Visiting Pevensey Castle, Pevensey, England: a Roman and Norman structure which had military use up to World War Two
A powerful, psychological statement
This large castle has substantial surviving Roman elements.
Some history and features
Its outer walls, the intact character of which is remarkable after two millennia, encompass a smaller keep area, the wall of which are Norman in origin (bearing in mind the year of the Battle of Hastings was 1066). The durability of its stone walls has much to do with the structure's well-preserved status.
The keep area is enclosed, containing a number of dungeons; while there is free access for the public to the outer Roman wall enclosure, the is a charge for entry to the inner keep. The Castle is managed by English Heritage.
Striking evidence of the huge time-span which the history of the castle embraces is borne out by a monument near one of the castle entrances (1) bearing testimony to William the Conqueror's arrival in 1066 and to Queen Elizabeth II's visit in 1966. It is thus possible to become overwhelmed by a sense of the span of years which recorded events at this remarkable structure encompass.
In Roman times, the castle was known as Anderitum, and was built in order to fortify the Roman presence against the threat of Saxon attacks.
Amazingly, the military value of the Castle was still being recognized in World War Two, when troops were dug in; and lookouts used the castle walls against the threat of Nazi German invasion. As in 1066, so in the 1940s: the coast of Normandy is not far away on the other side of the English Channel from Pevensey. During World War Two, American and Canadian troops were stationed at the Castle (2).
July 2, 2012
(1) The castle divides Pevensey itself from the village of Westham; there is an entrance to the Castle from both villages; the monument to the visits of King William I and Queen Elizabeth II — one thousand years apart — is by the Pevensey entrance. In fact, visitors on foot approaching Pevensey from Westham are advised to walk through the castle grounds across the inner bailey, rather than attempt to follow the road linking the two villages, since parts of the road lack a sidewalk, resulting in a hazard to pedestrians.
(2) I recall on one of my visits that a guide to the castle, herself with Canadian links, was displaying a Canadian flag at the ticket window to the keep area.
Also worth seeing
In Pevensey itself, the High Street is picturesque, as is the nearby parish church; among the interesting old buildings are a former mint and a former courthouse.
In Westham village, adjacent to the Castle, is a parish church dating from 1086.
How to get there: United Airlines flies to London Heathrow Airport, where car rental is available. (Distance from London Heathrow to Pevensey : approx. 146 kilometres.) For access by road, take M25/M23/A23/A27. There are rail links to Pevensey and Westham railroad station from London Victoria station. Some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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