Saturday, 5 May 2012

Hersmonceaux, part of The Castle Trail in Sussex

Start at:        The White Dog Inn
Village St, Ewhurst Green, Robertsbridge, East Sussex TN32 5TD
Tel: 01580 830264

End at:        Riverside Cafe Bar,
1, Riverside, Cliffe Bridge, Lewes, East Sussex BN7 2RE
Tel: 01273 487888

Ewhurst Green lies between the A28 and A21 south of Hawkhurst and is signposted off both main roads. The White Dog Inn stands in the village centre, just by the church.

From the White Dog, head west, then take the first right to Bodiam where you can visit Bodiam Castle.  (see blog part 1)

From Bodiam head west to High Wigsell. Cross over the B2244 along the lane to Silver Hill. At the A21 turn left through Salehurst. After about 3 miles bear right along the A2100. At Battle turn right along the A271 towards Hailsham. As you pass Boreham Street, turn left to find Herstmonceaux Castle.

This huge brick castle was begun 55 years after Bodiam. The manor of Herst had been in the Herst family, from Monceaux in Normandy from 1066 to 1320 when the male line died out and the heiress married Sir John Fiennes. It was their grandson, Sir Roger Fiennes who demolished the old fortified manor house to build this vast edifice. He was not really interested in having a fortress, but was seeking to build a comfortable home that had an exterior in the style of a traditional nobleman's home. The lack of any serious defence capability is revealed by the large size of the windows and the thinness of the walls. The great house included 12 courtyards, one for each month of the year, 52 staircases, one for each week of the year, and 365 windows, one for each day of the year.

Fiennes was, in fact, a civil servant who had risen high in the service of King Henry VI to reach the rank of Lord Treasurer. No doubt he hoped his new 'castle' would put him into the same social bracket as the noblemen from older families who lived in genuine ancestral castles. He was later given the title of Lord Dacre. A later Dacre spent his family inheritance and in the 1680s was forced to sell up. By 1777 the building was considered old fashioned and was abandoned to fall into ruins. The owner, Robert Hare, built a new home nearby as Herstmonceaux Place - using many of the bricks from the interior walls of the castle but leaving the outside walls intact to serve as a romantic ruin in his park. The castle was restored in the 1930s by the then owner, Sir Paul Latham, and now is home to the Royal Observatory. The gardens, but not the castle, are open throughout the summer.

If you have time, you may care to visit the parish church. This features magnificent 15th century Perpendicular style windows set into a 12th century church.
to be continued

from TEASHOP AND PUB DRIVES IN SUSSEX by Rupert Matthews. Buy your copy HERE

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