IN THE TRACK OF THE NORMANS.—FROM PEVENSEY TO HASTINGS.
are few ruins in England so well preserved as the
ancient Castle of Pevensey. The same Roman. walls in sight of which William of Normandy sprang on the English shore, on the 28th of September, 1066, looked down, on the 2Sth of Sep- tember, 1866, on a gay party of ladies and gentlemen, from the very fashionable " watering-places " of Eastbourne, Hastings, and St. Leonard's, who had come to celebrate the anniversary of the Conqueror's arrival. Crinoline, pork-pie hats, and wicker baskets, with sherry and sandwiches, are not the fittest things for encou- raging antiquarian day-dreams, but it was pleasant nevertheless to enjoy a stroll within the grass-grown enclosure of the old Roman fortress on Friday last week. There is a wonderful fresh-
ness about the ancient heaps of masonry, which carries the mind forcibly back to the past, in spite of the shrieking locomotive on the adjoining railway, and in spite even of the big board stuck up in the centre of the ruins, with the solemn notice, "Any person found damaging these remains will be prosecuted." A commentary to this inscription is furnished by an elderly woman who is acting as guide to a party of watering-place people sweeping by. She informs them that the proprietor of the whole of the " remains " is the Duke of Devonshire, who has let the eight acres of land within the walls to her husband, at an annual rent, payable half- yearly, at Lady Day and Michaelmas. We are rejoiced to see that the grass grows so well within the fine old Roman ruin as to add to the rent-roll of the noble Cavendish family.
Taking care not to damage the Devonshire property, as well as not to interrupt the picnic parties, we retire to a quiet nook in the innermost recesses of the ruins. This part is not Roman, but Norman, having been built in the eleventh and twelfth centuries by the Conqueror's half-brother and the great barons of the House of De Aquila, after whom it obtained the name of the " Honour of the Eagle." There is a splendid outlook from the top of the Eagle ruin, embracing a very notable part of English history. The small rivulet, the Ashbourne, formerly a great tidal estuary, is seen creeping along sluggishly at the foot of the castle, till lost beneath the railway embankment which runs along the sea shore, one of the most prominent features in the scene. It is easy to embrace, from our Eagle stand-point, the total story of the origin, rise, and decay of ancient Pevensey, and much else besides. " Hic Willelm' vent at Pevenesze," says the account of the Bayeux Tapestry ; to which the old chronicle of Battle Abbey adds, " It happened, as the Duke left his ship, near the castle called Pevensey, that he fell upon his face, making his nose somewhat bloody upon the beach, and grasping the earth with his outstretched hands." There can be no doubt that, at the time when the Conqueror's nose touched English ground, the sea came right to the foot of the castle, opening the mouth of the little river we are looking down upon, and thus forming a fine natural harbour. The whole country eastward is still nothing but a marsh, intersected by numerous water-channels, remnants of the sea which once covered the ground. But gradually and slowly the ever changing currents of the ocean altered the aspect of the land. Sweeping around the rock walls of Beachy Head in slightly altered course, perhaps only a few feet more southward, the tidal wave silently depo- sited a vast range of sand-hills all along the flat coast, setting itself a new boundary, - and shutting up the river mouth. But the effects of the change were not felt till centuries after the Conqueror had made his nose somewhat bloody upon the beach. For a long time, and till towards the end of the reign of Henry VIII., Pevensey was a flourishing maritime town and influential member of the Cinque Ports community, with a special heavenly patron, St. Nicholas, to watch over the interests of the port, with freemen called " barons," and with a mayor greater than either barons or saints. It was one of these famous dignitaries who meekly spoke of himself, ," Though Mayor of Pevensey, I am still but a man."
It is not without interest to trace the ownership of Pevensey and the surrounding marsh lands from the eventful 28th of September, 1066, to this fine autumn day of the 28th of September, 1866, while we are sitting on the top of the old castle walls, with the sun lighting up gloriously every nook among the ivy-clad towers and gateways, its rays falling as serenely upon the well gloved picnic people below as they fell upon the gloveless hands of the Romans who piled stone upon stone here more than a thousand years ago. William of Normandy found the castle a ruin, but the site, on a low promontory jutting forth into the sea, was so excellent that he could not fail to be struck with the advantages of the position, and accordingly made a grant of it to his half-brother, Robert de Mortaigne. He and his successor held it for nearly forty years, till the reign of Henry I., who confiscated the property and gave it to Gilbert de Aquila. His descendants again had it taken from them by Henry III., and town and castle fell to the heir apparent, Prince Edward, under the stipulation that it should never again be separated from the Crown. Not- withstanding this proviso, the fine domain was settled, a century after, on John of Gaunt, fourth son of Edward
who kept it for his lifetime, but his son, having ascended the throne as Henry IV., made a grant of it to Sir John Pelham, in the first year of his reign. The Pelhams held the property for
'an almost unexampled length of time, till nearly the middle of the last century, having their quiet possession interrupted only daring
the time of the Commonwealth, when the Roundheads, beingin want of ready cash, ordered " the materials of the old castle called the
Castle of Pevensey, valued to be worth 401," to be sold by auction. One John Warre, " of Westminster, Gent.," had the castle knocked down to him for forty pounds odd ; but finding it probably too tough a job to disturb the old Roman brick and mor- tar, he left the thing alone, and it is to be surmised got his pur- chase-money back from the former owners after the happy restora- tion of kingship. But subsequent Pelham apparently set little value upon a property which had been in their possession nearly five centuries, for in 1734 Pevensey was made over to Spencer Compton, Earl of Wilmington, father of the first Marquis of Northampton. The latter bequeathed the estate to his youngest daughter, Lady Elizabeth, who carried it by marriage to Lord George Henry Cavendish, the father of William, second Earl of Burling- ton, and present Duke of Devonshire. It will be seen that the old historical domain has not been very long with the Cavendish family, which may account for the strange fact that a.noble Duke can find no better use for the finest ruin in all England than that of a sheep-walk. Yet the hay made within the enclosure of the old Roman walls, and rent derives from a tumble-down cottage, stuck against the Castle of Gilbert de Aquila, can scarcely furnish a large addition to the fortune of one of the wealthiest landowners in the kingdom.
From Peveusey to Hastings the road is pleasant, though not by any means romantic. We notice in leaving the castle ruins that the outer walls, near the gate, are plastered all over with huge advertisements of the sale of " live stock " and " dead stock." It looks as if all the tenants of the Duke of Devonshire are anxious for " selling off." The country otherwise is of strikingly bucolic appearance. A little inn, the Royal Oak, right oppo- site the castle entrance, is brimful of sheep and shepherds, cows and cattle-drivers, and the finger-post to the left points to Horsey Hill and Puddleduck Farm. The ancient Cinque Port appears to be shrivelled up altogether to the dimensions of a small village, of perhaps three or four hundred inhabitants, chiefly engaged in the education of pigs. They—the pigs—are remarkably good-looking ; but nobler still, in personal appearance, are the black cattle which swarm all about the place. They are jet black; indeed, black as Diggers, and, to judge from their gait and the way they look at travellers, seem to have little in common with the white cattle beyond the simple instincts of cattle nature. The honour of populating the district with this very distinguished black race belongs to the founder of the noble House of Sheffield, who settled in these regions about a hundred years ago. It was in 1769 that Mr. John Baker Holroyd, subsequently Baron Sheffield, purchased an immense estate in Sussex from John, Earl Delawarre, for a ridi- culously low sum—some thirty thousand pounds—and took to farming, besides cultivating the friendship of Edward Gibbon, studying political economy, and raising a regiment of light dragoons. For above forty years he kept no less than 1,40) acres in his own hands, chiefly for agricultural experiments, the result of which is still visible in herds of black cattle strolling along leisurely, as far as the eye can reach, over the ancient Andredes- weald.
The walk from Pevensey to Hastings, with the sea to the right and the vast Andredes-weald to the left, would be delightful, were it not for two abominations that block the road, a long line of martello towers and a longer line of railway. Nothing can well be uglier than the interminable row of stumpy towers, look- ing for all the world like so many fat chimney-pots stuck up, for unknown purposes in the mud. The loveliness of the chimney- pots is not increased by the consideration that their manufacture— due to the inventive genius of a noble Duke of Richmond, militia colonel, &c.—must have cost sundry millions, and that they have never served any other purpose than that of instruments of tor- ture, in furnishing dwellings for unhappy coastguards and artillerymen. An appropriate background to the martello or Richmond towers, is furnished by the line of railway, which runs along mostly on a high embankment, hugging the sea as closely as possible. There really seems no reason why a railway, even when it lies close to the sea shore, should not be made to look as well at least as an ordinary turnpike road ; but it is undeniable that rail- way contractors and engineers aim at ugliness in the abstract, and try hard to make their works as unsightly as possible. Not enough that they build grotesque barns, called stations, in every town and village, and throw bridges over rivers and viaducts across streets which are nothing but big lumps of iron screwed and bolted together, but they must needs disfigure the open country by shovelling up immense hills of sand and mud, barren like strips of the desert, with not so much as a blade of grass to relieve the eye. Se it is here on the Sussex coast, and we are glad to escape railway architecture by seeking a path a little further inland. A narrow road, constantly winding, and thickly overgrown with black- berry bushes, hazel trees, and sweet briars, is leading slowly upward towards the village of Bexhill, the first notable eminence on the way from Pevensey to Hastings. Very likely the Conqueror came along this same road, after he had landed men and horse from his six hundred vessels in the bay. The road seems to lie just a little higher than the marsh formerly covered by the sea, as if stretched across a long range of low islands, still marked as such by the distinctive Saxon " ey." Passing Pevensey sluice—pro- nounced " Pemsey " by the natives—we come to Chilley, Northey, Hidney, and Sidley, all farms or fields on the way. But the country is very thinly inhabited, with unlimited range for sheep and black cattle, and it is not till after a good seven-mile walk, when approaching the grassy slopes of Bexhill, that we find our- selves once more in the midst of tile-covered dwellings. Bexhill is what is called a rising place, famous for its beautiful environs, its fine prospects, its pure air, and, more than for anything else, for its splendid bitter ale, retailed at the sign of the Bell. The bitter ale, we are informed by the worthy host who fills our glass, has been the cause of Bexhill's prosperity. Strangers from all parts of the world have passed through Bexhill, have quaffed the luscious draught at the Bell, and have resolved, then and there, to go no further—the world could offer nothing more. Scions of the ancient House of Grimaldi, Russian princes, with purses of immense weight and titles of immense length, and London poets, with short purses, but names likely to live long, have, our host informs us, put up their tents at Bexhill, resolved not to quit it again as long as the bitter ale lasts, together with their credit at the Bell.
The bitter ale is really first-rate, and it is with some regret we turn our back upon attractive Bexhill. From here to St. Leonard's, a distance of about four miles, the road is made very lively by a stream of fair pedestrians and equestrians in flowing silks and muffins, eminently fitted to chase any further visions about the tramp of the mailed Norman host along this same fashionable thoroughfare, eight hundred years ago by the day. With every step forward the signs of watering-place civilization increase, until at last we are again face to face with the railway embank- ment, and, passiug underneath, find ourselves at the beginning of St. Leonard's, marked by a station distinguished by the wonder- ful name of Bopeep. From Bopeep to old Hastings there are two miles of splendid sea view to the right, and two miles of stuccoed architecture to the left. The sea looks grand and majestic in the extreme from the raised esplanade, yet it is difficult to keep one's eye off entirely from the immense masses of brick and plaster facing the ocean. Having some acquaintance with blue-books, we remember that there are only ninety-one individuals in the whole of Great Britain taxable for the sin of getting larger incomes than fifty thousand a year from their respective trades and professions; and looking at these two miles of mansions, we lose our faith alike in blue-books, income-tax payers, and income-tax collectors. It is a relief to get away from this great watering-place mystery into old Hastings, where fishermen are mending their nets on the beach, where shrimps with tea are a luxury, where the air is full of the perfume of dried herrings, and where the South-Eastern Railway Company has built a station on the exact spot chosen for encampment by William the Conqueror.