« ZurückWeiter »
considerable size about it, and surrounded by the dilapidated remains of mighty walls, the fragments of towers and gate-houses, and other shapeless erections, the mouldering relics of the once impregnable fortress. Though all is wildly torn and battered, the vast extent of the grim gray masses, half enveloped in a garment of ivy, their enormous bulk, and thickness, and commanding position, render them singularly impressive. The castle stands on an eminence, against whose southern base the sea, though now a mile distant, once beat. On the land sides a broad and deep moat ran round the walls. The walls are nine feet thick: the huge round towers are at least equally substantial. The walls enclose an area of about seven acres.
At what period Pevensey Castle was erected is not known. From the occurrence of what are generally considered to be Roman tiles, and the arrangement of courses of stones, in what is called herring-bone work, which is also found in Roman buildings, it is commonly said that at least parts of it are of Roman date. But these features are also met with in structures known to be of Norman erection, and consequently are no safe criterion as to the age of any edifice. It seems most likely, indeed, that the older parts of this castle are of an early Norman date. It is known, however, that there was a castle prior to the Conquest, and that it was garrisoned by the Conqueror. The subsequent history of the castle is a stirring one, and demonstrative of its enormous strength. When Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, declared for Robert Curthose, he threw himself into Pevensey Castle, and William Rufus proceeded with his whole army to lay siege to it. For six weeks it withstood every effort of the monarch, and it was not till the provisions of the garrison were wholly exhausted, and Robert had failed to come to his relief, that the Bishop surrendered. In the reign of Stephen it was held by the Earl of Clare for the Empress Matilda ; and though the King himself directed the attacks upon it, he was utterly unable to make an impression, and obliged to abandon the siege. In 1265 an unsuccessful attack was made upon it by Simon Montfort, son of the renowned Earl of Leicester. Towards the end of the following century it was gallantly and successfully maintained by a lady. Sir John Pelham, its governor, had embraced the cause of the Duke of Lancaster (afterwards Henry IV.); and when he departed for the north of England to join the Duke's army, he left the command of the castle to his wife, Lady Jane Pelham. The yeomen of the southern counties, meanwhile, who had formed themselves into an army to support Richard, marched in great numbers against Pevensey Castle; but Lady Pelham successfully resisted all their efforts to obtain possession of it. It is last mentioned as a fortress in the reign of Elizabeth; the two culverins that point seaward are of her time; and upon one of hen her initials are inscribed. From the time of Elizabeth the history of the castle is unknown, till it is mentioned in the Parliamentary Survey of 1675, as being in ruins. Occasionally Pevensey Castle was used as a state prison. The most important prisoners recorded to have been confined in it were King James I. of Scotland, who was for a while detained here by order of Henry V., and Joanna of Navarre, widow of Henry IV., who suffered a harsh imprisonment here from 1418 to 1422, she being suspected of having caused the death of her husband. Roger Mortimer, and his brother, Edward Duke of York, were also for a while prisoners within it.
The village of Pevensey is beyond the castle, from the railway station. Pevensey was once a town of importance, being one of the principal ports for carrying on intercourse with France and Flanders; and it was (and indeed still is) a member of the cinque port of Hastings. It is now a mean village of about fifty small houses, and more than a mile distant from the sea. The little church under the shadow of the castle, is only a portion of the ancient one. Close to the castle, on the other side, is another and much larger church. It belongs to the little village of Westham, and is a very good example of a country church in the Perpendicular style of architecture. The tract once covered by the sea is now known as Pevensey Marsh.
HURSTMONCEUX is between five and six miles north of Pevensey. The village is interesting in many respects; but we chiefly mention it on account of the very beautiful ruin it possessés, called Hurstmonceux Castle. It can, however, hardly be reckoned a castle; it is rather a mansion, and is of the kind designated castellated mansions. It will be looked upon with especial interest by one who has just been examining the Castle of Pevensey. It was built in 1440, by Sir Roger de Fiennes, treasurer to Henry VI., and retains the general form of a castle, with the battlemented towers, machicolations, drawbridges, moat, and other offensive and defensive appliances proper to one; but having also something of comfort, and even ornament, combined with due regard to its belligerent character. It is, in fact, the intermediate link between the ancient castle and the modern manor house. It belonged to a transition state of society. It was strong enough, probably, to have withstood the casual attack of a wandering band of marauders, but would have been utterly incapable of enduring a regular siege. Its capability, however, does not appear to have been tested. It is built of brick, and is believed to be one of the very first edifices constructed of that material after its re-introduction. Though a ruin, it is in admirable preservation-indeed, at first sight it appears perfect--and is, perhaps, in every respect the finest specimen of its class remaining. It is preserved with laudable anxiety, and its appearance is answerable to the care bestowed upon it. The reader will perhaps recollect an amusing account of Hurstmonceux Castle in the Letters of Horace Walpole.
Hurstmonceux has, as we have said, other attractions, but we have left ourselves no room to speak of them. We can only mention that the church is worth examining, and that there is in the churchyard a yew-tree of very large dimensions.
From Pevensey the railway winds along the shore of Eastbourne Bay, and here or from the heights by Bexhill the scene is a striking one. Eastbourne Bay extends before you in a beautiful curve. Its farther side is formed and bounded by the majestic promontory of Beachy Head, under whose shadow a hazy smoke indicates the site of a village or two. The shore that lies between you and the headland is low, but a little inland it swells into gentle undulations, on the summit of one of which you discern, though indistinctly, the ruins of Pevensey Castle. Along the margin of the sea is a series of circular towers, giving a marked character to the landscape; while one of them close at hand imparts firmness to the foreground, and throws the whole into pleasing perspective. Add to this the living ocean, which fills the bosom of the bay, and a few golden clouds glowing in the radiance of the sinking sun, which is at the same time imbuing the entire earth, and sky, and sea, with its splendour, and you have a picture that, however feeble it may appear when described in words, could hardly fail to draw expressions of admiration from any one who beholds it; and is a thing of joy to him who loves the grandeur or the beauty of nature.
These circular martello towers are so characteristic a feature in the scenery along here, that a brief description of them may not be unacceptable. It was about 1804 that Pitt formed the design of putting the entire coast into a condition to repel invasion, which then began to appear imminent. The nature of the coast, and the circumstance that a long line of it was to be fortified, seemed to require an arrangement different from that ordinarily adopted in fortifying a country. The chief object proposed was, to prevent or obstruct the landing of troops at any particular point. The forts not being liable to be attacked by infantry on the land side, it was only necessary to provide the most efficient means of sweeping the coast. The name as well as the form given to these forts is said to have been suggested by a fort of a somewhat similar kind which stood in Mortella Bay, Corsica, and which was taken by the British troops with great trouble and loss. The martello towers are all pretty much alike. They are circular, generally about forty feet in diameter at the base, and the walls batten, or incline inwards, to a diameter of about thirty feet at the top. Their height is about thirty feet. They are two stories high; the lower story being divided into chambers for stores, the upper into apartments for an officer, and privates. A strong central pillar supports a bomb-proof roof. . The summit was mounted with a long twenty-four pounder, fixed so as to point in every direction ; and the larger class was also mounted with a five-inch howitzer for throwing shells ; a high parapet screens the artillerymen. They are built of brick, the thickness of the walls varying from five to twelve feet, according to circumstances. The walls on the seaward side are always much thicker than towards the land. To support such an immense mass of brickwork the foundations had to be laid deep and wide, and they were so contrived as to include a reservoir for water. Generally, these towers are close by the shore; but in some situations they are placed on a hill, or point of land. In such positions they are surrounded by a deep moat faced with brick, and are entered by a swivel bridge. The doorway is always five or six feet from the ground, and where there is not a moat, the entrance is by a ladder, which can be drawn up inside. Each of the towers mounted one large swivel, and contained an officer and from twenty to thirty men. But, wherever there is an exposed spot, they were so placed as to cross each other's fire, and compose a complete chain of forts. Their ordinary distance apart is somewhat above a quarter of a mile. When several of them are collected together, there are generally some forts or redoubts placed among them at intervals, the larger of them mounting ten or twelve twenty-four pounders, and capable of containing a regiment of infantry, with all military appliances. But these forts were very few of them ever mounted, and some never finished. The martello towers reach from East-wear Bay east of Folkestone, to Seaford, on the west of Beachy Head. They are numbered in succession. No. 1 stands on Copt Point, at the former place ; that at Seaford is numbered 74. All the towers are now dismantled, and are used as stations for the coast-guard.
A commission appointed in 1840 to examine this coast, with a view to the construction of Harbours of Refuge, recommended this east side of Eastbourne Bay as an advisable site for one. The commission of 1844, in consequence, caused a very careful survey to be made of the Bay, but the result was unfavourable. The situation was declared to be in many respects a good one ; but so many patches of shoal--no less than twenty-one detached shoals of less than five fathoms water—were discovered, and the Report of Captain Washington, the able surveying-officer, so clearly pointed out its hazardous nature, that the Commissioners at once decided against it, and in favour of the bay on the western side of Beachy Head. Else the bay would have been an admirable one in a gale; for the bold promontory of Beachy Head so effectually shelters it on the west, while a bank that lies immediately under the Head, tends “so materially to prevent the weight of the sea setting home into the bay, that there is comparatively smooth water;" and Captain Washington was 6 assured by the officer of the coast-guard, and by several fishermen residing here, that no instance is known of their being unable to beach their boats in Eastbourne Bay in a south-west gale."
The village of BEXHILL stands on rising ground at a little distance from the sea. It is a quiet retired place, very happily situated; having wide and various prospects in every direction, the sea within easy reach, and a very beautiful country inland. There are some good houses about the village and immediately contiguous to it, and the village is in some favour as a watering-place. Many persons prefer the seclusion of Bexhill, with its bracing air, to the heat and bustle of Hastings, or the gentility of St. Leonard's. It has the fame of being a very healthy place, of which the many examples of longevity in its inhabitants are a tolerable proof. Bexhill church is very ancient. Part of it is Norman, and of massive proportions. The chancel is early English, while the side windows are of the Perpendicular style, having been, as was frequently the case in the ffteenth century, inserted probably in the place of smaller and plainer ones.
AMONG the watering places of England, Hastings holds a distinguished rank-a position it well merits, and will doubtless long maintain. It has many claims to general popularity. The situation is alike healthy and agreeable. It has a glorious sea view. The beach is well adapted for bathing. In the immediate vicinity-within the reach of almost the feeblest invalid-are many delightful walks; while for the robust pedestrian, or those who prefer riding, there is, within a semicircle of some eight or ten miles radius, a large range of beautiful and interesting localities. Besides these sanatory and picturesque advantages, which render it so generally grateful, there will be found both in itself and its neighbourhood much of especial interest to the naturalist and the antiquary. And then, who but recollects, at the mere mention of its name, that the whole region round about is associated with events that turned the entire current of English history?
Hastings has in its time undergone many mutations. At an early period it was an important place of commerce and maritime strength. Ranking as one of the chief of the Cinque Ports, on which the English monarch was accustomed mainly to depend for his naval armament, it had a large population, and boasted of many proud privileges. From this palmy state it slowly sunk, owing to the influence of physical as well as commercial changes, into the condition of a second-rate fishing-town. Then, as the practice of resorting annually to the sea-coast, for health or pleasure, became general, it as gradually emerged from its obscurity; its bounds stretched out on every side : it became the favoured retreat of rank and wealth ; and in connexion with its western adjunct, St. Leonard's, grew to be perhaps the most fashionable as well as one of the largest of the watering places on the southern coast.
Neither the antiquity of the town of Hastings, nor the origin of its name, is very clearly ascertained. Some of our older writers, content to take the readiest etymology that presented itself without a very critical inquiry into its probability, assert that the name was given to it because of the haste with which the Norman William, after his famous landing, set about the construction of a wooden fortress on the heights above. Other equally plausible suggestions may pass unnoticed. The general opinion is that which Dallaway gives in his “ Western Sussex :” “In 893, the Danes, in two hundred and fifty ships, commanded by the pirate Hasting, landed at the mouth of the river Rother, near Romney Marsh, and immediately possessed themselves of Apuldorc, where, and at Hastings (so called from their leader), they constructed forts, and
ravaged all the coast to the westward of the country.” Hastings may be well content to owe its name to the most famous of the Sea Kings, and not seek further for its source. But it is pretty certain that the town itself is of an earlier date than his invasion ; for in 924 it was of sufficient importance to have a mint. Coins still exist of the reign of Athelstane, which bear the mint mark, “ Hastings,” inscribed upon them. The true etymology, we have no doubt, is that pointed out by Mr. Kemble, in his admirable work, “ The Saxons in England;"—that it was the fortress, and probably at one time the town, of a tribe called the Haestingas.
The town received its first charter from the hands of Edward the Confessor: and it appears probable that it was then made one of the Cinque Ports. The other four ports were Sandwich, Dover, Hythe, and Romney. But it was to the Conqueror and his successors that Hastings and the Cinque Ports owed their important privileges. William saw the need of maintaining this part of the coast in an efficient state of defence, and having the various towns and ports under the immediate control of his government. For this purpose he separated the Cinque Ports from the jurisdiction of the civil and military authorities of the counties to which they appertained, and placed -them under the special rule of a warden, who was invested with the supreme power within their limits. The internal management of each town he entrusted to jurats and barons, answering, perhaps, pretty nearly to the freemen and aldermen of the towns that retained their Saxon constitution. To the freemen of these ports were granted, as we have said, especial privileges. These privileges were not confined to the good towns, but were of a sufficiently excursive nature to lead the haughty mariners, in the assertion of them, into frequent disputes with the citizens of London and the townsmen of Great Yarmouth. It does not fall within our province to particularize these privileges; and it may suffice, to explain how it happened that the portsmen were brought into contact with the inhabitants of the above-named places, to state that, besides exemption from all tolls and customs, they had the keeping of the narrow-seas, and the right of fishing along the coast of Norfolk : at Yarmouth, during the fair of forty days' continuance, the bailiffs of the Cinque Ports exercised an equal authority with the municipal officers of the town. The extent to which the Norman monarch sought to distinguish the portsmen will be seen from a peculiar honour which he conferred on the barons-that, namely, of carrying the canopy "over the King and over the Queen,” at their coronation ; and afterwards it was decreed, “On the said day the said barons of the port shall eat in the King's hall at dinner, next unto the King or Queen at the right hand.” At the coronation of George III., a table was not provided for them at the King's right hand, and they refused to sit elsewhere. The last coronation at which the Cinque-Port barons assisted, was that of George IV.
The principal “service” which the Ports rendered to the crown was one of the highest importance. Till the reign of Henry VII. there was no permanent naval force in England. The shipping required were furnished by the Cinque Ports, who were bound to provide the King, at their own cost, with fifty-seven ships, fully manned and equipped for service, and to maintain them for fifteen days. If retained for a longer period, they were to be kept at the expense of the King. Hastings was originally required to furnish twenty-one out of the fifty-seven ships. As the town declined, the number was reduced. The last time the Ports were called upon to provide a navy, which was in the reign of Charles II., Hastings furnished only five ships. The Cinque Ports marine often did the country noble service.
It is curious to mark the change in these famous Ports now. Not only have Parliamentary and Municipal Reform Bills stripped them of the privileges that lingered on after the decay of their trade and ancient importance, but the sea itself has inter