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Visiting the Old Courthouse, Pevensey, England: recalling justice, 16th century-style
Centuries of history encompassed in stone
Pevensey's Old Courthouse dates from the 16th century, though as a courthouse site the vicinity has older associations still. With the building, an old jail also exists.
Prominent features of the Old Courthouse include a bay window overlooking the High Street in which the building is situated, stone facing, and a set of steps leading to the main entrance.
The court and jail — the building also functioned as a municipal headquarters — functioned here until 1886. Incidentally, the Old Courthouse was reputed to have been the smallest Town Hall in England. It is thus remarkable to consider several centuries of institutional continuity there was in the years of the Old Courthouse's and its predecessors' official activities.
While by the time of the dissolving of the Old Courthouse in its official capacity, the execution of condemned prisoners was no longer held here, yet previously executions were held at a location in Pevensey still known as Gallows Lane.
The building today functions as a museum, although I recall that its opening hours are sometimes somewhat more limited than those of some well-endowed museums. The courtroom and dock, the magistrate's robing room and the jail cells may still be visited.
A plaque at the Old Courthouse refers to the functioning of a court on the same spot as this 16th century building even in pre-Norman days, that is, prior to the Norman conquest, when the settlement was Saxon in character. Then, in 1207, King John gave Pevensey a Royal Charter and it became a member of the Cinque Ports: the sea formerly reached the village, but has now long receded.
The adjoning property dating from 1700 was built for the jailer. Previously there were eight prisoners' cells at the Old Courthouse, but six of these have not survived.
Pevensey is located in the Wealden District of England's East Sussex.
July 7, 2012
Also worth seeing
In Westham village, which is adjacent to Pevensey 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 Some facilities may be withdrawn without notice.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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