Wednesday, 18 May 2011
Pevensey Castle - and some tea and cakes
One of the key events in this process took place here. In 491 Aelle attacked Pevensey, then held by a strong force of Romano-Britons. He and his men managed to get inside the defences and slaughtered everyone that they found. The brutal battle seems to have marked the moment when Aelle became independent of the central British authority that had survived from Roman times to about this time. We know that Aelle had landed at Selsey in about 477, but do not know his exact status. It is likely that he was a mercenary who may have been working for the Romano-Britons or who settled here to engage in a bit of blackmail. Whatever the details of his relationship with the Romano-Britons the attack on Pevensey ended it. The victory also brought Aelle the leadership of all the other Saxons, Angle and Jutish war bands operating in Britain at the time. The new found independence that he had won proved to be permanent. Large numbers of Saxons flooded across the seas from northern Germany to settle in the lands that Aelle had conquered. These were to become the Kingdom of the South Saxons, or Sussex.
The strategic position of the site and the robustness of the Roman walls were not lost on later generations. The English maintained the defences, though they do not seem to have manned them permanently except at the height of the Viking menace. William the Conqueror gave the castle to his half-brother Count Robert of Mortain on condition that he manned the defences. Robert did not have enough men to man the entire fortress, so he built a castle in one corner of it. This castle was improved and enlarged several times over the next 300 years and remains to this day. The fortress was updated again in 1588 to stop soldiers from the Spanish Armada getting ashore here. It was renovated again in 1803 when Napoleon threatened to invade, and was most recently refortified in 1940 to guard against a German assault.
Having viewed the castle, find Castle Cottage Tea Rooms nestled under the castle walls, close by the car park at the top end of the High Street.
From Teashop Walks in Sussex