Although Hastings gives its name to the battle that took place in 1066, William, Duke of Normandy defeated King Harold and his Saxon Army at Battle, six miles further inland. He built a castle here of which only a ruin remains. In the grounds there is a daily audio-visual show which re-creates the battle. Hastings was a flourishing harbour town when William landed at Pevensey.
This close association with the sea is very apparent. Beside the small harbour arm, known as the Stade, fishermen winch their boats up onto the shingle. Close by tall, black-painted wooden sheds, known as ‘net shops’, were built for drying nets. Fish auctions still take place at the fish market. Weather boarded and half-timbered houses line the High Street and tiny lanes and stepped paths climb the two hillsides that dominate the town along with a funicular railway for each one. The traditional pier, built in 1872 stands a bit tired but very proud above the shingle beach where sand & rock pools are exposed at low tide.
Earl De La Warr decided to transform the small rural village of Bexhill into an exclusive seaside resort at the end of the 19th century. He organised the building of the first sea wall and of the Kursaal, a pavilion for ‘refined entertainment and relaxation’. Today this quiet, elegant resort is dominated by the low lines and the sweeps of glass of another De La Warr Pavilion, built in 1935 and restored in 2005 as an arts venue. Bexhill was the first place in Britain to allow mixed bathing in 1901. The old town is half a mile inland away from the beach resort.
The road from Bexhill meanders lazily across the flat grazing land of the Pevensey Levels. No paths cross it, but from the road there are good views of the bird life all year round. William the Conqueror landed with his army somewhere near here in 1066 but it is not clear exactly where as the coastline has changed so much over the centuries. Today the shingle beach is fringed with holiday chalets and small houses. The old village of Pevensey is a mile inland. It is dominated by Pevensey Castle, whose outer walls were built by the Romans as a defence against Saxon raiders. Within are the remains of a castle dating from the Norman occupation.