Pleshey Castle is absolutely massive - not only is the motte one of the biggest in England, but it is surrounded by a large water-filled moat and an even bigger bailey. Most remarkable though is the larger "outer bailey" - a rampart which stands to the north of the motte and is large enough to enclose virtually all of the modern day village of Pleshey! What is sad, though, is that it was once a massive stone fortress.
The Castle was built by Geoffrey de Mandeville, Earl of Essex, during the Anarchy (see also Saffron Walden Castle). It was destroyed when Henry II came to the Throne, but he later allowed William de Mandeville to refortify Pleshey at which point it was probably rebuilt in stone. Traces of a hall have been found on the motte and a chapel in the bailey.
The Castle passed to the Bohuns of Hereford and then to Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester. The Duke was leader of the opposition to his nephew Richard II. In 1397 the King's men arrived at Pleshey and quietly took the Duke away. They took him to Calais where he was rather casually executed.
Henry VI's Queen, Margaret of Anjou (unpopular with the people and like all the House of Anjou considered to be a witch) briefly lived at Pleshey in the 1450s and gave it a new lease of life (the bridge pictured above dates to that period), but after she left the Castle fell into decay.
Over the centuries stone robbing has removed virtually every trace of the stonework from the Castle, and we are left just with the huge earthworks.
The Castle is open to the public on application to the owners.
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