Hadleigh Castle
In the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries there was a quickening of commercial activity in the district, markets being established at several centres. The royal forest, which stretched from Thundersley and Rayleigh to the borders Prittlewell parish, became a favourite hunting resort of Plantagenet Kings. This was mainly due to the existence of Hadleigh Castle, which having passed into royal ownership, afforded ample accommodation for hunting parties. The three Edwards were particularly fond of following the chase thereabouts. Hadleigh Castle was built by Hubert de Burgh, the famous Justiciar of John, under warrant, in the years subsequent to 1217. It stood picturesquely and prominently in the centre of the range of cliffs, stretching from Leigh to Benfleet, commanding fine views of the Thames. The structure of which only portions of two towers and parts of the western and and southern wall now remain was composed of blocks Kentish ragstone and chalk. It was oblong shape, with a huge courtyard within the outer walls. The principal entrance was from the North. On three sides there was a moat and the fourth was amply defended by the declivity of the slope. Extensive alterations amounting almost to rebuilding, were carried out in the reign of Edward III. This monarch, who was particularly fond of the castle, spent thousands of pounds upon the work. The engineer in charge is presumed to have been the celebrated William of Wykeham. The castle fell into ruin during the reign of Henry VIII. The ruins were painted, by John Constable, whose picture was engraved in mezzotint by David Lucas, for the English Landscape series. The estate was purchased, in 1890, by the Salvation Army, establishing a Farm Colony and is still in their ownership to date.

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