' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 46 p. 197-217 esp. 203 online copy
  • Guidebooks
    • Chelmsford Museums Service, 1991, Pleshey Castle (Chelmsford Borough Council) (leaflet)
  • Primary (Medieval documents or transcriptions of such documents - This section is far from complete and the secondary sources should be consulted for full references.)
    • Joseph Hunter, (ed.), 1844, The Great Rolls of the Pipe for the Second, Third, and Fourth Years of the Reign of King Henry the Second, A.D. 1155, 1156, 1157, 1158 (London) p. 132 online copy
      PRO Duchy of Lancaster Miscellanea 10/12 The National Archive reference
      Stubbs, W. (ed), 1880, The Minor Works comprising the Gesta regum with its continuation, the Actus pontificum, and the Mappa mundi, by Gervase, the Monk of Canterbury (London: Longman Rolls series 73) Vol. 2 p. 425 online copy
      Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community. The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p. 195-6
      DL43/3/18 (Survey of 3 Edward III) The National Archives reference
      DL44/1 (Survey of 1 Elizabeth) The National Archives reference
  • Antiquarian (Histories and accounts from late medieval and early modern writers)
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This record last updated on Saturday, November 15, 2014

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