(1) ST NICOLAS CHURCH
St Nicolas Church was built early in the 13th Century and completed in 1216, so it will be 800 years old in two years time. It is classed as a Grade 1 Listed Building, showing that it is of considerable historic importance. It is a good example of the Early English style of architecture, and has been changed very little since its completion. The structure is massive masonry, with a large proportion of Eastbourne Greensand, similar to the Roman part of the castle, and facings of local flint. The roofs are supported by huge beams of Sussex oak, which are original, as are most of the smaller timbers especially at the east end. When first built the tower was much lower; the spire was barely higher than the main roof. In the late 19th century the tower was raised and the bells were re-hung. The clock was installed in 1908 and still keeps good time. Inside the church are a large number of items of historic interest; including a crusader’s coffin cover from the 13th century, a large statue in memory of a wealthy resident from the 16th century and some excellent Victorian stained-glass windows. The church seems unusually large for present-day Pevensey, but at the time it was built, and for several centuries afterwards, Pevensey was a town and port of some importance. There are 3 crosses in the stone of the archway to the left of the door. These are thought to have been carved by Crusaders when leaving for war, with the largest embellished upon the return of the Crusader who carved it. Services are held in the church every Sunday and Tuesday, so it is in great demand for Weddings and Christenings, and it is open every day for visitors. Our slogan is “St Nicolas Church is the oldest building in Pevensey still in use for its original purpose”. To celebrate its 800th anniversary the church will undergo some restoration work to re-cover parts of the roof and to re-decorate the interior. (Leaflets giving full details of the interior of the church and of the proposed restoration work can be found in the rack inside the door).
As you proceed down Church Lane look out for the red brick squares that can be clearly seen in the flint walls to your left. The holes that were previously in the wall were there for emptying the “night soils”. These were the contents of the outside privies. The “Muck Scuppet”, a cart, would be wheeled down the lane and the soils loaded on to it through the holes in the wall. Turn down the alley and walk right through the pretty arch that makes way through the buildings to the High Street.
(2) BANKS LODGE
Built in around 1510, Banks Lodge was once a “Hall House” and it was likely that it was the residence of “Portreeve of the Port of Pevensey”. The building is faced with flint cobbles and has casement windows with stone surrounds and mullions. There are dripstones under a tiled roof.
This 16th century timber framed building was re-fronted in the 18th century, and the walls, cornice and parapet were all faced with rough cast. To the rear can be seen timbering and infilling. The white building behind The Smugglers was the old fire station
The owner of this property has requested that details be removed fom the website for reasons of privacy.
(5) THE COURT HOUSE AND MUSEUM
Until the Corporation of Pevensey was dissolved in 1886, this building was not only the Court House, but it also housed the smallest Town Hall in England. There are still small 2 cells at ground level. In the 16th century, the building was constructed of flint cobbles, brick and stone dressings. There are quoins under the tiled roof. These are masonry blocks used to support the corners of a building. The Magistrates’ and Court Officers benches can still be seen. The Corporation’s mace, weights and measures can be seen in this very interesting museum. The original seals are the oldest surviving of any of the Cinque Ports. You can visit the museum, owned by Pevensey Town Trust, and run by volunteers, during the summer months. There is a small entry charge for adults.
(6) BY THE WAY
Beside The Court House, and opening into the twitten, is a small 2 storey cottage built around 1700. It was originally the residence of the Beadle of the Corporation of Pevensey. The Beadle was the Town Sergeant.
(7)THE MINT HOUSE
It is not surprising that The Mint House is reputedly one of the most interesting buildings in South East England, The present building, erected in 1342, stands on a site that was used as a Norman Mint as long ago as 1076. It was altered considerably, in 1542, by Dr Andrew Borde, Court Physician to Henry VIII. Another claim to fame came in 1548, when Edward VI came to stay here for health reasons. Inside there are examples of fine oak panelling and an overmantle, consisting of elaborate carvings. These date back to 1460. Sadly the building has been standing empty for some years now.
(8) MARKET SQUARE – AND THE EAST GATE OF PEVENSEY CASTLE
Once used as a market, the town square in front of The Royal Oak and Castle Pub, is owned by Pevensey Town Trust. From here you can see the East Gate of Pevensey Castle. The Roman walls are built of Eastbourne Greensand, and infilled with a rubble made of flint and stones . The red courses you can clearly see in the walls are Roman Tiles. The walls later built by the Normans can be distinguished by the whiter colour of the Caen stone. The wallflowers growing on the walls of the castle are native to Normandy, and it is believed that they have seeded and survived all these years since being carried here at the time of the Norman invasion. In those days the castle was defended by catapults and strong crossbows. The castle survived several major sieges and was in fact never infiltrated. From Roman times right up to the 20th century the castle has seen service in war. You can see the gun placements used to defend the country during the Second World War. They were built into the walls to provide camouflage. For hundreds of years the Castle was a “quarry” for the villagers, who took stone from the Castle walls to use in their own buildings. You can see how all the square cut facing stones have been taken from the wall – as high as they could be reached. The same applies to the facing work around the East Gate itself.
(9) THE CATTLE MARKET
The Cattle Market has seen many changes over the centuries. With the railway came a new innovation. The Cattle were unloaded at Pevensey and Westham Station, where you can still see evidence of the holding pen. From there they were driven to market along the high street. The Auctioneer’s hut used to be at the top of the market, and next to the wall was a horse mounting block. The uneven surface with red bricks clearly visible shows where the old cattle pens once stood. The remains of the metal posts that held the pen fences can still be seen in the ground.
(10) THE SAXON SHORELINE
Today it is hard to imagine the sea lapping the walls of the castle. There are now 1.5miles of reclaimed land between the castle and Pevensey Bay. Pevensey Castle, built by the Romans in 290 AD, and known then as Anderitum, is one of the largest of the Saxon Shore Forts. Unusually, this fort followed the contours of the land rather than being in the more usual Roman design of straight lines. The castle was built on a peninsular, and the Port of Pevensey was situated to the north and east of the castle. The castle saw the Massacre of 491, the four Sieges of Pevensey in 1088, 1147, 1264/5 and 1399. In the 16th century the castle was abandoned and left to ruin until 1925 when it came under the ownership of the state. 1066 is a date that everyone knows. We all learnt about The Battle of Hastings in school. There are presently arguments about where the battle actually took place, but there is no doubt that Pevensey was the site of the Norman landings. Ships were set alight offshore here, when William the Conquerer landed, never intending to leave England, but to take the Crown. Harold fell at the battle, although it has never been proved that he was killed by an arrow in his eye as depicted on the Bayeaux Tapestry. You could say that the history of Pevensey and its Castle was the beginning of history as we know it.
These days, as you turn your back to the castle, there are far reaching views across the fields to the village of Pevensey Bay – 1 mile away. It is hard to believe that the sea did once lap the outside walls of Anderitum.
(11) ST MARY’S CHURCH
St Mary’s Church is in the village and Parish of Westham. It was the first church that the Normans built after they landed in Pevensey in 1066. The church is built of flint with stone dressings, and has a tiled roof. The earliest fabric of the church, in the south wall of the nave and transept’ dates from late in the 11th century. The small windows of this section show tell you which part of the building this is. The north aisle and tower were added in the 14th century. The chancel was either built or remodelled around 1420. In the late 19th century there was restoration work and the seating was increased from 297 to 403. When people could not afford stone for the grave, they would often use a wooden board covering the length of the grave. There is an example of this next to the footpath at the rear of the church. The stones marking a “plaque pit” of the 14th century can still be seen in the churchyard. Westham is perhaps lucky to have survived the plaque. Many villages were burnt to the ground, with the church was the only building left standing.
(12) TIMBER BUILDING
This attractive building next to St Mary’s Church, is a 15th century timber framed house. It is close studded with plaster infilling, and has a jettied first floor under a steeply tiled roof. At the turn of the 19th century the building formed 3 cottages. It is a fine example of a timber building.
THE DIAL HOUSE
This is another good example of a restored 15th century timber framed house. It has oriel windows on the first floor, and oak mullions and transoms. A stone, dated 1662, set in the wall has the initials “H W M”. It is believed that finding this elsewhere, the Reverend King, Curate of Pevensey, put the stone there when he lived in Dial House in the 19th century.
TUDOR HOUSE AND OLD GEORGE HOUSE
It is thought that these buildings were erected in the 17th century. They have been refaced with stucco on the ground floor and the timbering above is imitation. It is believe that Old George House was once a Public House, closing soon after the Pevensey Public House, opposite opened in the 1860’s.
(13) THE SQUEEZE GATE
The squeeze gate, in the north wall of St Mary’s Churchyard, is a very old and quaint gateway. It was built to allow people in and out of the churchyard, while keeping the cattle that wandered in the high street out.
The cannon was found in a ditch along the Stone Cross to Hailsham Road early in the 20th century. It remained beside the road until the 1960’s, when it was re-sited on Westham Village Green. It is thought that the cannon may have coe from one of the local Martello Towers that were built to protect the shoreline from an attack by Napoleon. It bears the mark WC, which indicates that the founder was Walker & Co of Rotherham. The monogram is that of George II, used between 1740 and 1798, although the casting may have been in the late 18th century and in the reign of George III.
(15) THE OLD CORNER HOUSE
Although it seems the property was built in the 18th century, there are parts that are certainly much older. The property was probably the original public house, The George Inn. Both bay windows were added in the 1920’s. The elevations are painted brick and the roof is tiled. The small porch has a doorway with a tympanum ornamented with fan decoration.
(16) ROMAN WEST GATE OF PEVENSEY CASTLE
The west gate covered the landward access, via the causeway, that linked Pevensey to the mainland. A ditch bisected the causeway, which led up to a rectangular gatehouse with a single arch around 2.4 metres wide, with a D-shaped tower on each end from which archers could fire along the archway.
(17) ROMAN WALLS
The walls of the castle’s outer bailey are faced with ironstone and sandstone. These walls were robbed of their stones over many years, and you can see the familiar Eastbourne green sandstone on other buildings in the villages. A bonding course of tiles runs horizontally through the wall.
A Machine Gun Turret built into the wall of the castle during the Second World War
To the left is the Roman wall with the familiar red tiles running through the Eastbourne Greensand stone. To the right is the Saxon wall built with the whiter Caen stone.
(18) EAGLE TOWER
The Eagle Tower is the entrance to the Norman Castle. The Inner Bailey, essentially a castle within a castle, is constructed mainly of white Caen stone, and was reached by passing over a 68foot long wooden drawbridge. The stone fortifications of the inner bailey replaced the wood and earth fortifications of the Norman inner bailey in the 13th and 14th centuries. The moat around the inner bailey was probably around 59 feet wide when it was first dug. The Eagle tower is the iconic image that appears in most of the pictures of the castle.
Your walk around the trail ends here. It is worth visiting the Inner Bailey of the Castle. Or maybe you would like to take tea at The Priory Court Tea Room, have lunch in The Royal Oak and Castle, or The Smugglers Inn. Fish and Chips are just a short walk away past the timber buildings of Westham High Street. If it is a warm day there is a recreation ground through the bottom gate of the Cattle Market car park. There is a children’s playground to the right. For the more energetic it is a pleasant walk across fields and beside the river to reach the beaches and village of Pevensey Bay.