Pevensey Castle

The History of Pevensey Castle

LocationPevensey, County of East Sussex, England (Google Maps)
Open for VisitorsYes
Owned byEnglish Heritage
Official WebsitePevensey Castle
Rooms AvailableYes (Filming)

Pevensey Castle ruins stand on what was once a peninsula in East Sussex, England, along the southern coast. The castle is a Norman castle built over the 4th century Roman fort of Anderida. The substantial remains of the fort are still visible today. The visitors can take the Pevensey Castle Walk, including the Roman west gate, D-shaped towers, and a walk through the rich English history.

History

The Romans built a fort called Anderida around 290 AD, on a peninsula jutting into an area of marshes. The marshes surrounded Anderida on three sides and offered a protected port. Anderida was almost unique as no civilian settlement grew up around the fort, probably due to the limited dry ground on the peninsula site. The fort was built to form a part of the Roman Saxon Shore system of coastal defences to counter the threat of raids by Germanic pirates. A fleet was based here, which acted in unison with a fleet across the Channel to stop pirate raids.

Around 410 AD, after the Romans left, the fort was occupied by civilians, who used the Roman defences to protect themselves from pirate raids. The defences failed to protect them in 471 AD when Saxons besieged the site. The Saxons themselves settled inside the fort in the 6th century, and by the 11th century, Pevensey became a thriving fishing port.

When William the Conqueror landed at Pevensey on 28 September 1066, he built temporary defences. When William left England in 1067 to make a triumphal tour of Normandy, he chose to sail from Pevensey. Robert, Count of Mortain, William’s half-brother, created the first permanent defences. He refortified the Roman perimeter wall and created two enclosures which were divided by a ditch and a timber palisade. It was not long before the Norman defences were put to the test. 

In 1088, William’s son Robert, Duke of Normandy, rebelled against William II, who had succeeded his father as King of England. Barons who supported Robert occupied Pevensey Castle, and William II personally led royal forces in a siege that lasted for six weeks. The defenders eventually had to surrender when the food supplies ran out.

For the next 150 years, Pevensey Castle swiftly changed ownership through the hands of many royal favourites until 1246, when it was granted to Peter of Savoy. He replaced its wooden fortifications with stone walls and towers, which still stand today.

During the baronial disturbances of Henry III’s reign, on 15 May 1264, an army commanded by Simon de Montfort defeated the king’s forces at the Battle of Lewes. After the battle, the royalist constable of Pevensey was commanded to surrender Pevensey Castle. Upon his refusal, the castle was besieged. However, the castle successfully withstood the attack for several months before combat eventually ended due to its continued expenses. After the death of Peter of Savoy in 1268, the castle was passed to the queen of Henry III, Eleanor of Provence, where it remained as a crown property for roughly 100 years.

According to survey records of 1573, the castle eventually fell into ruins during the Tudor dynasty. In 1588, the threat of a Spanish Armada required the construction of a gun emplacement at the castle, consisting of two cannons. One of them still survives today within the inner bailey of the castle.

After the defeat of France in World War II in 1940, Pevensey Castle became a potential location for invading England from the south. A command and observation post was created within the castle. The perimeter defences were refortified with modern machine gun pillboxes, and a blockhouse for anti-tank weapons was added at the Roman West Gate. The castle was also refitted to serve as barracks for a garrison during the war. The machine gun pillboxes within the medieval castle walls were preserved to serve as a reminder of the castle’s history.

Architecture

Pevensey Castle, by Mark, is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The main outer defensive walls of the more extensive Roman fortification have survived, forming a wide outer ring within which the main castle stands today. These Roman walls are amongst the very best Roman remains to have survived in the United Kingdom. The gatehouse is one of the dominant features of Pevensey Castle. Even though it no longer consists of two majestic drum towers flanking the vaulted entranceway, the single remaining tower still projects one of the earliest examples of the twin tower medieval design. The postern gate that once provided access to the shoreline represents a significant portion of the architecture.

The visitors can explore Pevensey Castle’s 16 centuries of rich history. You can climb the battlements and take in the view across the beautiful Sussex countryside. You can also head down into the dungeon and basement rooms. There is also an impressive cannon to World War II-era pillboxes hidden amid the castle walls. Pevensey Castle’s opening times are from 10 am to 5 pm.

Movie Features

Treasure Hunt (1982-89)– Pevensey Castle is featured in Episode: East Sussex (1989) of the Game – Show “Treasure Hunt”.

Frequently Asked Questions

When was Pevensey Castle built?

Pevensey Castle is a Norman castle constructed upon the 4th century Roman fort known as Anderida by William the Conqueror in 1066.

Where is Pevensey Castle?

Pevensey Castle is situated in the village of Pevensey in East Sussex, just off the A259. The nearest train stations to the castle are Pevensey & Weston or Pevensey Bay, both half a mile away.

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