Situated on the shores of the Thames Estuary, Hadleigh Castle was built in the thirteenth century by a key supporter of King John. Later confiscated, it became a Royal castle and a favoured residence of Edward III. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries it was owned by various Queens of England.
Hadleigh was granted to Hubert de Burgh in 1215 by King John. Hubert had distinguished himself in Royal service when in 1204 he had mounted a spirited, but unsuccessful, defence of the great stronghold of Chinon in Poitou from a French army. He spent several years in captivity but upon his return to England he continued to rise in prominence remaining a strong supporter of the King despite the outbreak of the first Baron's War in 1215. When these magnates invited Prince Louis of France to come to England to take the throne, Hubert successfully defended Dover Castle from the Franco-Baronial army. Upon the death of King John in October 1216, Hubert transferred his loyalty to the new King, 9 year old Henry III. At the Battle of Sandwich (1217) he defeated a French Naval force deployed to resupply Prince Louis. His victory here was key to ending the war and his success led to further rewards - including being raised to Earl of Kent in 1227 - and it was against this backdrop that Hubert built Hadleigh Castle.
Despite his earlier service, Hubert's rise to prominence came to an end in 1239 when he quarrelled with Henry III and forfeited his lands. Hadleigh Castle was taken into Royal ownership although it was neglected until the fourteenth century. This lack of attention was compounded by subsidence caused by the unstable clay on which the castle had been built. In 1273 the castle passed into the hands of Edward I's wife, Queen Eleanor, when it was recorded as being in a poor state of repair. A visit by Edward II in 1311 prompted some restoration work.
Hadleigh Castle was renovated and repaired during the reign of Edward III. That King had achieved some incredible achievements on the battlefield - perhaps most notably Halidon Hill (1333), Crecy (1346) and the capture of Calais (1347). Later in his reign he sought to cement his achievements in stone and built Queensborough Castle as a defence for the Thames estuary. Hadleigh Castle, on the opposite bank, was substantially upgraded for the same purpose. Around 1360 a new Gateway (including Barbican) was added as were two eastern towers. The residential accommodation was also significantly enhanced; Edward favoured Hadleigh as a residence and the lodging chambers were revamped enabling the aging King to spend many of his later years here.
When Edward III died in 1377, little further interest was shown in the castle by English monarchs but it did periodically form part of the package of properties owned by the Queen of England; it was held by Elizabeth Woodville (wife of Edward IV), Catherine of Aragon (first wife of Henry VIII), Anne of Cleves (fourth wife of Henry VIII) and Catherine Parr (sixth wife of Henry VIII). However by the mid-sixteenth century the castle was ruinous and was sold as a source of building materials.
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Hadleigh Castle is extensively ruined as significant quantities of stone has been robbed over the years for other projects whilst the clay base has led to subsidence of the structure. However the remains of several towers and the barbican are visible. The site offers good views over the Thames estuary.
Barbican. The remains of the gatehouse and barbican.
Lead Melting Hearth. This hearth was built in 1551 to optimise recycling of the castle’s valuable lead windows and roofs.