King Johns Palace, Writtle

Has been described as a Certain Palace (Royal), and also as a Certain Fortified Manor House

There are earthwork remains

NameKing Johns Palace, Writtle
Alternative NamesWritele
Historic CountryEssex
Modern AuthorityEssex
1974 AuthorityEssex
Civil ParishWrittle

The moat, about 50ft wide and 8ft deep, encloses an area of 250ft by 150ft. The fishpond to the east is now a reservoir. The site was excavated in 1955-7 before bull-dozing for agricultural purposes. Three periods of building corresponding roughly to the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries were seen, the first within, and the later periods extending east and west of, the moated area. Small finds were numerous.

1. The hunting lodge built by King John in 1211, repaired in 1223, 1229-32. Kitchen, chamber, chapel and gaol are mentioned.

2. Documentary evidence suggests that the 14th century hall and chapel lay further to the west, otherwise the layout was similar to that of the first period.

3. In the 15th century the main buildings, including a cloister and great chamber, were at the west end. The kitchen remained at the east end. One of the latest buildings, a large barn built in 1478, still stands near the site.

The site passed from the Crown to the Bohun family in the 14th century. (This site was published on earlier OS maps as "Site of King John's Palace" and, in view of the importance of the buildings added to the 12th century hunting lodge, may rank as a 'palatial dwelling place'). Writtle was royal manor from at least the reign of William I. It was first developed as a hunting lodge by King John in 1211, and was in royal hands until 1553. In 1566 all that remained was a great barn and the earthworks of the moat. (PastScape)

The fish pond had been filled in, lined with concrete and was now a reservoir. No structural remains of medieval buildings visible. Formerly ancient monument 93. Descheduled monument 1963. (Unlocking Essex's Past)

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceTL676068
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  • Keevill, Graham D., 2000, Medieval Palaces, An Archaeology (Stroud; Tempus) p. 25, 125, 129, 145
  • James, T.B., 1990, The Palaces of Medieval England (London; Seaby) p. 58-9
  • Rahtz, P.A., 1969, Excavations at King John's Hunting Lodge, Writtle, Essex, 1955-7 (Society for Medieval Archaeology Monograph 3)
  • Colvin, H.M., Brown, R.Allen and Taylor, A.J., 1963, The history of the King's Works Vol. 2: the Middle Ages (London: HMSO) p. 1019-20
  • RCHME, 1921, An inventory of the historical monuments in Essex Vol. 2 (central and south-west) p. 276 no. 3 online transcription


  • Rhatz, P.A. in Wilson, D.M. and Hurst, J.G., 1958, 'Medieval Britain in 1957' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 2 p. 202-4 download copy
  • Rhatz, P.A. in Wilson, D.M. and Hurst, J.G., 1957, 'Medieval Britain in 1956' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 1 p. 160 download copy

Primary Sources

  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1901, Calendar of Patent Rolls Henry III (1216-25) Vol. 1 p. 124-5 online copy
  • Maxwell Lyte, H.C. (ed), 1903, Calendar of Patent Rolls Edward III (1345-48) Vol. 7 p. 450 online copy
  • The National Archives E36/150 Survey of the lands late of Edward, duke of Buckingham, attainted online details
  • E36/150 (Survey of 1521) (calendared in Brewer, J.S. (ed), 1867, Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, of the Reign of Henry VIII Vol. 3 p. 509 No. 1286 online copy)
  • E36/150 (Survey of 1521) The National Archives reference (calendared in Brewer, J.S. (ed), 1867, Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, of the Reign of Henry VIII Vol. 3 p. 509 No. 1286 [online transcription >])


  • Brudenell, M., 2005, The Lordship Campus Writtle Agricultural College, Essex An Archaeological Desk Based Assessment (Cambridge Archaeological Unit) online copy
  • 1954-1970, Writtle, Essex: King John's Palace; excavation archive (The National Archive)