The Pevensey Area

Pevensey is situated in East Sussex midway between between the coastal resorts of Eastbourne and Bexhill.

Centuries ago the whole low-lying region between Eastbourne and Hastings was mainly a marshy inlet of the sea drained by a few streams. To the west the heights of the Southdowns ending in Beachy head protected the Pevensey levels from the full force of the Southwesterly gales in the English Channel so that the inlet (now Pevensey Bay) formed a large sheltered haven for ships.

At that time Pevensey was really a peninsular connected to the mainland by a narrow range of dry land. This is one of the reasons Pevensey became important.

The importance of Pevensey as a landing place was recognised by the Romans who in about 290 A.D built the shore fort that still stands in Pevensey today. Known as Anderida the walls of the Roman fort encircle an area of approximately 10 acres. Interesting at that time a great forest extended from the coast almost to the River Thames. The forest was so impenetrable that the Britons called it Anderida or the Black Forest. It is this reason for this reason that it’s believed the Romans called the fort Anderida

The walls of the Roman fort are made of flint faced with sandstone and decorated with red tiles. These walls about 3.5m thick are in some places almost 9m high with bastions at intervals.

After the Roman legions withdrew from Britain in the fifth century Saxons invaded and settled. In 490 A.D. The Saxon Chronicle records recalled that ALR and his three sons stormed the fortress Anderida and enslaved all the inhabitants.

The name of Pevensey was first used in 947 A.D. when it was a small settlement of one of the Islands of the Marsh.

William Duke of Normandy landed at Pevensey on 28 September 1066. It is believed that William the Conqueror when he set off from Normandy to invade England that he intended to land at Hastings. However strong winds blew him and his fleet of ships off course and they ended up landing at Pevensey.

This turned out to be a stroke of luck because although he had intended to land of further along the coast to the east, Pevensey offered in much better facilities. It had a convenient sheltered harbour with flat beaches so that the Normans could simply wade ashore and also a ready-made fort in the shape of the Roman Saxon shore fort Anderida.

Pevensey features in the famous Bayeux and tapestry (insert link to it) showing the ships being beached and horses and men disembarked. The inscription above the sailing ships on the tapestry can be translated as ‘Here Duke William and a great ship across the sea and came to Pevensey’.

After William Conqueror had defeated King Harold at the Battle of Hastings he gave Pevensey to his half brother brother Robert Count of Moretaine. Robert build a temporary wooden stronghold in the south-east corner of the Roman fort, defended by palisaded bank and ditch. Early in the 12th century the stone Castle replaced the wooden tower. The ruins of the Norman Castle can still be seen and visited today.

Pevensey Castle is probably an exception to the rule with respect to castles in Sussex, having been besieged no fewer than four times. On one of these occasions the inhabitants of the village were starved into submission but one of the most notable and successful defences of the castle was carried out by a woman Lady Joan wife of St John Allen then constable of the council.

A 12th century chronicler wrote of Pevensey Castle “Pevensey is a castle rising on a very lofty mound fortified on every side by most beautiful wall fenced in impregnably by the washing waves of the sea almost inaccessible owing to the difficulty of the ground….”

Around 1230 Pevensey became a corporate member of the Cinque Ports confederation (attached to the Port of Hastings) when Edward I had charged reports with guarding the Straits between England and the continent. With its quay on the southern and eastern side of the town and provision for merchant ships to unload their cargo Pevensey became an important port and commercial centre.

The village or town as it was then was big enough to mint its own currency. On the site of the former mint now stands the old Mint House [insert link to scanned photo of mint house in drop box]which dates back to the 14th century. The Half timbered time building was much altered in sternly in the 16th century and is now essentially a Tudor house. In 1547 its owner Andrew board entertained the young King Edward VI there.

Further along Pevensey high street you will find another historic building, the courthouse once believed to be the smallest town hall in England. An exterior stairway leads from the street to the courtroom on the first floor with its prisoners dock and cells with exercise yard below.

Today the courthouse is a museum with the many facilitating exhibits.

There are many other historic buildings in Pevensey which make today’s village well worth a visit.

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