In 1399 Henry Bolingbroke returned from exile in France with the intention of claiming the English Throne. He called on the help of Sir John Pelham, the Constable of Pevensey Castle, to fight alongside him. Sir John placed his wife, Lady Joan, in charge of the Castle and left with his soldiers to support Henry’s rebellion.
Local Militia, troops loyal to the king, laid siege to the Castle and Lady Pelham was trapped inside. In a letter smuggled out to Sir John she wrote” I am bylaid here in the manner of a Siege…I may no goeth out nor none Vitayles gette me.” She finished her letter “My dere Lorde the Holy Trinity keep yhow from yowr enemies and soon send me gud tythings of yhow.” She signed it “Your awne pore J Pelham writ at Pevensey in the Castell on Saynt Jacob’s Day last past.”
She had no idea if she would survive but she bravely rallied the remaining garrison and hung on until Richard was defeated, forced to abdicate and Sir John returned. Henry was crowned King of England and the Castle and honour was given to the Pelhams in recognition of their loyalty.
Today a pile of stone missiles for a medieval trebuchet stands near the wall of the Castle as a permanent reminder of the siege.
The English Castle, Goodall
Collins Peerage 1779
Cronicle of Traison et Mort
History of Parliament