This view of Hastings from the West Hill shows Priory Valley in the foreground. To the left, out of shot is Hastings Castle and I am stood on the piece of ground named ‘the Ladies Parlour’. The history of Priory Valley is pretty vague and therefore hard to define. It is commonly thought that the valley used to be the original harbour of Hastings, before the castle cliffs collapsed and blocked it up. That is possible, but very little evidence of this has been found. It has been suggested on the Secrets of the Norman Invasion website that William burned the Saxon Hastings to the ground just after landing his forces. The author adds, however, that he hypothesises that old Hastings used to be sited at Coombe Haven.Â His article about this makes interesting reading.
What ever happened during 1066 meant that information about Hastings in that time, even in the comprehensive Domesday Book, is scarce.
It seems that the land here had historically been connected with religious orders, from King Offa’s time in 790 ad, to the Augustinian Orders in 1237 when the Priory of Hastings was founded. What the land was used for between the time the priory was founded and 1800 is simply not known (as far as I can tell).
The drawing above, found on the West Marina to Hastings Pier Facebook page shows Priory Meadow viewed from the opposite side of the valley from where I was stood when I took my photo. The date the drawing was done is unknown, but it’s possibly during the 1700’s. It’s pretty clear though that the land was nothing but marshes and fields with very little infrastructure.
The link between the land and the Priory lingered in the minds of people living in Hastings. In 1837 the land was drained, level and turned into the Priory Meadow Cricket Ground. This was controversially replaced in 1989 by the Priory Meadow Shopping Centre.
The view of Hastings from the West Hill can be viewed on a larger scale on my Flickr page by clicking on the image.