IN THE TRACE OF THE NO13,41A.19S.--FROM HASTINGS TO 13A1TLE.
1:21EW towns have seen such varied fortunes in the course of r eight centuries as old Hastings. When William of Nor- mandy pitched his camp at the railway station Hastings must have been a very flourishing place, with a good many ships in the bay and on the beach, and a good many stout " bateekarls " dwel- ling in low wooden houses in the narrow cut between the hills. The Hwitingas were good shipbuilder; and the vast Anderida Forest furnished them plenty of wood so that with this and a profitable trade in wool and iron, they were content with their lot, made no resistance .to the invading Normans, and got their reward in numerous privileges -freely bestowed by the Conqueror. For more than four hundred years Hastings kept prospering, a lion among the Cinque Porte, till the growing trade of the country, its diversion into new channels, and centralization at the capital, diminished its importance, and it was reduced at last to a mere fishing village. An untoward event greatly accelerated this dpwnward progress. A gale 9f wind of great violence destroyed, in the reign of Elizabeth, the fine pier and harbour which led been built soon after the Conquest, and although funds were raised to construct a new and better haven, the money was embezzled by some of the "Barons" in an extraordinary manner, and ft, this day Hastings has neither pier nor harbour. The latter once,gone, the old Cinque Port kept sinking lower and lower, and..by the middle of last century there had come to be less than athousand in- habitants, nearly all fishermen, adhering to very ancient practices, and with the exception of a few honest smugglers steeped in deep salt-water poverty. But now, at the time of her greateat sorrows, a physician arose, prepared to cure all the ills of poor ancient Hast- ings. Dr. Matthew Baillie, medical attendant to King Gorge III., Princess Amelia, Princess Charlotte of Wales, and all the rank and fashion of the metropOlia, took it into his head to_ recommend to his patients a visit to Efastings, making out that his pills, when taken at
this particular spot, would be far more effectual than at Bath, Tun- bridge Wells, or any other refuge for the mending of shattered constitutions. He was a strange physician altogether, this Dr. Baillie, a thin, wiry Scotchman, with sharp, penetrating eyes, con- siderable learning, and more mother-wit. One day a very grand lady, whose nerves were completely out of order, having bored him for a considerable time, and inquiring, when seated in her carriage surrounded by bottles of medicine, "And may I eat some oysters, Doctor ?" " By all means, Madam," he cried, "shells and all." This great 2Esculapius, whom many feared and everybody trusted, having once begun to send his patients to Hastings, the ancient Cinque Port soon became extremely fashionable. It was rumoured that Dr. Baillie himself was somewhat interested in the new move- ment, having bought " for a song " a large estate on the Hastings' shore, which rose in value a hundredfold as soon as noble lords and ladies came down in crowds to the little fishing-place, to the utter astonishment of the natives. The fashionable Scotch physician died in 1823, with the consciousness of having made his own for- tune and that of Hastings together. Matthew Baillie has got his monument in Westminster Abbey, and were the modern inhabi- tants of the ancient port anything more than a set of greedy lodging-housekeepers, they also would have set up a statue to the little Scotchman long ago.
It is curious how the spirit of money-making may influence whole towns and districts. To fleece travellers and " visitors " has become apparently the sole business of the new natives of Hastings and St. Leonard's, and the tendency has got so fixed that even a belted earl does not feel ashamed to extract threepenny bits from the pockets of harmless cockneys and holiday-makers, who come to stare at the sea, the rocks, and the stuccoed man- sions in Dr. Baillie's town. The Right Honourable the Earl of Chichester levies a toll of threepence a head upon all who wish to look at the few stones, shattered and broken, which tell the tale of there having once been a Castle of Hastings, erected by the Normans. It is a mere shapeless mass of rocks and bricks, not very inspiring even to professional antiquarians ; however, few holiday-makers come to Hastings or St. Leonard's without looking at the old ruin, so that a constant harvest of pence is reaped by the far-sighted Earl who owns the bricks. The revenue of the castle and adjoining lands in their most flourishing state can have been nothing like what it is now, when entire decay has overspread the whole. The threepenny toll has been levied for more than a generation, in fact ever since Hastings became a fashionable " watering-place," and its assessment must be held highly credit- able to the money-making genius of the Pelhams, seeing that they got their property at a bargain. Originally vested in the Crown, the castle domain, including several adjoining manors, was granted under Henry IV. to Thomas Hoo, afterwards Lord Hoo and Hastings, and remained with his descendants till the commencement of the seventeenth century, when Henry Hastings, third Earl of Huntingdon, sold it to Thomas Pelham, Esquire, of Laughton, for the sum of 2,5001. and a reserved rent of 131. 6s. 8d. The sale, confirmed by James L in 1608, included, besides the castle estate, the manors of Crowhurst, Burwash, and Berelham, enough to endow long generations of Pelhams, Pelham-Clintons, Dukes of Newcastle, and Earls of Chichester. The castle itself was for some time with the Pelham-Clintons, till the first Duke of Newcastle bequeathed it towards the end of last century to his relative, the second Earl of Chichester, whose son, the present Earl, is the fortunate owner of the pence-producing ruins. When the Normans built the old castle, they scarcely foresaw into what a copper mine it would be turned one day through the exertions of an English earl and a Scotch doctor.
It is not easy to trace the road of the Conqueror from Hastings to Battle. We know that after remaining for a fortnight in his encampment at Hastings, William marched northward to meet Harold, who had taken up a strong position across the only track leading through the great Andredes-weald. The Normans pro- bably strode in a direct line from their camp to that of the Saxons, along the southern slope of the hills running from Fairlight to Battle ; but beyond an occasional bit of a footpath, disappearing before railed-in parks and well fenced farms, no trace remains of the track of the Normans, the modern road being carried to the right, on the top of the hills, and the line of railway running in a long curve to the left, so as to get near fashionable St. Leonard's. There are remarkably few old roads in these regions, most of the lines of traffic having been laid down within the last seventy or eighty years, before which time Sussex was all but roadless. Horace Walpole, who came hither in 1752, on a perilous journey in search of old castles and abbeys, has much to say of the " mifie
ways" he plodded along, with his coach overturned a dozen times a day, and prevented only from overturning a thousand times by squads of stout natives who held it up with poles, lifting it bodily over the worst places. Poor Horace and his companions at last took to walking, reasoning soundly that it would be a pity to break their necks before they had seen all they intended. Even now it is the best thing to walk in Sussex, at least for people not in a, hurry ; for although the new carriage roads are tolerable, they are, on the whole, not half so beautiful as the numerous little crooked lanes and footpaths which intersect the country in all directions, opening up the most charming views of land and sea. Wending our way through such a network of lanes from Hastings northwards we come to Silver Hill, from thence to Hollington Corner, and further on to Hollington Lodge. Here we must take to the main road, the direct Norman track, which we have been following as near as possible, being stopped by Crowhurst Park, which stretches to the south as far as the railway, and is joined to the north by Beauport Park, an equally large domain. Passing the parks, the scenery becomes very beautiful, the road leading into a fine valley,. surrounded by moderate-sized hills, the chief elevation to the right being called Branshill, and that to the left, near the road, Telhata Hill, called in the Conqueror's time the Hechelande. It was on the latter piece of ground that William of Normandy planted his standard on the morning of the 14th of October, 1066, he and his knights putting on their armour right in front of the Saxon camp, situated about a mile to the north-west. Making- our way up to Telham Hill, by a lane leading around the back to the Peppering Powder Mills, we are able to take in at a glance the outward features of the great field of battle which decided the fate of England. The Saxon camp, distinctly marked by the towers of Battle Abbey, was clearly in a most excellent position, on the slope of a considerable hill, spanning the valley in front, and barring the road to the north. To attack Harold's army the Normans had to descend from Telham Hill to the bottom of the valley, and climbing the higher range of hills on the other- side, had to meet their antagonists under all the disadvantages. of an up-hill fight, made more unfavourable by the deep. dykes and breastworks of stakes and hurdles which surrounded the Saxon camp. How these difficulties were overcome is a matter of history unnecessary to dwell upon. But sitting as we are here on Telham Hill, on a fine October morning of the year 1866, the great historical drama played exactly eight hundred years ago comes upon us with wonderful force. We fancy we see Taillefer the Jongleur rushing towards the camp on the hill, striking the first blow while singing the song of Roland ; we fancy we see Harold dealing out his mighty strokes, and fancy we hear the Norman cry of " Dieu aide !" replied to by fierce shouts of " Out, out ! Holy Cross, God Almighty !" Dreaming is easy here on the Hechelande, with the Conqueror's Abbey right before the eyes.
The walk from Telham Hill into the ancient precincts of Battle Abbey is very sobering, and most effectual in dispelling all sorts of antiquarian dreams. There are many prosaic towns in cotton-- spinning, railway-dissected England, but few that can compare in unhallowed prose with the old town of Battle. Its houses, without exception, are impudently new ; its beershops seem immodestly numerous ; and its inhabitants appear immoderately stupid. The town, so called, is made up of one long straggling street, lined with poor cottages and a few larger houses here and there, looking- like abodes of retired tradesmen. Inquiring our way to the Abbeyr we are directed up the high road, being informed at the same time that the place we seek is open to the public, " the family " being not there. There is, it appears, but one family worth speaking of in Battle, which is the family of His Grace the Duke of Cleveland, owner of the Abbey and of a good many broad acres all around. As far as we are concerned, it is lucky His Grace has flitted, for other- wise we should not see the Abbey, this being Wednesday, and no entrance being granted to strangers during the residence of " the family " except on Tuesdays. Nevertheless the Abbey gates are not altogether open even now, for arrived there, we have to knock, and are informed by an old woman that we must procure tickets,- of admittance at a stationer's shop over the way. Thither we proceed, in company with a small crowd, arrived for the same purpose as ourselves, and having procured our tickets with some difficulty, the dispenser showing extreme anxiety to sell us a. few dozen photographs and a pocketful of guide-books, we return once more to the Abbey. This time we are allowed to pass the gate, marching through a line of old women, dumb. figures, with the palms of their hands upwards in a horizontal direction. The aspect of things inside the gate is rather dis-
right, and a very modern-looking building to the left, while the only objects that look decently old are two watch turrets on a raised terrace in front. Unto this terrace we are ushered by a little thin-faced man in a white hat, who gives us to understand that we cannot move about within the precincts of Battle Abbey as we like, but must keep near him, the officially appointed guide. Meekly following, we get to the terrace walls, and are cheered by the fine view from this elevated position, as well as by the assur- ance that we shall get all we want as soon as there are " enough people." At present the party consists of about a couple of dozen individuals, and the slow stream of new arrivals having tripled the number, our friend in the white hat at last begins the per- formance abruptly. " There, ladies and gentlemen, is the hill on which King William stood with sixty thousand soldiers ; there are the ponds from which the monks got their fish ; and there, lower down, are the powder mills.", " Did they get all the powder they used in the battle from them there mills ?" interrupts a sleek man, in striped trousers and a buff coat. The guide seems net- tled to meet with a rival speaker, and begins again, " There, ladies and gentlemen, is the hill on which King William stood with sixty thousand soldiers "—which is followed by a second interruption, louder than before. " Why, man !" cries he in the buff coat, "there is no room on that there hill for sixty thousand soldiers." This sentiment meets with general applause ; all agree that there is not room enough. Guide feels dreadfully nettled at the light estimation in which his words are held, and bringing his speech to a sudden close, marshals his company towards the building we have seen on entering at our left.
We find ourselves in a large vaulted room, very curiously fur- nished. At the upper end, slightly raised, stands a long table, at the- foot of which lies a Turkish carpet, carefully rolled up, evidently for the use of " the family ;" while all around the walls hang and stand bits of armour, portions of stuffed knights, one stuffed horse, and five pictures. The latter articles, clearly the most interesting in the place, we go to inspect. We find that the top picture represent the Emperor Napoleon I., the two paintings below two Websters, former owners of the abbey, and the three below these, most conspicuous of all, three members of the noble Cleveland family. Such unmeaning faces as this last trio we are sure we never saw in our life. " Ladies and gentlemen," the gentleman in the white hat again commences, " this is the hall in which " Well, we think we have had enough of it for the day.
To get beyond the precincts of Battle Abbey is easier than to get within, for the old women open the gate with fierce eagerness, grinning spasmodically, with their flat palms in the perfectly horizontal position. Down the long street of Battle town we walk, half distracted : we are very hungry, want something to eat, and can get nothing. Sour beer, and various Ends of sweet- stuffs, and photographs appear to be the sole produce of Battle in the absence of " the family." At one place, and one only, a little cold meat " is left ;" but as it looks very cold and seems to have been left ages ago we dismiss the luxury, not without regret. We are almost inclined to buy some pills from a neighbouring chemist who has " Harold" over his window, and desist only on being informed that the House of Harold has been established here only six years, and has no connection with any other house. To getaway from Battle now becomes imperative. On our road to the railway station we see the open doors of the parish church, and enter for a minute to,dive a glance at the monuments. There to the left of the altar lies the. burly figure of Sir Anthony Browne, standard-bearer to Henry VIII., and first lay Lord of Battle Abbey, bravely hewn in stone,, with his little wife at his side. The Brownes, subsequently;Lords, Montacute, were the great men of these regions till the fourth lord sold the property to Sir Thomas Webster, from whose descendants it was bought in 1857 by Lord Harry Vane, since Duke of Cleveland. Looking at the out- stretched figure of Bind Henry's standard-bearer, and thinking of the portraits we have seen in the ball of the Clevelands, we are seized by a feeling of regret that the good old Abbots had ever to give way to lay Lords of Battle, even although Commissioner
Layton reported the last clerical inhabitants of the Abbey as " the blake sort of dyvellyshe monks." As it appears to us, ancient Battle Abbey lies dead under the weight of " the family," the most hopelessly miserable of all-,the memorials to be found "in the track of the Normans."