Pleshey Castle Work Essay, Research Paper
Describe the Castle as it was in 1400 A.D.
Today, there are very few remains of the once great Pleshey castle. However, the shape and basic outline of the castle can be worked out. A tall mound situated to one corner is obviously the motte, there are very little remains of the keep. This is surrounded by a large ditch which you can cross using the large brick bridge. There is a large open area which is the site of the bailey. This, in turn, has a large bank surrounding it, and quite a large moat surrounding that. The brick bridge is the largest remaining feature. There is also a small, crumbling building below this bridge. This little structure is probably the remains of some sort of sewage system. A small arch at the base of the construction shows that it may have been the pit beneath a toilet. Also, it could have been the foundation for a guard house that had kept a previous draw-bridge. The only other evidence is a tiny section of wall on the top of the bank. This, we can assume, is the foundation of a curtain wall that surrounded the entire castle.
Source 1 is an excerpt from an account of Richard II visiting Pleshey. This was taken in 1389 and proves that it was still intact at this point in time. The article mentions a court, hall, an apartment and a chapel. Source 2 further goes to prove the castle was in good condition around 1400. This time it is 1397 and the writing is from an inventory of Pleshey castle. This describes the castle being full, with many valuable items. To name but a few, there are many beds of gold, curtains, books, altar cloths and many weapons. The altar cloths back up the description of a chapel in source 1.
One medieval document actually mentions Queen Margaret staying at Pleshey between 1450 and 1460. Much building in brick is recorded – this is probably when the bridge was built. Bricks were not used for building until the late 1400 s and the bridge is the only brick structure in Pleshey, therefore it seems sensible to assume the bridge is what was built. Source 4, an excerpt from Shakespeare s play Richard II , was written around 1590, but describes Pleshey in 1389. It talks of the place being desolate and creates the impression of no-one having been there for a long time. However, it is likely that this is just how Pleshey looked in 1590, when Shakespeare wrote it. Source 3,the Elizabethan survey, further proves this by its description of Pleshey taken in 1558, matching that of Shakespeare s.
There have been some excavations at Pleshey which has revealed more evidence about the location of buildings. In 1959 there was an excavation across the bailey. They found many things including buildings of flint, pebble and mortar. Also they discovered worked stone, window glass and lead strips. This confirms source 3 which describes an old chapel built of pebble, with some, “wyndowes of stone.”
As you can see, nearly all the evidence above goes to prove that in 1400 Pleshey was still lived in. In fact, the only source which suggests otherwise is Shakespeare, but this evidence is suspect, as mentioned before. Whereas Richard II is a story, evidence such as the inventory of the castle and the medieval chroniclers are official records. It is also likely that it belonged to someone very rich. Throughout its time it was lived in by royalty, up to 1460. Therefore, we can assume it was in very good condition. Unlike most other castles of its type, that had been abandoned or improved, Pleshey still stood strong and habitable at the turn of the century.
There were many buildings to be found in the bailey, which you can pick out through using the information. Firstly, there was obviously a keep on top of the motte, although there are few descriptions of it, and just a few rocks remain today. There were probably two courts, an apartment and a chapel, as mentioned in source 1.Houses are mentioned in source 3 and source 2 says there were many beds of gold, we can gather that there were many rooms, and individual houses. Source 2 also mentions lots of weapons, therefore it is likely that there was an armoury. A gate house is mentioned in source 3 along with the inner ditch, which was filled with water.
“Pleshey is a typical motte-and-bailey castle.”
Do you agree with this statement from a local history book?
This is a definition I found of a motte-and-bailey castle: A motte and bailey castle comprises of a large mound of soil or stone (the motte). These vary considerably in size, from the very small to the largest at Thetford. This is surrounded by, one or more embanked enclosures (the bailey). Both may be surrounded by wet or dry ditches and could be further strengthened with fortifications, and/or a tower on top of the motte.
Firstly there is no such thing as a typical motte-and-bailey castle, therefore I disagree with the statement straight away. The only thing connecting most motte-and-bailey castles is that they all have mottes, and the all have baileys. As there is no typical motte-and-bailey, I will look at what makes Pleshey individual.
One of the major differences is a huge moat that surrounded the castle and most of the village. This feature does make it different from most other castles of its type, few other have a ditch that is so large. The walls were also slightly different. Whereas in castles such as Berkhamstead, the outer walls were simply very tall blocks of stone, in Pleshey there is quite a tall mound that surrounds the whole of the bailey. The mound also had a stone wall on top of it, this would ve made Pleshey s defence particularly high.
It is also unlikely that any other castles had a history at all similar to that of Pleshey s. It is clear that Pleshey lasted a lot longer than any other motte-and-bailey castles. As with most it was probably built around 1050 to 1200. However, it seemed most castles of its type were fading, but Plesehy was still in use till at least 1450. The time of occupation varied widely, some were abandoned not long after completion and others had a life of perhaps 150 years.
There is little evidence that people lived in the mottes, which would have been used largely as watch towers. There is no information about Pleshey that would prove this to be otherwise.
A bailey at Hen Domen, Montgomery produced evidence for a chapel, a tower, and several buildings of domestic and other uses including the keeping of horses, with four to five successive building phases over c.150 years. Information in question one shows that Pleshey too included many of the above.