Roman Walls at Pevensey Castle
In many ways Pevensey Castle holds the history of south east England. The first castle here was Roman, built in the fourth century. It was one of the biggest forts in the Saxon Shore defensive chain, designed to oppose Saxon raiders. There is little left of other Saxon Shore forts such as Reculver, but incredibly at Pevensey two thirds of the Roman walls remain. When the Romans withdrew from England around 410AD Saxon invasions began. Saxons, led by Aelle landed at Selsey Bill and set about conquering Sussex. In 491 Aelle's men stormed Pevensey Castle and massacred all the people sheltering inside.
England then went through long centuries divided between Saxon kings, and then as a battleground between Saxons and Scandinavians. This period came to an end in September 1066 when William The Conqueror invaded England, landing with his army at Pevensey. The Normans quickly threw up a defensive structure inside the fortifications they found at Pevensey. William then made for Hastings and dug in there while he waited to face Harold. William of course won the ensuing battle, and in the years following the Conquest, a formidable stone castle was built by the Normans at Pevensey, much of which survives today.
Later in history the castle was modernised and strengthened once again, to face the threat of a Spanish invasion in 1588. Then during 1940 when invasion by Germany seemed imminent gun emplacements and machine gun posts were built into the walls of the castle.
Disguised World War Two Gun Emplacement
The walls of Pevensey sit on the shore line seeming to defend it. But after being built by a succession of invaders, it is ironic that Pevensey has generally been the focus of internal divisions. The Roman fort of Pevensey was probably built in the mid 290s by Allectus, a follower of Carausius, a rebellious naval officer who proclaimed himself an independent emperor of Britannia. Carausius was assassinated by Allectus in 293, and it wasn't until 296 that Rome regained control of Britannia when Constantine re invaded the country. So internal strife was a theme at Pevensey from the beginning. This was to continue. The Norman incarnation of Pevensey Castle was built to offer protection from the native Britons following the 1066 invasion, but in 1088 a siege at Pevensey was the result of divisions amongst the Normans themselves. Bishop Odo of Bayeux held Pevensey during a struggle between the sons of William the Conqueror for the throne of Britain. Odo was supporting an unsuccessful attempt to replace William Rufus as king with Duke Robert of Normandy. Similarly in 1147 Pevensey Castle was used by the Earl of Pembroke in his unsuccessful rebellion against the Conqueror's nephew King Stephen. Then into the Plantagenet period 1264 saw supporters of Henry III hold out in Pevensey Castle against rebels led by Simon de Montfort. They remained there until de Montfort's defeat at the Battle of Evesham in August the following year. Finally in 1399 the Constable of Pevensey Castle, Sir John Pelham, joined Henry Bollingbroke in his ultimately successful rebellion against Richard II. While Sir John was away fighting alongside Henry, his wife, Lady Joan Pelham rallied the garrison at Pevensey Castle and managed to hold out against a prolonged siege by Richard II's troops.
Norman Castle at Pevensey
Castle walls seem to stand between friend and foe, but the story of Pevensey shows how interchangeable friend and foe can be.
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Address: Pevensey Castle, Pevensey, East Sussex BN24 5LE
Directions: The castle is just off the A259 in Pevensey, between Bexhill and Hastings. Click here for an interactive road and satellite map centred on Pevensey Castle.
Access: Parking is 300m from the entrance . There are adapted toilet facilities but a RADAR key is required. There is a tearoom and a shop. Audio tours with a hearing loop are available. Visually impaired visitors may touch cannon, grave stones and catapult balls. The inner and outer bailey are accessible to wheelchair users via gravel paths and some rough grass. There are many steps to the towers. Ambulant disabled visitors can often use the steps to the towers with assistance. There are handrails in the North and South Towers. There are benches available. Turnstiles at the exit mean that wheelchair users need to retrace their steps to leave.
telephone: 01323 762604