Hadleigh Girls

Ladies from Hadleigh's History

On 22nd February 2011 Karen Bowman, author of the historical ‘Essex Girls’, gave a talk on behalf of AGES Archaeological and Historical Association at their present base in the hall of Hadleigh United Reformed Church in Church Road, Hadleigh.  

Thanks to Nick Turner and Karen Bowman for making their notes available for this short summary of ladies who once owned Hadleigh Castle and the Royal Park.

Queen Margaret’s Complaint

As Crown property, Hadleigh Castle and its park were usually granted to a tenant for a lifetime, reverting back to the Crown at his or her death. These tenants often happened to be the kings’ consorts.

In 1299 Edward I assigned the castle and park of Hadleigh to his young queen Margaret, his second wife – he was 60 when he married her, she was 17.

The king had taken a while to remarry after his first queen (Eleanor of Castile) had fallen ill and died while accompanying him on a journey to Lincoln. Such was his attachment to his queen that he had a memorial cross erected at every spot where her body was halted during its journey to her burial in London. They are known as ‘Eleanor Crosses’ and of the three that survive today, one stands at Waltham here in Essex. (The last of the crosses gave its name to a place in London, Charing Cross – ‘Chere Reine (dear queen) Cross’.)

Despite the enormous age gap (43 years?) between Edward I and his second wife Margaret, a genuine affection between the two seems to have existed – Margaret gave the king three more children to add to the sixteen his first wife Eleanor had provided…(Did Eleanor die of exhaustion?)

Margaret herself died young, but in a short life she did much for the people, like persuading the King, on at least one occasion, not to increase taxes, for the peasants were already starving. After Edward I’s death, ‘Marguerite’ refused to remarry, saying ‘all men died for me, when Edward died’. She was only 26.

Yet she is also on record for complaining about the condition of Hadleigh Castle, asking the treasury to mend its ruinous repair.  She was most displeased in 1314 that diverse persons had ‘entered her park, free chases and free warrens of Hadley and had hunted therein without her licence’.  Also ‘in like manor’ unauthorised persons had entered her closes (fenced off areas around a property), ‘there broke her houses, walls and fences, fished in her stew (holding pond – fish kept for the table) and free fisheries, carried away her trees, fish, and took deer from her park and hares, rabbits, pheasants and partridges’.  

Hadleigh Castle was also part of the marriage contract between the so-called ‘She Wolf of France’, Queen Isabella and Edward II and it was included in the dower of Elizabeth Woodville, wife of Edward IV.

In Tudor times the castle belonged in turn to three wives of King Henry VIII – Catherine of Aragon, Anne of Cleves (‘for her maintenance’) and Catherine Parr. Anne of Cleves, the queen who was so quickly married and even quicker divorced, was happy to renounce her marriage to the King of England and as part of her allowance was also awarded the Fishery of Hadleigh Ray and the ‘dragging of mussels at Tilbury Hope’. A year later the manors of Hockley and Paglesham were added, plus some marshes at Canewdon.

An evening with AGES Archaeological and Historical Association at Hadleigh United Reformed Church hall.
The spelling of 'hadleye' (centre, top line) following Leeds (ledes) castle
Historian Karen Bowman explaining the past plight and pleasures of Essex Girls.
'Essex Girls' by Karen Bowman
A document from c.1310, refers to a complaint by 'Margaret [of France], Queen of England', addressed to the King (Edward II), requesting remedy, stating that 'the Exchequer is not allowing her the tallages upon the inhabitants of the cities, towns, boroughs and other places granted to her in dower by the King's father and confirmed by the King. She also requests the arrears from various castles and parks from which she has been ousted.' Among five estates Hadleigh castle is mentioned between Leeds castle (Kent) and Rayleigh castle.
National Archives
Queen Margaret, 2nd wife of Edward I, is on record complaining in 1314 that diverse persons had ‘entered her park, free chases and free warrens of Hadley and had hunted therein without her licence’

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