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Title: Hastings and Neighbourhood
Author: Higgins, Walter
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Hastings and Neighbourhood" ***

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[Illustration: Cover art]


[Frontispiece: THE OLD TOWN, HASTINGS]

A few old timbered houses, the two churches, one on each side of the
slope, form, with the castle, the sum total of the tangible reminders
of ancient days.

(_See page 10_)




Described by Walter Higgins

Painted by E. W. Haslehust

[Illustration: Title page]





















The Old Town, Hastings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . _Frontispiece_

Hastings Castle

Hastings and St. Leonards from the Castle

St. Leonards Gardens

Pevensey Castle

The Gateway, Battle Abbey

Fairlight Glen

The Strand Gate, Winchelsea

Winchelsea Church


Rye Church

Bodiam Castle

[Illustration: Hastings headpiece]


Hastings is the gateway into an enchanted garden.

Between the hills and the sea it lies--the most romantic province in
this England of ours.  Scarcely a place in it seems to belong to this
present: from end to end it is built up almost entirely of memories.
The very repetition of the names--Rye, Winchelsea, Pevensey, Battle,
Bodiam, Hurstmonceux--conjures up the past in all its magnificence and
all its sadness.  Nowhere in so small a space shall you find so many
monuments to the greatness of England's former days, to the
imperishable glory of her people; nowhere in our coasts shall you find
a stretch of land so crowded with the ghosts of dead men and dead

If for this alone, the territory, no matter how ill-favoured and
unattractive, would be worth visiting and revisiting.  But there is yet
another call--that of the intrinsic beauty of the country-side.  And
the call here is insistent.  Hills and the sea; great folding downs and
little valleys dropping fatness; immense stretches of lonely marsh and
the nestling charms of copse-hidden villages; gentlest of streams
slipping lazily through peacefullest of domains; wildest of breakers
spending themselves at the base of steep tawny cliffs.  Thus is the
land compact.  One is always reminded of a passage from Mark Twain:
"That beauty which is England is alone; it has no duplicate.  It is
made up of very simple details, just grass, and trees, and shrubs, and
roads, and hedges, and gardens, and houses, and churches, and castles,
and here and there a ruin, and over all a mellow dreamland of history.
But its beauty is incomparable and all its own."  And search where you
will--north, south, east, west--nowhere can you come upon a spot to
which these words might with greater fitness be applied; for this
sequestered little area is the microcosm of England.

Despite its wilderness of bricks and mortar, Hastings itself is, under
certain conditions, a place by no means unbeautiful.  Possibly it is
from the sea that it appears in happiest mood.  One can take a boat on
a high summer's morning, when the sun is shining gaily on its steep
grass-capped cliffs, its fragment of castle ruin, its red and blue-grey
roofs, when the sea is mazing away into every tint of emerald and
sapphire.  Then it is a place fair to behold and pleasing to remember.
Or one can clamber to the top of the castle hill, and, Janus-like,
comprehend the town in its entirety--eastwards the old town and the
Past; westwards the modern watering-place and the Future.  Then it is a
place for soliloquy and moralizing.

Of the very early history of Hastings we know practically nothing, save
that it seems to have been for many years a place apart.  Shut off from
the west by the invious flats of Pevensey, then one vast network of
lagoons: from the east by the greater marsh of Romney; secluded on the
north by the grey mystery of Andredesweald, which in those days came as
far south as the top of Fairlight Hill, the people experienced a
certain splendid isolation.  So much so, in fact, that in the early
records it was quite customary to refer to them as a race apart, as
distinct as either of their nearest neighbours, the Jutes of Kent or
the Saxons of Sussex.  "And all Kent and Sussex and Hastings" was a
phrase running easily from the pens of ancient chroniclers.

No one knows their origin.  There was a tribe of Hastengi dwelling on
the seaboard between the Elbe and what is now Denmark, having as a
chieftain one Haesten, a piratical Dane, with whose name that of the
town is often linked (erroneously, say some).  In all probability,
following on some raid rather more extensive and successful than usual,
a party of these Hastengi came by this district as an allotment, and
chose to settle here, bringing over their families and herds.  Maybe
thus the town was originated.

One of their earliest tasks, doubtless, was the construction of a
stronghold, either the strengthening of an existing British earthwork
or the formation of an entirely new one.  The conditions of life
demanded that they should possess such a fortification, a place which
should be at once the residence of the chief and a refuge for the
people in time of danger.  And thus it happened that ere long there
came into existence the Hastinga-ceastre, mention of which is made in
the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in 1050: "A little before that [the murder of
Beorn by Sweyn] the men of Hastinga-ceastre and thereabouts won two of
his ships with two of their ships and slew all the men and brought the
ships to Sandwich to the King".  But prior to 1050 the town must have
attained to a considerable maritime strength and commercial eminence,
for in 924 Athelstan founded a mint here.  The site of this successful
Saxon town and harbour is a matter of conjecture; only the hurrying sea
knows where it lies.

History proper begins with the coming of the Norman adventurer,
although, singularly enough, that worthy paid little attention to the
town.  Landing at Pevensey on 28th September, 1066, William made his
way to Hastinga-ceastre, which he occupied without much show of
resistance (despite the picture of burning houses in the Bayeux
Tapestry), for the ships had gone north with Harold, and the folks
around had neither the means nor the mind to fight.  He stayed in the
district a fortnight, scouring round for provisions and terrorizing the
natives.  During that time he set to work to build some sort of a
castle, probably on or near the spot where the ancient camp had stood,
and where later the Castle proper eventually rose.  This we gather from
the Bayeux Tapestry, which depicts the digging and timbering of a
makeshift stronghold.  On 14th October William marched northwards to
meet Harold, and the famous Battle of Hastings, or Senlac, was fought.

Thence onward the town seems to have had a very chequered career.
Previous to the coming of the Normans the encroachments of the sea and
the gradual silting up of the old harbour (wherever it was) had
rendered necessary the laying down of a new town in a securer place,
and in all probability the building of the town between the east and
west cliffs was in that way begun--at a spot far to the south of the
present Old Town, of course.  The township thus commenced was the _New
Burgh_ afterwards mentioned in Domesday Book, and placed by William
under the jurisdiction of his kinsman, Robert, Count of Eu, and of the
Abbot of Fécamp.

The Norman occupation heralded a period of prosperity, for everything
was done by William to foster good relationship between the kingdom and
the duchy.  The continual passage of the monks between France and
England, the importation of Caen stone for the building of the abbey
(done until similar stone was discovered near at hand), made for
commercial growth and stimulated that shipbuilding industry which the
proximity of Andredesweald rendered possible.  Robert of Eu at once
replaced the hastily-formed wooden fortress by a small stone castle,
and this was added to from time to time.  And so the gradual progress
went on till the days of the completion of the Abbey in the reign of
the Red King: when Hastings reached its heyday.

Not long, however, did it remain thus in the full flush of existence,
for from the time of Stephen onwards it began steadily to decay.  Why
Hastings ever was the premier port of the Cinque Ports Confederacy it
is difficult to say.  There were, as the name suggests, five
towns--Hastings, Sandwich, Dover, Romney, and Hythe; and in addition
there were Winchelsea and Rye, which differed merely in name, being
called the Antient Towns.  If Hastings were ever the most successful of
these, it soon yielded pride of place to its neighbour and rival,
Winchelsea.  The sovereigns, especially the Angevins, gradually
transferred their attentions to the more easterly rivals, proffering no
royal aid even when Hastings suffered badly.  Slowly, therefore, but
certainly, the town sank to an insignificant position, with just here
and there a tiny patch of more glorious life; and it revived again only
as a result of one of the vagaries of fashion.

It was about 1750 that it took on its second lease of life, soon after
the time when Brighton emerged from the obscurity of a small
fishing-village to form the fashionable watering-place.  Society
doctors about that time discovered and began to recommend the
advantages of sea-bathing; and, the vogue spreading, Hastings began
rapidly to extend.  When the Duke of Wellington brought his wife hither
in 1806 there were less than four thousand inhabitants; but little by
little the cosy valley, where the old town had so long nestled, ceased
to be big enough, so that the town overflowed its confines; and
eventually the modern resort commenced to flourish, west of the Castle
hill--like a garish fungoid growth at the end of some fallen monarch of
the forest.  It was this modern development that excited the bitterness
of Charles Lamb when he wrote his well-known tirade: "I love town or
country; but this detestable Cinque Port is neither....  There is no
sense of home at Hastings.  It is a place of fugitive resort, an
heterogeneous assemblage of sea-mews and stockbrokers, Amphitrites of
the town, and misses that coquet with the Ocean.  If it were what it
was in its primitive state, and what it ought to have remained, a fair,
honest fishing-town, and no more, it were something--with a few
straggling fishermen's huts scattered about, artless as its cliffs, and
with their materials filched from them, it were something.  I could
abide to dwell with Meshech, to assort with fisher-swains, and
smugglers....  But it is the visitants from town, that come here to say
that they have been here, with no more relish of the sea than a
pond-perch or a dace might be supposed to have, that are my
aversion....  What can they want here?  What mean these scanty
book-rooms--marine libraries as they entitle them--if the sea were, as
they would have us believe, a book to read strange matter in?  What are
their foolish concert-rooms, if they come, as they would fain be
thought to do, to listen to the music of the waves?  All is false and
hollow pretension.  They come because it is the fashion, and to spoil
the nature of the place."


[Illustration: HASTINGS CASTLE]

A fragment of the castle alone remains, grimly clinging to the edge of
the cliff.

(_See page 13_)


As we stroll about the streets of Hastings of to-day, it is difficult,
nay, it is impossible, to conjure up the past, to people these hills
and dales with the ghosts of days long since gone.  True, there is the
Castle ruin, grimly clinging to the edge of the cliff; else there is
little but aggressive modernity.  Such haven as there is now gives
cause rather for ridicule than pride.  Few, standing at the Albert
Memorial, could ever conceive that here in this Priory valley was at
one time the great Port, protected on the east by the Castle hill, on
the west by the White Rock, and flushed from the north by the Old Roar
River.  Well might our old Sussex poet, James Howell, sing:

  "Thou old sea-town, crouching beneath the rocks
  Like a strong lion waiting for his prey!
  Where are thy river, harbour, and the docks
  In which the navy of Old England lay?
  Why didst thou slumber, when in Pevensey Bay
  The Normans' mighty host profaned our soil,
  When thou, the Cinque-Port Queen, didst hold the key
  Which locked the sea-gates of this freedom-isle?"

Who, standing towards the south of the old town, where now are those
black, bill-plastered structures famed as "the fishermen's huts", could
call to mind a great wall with a gate and portcullis defending the town
on the seaward side?  Yet a writer as late as 1828 could say: "Hastings
was formerly defended, towards the sea, by a wall, which extended from
the castle cliff across the hollow in which the town lies, to the east
cliff....  A very small portion of this wall still exists, and may be
traced near the Bourne's mouth, where there was a portcullis or gate; a
considerable part of it is stated to have remained about forty years
since." (William Herbert, the unacknowledged author of "_The History
and Antiquities of the Town and Port of Hastings_", by W. G. Moss,
draughtsman to H.R.H the Duke of Cambridge.)

Now all has gone.  Only the town remains much as before.  The
description penned in 1828 (_ibid._)--"The town consists principally of
two streets, High Street, and All Saints Street, each about half a mile
in length, running parallel nearly north and south, and separated by a
rivulet, called the Bourne, which runs into Hastings in a narrow and
inconsiderable stream, and empties itself into the sea.  These narrow
streets are intersected by various smaller ones, or, more properly
speaking, alleys, which contain the dwellings of the fishermen and
other poor inhabitants of the place"--might well serve for the present
day, save that the inconsiderable Bourne has now entirely disappeared.
For the rest, a few old timbered houses, the two churches, All Saints
and St. Clements, one on each slope, form, with the Castle, the sum
total of the tangible reminders of ancient days.

Nor has the town many definite associations as far as personalities go.
True, Titus Oates was baptized here in 1619, when his father was rector
of All Saints, and was himself curate in 1674; but the town can
scarcely be proud of him.  One of the few old timbered houses in All
Saints Street is pointed out as the home of the mother of Sir
Cloudesley Shovell, but the only evidence in support of the claim is
the following extract (generally discredited) from De la Prynne's
diary: "I heard a gentleman say, who was in the ship with him six years
ago, that as they were sailing over against the town of Hastings in
Sussex, Sir Cloudesley called out: 'Pilot, put near; I have a little
business on shore.'  They came to a little house--'Come,' says he, 'my
business is here; I came on purpose to see the good woman of this
house.'  Upon which they knocked at the door, and out came a poor old
woman, upon which Sir Cloudesley kissed her, and then, falling down on
his knees, begged her blessing, and called her mother."

Coventry Patmore and Sir John Moore both lived in the town for a time.
Otherwise the famous folk have for the most part been visitors.  The
Duke of Wellington, then Major-General Wellesley, came hither with his
bride in 1806, he being then in charge of some twelve thousand soldiers
encamped near by.  In August, 1814, Byron stayed for a period.  "I have
been renewing my acquaintance with my old friend Ocean," he wrote, "and
I find his bosom as pleasant a pillow for one's head in the morning as
his daughters of Paphos could be in the twilight.  I have been swimming
and eating turbot and smuggling neat brandies and silk handkerchiefs,
and walking on cliffs and tumbling down hills, and making the most of
the _dolce far niente_ of the last fortnight."  Thomas Hood spent his
honeymoon in the town about a decade later.  Garrick, while staying at
East Cliffe House, planted in the garden a slip from Shakespeare's

West of Hastings, and now merging into it, is the town of St. Leonards.
It was founded in 1828 by a Mr. Burton, and took its name from the
sixth-century hermit after whom the well-known forest and a number of
churches round about were called.  Here, at St. Leonards, Thomas
Campbell, the poet, lived, and his well-known "Address to the Sea",
commencing: "Hail to thy face and odours, glorious Sea!" was inspired
by the view from this point.  If ever the town needed a testimonial it
could scarcely find better than the following passage from Theodore
Hook: "From the meditation in which he was absorbed, Jack [Bragg] was
roused upon his arrival at the splendid creation of modern art and
industry, St. Leonards, which perhaps affords one of the most beautiful
proofs of individual taste, judgment and perseverance that our nation
exhibits.  Under the superintendence of Mr. Burton, a desert has become
a thickly peopled town.  Buildings of an extensive nature and most
elegant character rear their heads where but lately the barren cliffs
presented their sandy fronts to the storm and wave, and rippling stream
and hanging groves adorn the vale which a few years since was a sterile
and shrubless ravine."  But perhaps the eulogy must not be taken too



West of Hastings, and now merging into it, is the town of St. Leonards,
"the splendid creation of modern art and industry.  Buildings of an
extensive nature and most elegant character rear their heads where but
lately the barren cliffs presented their sandy fronts to the storm and

(_See page 16_)


Taken together, Hastings and St. Leonards form a typical modern
watering-place,--with the quieter portion to the west, as is usual on
the south coast.  Here, as an old guide book puts it, "every reasonable
wish may be gratified, whether the object of the visitant be health or
pleasure".  And certainly the place does offer a fine selection of
attractions.  For your more strenuous visitor there are ample
facilities for golf, tennis, swimming, &c.; for your ardent angler
there is the unique combination of good deep-sea and river fishing; for
your artist or photographer there are countless objects of beauty and
historical interest.  For those who are content merely to idle away the
time amid beautiful surroundings there are the magnificent public
gardens,--Alexandra Park, Gensing Gardens, and St. Leonards Gardens.
Few towns in England can boast so rich a possession as the park, with
its lake, its woodland glades, its fine stretches of greenest turf, its
indescribably beautiful flowers; and few municipalities realize so
adequately the value of such a possession, if one may judge by the care
bestowed upon it.


[Illustration: ST. LEONARDS GARDENS]

Few towns in England can boast so rich a possession as the park, with
its lake, woodland glades, and beautiful flowers.

(_See page 17_)


However, the surroundings of Hastings must still be its greatest asset.
To quote once more the grandiloquent old guide book,--"The vicinity of
the town abounds with delightful rides and walks; the pleasantness and
diversified character of which it is impossible not to admire; and
these are not only of a description superior, perhaps, to what are to
be found in almost any other part of the coast, but so numerous as to
afford that change which prevents the satiety arising from repetition".

Still farther west lies Bexhill, a typically modern seaside resort.
Then follows a considerable stretch of meadow land, and at the other
side the first of the romantic centres in this cradle of English


In all this storied region there is no spot so rich in memories as
Pevensey (or Pemsey, as it is called locally).  Before such ancient
settlements as Rye and Winchelsea were dreamed of, while yet Hastings
was the merest collection of barbarian huts, Pevensey, or rather its
Roman predecessor, Anderida, was a fortified place with all the ebb and
flow of a flourishing life.

Like Winchelsea, it has seen great changes--not quite so tragic
perhaps, but no less momentous--and like Winchelsea, too, in its tide
of fortune or disaster, it has been at the idle mercy of the fickle
sea.  Where now--from the Channel inland for three or four
miles--stretches a wide plain, centuries ago the sea went on its way,
reaching inland as far as Hailsham, and leaving Pevensey and other
"eys"--Horseye, Chilleye, Rickney--islanded in its midst.  In those
days Pevensey served a double purpose: it was an island stronghold and
a port--a gate to shut out and a gateway to welcome the alien mariner,
according to his intentions and its own will.  Then the waters of the
Channel receded, and the puissant fortress, robbed of its vital
strength, sprawled helplessly at the mercy of any Philistine invader.

It has had just this much of compensation: through its centuries of
serviceable isolation it has seen real life as a castle--withstood
sieges, beaten off marauding foes, taken sides in internal strife--and
in that it has had the cry over the most of our Sussex fortresses.

Originally a Celtic stronghold, it became, by reason of its unique
situation, the Anderida of the Romans, a fortified enclosure following
roughly the shape of the knoll on which it stood.  This was in the
third century.  Two hundred years later, when the Romans had departed
and left behind an enervated British race, the invading Saxons
descended on the stronghold, put to death every Briton they could find,
and destroyed all traces of the Roman settlement within the walls.  For
centuries after this the enclosure was unoccupied; but the port
continued its activities, for we read that in the years 1042 and 1049
Earl Godwin and his sons, Sweyn and Harold, fell upon the place with
sword and torch, and carried off many ships.

But its real value as a castle site was only completely realized when,
in September of the year 1066, William the Norman landed there with his
hordes of mailed warriors.  He straightway gave the derelict to his
half-brother, Robert of Mortain, who proceeded to erect a Norman
fortress at the east end of the enclosure, using the strengthened Roman
walls as an outer line of defence.  To this was added, two centuries
later, a strong inner keep.

Since the time of the Norman landing Pevensey seems to have sustained
at least four earnest sieges.  The first took place in 1088, when Odo,
Bishop of Bayeux, and supporter of Robert of Normandy, defended the
castle against the Red King: the second in 1147, when the place was
held for the Empress Matilda against King Stephen; and in both of these
cases the defenders were compelled by famine to surrender.  The third
important attack was that of 1264, following the battle of Lewes, when
Simon de Montfort and the Barons sought in vain to reduce a garrison of
obstinate Royalists.  It was during this particular siege that the
larger gap in the original Roman wall was initiated.  The fourth and
last storming happened during the Wars of the Roses, when Lady Pelham,
a stanch supporter of the Lancastrian cause, successfully held out
against a force of local followers of Richard of York.

After that the glory of the place departed, and it became a State
prison, wherein were incarcerated such illustrious personages as
Edward, Duke of York; James the First of Scotland; and Queen Joan of
Navarre, wife of Henry the Fourth.  From the days of the seventh Henry
onwards it gradually fell into decay; and its present dilapidated
condition is due not so much to the violence of the sieges as to the
habit of the local gentry of using the remains as a handy quarry for
house-building purposes.  For the presence of any remains at all our
thanks are due to that much-reviled thing the Spanish Armada.  In the
year previous to the sailing of the fleet, orders were given for the
complete restoration or total demolition of the castle.  Happily, in
the general confusion of the time, the instructions seem to have been
forgotten.  Pevensey now is one of the most picturesque spots in the
south of England.  The knoll on which it stands is sufficiently high to
give the castle a dignified appearance, as it rises up out of the
encompassing marshes; and yet there is none of that grim, forbidding
aspect generally so noticeable about castles perched on an eminence.
Rather is there about these ivy-mantled walls an atmosphere of sunlit
serenity quite out of keeping with the story of the place.  Around the
little hill still stretch those amazing ancient Roman walls, with but
two considerable breaches.  These walls for the most part fail to get
the attention they deserve.  Visitors enter the little western gate and
pass across the meadow--once the outer ward--and so come to the
mediæval castle; but the outer walls are nearly a thousand years older
and of transcendent interest.  What magnificent masons those old Romans
were!  And what a secret they must have possessed for the making of
mortar and cement!  In several places here the cement has endured
through all these hundreds of years, while even the outer stones have
crumbled away.  At other points, too, the actual marks of the masons'
tools are visible in the ancient mortar.



Through centuries of serviceable isolation it has seen real life as a
castle--withstood sieges, beaten off marauding foes, and taken sides in
internal strife.

(_See page 23_)


At the eastern end of the enclosure is the castle itself, with a
reed-grown moat on the northern and western sides.  Most of this ruin
dates back only to the time of Edward the First, for the original
Norman fabric suffered too many sieges to endure in any completeness.
One of the great towers flanking the main gateway still stands, but the
other, like the drawbridge, has long since disappeared; three others
project from the wall at various intervals.  Inside, very little
remains.  Fragmentary ruins reveal the original site of the keep: the
extent of the chapel may be traced on the sward.  But, for all the
scarcity of definite relics, the place is one to linger in and conjure
up the past, when these grass-grown spaces were instinct with a
hurrying life, when the meadows where now the cattle browse were filled
with anxious faces and beating hearts.

Pevensey can own to one famous son at least, Andrew Borde, a man of
many parts.  Carthusian monk, physician to Henry the Eighth,
litterateur, poor Borde died a prisoner in the Fleet Prison in 1549.
He was one of those unfortunates who seem never to do or say the right
thing at the right time.  Born at the vicarage early in the sixteenth
century, he developed a turn for jesting, and it proved his undoing,
for bishops and kings had not his lively wit, and failed lamentably to
appreciate what was at once his gift and his failing.  To his ready pen
have been ascribed the immortal epic "Tom Thumb", and the oft-told
"Merry Tales of the Wise Men of Gotham"--the latter collected and put
into literary form from the oral traditions of the country-side.

Just up under the eastern wall of the castle is the so-called Mint
House, where Borde is reputed to have spent many of his days.  It was
an interesting old place, with its panelled walls and numerous
passages; but it has now been rendered quite impossible by reason of
its conversion into a glorified old curiosity shop with a heterogeneous
collection of antiques.  Other delightful houses there are, too, in
this double village of Pevensey and Westham, straggling away at either
side of the castle--low, picturesque timbered dwellings, at once the
delight and despair of would-be artists.  At Westham is a noble old
church, the first built by the Conqueror, with remnants of the original
Norman fabric still serving their purpose.

Striking east from the castle, the way out to Hurstmonceux lies down
through the village street, with the sea away to the right and the
marsh to the left.  All along the coast here stand the Martello towers,
monuments to the hysteria of a former day.  Poor Cobbett, in his _Rural
Rides_, could scarce find words bitter enough for these works.  "To
think that I should be destined to behold these monuments of the wisdom
of Pitt and Dundas and Perceval!  Good G--!  Here they are, piles of
brick in a circular form about three hundred feet (guess) circumference
at the base, about forty feet high, and about one hundred feet
circumference at the top....  Cannons were to be fired from the top of
these things, in order to defend the country against the French
Jacobins!  I think I could have counted along here upwards of thirty of
these ridiculous things, which, I dare say, cost five, perhaps ten,
thousand pounds each: and one of which was, I am told, _sold_ on the
coast of Sussex, the other day, for two hundred pounds...."  Some have
now been dismantled, having been rendered useless or dangerous by the
encroachments of the sea.  Here and there is to be found one providing
habitation for a fisherman or a coastguard, or let out for the purpose
of a summer residence to some more than usually enterprising

As soon as the water of Pevensey Haven is crossed, the way to
Hurstmonceux turns sharply to the north; and thence onward the road is
a perfectly flat one, winding in and out across the levels with seeming
aimlessness.  Ahead, visible nearly all the way, the castle nestles
among the low hills that break sharply away from the flats, outposts of
the uplands of that same sandstone Forest Ridge which presses on
eastwards to form the cliffs beyond Hastings.  On either side, away to
the distant hills, stretch the greenest of meadows, intersected by
innumerable watercourses, with but a few stunted thorns and an
occasional tuft of rushes to break the trackless level.  Here the
soft-eyed Sussex beasts browse knee-deep in luxuriant pasturage.  It is
a lonely spot, a place of drowsy solitude, where the plaintive call of
the plover seems the most natural melody.  Yet, on a spring morning,
when great white clouds ride across the clear blue sky, when the thorn
is in bloom, and every ditch is brocaded with the gold of myriad
kingcups, then, indeed, it is a place of indescribable sweetness.

Built at the time of the "last of the barons", Hurstmonceux marked the
transition in domestic architecture from the heavily-defended fortress
to the comfortable and luxurious manor-house.  As early as the reign of
Edward the Third attempts had been made to combine the strength of
massive masonry with the convenience of more sumptuous apartments, such
castles as Raglan and Warwick leading the way.  We have only to stroll
round the present remains to find ample evidence of this double
service.  The great arched gateway and battlemented walls, the
machicolated octagonal towers, the moat and drawbridge, the loopholes
for cross-bows, the oeillets for the matchlock guns,--all witness to
the one purpose; while the size and number of the windows in the
dwelling-rooms quite well testify to the other.

In these days the ruined castle is a place of great beauty.  Time has
dealt less hardly with it than with some.  The colour of the huge
red-brick front has been softened down by wind and rain to a restful
mellow tint in full harmony with the sombre green of the overhanging
masses of ivy; and, though the broken walls with their towers and
half-towers still have a martial air, they have lost much of their
severity of outline.

In the full flush of its being it was a magnificent structure.  Just
inside the great gateway there was a courtyard, generally known as the
"Green Court", surrounded by the cloisters.  Just beyond this stood the
great dining-hall, a spacious chamber, 54 feet long and 28 wide, with
massive timbered roof and tiled floor; and, opening from it, the Pantry
Court, from which again a paved passage led to the garden.  The east
side of the castle included the principal dwelling-apartments,--the
enormous drawing-room, where Grinling Gibbons's vine, a masterpiece of
carving, spread its magnificence over the walls and ceiling; the
chapel, extending up through the two stories; and, on the upper floor,
the "Ladies' Bower" with its peculiar oriel window--a room wherein,
tradition says, one of the fair daughters of Hurstmonceux was starved
to death in her twenty-first year.  On the west were the domestic
apartments, among them the great kitchen and bakehouse, with an oven in
which, it was declared, a coach and horses might easily turn.  On the
upper floor, lighted by the open space of the Green Court, were the
Bethlehem chambers, otherwise the guest-rooms, and the Green Gallery, a
room filled with pictures and hung with green cloth.  One old writer
speaks of these upper rooms as "sufficient to lodge a garrison"; and
adequate provision would seem to have been necessary, for in its heyday
Hurstmonceux had many and illustrious visitors.  Everything seems to
have been done on such a lavish scale that we are fully prepared for
such interesting details as the record that at the marriage of Grace
Naylor "butts of beer were left standing at the park gates for the
refreshment of chance passers-by"; also that twenty old female
retainers were kept constantly employed at the weeding and tidying of
the Green and other courtyards.

For long it was a mere skeleton, at the mercy of nature and man.  As
late as 1752 Horace Walpole could write of it in a letter to his friend
Richard Bentley: "It was built in the reign of Henry VI, and is as
perfect as the first day.  It does not seem to have ever been quite
finished, or at least that age was not arrived at the luxury of
whitewash, for almost all the walls are in their native brick-hood."
And yet, despite Mr. Walpole's assertions as to its continued
perfectness, so soon after this as 1777 the castle was dismantled.  The
truth is: if the castle has escaped the general fate of this region and
avoided the scourge of the invader, it has nevertheless suffered much
at the hands of its friends.  In the year mentioned the owner was a
Mrs. Henrietta Hare, ancestor of the author of _Memorials of a Quiet
Life_, a volume which deals very faithfully with this ancient fabric.
This lady, desiring to use the materials for the construction of a new
mansion on a higher site, called in the arch-vandal Wyatt, and he (to
quote Augustus Hare's _Memorials_) "declared that the castle was in a
hopeless state of dilapidation, though another authority had just
affirmed that in all material points its condition was as good as on
the day on which it was built....  The castle was unroofed....  A great
sale was held in the park, whither the London brokers came in troops,
and lived in an encampment of tents during the six weeks which the sale
lasted.  Almost everything of value was then dispersed.  Mrs. Hare and
her husband afterwards resided at Hurstmonceux Place, the new house
which Wyatt was commissioned to build, and lived there in such
extravagance that they always spent a thousand a year more than their
income, large as it was, and annually sold a farm from the property to
make up the deficiency.  It was a proverb in the neighbourhood at that
time that 'people might hunt either Hares or foxes'."

And thus it stood, a ruined shell, until comparatively recent years.
The many curious staircases built in the thicknesses of the walls, the
secret underground passages, and the general isolation on the edge of
the marsh, all contrived to render the ruin an ideal rendezvous for
smugglers and a suitable depository for their stores of contraband.

Now, fortunately, the castle is in the hands of one who, appreciating
such a possession, is taking steps to prevent any further decay, and
with a loving care and a sense of fitness is proceeding with the
delicate task of necessary restoration.


To Battle is the excursion of paramount interest from the popular point
of view.  The association with one of the most momentous events in the
history of the land, the peculiar entertainment of standing on the
actual ground where the battle took place and the "last of the English"
fell, the intrinsic pleasure in the inspection of a ruin at once rich
in memories and comely in setting,--all contrive to make it the
pilgrimage into the country around.  Other ruins may surpass it in
degree of preservation, in individual reminiscence, in charm of
situation, but none, not even Pevensey, can vie with the Abbey in
strength of appeal.

It was erected on the actual place of the contest.  On the eve of the
battle, when the rival forces were assembled and ready for the shock of
arms, William, in a sudden fit of piety--or nervousness--made a solemn
vow that, should victory be his, he would found a mighty church, in
token of his thankfulness for the Divine intervention.  And when it was
all over, and the English had fallen, he quickly made good his promise.
Practical men came to him urging the unsuitable nature of the site,
high up on the hill-side away from all water.  Rather would they build
down there in the hollow, where the springs ever gushed forth freely.
But not so William: the church should rise on the field of blood, and
the high altar should mark the spot where his adversary had fallen.
And for the matter of water: if that were lacking, well, wine should be
more plentiful in the new Abbey than water in other religious houses.
Thus came the venerable Abbey of St. Martin into existence.

The story of the battle is perhaps the most fascinating in all our
catalogue of worthy fights.  When William landed on these shores Harold
was at York, recuperating after the superhuman efforts which culminated
in the battle of Stamford Bridge, where he entirely defeated an
invading force under Harold Haardrada and his own brother, Tostig.  He
had marched two hundred miles or more to defeat one foe, and it was now
necessary for him to carry out a still greater expedition to engage a
second.  He halted several days in the capital while the process of
collecting troops from the midlands and the south went on.  At last, on
October the twelfth, he moved on to meet William.  With him he took but
a small army.  Had he waited just a short time longer (the delay would
not have mattered, for William had no intention of leaving the coast)
he could have gathered a force sufficiently large to overwhelm the
invaders; but he made the common mistake of holding the enemy too
cheaply.  A series of forced marches commenced in the hopes of catching
William unawares came to nought, owing to the vigilance of the Duke's
marauding bands.  On the night of the thirteenth he arrived at the
fatal hill, and pitched his camp on the site of the present town of



The Abbey was erected on the field of the Battle of Hastings.  The
gateway was added in 1338 to the work begun by William the Conqueror.

(_See page 36_)


Harold apparently knew this part of Sussex quite well, being the lord
of several manors round about; and so his well-chosen ground does not
surprise us.  A long spur of upland here thrusts out boldly from the
main mass of wooded hill-side, and commands a view over a wide stretch
of rolling ground away to the sea.  On a crest of this spur he ranged
his army, with the mailed warriors in front forming a continuous

The descriptions of the night before the battle--all from Norman
sources, by the way--make vastly interesting reading.  Albeit they vary
in certain minor matters, they are in one accord concerning the
characters of the rival armies--the drunken English and the pious
Normans.  The former spent the night in one big carousal--dancing,
singing, drinking immense quantities of liquor; the latter devoted
their time to prayers and the confession of their sins.  And yet,
strange to say, the English seem to have been quite fit in the morning,
for they put up a remarkably good fight.  They held their own through
the best part of the day, and in the end were defeated only by their
own eagerness.

Hour after hour the Normans surged up the hill, assailing the English
position, and again and again were they driven back by the terrible
battle-axes of their opponents.  So well was Harold's position chosen
that they could make little impression; and it is fair to hazard that
in the end they would have met with defeat, had not some of the
less-disciplined troops forsaken their advantage and impetuously
pursued the panic-stricken enemy into the valley below.  Here the
conditions were different, and the sword was more than a match for the
battle-axe and javelin, with the consequence that the rash English were
badly cut up.  William noticed this, and determined to try the
"strategic retreat" on a larger scale.  Accordingly one wing--the
western--was ordered to turn tail and retire as though in disorder.
This they did.  The English, lured on by their wily foes, readily gave
up their more favourable position, and then, as before, the French
turned and engaged them, while a wedge of cavalry inserted itself and
harassed them in the rear.  This descending movement had left open a
considerable portion of the English line, and on this William
concentrated the pick of his forces.  But still the English fought on
stubbornly.  In one place they also saw the advantage of the feigned
flight, and induced the French cavalry to charge into an unsuspected
ravine, whence not a man escaped.

As the shades of evening fell no one might say where the advantage lay:
the English shield-wall was broken in places, but it still presented a
formidable line; the French still pressed on eagerly.  Then to Duke
William came the great inspiration which turned the day, and won for
him the battle and the crown.  So far his archers had done little to
justify their presence on the field.  Now William saw that if they were
ordered to shoot their arrows high into the air these would descend
with terrific force upon the heads of the foe, and work great
execution.  The command was carried out, and one of the first to fall
was the English king himself, his right eye pierced by a shaft.

With Harold fell the English fortunes.  His soldiers struggled on
desperately till night closed down, but their valour was in vain, and
after a day's continuous fighting the Normans were left the victors of
the field.

Building operations were duly commenced, and proceeded apace.  The
growing Abbey was richly endowed, and its Superior granted numerous and
great privileges.  Not, however, till William had been dead some seven
years was it finished.  Then for several centuries it enjoyed a
flourishing existence, extending its scope and increasing its wealth.
The great gateway was added in 1338, and was the work of Abbot Retlyng.

The income of the Abbey was enormous, and the wanton generosity of the
brothers made Battle a happy hunting-ground for the pilgrims and
vagabonds and ne'er-do-wells in the south-east of England.  But its
long years of prosperity proved its undoing, for slothful ease gave way
to greater evils.  The great place decayed in every sense, and when, in
1538, Henry's commissioners appeared at its gate, it was in a fit
condition to be suppressed.  Layton, the chief commissioner, says of
it: "So beggarly a house I never see, nor so filthy stuff.  I will no
20s. for all the hangings in this house, as the bearer can tell you....
So many evil I never see, the stuff is like the persons"; and he
further speaks of the inmates as "the worst that ever I see in all
other places, whereat I see specially the blake sort of dyvellyshe

As we pass through the magnificent gateway, worthy indeed to guard the
treasure within, our pleasure increases at every step, for though the
ruins are but few and fragmentary they are enshrined in that most
glorious of settings, a beautiful garden.  The great church itself has
long since disappeared, for Sir Anthony Browne, to whom the place was
given after the visit of the vandal commissioners, saw nothing of worth
in it.  Just a fragment of the nave wall is pointed out in the woodyard
at the back of the modern mansion, and a piece of the cloister arcading
on the east side.  But we can get a very good idea of its great size
from the disposition of the ruins.  The spot to which we turn with
eagerness is the site of the high altar, the death-place of Harold.  It
is a spot of beauty now, with its moss-grown stones, its ferns and
greenery; and we would fain linger awhile to think on all the Norman
invasion brought, all its woes and its brightnesses; but the guide is
inexorable: we must pass on with the flock of tourists to view the only
considerable remain, the Early English hall, generally known as the
Refectory.  The walls of this stand roofless to the sky, with a lawn in
place of a floor.  Below there are three fine vaulted chambers--one,
the Scriptorium, with a good geometrical window and a vaulted roof
supported by graceful pillars.

But after all we come away with no very clear idea of the place; and
perhaps it is as well.  Instead, we have a vague, an impressionist
picture of flowers and ruins, grey stones mantled with gorgeous
blossoms; and over all a brooding serenity.

The pedestrian's route, by which we may either come to Battle or
return, passes through Hollington and Crowhurst.  At the latter place
is one of the most famous yews in the country; at the former is the
notorious "Church in the Wood".  Just why this little church should
ever have attained to its present eminence as a goal of pilgrimage we
fail utterly to comprehend.  There is nothing remarkable about the
edifice itself, either in the way of structure or ornaments; the
graveyard is too crowded with the hideous monuments of parvenu
strangers to be interesting; the approach is little more than
commonplace.  Yet for all that, thousands come and go through the
summer months, and on fine Sundays the little sanctuary is packed to
the door, doubtless to the entire satisfaction of the clergy.  Charles
Lamb discovered the place many years ago, when the surroundings were
rather more favourable; and we should certainly give thanks, for the
visit gave rise to an inimitable passage: "It is a very Protestant
Loretto, and seems dropt by some angel for the use of the hermit, who
was at once parishioner and a whole parish....  It is built to the text
of 'two or three are assembled in my name'.  It reminds me of the grain
of mustard seed.  If the glebe land is proportionate, it may yield two
potatoes.  Tithes out of it could be no more split than a hair.  Its
first fruits must be its last, for 'twould never produce a couple.  It
is truly the strait and narrow way, and few there be--of London
visitants--that find it....  It is secure from earthquakes, not more
from sanctity than size, for 'twould feel a mountain thrown upon it no
more than a taper-worm would.  Go and see, but not without your


East of the old town is a stretch of cliffs several miles long, made
up, like the Forest Ridge, of Lower Cretaceous rocks.  Several little
wooded valleys extend from the high lands right down to the sea, and
two of these have attained to a desirable celebrity under the names of
Ecclesbourne and Fairlight Glens.

Many folk, visiting these two spots in August, go away with a feeling
of utter disappointment, for the grass is rusty and the place strewn
with the indescribable litter of a myriad picnic-parties.  But in the
spring of the year, when the little watercourse at the bottom is at its
fullest, when there are countless primroses beneath the fine old trees,
when everything is green down to the water's edge, then do these glens
deserve their reputations.


[Illustration: FAIRLIGHT GLEN]

In the spring of the year, when the little watercourse is at its
fullest, there are countless primroses beneath the fine old trees, and
everything is green down to the water's edge.

(_See page 39_)


In Fairlight there are two famous spots--the Dripping Well and the
Lovers' Seat.  The well, situated at the northern end of the glen,
shows a decided tendency to follow the custom of most local waters, but
we can nevertheless get some idea of what a pretty little spot it must
have been at its best.  The Lovers' Seat is a little to the east, high
up on the face of a steep, shrub-grown cliff.  A large rock overhangs
at the top, and beneath is a tiny platform, slowly disappearing.  It is
a fine place, especially on an early summer morning, when the air is
athrob with the tumultuous melody of the birds in the glen below, and
the sea birds wheel round the aerie--a place well fitted to stir even
Charles Lamb to praise: "Let me hear that you have clambered up to
Lovers' Seat; it is as fine in that neighbourhood as Juan Fernandez, as
lonely too, when the fishing-boats are not out; I have sat for hours
staring upon a shipless sea.  The salt sea is never so grand as when it
is left to itself."  Of course it has a story: what similar romantic
spot has not?  Doubt has been cast on the veracity; but such pretty
tales certainly _ought_ to be true.

East of the glen lies Cliff End, where the brown sandstone cliffs dip
down sharply once more to the level marshlands.  The path thither
meanders along the top of the cliffs, now approaching perilously near
the edge to give a glimpse of some sweet little hanging dell with trees
right down to the waves, now wandering inland a little through acres of
bee-thronged gorse and heather.  It is such a spot as Richard Jefferies
loved: "All warmly lit with sunshine, deep under liquid sunshine like
sands under the liquid sea, no harshness of man-made sound to break the
isolation amid nature".

Once at Cliff End we marvel, and yet offer up fervent thanks that it is
not one of the "show places" of the district.  The low rolling hills,
having constituted the coast-line for half a dozen miles, at this point
break away inland to form a delightful country-side.  By so doing they
enclose what was formerly a great lagoon or inland sea, having long
arms, or fiords, running up into the different river-valleys of Brede,
Tillingham, and Rother.  Now the sea has gone, and there, in its place,
stretch away acres upon acres of marshland, marked out like a piece of
old patchwork by the countless watercourses--a place of stressless
labour and contentment.

As we stand at this place and gaze out eastwards upon those broad acres
of sun-washed, wind-swept meadow-land, where now the cattle and sheep
graze peacefully and the shepherd slumbers at his post, it is difficult
to realize that here the fishermen once dropped their nets, and the
ships of war rode majestically at anchor--ready at any moment to
venture forth against marauding foes.  Yet Winchelsea, which stands out
in the distance--seeming one day miles away and another barely a
stone's throw--and Rye, a tiny town, perched on its little hill some
three miles farther on, were each ports of the first
magnitude--veritable cradles of the navy and the Empire.

From the Cliff End here we have a choice of two routes: either we can
proceed by road to Icklesham, a place well worth a visit for the sake
of its interesting old church, and then on to Winchelsea; or, better
still, we can tramp the few miles beside the old military canal, which
serves to link up that town with the sea.  This latter is certainly a
delightful walk, and well worth the fatigue of an extended effort.  As
we drop down the slope, we note, on the lower ridges of the hills,
Pett, the insignificant village which has given its name to the Level,
or tongue of "polder", stretching away to Rye, and extending eastwards
into that greater flat, the Romney Marsh; and, farther on, Guestling.
Not hastily, however, must Guestling be passed by, for though the
village is commonplace enough to the eye, the name is charged with
ancient memories.  Originally the "Guestling" was a sort of conference
between the Ports and distant fishing colonies such as Yarmouth; but
gradually it developed into a local Parliament held to settle disputes
among the folks of the rival fisher towns as to questions of rights and
privileges.  It met in the church itself, and possessed a Speaker and
something of the paraphernalia of full judicial power.  Here is what
the good old Jeake says about it in his ancient _History of the Cinque
Ports_: "By the same name of _Guestling_, is also a Court called, that
consisteth but of _part_ of the _Ports_ and _two Towns_, as suppose
Hastings, Winchelsea, and Rye, raised upon request of one of them;
where by consent, and as by brotherly invitation, they appear to agree
on something necessary to their respective Towns."

The old canal, like the Martello towers, roused the scorn of Cobbett:
"Here is a canal _to keep out the French_; for these armies who had so
often crossed the Rhine, and the Danube, were to be kept back by a
canal, made by Pitt, thirty feet wide at the most".  But despite
Cobbett's words it was no mean feat of military engineering for those
days, as the following particulars, culled from Horsfield, the old
county historian, will show: "The Military Canal, which was cut, during
the late war with France, as a protection to the lowlands in the
eastern part of this county and the adjoining portion of the county of
Kent, by impeding the progress of an enemy, in the event of a landing
on this shore, commences at Cliffe End, in the parish of Pett, and
following the course of the rising ground, which skirts the extensive
flat forming Walland and Romney Marsh, crosses the Roman Road near
Hythe, and extends, in nearly a straight direction, along the coast to
its termination at Shorne Cliffe, in Kent; a distance of about
twenty-three miles.  Its breadth is about twenty yards, and its depth
three; with a raised bank or redan on the northern side to shelter the
soldiery, and enable them to oppose the foe with greater advantage."
Now everything is changed; this monument of warlike stupidity has
become a haunt of peace.  Thus has Time effected another of its little

Following the reed-grown, bird-haunted waterway, we skirt the peninsula
on which the town is perched, and come finally to the foot of the road
which winds diagonally up to the Strand Gate.  Thus is the town entered
by its most beautiful approach.


Every spot in this delectable corner of England--Pevensey,
Hurstmonceux, Hastings itself, Bodiam, Rye--is redolent of the triumph
of change; but Winchelsea stands before us a perfect memorial to the
futility of man's efforts against Nature, a tangible reminder of the
irony of Time.

This ancient town, perched, like Rye, on a solitary hillock projecting
into the midst of a vast plain, is, despite its years and its ruins,
really a _new_ Winchelsea.  The old town--the city proper--a prosperous
place of seven hundred householders and fifty odd inns, lies beneath
the ever-changing sea, some two miles (some say, five) south-east of
the present site.  Serious trouble began in 1250 with a great tempest,
concerning which Holinshed writes: "On the first day of October (1250)
the moon, upon her change, appearing exceeding red and swelled, began
to show tokens of the great tempest of wind that followed, which was so
huge and mightie, both by land and sea, that the like had not been
lightlie knowne, and seldome, or rather never heard of by men then
alive.  The sea forced contrarie to his natural course, flowed twice
without ebbing, yielding such a rooring that the same was heard (not
without great woonder) a farre distance from the shore....  At
Winchelsey, besides other hurt that was doone in bridges, milles,
breakes, and banks, there were 300 houses and some churches drowned
with the high rising of the watercourse."  Not even then did the people
give in; but from 1250 to 1287 Neptune and other sovereign powers
descended mightily on the poor old town, and its tragedy was completed
when, during an utterly disastrous tempest, the whole district between
Pett and Hythe was inundated.

At this time Edward the First was Warden of the Cinque Ports, and the
planning of the new town seems to have been to him and his associates a
simple and congenial task.  The present triangular plateau was chosen,
falling precipitously on three sides, with its narrow end towards
Hastings; and the new town was projected and begun on truly magnificent
lines.  Edward seems to have been quite a pioneer in the modern science
of town-planning, for Winchelsea, like several other towns set out by
him, was given an oblong shape, and this was divided up into
thirty-nine or forty squares by means of wide streets intersecting at
right angles.

On the north the town stood upon a cliff overhanging the Brede fiord;
on the east the land fell away precipitously to the sea itself.  At the
north-east and north-west corners of the plateau, roads were made down
to the sea, with quays at the bottom of each, and great gates, the
Strand and Ferry, at the top.  At the land end yet another gate was
built, the New, and the extremity protected by a moat and stone walls.
A castle was built, and full provision made for the resumption of the
commerce of the port.



Winchelsea stands upon a plateau, at the north-east and north-west
corners of which roads were made down to the sea, with quays at the
bottom of each, and great gates, the Strand and Ferry, at the top.

(_See page 49_)


The various religious houses were reproduced as in the dead town, and
ere long the lusty life of the old place began again in earnest.  The
town became self-supporting with its shipbuilding and fishing, and its
galaxy of representative craftsmen, and offered a splendid channel for
trade to and from the mainland.  Being a serviceable defensive port, it
rehabilitated itself as a rendezvous for the navy, and combined with
that importance the added attraction of being the best base on the
coast for pirates.  So well was the latter occupation organized that we
read of one of the mayors of the town--one Robert de Battayle--being
caught red-handed and summarily punished for acts of piracy.

And what remains?  Very little.  At the northern end certain of the
spacious streets are inhabited but generally grass-grown.  These show
the original divisions and dimensions; but southwards and westwards the
majestic squares have become merely green fields, until at last the
boundaries have been lost altogether.  Ancient words of doom ring in
our ears as we survey the scene: "Thorns shall come up in her palaces,
nettles and brambles in the fortresses thereof....  They shall be left
altogether unto the fowls of the mountains and to the beasts of the
earth; and the fowls shall summer upon them, and all the beasts of the
earth shall winter upon them."

The church, or rather a certain portion of it, still stands, with a
generous margin of green surrounding it, and within its walls the fine
canopied tomb of Gervase Alard, admiral of the Cinque Ports.  A short
distance down the road, south-east of the church, is the mansion known
as "The Friars": in its beautiful grounds stands practically all that
remains of the religious houses--the ivy-grown ruin of the chapel of
the Franciscan Monastery.  With this mansion and with the brothers
Weston, the rogues who dwelt in it, all lovers of Thackeray's _Denis
Duval_ will doubtless be familiar.  The gates of the town still frown
down on the approaching roads; but wall, castle, quays, all are gone,
and the place is now, to use Wesley's words, "that poor skeleton of
ancient Winchelsea".



The church, or a certain portion of it, still stands, with a generous
margin of green surrounding it, and within its walls the fine canopied
tomb of Gervase Alard, Admiral of the Cinque Ports.

(_See page 48_)


And small wonder too, for every hand has been against it.  At the time
of its building the Black Death made its appearance, destroying
countless inhabitants and dispersing the craftsmen.  The town was
sacked by the French in 1359, when three thousand entered with sword
and torch.  Again, in 1378, the same catastrophe occurred.  In 1449
they visited once more, but did little damage.  For by this time
another enemy had set to work--the worst enemy of all.  The sea, which
in its inconstancy had made the new Winchelsea at the expense of the
old, was calmly receding and leaving the Antient Town high and dry,
with a perpetually increasing bank of shingle in between.

Now, as we stand at the Strand Gate, and watch the sea away to the
south, with its ever-changing pageant of azure and amethyst, and as we
turn about and enter through the old gate to walk the grass-grown
streets, we laugh at Neptune's jest; but there is something tragic in
the laughter.


Rye, as it stands, is the completest place in England.  A little
conical hill rises abruptly out of the encompassing marshes, and all
around that little hill, wherever it can gain secure hold, clings the
town.  The tall houses rest tier upon tier, as if standing on tiptoe to
get a better view of the approaching enemy; and the cobble-paved
streets wind in and about, so that every available inch of space may be
utilized for house or hanging garden.  Crowning it all rises the
ancient church with its high red roofs and tower.


[Illustration: RYE]

A conical hill rises abruptly out of the encompassing marshes, and all
around that little hill, wherever it can gain secure hold, clings the

(_See page 50_)


Probably the best approach is from Camber.  We can tramp the three long
dusty miles of the military road from Winchelsea, catching just a
glimpse of the massive, low-lying structure of Camber Castle on the
other side of the stream; or else we can take the road to the right,
and, sweeping seawards, come round to the castle itself, pausing a
while to wander about these walls which have stood the rough usage of
the south-westerly gale so well since the time of the eighth Henry.
Leaving Camber, the way across to Rye is hazardous.  So many waterways
intersect the shingly meadows that by the time we come out at the right
place an extraordinarily tortuous path has been followed.

The history of Rye is much akin to that of the sister town, a story of
one long succession of struggles against the two enemies, the sea and
the French.  Although the place was a natural stronghold by reason of
its unique formation, yet, after a time, the necessity for artificial
works was felt, and in the twelfth century a small tower, afterwards
known as the Ypres, was constructed near the top of the southward
cliffs, a square structure of two stories with a circular turret at
each angle.  A few years afterwards, in the reign of Richard the First,
licence was granted for the building of a town wall; and still later,
in the reign of Edward the Third, the fortifications were completed by
the building of a gateway with portcullis at the north-east end of the

These fortifications were rendered necessary by the _inning_ of the
shallows which separated Rye from the mainland, the sea having set to
work, with the true ironic touch, depositing shingle where salt water
was essential, and irrupting where it was most unwelcome.  And, sure
enough, as the one enemy did its worst, filling in the harbour and
making access to the little hill more easy, so the other enemy took
advantage of the facilities offered, and the raids of the French
gradually became more frequent and more severe.  In the fourteenth
century things were parlous for the island town.  When it was not the
turn of Winchelsea, Rye suffered, and vice versa.  They set upon the
town in 1337 with no great success, but in 1360 they spoiled both
Hastings and Rye.  Immediately after the death of Edward they came
again, and "within five hours brought it wholly into ashes, with the
church that was there of a wonderful beauty, conveying away four of the
richest of the towne and slaying sixty-six; left not above eight in the
towne.  Forty-two hogsheads of wine they carried thence to the ships
with the rest of their booty, and left the towne desolate."

In 1378 the men of the Cinque Ports took some sort of revenge,
according to the following interesting account in Fuller's _Worthies of
England_: "May never French land on this shore, to the losse of the
English!  But if so sad an accident should happen, send them our
Sussexians no worse success than their ancestors of Rye and Winchelsey
had, 1378, in the reign of Richard the Second, when they embarked for
Normandy: for in the night they entered a town called Peter's Port,
took all such prisoners who were able to pay ransome, and safely
returned home without losse, and with much rich spoil; and amongst the
rest they took out of the steeple the bells, and brought them into
England, bells which the French had taken formerly from these towns,
and which did afterwards ring the more merrily, restored to their
proper place, with addition of much wealth to pay for the cost of their
recovery."  But their triumph was short-lived, for in 1380 the place
was again burned, despite the wall.  Comparative quiet then reigned
till 1448, when the last and most terrible invasion occurred.  Then,
according to Jeake, Rye was entirely burned, with the exception of the
Landgate, the walls of the parish church, Ypres Tower, and the
so-called Chapel of the Carmelite Friars in Watchbell Street.  The town
was devastated to such an extent that it was unable to furnish its
quota of ships to the navy.

Then the sea encroached once more, and, washing away the cliffs on the
east, destroyed the walls built under commission of Richard the First;
and such was the condition of the town that Chaucer could write:

  "As many another town is payrid and y-lassid
  Within these few years, as we mow se at eye
  Lo, Sirs, here fast by Wynchelse and Ry".

Folks discovered that by skilful artificial drainage they could assist
the inning, and so obtain an additional field at the extremity of their
rightly-acquired land.  In 1724 we have Defoe writing: "By digging
Ditches, and making Drains there are now Fields and Meadows where
antiently was nothing but Water.  By this means Ships of but a middle
Size cannot come to any convenient distance near the Town, whereas
formerly the largest Vessels, and even whole Fleets together could
anchor just by the Rocks on which the Town stands."

But still, despite its struggles--perhaps by reason of them--Rye has
always managed to carry on.  It has had its systole and diastole of
success; but, unlike Winchelsea, it has never given up the fight.
Periods there have been when every hand has seemed against it; but
times there have been too--the Commonwealth, for instance--when the
town has enjoyed a compensating prosperity.  It has fought for its
existence, and it has survived; and there are no more apt words
concerning the two Antient Towns than those of Coventry Patmore:
"Winchelsea is a town in a trance, a sunny dream of centuries ago, but
Rye is a bit of the Old World living on in happy ignorance of the New".

At Winchelsea the church is the centre of everything: you cannot move a
hundred yards without coming into sight of it.  But you might walk
round and about Rye all day and not notice it.  Shut away at the top of
the hill, behind and away from all the everyday business of life, in
its isolation it somewhat resembles a cathedral.  But there the
resemblance stops: there is no cathedral atmosphere.  True, there is a
quiet in the square, but it is not the cold ghostly hush of the close
or the cloister.  Instead, all is sunlight and warmth.  The walls are
grey, the buttresses are grey, the tombs are grey, but it is a warm
familiar colour, at one with the red of the lichen-grown roofs, in full
harmony with the surrounding mosaic of colour.


[Illustration: RYE CHURCH]

Rye church stands at the top of the hill, behind and away from all the
everyday business of life.  Its walls are grey, but it is a warm
familiar colour, at one with the red of the lichen-covered roofs.

(_See page 54_)


Just below the churchyard, in the south-east corner, the Ypres (or, as
it is called locally, the Wipers) Tower still stands, a squat,
heavy-looking building, not altogether beautiful; and at the other end
of the town the Landgate, the sole survivor of the town's five portals.
Between these two, dotted about here and there in the winding,
cobble-stoned streets, are buildings of great beauty, some
unfortunately modernized on the outside.  One is the old rubble-stone
building in Watchbell Street, commonly known as the Carmelite Friary.
It is an interesting specimen of a small mediæval hall with chambers
below, but its association with the order is now pretty generally
recognized as a mistake.  Steep little Mermaid Street--perhaps the most
beautiful of all the quaint turnings--has two notable buildings, the
Old Hospital and the Mermaid Inn.  The Hospital is a fine timbered
structure with huge gables.  The Inn is a Tudor building, surrounding a
tiny court.  Little is to be seen from the road; but inside it is a
charming old-world place, with latticed windows and massive oak beams,
fine panelling and great fireplaces.  In the stately red house at the
head of the street Mr. Henry James for many years found inspiration for
his wonderful studies of modern temperaments,--about as remote as
possible from the atmosphere of the quaint little grass-grown street.
Perhaps the most interesting of all the buildings is the Old Flushing
Inn.  It possesses some fine oakwork, but the greatest attraction is
the quaint mural painting in imitation of tapestry, covering the whole
of one wall, and dating from 1574.  In olden days the place was a
popular rendezvous among gentlemen of the "free trade", for in the rear
it possessed a courtyard which extended right to the edge of the
cliff--at that point practically vertical and about sixty feet
high--and it was a simple matter to beach a boat just below.

In High Street, almost facing the turning which leads up to the church,
is a dark red-brick building of the seventeenth century: this is
Pocock's Grammar School, which readers of Thackeray will remember as
the place where Denis Duval was sent to be educated.  A little farther
along we come to Conduit Hill, in which is situate the Ancient
Monastery of the Austin Friars--a fair building, possessing that rare
thing, flamboyant tracery.  If the ghosts of the little brothers of
bygone days ever return to their former haunts, they must be deeply
grieved or intensely amused, for the building has been everything from
a malt-house to a Salvation Army barracks.

As we leave the town a flood of questions surges into the brain,
perhaps never to be answered.  Why is it there is such an attraction
about Rye?  Why will men and women travel half across the world to see
these crooked streets once more?  Why should the very mention of the
name conjure up such haunting memories of the past?  There is very
little in the place that is actually old--a gateway, one or two houses,
a small tower, a church--yet the impression is one of remotest


When in 1377, following on other successful raids, the French descended
on Rye and sacked and fired the town, it became evident that Hastings
could no longer afford sufficient protection to that stretch of the
coast, or to the important river valley leading thence inwards; and the
necessity for another stronghold was immediately realized.  Thus did
Bodiam come into existence.

It so happened that, at the moment when the defenceless condition of
the Rother became apparent, there had come into the district a knight
well skilled in all the military arts, one Edward Dalyngrigge, a member
of an old Sussex family and brother to the sheriff of the county.
Dalyngrigge had spent many years in France, and taken part in numerous
expeditions, some of them scarcely creditable.  Following a fierce but
capable warrior, one ready for almost any emergency, he had learned not
only the art of the soldier but also the science of the castellan.
Now, Sir Edward was married to Elizabeth Wardeux, the heiress of the
manor of Bodiam, and therefore possessed of the old moated manor-house
some distance from the river.  Consequently, in virtue of the necessity
of the times, Sir Edward had little difficulty in extracting the
licence to build a suitable castle.


[Illustration: BODIAM CASTLE]

The castle is a ruin--a mere empty shell--but outwardly its towers and
walls rise sheer from the lily-covered waters of the moat in a fine
state of preservation.

(_See page 59_)


The site selected was the left bank of the Rother, at a spot some
thirty feet above the level of the water.  Partly by excavation, partly
by damming up, a great reservoir was constructed, 525 feet from north
to south and 330 feet from east to west; and in the centre an island
was left, a little over an acre in extent.  On this island the castle
was erected; and the basin was flooded from a little stream which the
premeditating builder had previously diverted and dammed.  Northward
the ground rose pretty steeply from the moat, a circumstance which
seems to detract somewhat from the strength of the castle, till we
remember that the planning and building were done in the days before
artillery had become the deciding factor in warfare.  Southwards the
ground fell away to the river, and because of this much doubt has been
cast on the efficacy of the stronghold.  It has been pointed out
frequently that an investing army would have had little difficulty in
piercing the bank of the basin; but there was no mediæval siege whereby
its strength might have been tested.

The castle was built in the form of a parallelogram, after the French
model, with four strong curtain walls protected at the angles by boldly
projecting round towers, 54 feet high and 29 in diameter.  Three of the
curtain walls had intermediate square towers, while the fourth, that on
the northern side, had a double tower flanking the great gateway.
Between this deep and well-protected portal and the land stood an
octagonal platform on which was built an advance work, or barbican, the
intervening spaces being bridged by drawbridges.  Thus was the way into
the castle strongly held by a succession of defences.

As we approach the castle now from any side, it is difficult to realize
that it is a ruin--a mere empty shell.  Outwardly its towers and walls
rise sheer from the lily-covered waters of the moat in a fine state of
preservation: curtain walls, round towers, square towers,
battlements,--all are there as in the days that were.  True, the
drawbridges are gone, and of the barbican only a fragment remains; but
of the great donjon itself nothing appears to be missing until--until
we cross the causeway where once the drawbridge rose and fell, and so
come to the interior.  Then do we realize the antiquity of the place;
for everything has crumbled to dust, leaving just here and there a
suggestion of what has been--a window, a buttress, a fireplace.  Lines
from Lord Thurlow's sonnet come to mind:

              "Thou hast had thy prime,
  And thy full vigour, and the eating harms
  Of age have robb'd thee of thy warlike charms,
  And placed thee here, an image in my rhyme;
  The owl now haunts thee, and oblivion's plant,
  The creeping ivy, has o'er-veil'd thy towers;
  And Rother looking up with eye askant,
  Recalling to his mind thy brighter hours,
  Laments the time, when fair and elegant
  Beauty first laugh'd from out thy joyous bowers".

From the ruined fragments we mentally reconstruct the scene of the
interior, the single courtyard in the centre, the two-story buildings
all around with the chapel going up through both stories, and we note
with astonishment the comparative convenience and comfort of the
arrangements of the compact little fortalice.

Certainly Bodiam (or Bojum, as it is pronounced locally) is the most
picturesque castle in the south, many say in the whole, of England.
Nestling in the little valley, surrounded by luxuriant greenery, it has
not the impressive grandeur of the stronghold flaunting its strength at
the head of some precipitous cliff, or bidding defiance to the hungry
seas, but it has a beauty more at one with the spirit of Sussex and the

And yet, Bodiam is a place of inviolate mystery.  You can fall in love
with its unique situation, with its delightful lily-covered,
bird-haunted setting; you can be impressed by its note of artistic
completeness; but always there is something of loneliness and horror
about the place.  Its walls are grey, but not with the grey of other
castles.  It is a cold, pitiless grey, no matter how the sun shine, no
matter how the water throw up again the quivering light.  There is a
shudder in the air on the blithest summer day.  Perhaps it is that
places, no less than men, gradually take upon them a personality.  If
that is so, then surely Bodiam has taken the personality of its old
founder, Dalyngrigge, a bleak enough man, if records speak truly, a man
dark in deed and light of word.

At Bodiam we leave this Enchanted Garden; and as we go we begin to
wonder that a place so rich in memories and in charm has no
representative poet, or, indeed, school of poets.  Sussex in general
seems to have been sadly neglected by our singers.  Kipling has
probably sung most in her praises; but even for Kipling the great chalk
downs have always been Sussex.  And most of our other poets--Habberton
Lulham, Arthur F. Bell, Rosamund Watson, Wilfred Scawen Blunt--have
followed in his steps.  Only occasionally has one ventured down into
the marshlands and the low rolling hills and the little river valleys
in quest of beauty.  And yet beauty indescribable is here for the
seeking.  Probably the poet who knows us best is Ford Maddox Hueffer,
whose volume, _The Cinque Ports_, contains some magnificent
word-pictures of these happy little hills and dales, and whose novel,
_The 'Half Moon'_, gives such a faithful picture of Rye of ancient
days.  The following fragment from one of his poems gives the marsh in
all its beauty:

  "Up here, where the air's very clear,
  And the hills slope away nigh down to the bay,
  It is very like Heaven....

  "For the sea's wine-purple and lies half asleep
  In the sickle of the shore and, serene in the west,
  Lion-like purple and brooding in the even,
  Low hills lure the sun to rest.

  "Very like Heaven....  For the vast marsh dozes,
  And waving plough-lands and willowy closes
  Creep and creep up the soft south steep;
  In the pallid North the grey and ghostly downs do fold away.
  And, spinning spider-threadlets down the sea, the sea-lights dance,
  And shake out a wavering radiance...."

We close with a short passage from the volume on the Cinque Ports.  It
was written concerning the old military canal at Winchelsea, but in its
brooding spirit of contentment it applies but little less to the whole
of this wonderful area.  "Nowhere is one so absolutely alone; but
nowhere do inanimate things--the water plants and the lichens on the
stiles--afford so much company.  It must not be hurried through, or it
is a dull, flat stretch.  But linger and saunter through it, and you
are caught by the heels in a moment.  You will catch a malady of
tranquillity--a kind of idle fever that will fall on you in distant
places for years after.  And one must needs be the better, in times of
storm and stress, for that restful remembrance."

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