Lately I’ve been obsessed with British history. More specifically, castles.
You can blame it on a show that I recently discovered on Netflix – it’s called Secrets of Great British Castles and I just can’t get enough. I’ve since made it my personal mission to visit as many castles as possible while immersing myself in their rich and fascinating history.
So when I found myself alone in Essex on a cloudy Sunday afternoon, I knew I had to pay a visit to Hadleigh Castle.
I snapped a few photos out of habit, and decided to write a quick blog post all about my little solo adventure!
Situated high above the rolling Essex countryside, Hadleigh Castle was first built after 1215 during the reign of Henry III. It was the creation of Hubert de Burgh, the 1st Earl of Kent and a key supporter of King John.
During the 14th century, Edward II and his son Edward III poured money and resources into rebuilding the castle. It became a fortress against a potential French attack and also served as a private residence for the King.
Digitally reconstructed images show the castle to be an impressive and somewhat foreboding residence, but these days it lies in (still beautiful!) ruins.
I had always wondered why Hadleigh Castle ended up so completely destroyed while other structures from a similar time period remained standing.
It turns out that much of the stonework was sold in the 16th century – in fact, a church in the town of Hadleigh is made from stone taken from the castle! Combined with the fact that the castle was built on soft London clay and was subject to subsidience, a natural sinking of the ground’s surface, it’s no wonder that so much of this beautiful fortification was destroyed.
So I’m very grateful for what is left!
I haven’t been able to find any ghost stories centred around Hadleigh Castle, but it’s definitely the kind of place that would be a little too spooky after dark.
Needless to say, I love it.
The castle ruins are just a short walk from the little town of Hadleigh, with the footpath running alongside fields of yellow corn and quaint wooden fences.
Trust me, there’s more to Essex than TOWIE and fake tans – it’s also home to some of the most beautiful British countryside that I’ve ever seen.
I’ve been visiting Hadleigh Castle since I was a child – first on day trips with my parents and sister, then as a regular walking route when I moved back to England until I upped sticks to London.
My last visit was around five years ago, and I was flooded with memories and contemplation as I made the familiar walk up to the castle.
I spent most of my time strolling around the ruins, trying to imagine exactly how the castle looked and functioned all those hundreds of years ago.
Adding to my fascination, there were small signs dotted around which explained the purpose of certain rooms.
Ever heard of a garderobe? Neither had I, but it’s actually a historic term for a room in a medieval castle. It’s most commonly used to describe the toilet, which I always found incredibly funny as a child.
There’s also a postern, which is a concealed second door or gate. I could just imagine the castle’s occupants surreptitiously coming and going through the little doorway – oh, to be a fly on the wall!
It isn’t quite blackberry-picking season yet, but somehow I stumbled upon bushes teeming with ripe berries.
In case you were wondering, I can confirm that they were delicious.
Whether you’re a British history nerd or simply looking for a new place to explore, Hadleigh Castle is a must-visit.
I’d love to know – which castle should I visit next?