Writtle History

King John

King John's Palace

The area within the grounds of Writtle College, known as King john's Palace marks one of the village's most noteworthy historic sites. Little remains today, save the excavated moat, but the heritage site has been painstakingly researched so that a clear picture of its role and status in the Middle Ages has emerged. The 'Palace' was one of a number of royal houses built during the 12th Century, used mainly as hunting lodges for the monarch of the day. The Writtle lodge, built during the reign of King John in 121 1 served subsequent kings and their entourage.

At its height in the 14th Century, the Writtle lodge boasted a range of buildings enclosed by a broad moat and approached by two draw bridges. Archaeological excavations in the 1950's revealed signs of a great hall, a chapel, kitchens, gatehouse, dormitories and a gaol, whilst artifacts recovered included French pottery, ancient coins, knives, arrow heads, keys and the bones of deer, cows, pigs and fish.

By the middle of the 16th Century, the site had fallen into decline and was overgrown with trees and weeds. Today the area is maintained as an amenity horticultural project by Writtle College, while students of heritage management have access to an important site for study.

did you know?

John was born on Christmas Eve 1167. His parents drifted apart after his birth; his youth was divided between his eldest brother Henry's house, where he learned the art of knighthood, and the house of his father's justiciar, Ranulf Glanvil, where he learned the business of government. 

As the fourth child, inherited lands were not available to him, giving rise to his nickname, Lackland. His first marriage lasted but ten years and was fruitless, but his second wife, Isabella of Angouleme, bore him two sons and three daughters. He also had an illegitimate daughter, Joan, who married Llywelyn the Great, Ruler of All Wales, from which the Tudor line of monarchs was descended.