Sixteen Centuries of History at Pevensey Castle

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I took my daughter to see Pevensey Castle, an English Heritage property, in East Sussex.  We were in the area and I thought it would be a nice way to spend some mother-daughter time.  Much to my chagrin, she has little interest in history.  She does like the romance of castles though.  Although a world away from Disney castles, the ruins of Pevensey are impressive.

pevensey castle ruins

Pevensey started out as a Roman fort called Anderida around 293 A.D. and built to guard the coast.    It was the largest of the Roman forts built to guard the southern coast mostly against raiders who came through the straits of Dover.  You can still see most of the old Roman walls.

Roman walls
Roman walls in the distance

Although now surrounded by countryside, during Roman times, the fortress was built on a slip of land projecting onto tidal marshland.  On one side, there was a natural harbour.


William the Conqueror landed at Pevensey in 1066. He defeated the Saxons on October 14, 1066 and was crowned King of England in December.  After thus establishing his control, he built a large castle at Pevensey partially overlapping the existing Roman fortress.  When William returned to Normandy in 1067 from Pevensey, he left the castle with his half-brother Robert, Count of Mortain.  Over the succeeding centuries, a number of noble families as well as Kings held Pevensey.

Pevensey Castle is merely a shell of its former self and, yet, it looms over the countryside.  In its heyday, the castle must have been truly impressive with its large keep and gatehouse.  Most of the keep is now destroyed.  During World War II, American soldiers were garrisoned in some of the towers.


The castle has dungeons on each corner.  They were dark and creepy and full of water.  You can easily imagine how awful conditions were if you were a prisoner chained up in the dungeon.

dungeon stairs
dungeon stairs

The castle has lots of these stone balls which were retrieved when the moat was drained.  They were used in sieges during the middle ages.

medieval munition

The red cannon remains on site from the times of Elizabeth I.  Its twin is on show at the Tower of London.

We both enjoyed using the audio guides which were really informative.  The English Heritage website indicates there is a shop on site.  Yes, but it’s tiny!  I was hoping to have a snack with my daughter but the only ones available were some drinks in a mini fridge and a few candy bars.

pevensey castle moat

The grounds are extensive and we would see the occasional rambler or dog walker.  It was a beautiful crisp day with blue sky and we enjoyed having an amble ourselves.  I’ve promised my daughter I will take her to a castle that is still standing! Her interest in history has been piqued which I consider a big bonus to a nice day out!


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