Hadleigh Castle
Hadleigh Castle ( grid reference TQ810860) in the English county of Essex overlooks the Thames estuary from a ridge to the south of the town of Hadleigh. Built in the 1230s during the reign of King Henry III, the structure is the most important late- medieval castle in Essex and is now preserved by English Heritage as a Grade I listed building. The ruins of the castle are the most prominent historical landmark in the local surrounding area and provided part of the name for the newly formed borough of Castle Point in 1974.

The construction of Hadleigh castle began during the reign of King Henry III in 1230 for Hubert de Burgh - 1st Earl of Kent and Chief Justiciar of England, but the castle was requisitioned in 1232 by Henry after Hubert was imprisoned. The castle was built of Kentish ragstone and cemented by a mortar containing a large proportion of seashells; particularly cockleshells from the cockle beds of neighbouring Canvey Island. As a royal property it was heavily extended in the 1360s by Edward III and it is mainly these extensions that remain. The castle and its adjoining 500-acre (2.0 km 2) park formed part of the dower of several English queens in the 15th and 16th centuries, including Elizabeth Woodville (wife of Edward IV) and three of the wives of Henry VIII, Catherine of Aragon, Anne of Cleves, and Catherine Parr. Edward VI sold it in 1551 for £700 to Lord Rich of Leez Priory in Chelmsford who used the castle as a source of stone for other buildings such as churches. The castle later passed from the possession of Lord Rich to the Barnard family. Years of neglect and the effects of land subsidence had left the castle in ruins by the 17th century, but two towers constructed in the era of Edward III still remain. One of the three-storey towers at the eastern side built from rubble with ashlar dressings stands to nearly full height and has narrow rectangular windows in the upper levels. The second tower has not fared as well, appearing to have partially disintegrated in a landslip and consequently has lost approximately two-thirds of its form. Some sections of the curtain exist, the foundations of the great hall , two solars, and the kitchen remain. There is also a barbican which once stood adjacent to a swing-bridge.

John Constable
The English painter John Constable visited Hadleigh in 1814 and made a minute drawing of the castle as preparation for ten oil sketches and a single painting. The oil painting was produced in 1829 and exhibited at the Royal Academy in the same year. One of the sketches is currently displayed at the Tate Gallery, London, while the painting now hangs in the Yale Center for British Art at New Haven, United States.

Hadleigh Country Park
Hadleigh Country Park is located on land adjacent to the Salvation Army farm that surrounds the castle. The park is owned and managed by Essex County Council and is a Site of Special Scientific Interest with special regard for invertebrates. Rangers host events and activities throughout the year including stargazing walks in winter, glow-worm hunts in summer and the seasonal Santa in the Park at Christmas. Within the Hadleigh Castle Country Park a reproduction iron age round house has recently been constructed, which is used for special events and educational visits. Hadleigh rangers also offer Roman, Iron Age and Saxon experiences and a mock archaeological dig. Adjacent to Hadleigh Castle Country Park a Tea room can be found along with a rare breeds centre run by the Salvation Army.

2012 Olympics
In 2008 Hadleigh Farm, within Hadleigh Country Park, was announced as the venue for the mountain biking competition in the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. The original venue, Weald Country Park, had been deemed insufficiently challenging by the International Cycling Union, who were described as being delighted with Hadleigh. During the games, temporary grandstands holding 3000 people will be erected. It is as yet unknown what legacy will be left for mountain biking in the United Kingdom after the event.

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