Moated Site at the Pleasaunce

Description of this historic site

The site of a moat at the Pleasaunce. It was of Medieval date and enclosed a timber banqueting hall. It is visible as an earthwork and is situated 700m north west of Kenilworth Castle.

Notes about this historic site

1 This Medieval earthwork lies in a fold in undulating country. It was built by Henry V in about 1414 at the far end of a great lake. Apparently the area within the moat was surrounded by a stone wall (PRN 5387), within which was a timber banqueting hall (PRN 5388), dismantled by Henry VIII. All that remains is an earthwork, approximately a square of 30.5m each way, surrounded by a wide and partially double moat which at one time was full of water.
2 A pleasure-house known as ‘the Pleasurance in the Marsh’.
4 There are a number of areas at which the moat has been disturbed in modern times.
6 A lozenge shaped moated site. Excavations have shown that there were stone towers at the corners and other masonry. The place was constructed in 1414 by Henry V, buildings were removed by Henry VIII. The site has a double ditch and bank surrounding a central plateau. The ditches were wet with water, banks of varying height, rough pasture. The NW arm of the outer ditch deepened to form a cattle pond. Farm tracks cut through the centre of the N side. A spur on the S side is a ditch with a bank on each side.
7 External enclosure banks exist on the NW and SW sides. The moat’s inner ditch is about 12m wide and 2m deep and the outer about 10m wide and 1.5m deep.
8 Shown on aerial photographs.
9 The original entrance was probably located across the eastern arms of the moats. The levelled area between the two moats probably functioned as a terraced walkway. At the southern corner of the walkway is a small, raised rectangular platform and at the western and northern corners there are slight depressions in the ground surface.
10 Report in Medieval Archaeology. The construction of the Pleasance required the reclamation of a thickly-overgrown area, according to a reference in chapter xi of the metrical life of King Henry V by Thomas Elmham. Although this is in a poem, it is argued that Elmham may have been an eye witness to the construction of the Pleasance, and this may be an accurate statement. ‘Chapter XI. How his majesty the king kept Lent at Kenilworth Castle, and in the marsh, where foxes lurked among the brambles and thorns, built for his entertainment a pleasure garden (viridarium). It was as if he foresaw the tricks of the French against his kingdom and how he would manfully drive out these and other insidious enemies. On this site he constructed a delicious place which he caused to be called Plesant Mareys. The king is at Kenilworth over Lent where he considers what ought to be done. There was there a fox-ridden place overgrown with briars and thorns. He removes these and cleanses the site so that wild creatures are driven off. Where it had been nasty now becomes peaceful marshland; the coarse ground is sweetened with running water and the site made nice. So the king considers how to overcome the difficulties confronting his own kingdom, the achievement of which will require correspondingly greater effort. He remembers the foxy tricks of the French both in deed and in writing and is mortified by the recollection.”
11 A series of geophysical surveys were undertaken across the Pleasance, which detected anomalies likely to represent the remains of features dating from the time of its use as a pleasure ground. A large hexagonal compacted area has been detected in the centre of the diamond shaped mound and this may well be the remains of a central garden or courtyard. At three corners of the mound, remains of footings for towers have been detected. It is possible that robbed out remains of the fourth western tower have been detected. Possible evidence for a range of buildings have been detected on the SW side of the mound. It is suggested that this may possible be kitchens or food preparation areas, given the strong magnetic response. It is also likely that this range of structures provided the materials for the buildings Henry VII re-erected within the castle after he ordered the buildings on the Pleasance to be demolished.

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