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White's History, Gazetteer & Directory of Essex ~ 1848

Submitted and Transcribed by Essex Villages


PLESHEY, or Plaisy, a pleasant village, in a high situation, 6 miles N.N.W. of Chelmsford, has in its parish 337 inhabitants, but only 726a. 1r. 2p. of land, including roads, &c.  Its name is supposed to be a corruption of the French word Plaisir, applicable to the village on account of its situation on elevated ground, with agreeable prospects, especially towards the south, in which direction it is watered by a small rivulet, and by a brook on the north.  In the Conqueror's time, it was the seat of Alfhere, High Constable of England, who took it from the Abbot of Ely.  It was afterwards granted to Eustace, Earl of Boulogne, with whose grand-daughter, Maud, it passed in marriage to King Stephen, who gave it to Geoffrey de Mandeville, the first Earl of Essex, who built a Castle here, and another at Saffron Walden.  Having joined the party of the Empress Maud, the Earl was seized and imprisoned in the Tower of London, and the Castles of Pleshey and Walden were made the price of his release.  Henry II. restored the family estates to his son Geoffrey.  These and the succeeding Earls of Essex are noticed on page 20, and for a long period Pleshey Castle was their occasional residence.  A Roman entrenchment surrounds the village, and the circumference of the vallum is nearly a Roman mile.  Several urns and other antiquities have been found near it, and some Roman bricks are built in the tower of the church.  The earth works consist of an area of about two acres, enclosed by high and strong embankments, with a deep moat on the outside.  On the east side is an immense mound, called the Mount, separated from the enclosed area, as well as from the surrounding grounds, by a very deep ditch.  This mound has been called by topographers the Keep, and on it appears to have been built the strongest part of the Norman castle, the walls of which appear to have been built on the embankments, but have now disappeared, though a brick bridge, of one lofty pointed arch, which formed the communication between the castle and the keep, still remains; and being mantled with ivy and other foliage, it has a very picturesque appearance when viewed from the woody moat below.  This arch is remarkable for the singular circumstance of contracting as it approaches the foundations; and there was upon it a brick gate, which fell down about the close of last century.  Foundations of brick run from the end of the bridge to the left round of the keep, and on each side of the way to it are foundations of large rooms and angles of stone buildings.  Gough says, "the site of the castle has been a warren, and four ragged yews occupy the keep, in planting which some foundations were laid open."  When he wrote (1800,) four Roman roads, which led into the entrenchment, were easily traced; and by the side of that leading to Chelmsford, there had been found "many human bones, an iron bridle bit, a stone coffin, and a glass urn, with bones in it, and also some tessel of pavements."

Thomas of Woodstock, 6th son of Edward I., and afterwards Duke of Gloucester, became possessed of Pleshey and other extensive estates, in 1372, in right of his wife, the eldest daughter of Humphrey de Bohun; and in her right, also, he became High Constable of England and Earl of Essex.  The busy life and tragical fate of this nobleman occupy no inconsiderable portion of the annals of Richard the Second; and though the turbulence of the age, and the degrading system of favouritism pursued in the court of that weak monarch, necessarily connected him with the violences practiced in the early part of his sovereignty, there is no evidence of his having acted wantonly cruel, or of having supported his own administration by unmerited severity.  His character appears to have been that of the blunt Englishman: too haughty to submit his judgement to the trammels of courtly sycophancy, and too honest to tarnish his principles by unconditional submission to kingly despotism.  The favourites of Richard knew that his destruction could not be effected by open violence, so much was the popular voice in his behalf; they had, therefore, recourse to private assassination; and the King was so ready to forward their schemes of vengeance, that he descended even to the base treachery of arresting the Duke himself, under pretence that he wished to consult him about business of importance in London.  When this arrest was contrived, the Duke was at Pleshey Castle, with scarcely any more company than his own family and retainers.  The King came as if on a mere friendly visit from his country retreat of Havering-atte-Bower; and after supping with the Duke, said to him, "Good uncle, order five or six of your horses to be saddled; you must go with me to London; for to-morrow I am to meet the Londoners, and we shall find there my uncles of York and Lancaster, without fail; and I mean to take your opinion on a petition they are to present to me."  The Duke, suspecting no harm, obeyed forthwith.  They rode hard, for the King was in haste to get to London, and all the way talked to the Duke till they got to Stratford."  When the King came to the place where the ambush lay, he rode on before, and left his uncle; and then suddenly came up the Earl Marshal behind him, with a great troop of men and horses, and sprung on the Duke, saying, "I arrest you by the King's orders."  After being thus decoyed from Pleshey, the Duke was hurried to the Thames, where he was put on shipboard, and conveyed to Calais.  Here, after a few days' imprisonment, he was smothered by ruffians engaged for the purpose, and it was given out that he had died of apoplexy.  His body was brought to Pleshey, and buried in the church which he had built; but it was afterwards removed to Westminster Abbey.  Whatever degree of mystery had been thrown upon the manner of the Duke's death, during the remainder of the reign of Richard II., it was wholly dissipated by the inquisition made by command of the first Parliament that assembled after the accession of Henry IV.  It was then found "that he had been fraudulently and wickedly smothered, by the King's orders, at Calais;" and two or three of the assassins were afterwards executed.  The possessions of the Duke, which, on his murder in September, 1397, had been seized by the crown, appear to have been restored to his widow; and after her decease, Pleshey and other estates passed to Edmund, Earl of Stafford, in right of his wife, the Duke's daughter; but on a partition of the estates of Humphrey de Bohun between this lady and Henry V., her first cousin, the castle and manor of Pleshey fell to the crown, and became parcel of the Duchy of Lancaster.  Edward VI. granted the manor and the Great and Little Parks of Pleshey, to Sir John Gate, Knight; to whom, also, the College, founded here by the unfortunate Duke of Gloucester, had been previously granted by Henry VIII.  On his attainder and death, for conspiring to raise Lady Jane Grey to the throne, they again fell to the crown.  They were afterwards passed to Thomas Lord Rich and Sir Robert Clarke; and from them they have passed, by descent and purchase, to J. J. Tufnell, Esq., the present lord of the manor and owner of most of the soil.  Several smaller owners have estates in the parish, mostly freehold.  The copyholds are subject to arbitrary fines.

Pleshey College was founded in 1393, by Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester, for nine chaplains, of whom one was to be warden, two clerks, and two choristers.  The Collegiate Church (Holy Trinity,) was made parochial, under a license from the king and bishop; and the ancient parish church, which stood on the opposite side of the road, was pulled down.  The founder's daughter, Humphrey Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, and several others of his family, were interred here.  On its suppression in 1546, this college was granted to Sir John Gate, who, for the sake of the materials, pulled down the chancel and transepts; and would also have destroyed the nave and steeple had they not been purchased by the parishioners.  These having become ruinous were taken down in 1708, when a small brick church was erected by Bishop Compson.  A chancel was afterwards added by Samuel Tufnell, Esq., who also re-cast the four bells.  The living is a perpetual curacy, in the patronage of J. J. Tufnell, Esq., and incumbency of the Rev. J. Hutchinson, B.A.  It was valued at only £52 per ann., in 1831, though it has 21a. of land, purchased with £500 given by Lady Moyer and Mrs Jennings, in 1721 and 1728.  A handsome new parsonage house has lately been provided by the Governors of Queen Anne's Bounty, and enlarged partly at the expense of the patron.  The Dean and Chapter of Westminster are appropriators of the great tithes, which were commuted in 1846 for £220 per annum, and are held on lease by the patron.  The Church Land is 4a., let for £9 per annum.  A yearly rent-charge, out of the Lodge farm, was purchased for the incumbent in 1844.

Campion James, carpenter

Dowsett John, beerhouse

Dowsett Joseph, bricklayer

Everitt Geo. baker and shopkeeper

Fuller Mr James

Hasler Wm. blacksmith

Hammond John, parish clerk

Hawkins James, tailor

Hutchinson Rev. Jas. jun. B.A. incbt

Knight Wm. shopkeeper

Philpot Nathaniel, schoolmaster

Rayment Misses Eliz. and Catherine


Farmers (* are Owners.)

*Fuller Wm. Pleshey-bury

Hitching Geo. (& baker) Linsteads

*Rayment John Leigh (corn factor)

*Rayment Wm. (and butcher)

Young Wm. Pleshey Lodge

Letters from Chelmsford.


Pleshey 1861 Census


Post Office Directory of Essex ~ 1871

Submitted and Transcribed by Essex Villages


PLESHEY is an ancient town, situated on a small feeder of the Chelmer, in the Western division of the county, Dunmow hundred, Chelmsford union and county court district, Roding rural deanery, Essex archdeaconry, and Rochester diocese, 8 miles north west from Chelmsford station, 9 south west from Braintree, 7 south east from Dunmow, and 37 from London.

The tower and transepts of the present church (Holy Trinity) are the mutilated remains of a fine cruciform double aisled church, of Late Decorated character, which belonged jointly to the parish and to a college of nine priests, founded here by Thomas of Woodstock in 1393, and endowed by him with the tithes: the college fell with the lesser monasteries in 1536, when the revenues were £143 12s. 3d.; and of several marble tombs of the family of the founder which enriched the chancel, only three or four slabs, stripped to their brasses, remain: little was left of the structure in the time of Compton, Bishop of London, who built a small nave on its ruins in 1708; and a chancel was added about forty years after by Samuel Tufnell, esq., which is adorned with mural monuments of that family.

There is an old churchyard, now desecrated, in which the parish church stood before the college was built.

The register dates from the year 1656.

The living is a vicarage, yearly value £125, with residence, in the gift of J. J. Tufnell, esq., and held by the Rev. J. Hutchinson, M.A., of St. John’s College, Cambridge.  The Dean and Chapter of Westminster are the impropriators of a portion of the tithes.

Here was formerly a Roman camp, with a fosse and vallum, remains of which still exist, and where some antiquities have been found: it was the seat of a castle, built was William de Magnaville, belonging to the Great Constables of England, who resided here from the Conquest till 1397.

Here Thomas de Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester, youngest son of Edward lll., dwelt, and was arrested, and subsequently murdered, through the treachery of his nephew, King Richard ll.

Here also, in 1400, John Holland, Duke of Exeter, was beheaded by the populace, in revenge for his share in Prince Thomas’s murder: the materials of the castle, which after his death fell to decay, were used about 1600 to build the lodge, which in its turn was taken down in 1767: the vast earthworks, the mount, with its singular bridge, and the two moats, still attest to the ancient grandeur and strength of the castle.

The manor belongs to the Duchy of Lancaster; and three farms, constituting two-thirds of the parish, to J. J. Tufnell, esq.

The soil is a chalky clay, with flints and chalk fossils.

The chief crops are wheat, barley and oats.  The area is 726 acres, 627 being arable, and the population in 1861 was 342; gross estimated rental, £1,387; rateable value, £1,190.

PLESHEY BURY lies to the west

RAWFUL GREEN is half a mile northeast

LINKTAIL GREEN, one-mile northeast

HARVEYS, one-mile northwest

Parish Clerk, David Harman

Letters through Chelmsford, which is the nearest money order office

Donner Rev. James Hales. [vicar]

Rayment Miss

Rayment Miss C

Bohannan George, White Horse

Bowtell Walter, shopkeeper

Campen James, carpenter

Everitt George, maltster & shopkeeper

Fuller William, farmer, Plesheybury

Hasler William, blacksmith

Hitching George, farmer & baker

Matthews John, farmer

Philpott Charles, shoemaker

Quilter Philip, farmer & horse dealer

Rayment William, beer retailer

Young William, farmer, Lodge farm

Man Loaded with Mischief
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