Pevensey Castle is an ancient fortification originally constructed by the Romans in 290 ad, rebuilt by the Normans and updated across the following centuries. It has been subject to three sieges and been a prison to several important historical characters. This webpage tells its tale well. For a castle with such a history, it is surprisingly undeveloped for tourists.
You’ll be charged by English Heritage to enter the central keep above, but the extensive grounds within the outer wall are free to access. Visiting now you might wonder why the Romans built a fort here. You are not seeing the land as it was 1,300 years ago though. Here at Pevensey the castle was built next to the sea, as this map shows. The castle was built as a part of a series of shoreline forts to help the Roman fleets protect trade ships from pirates. This chain of forts extended from the Isle of Wight to the Wash.
You can still just see the sea from the castle, but it is two miles distant now. Pevensey is famous for being the site where William landed his army in 1066. Some doubt has been shed on this theory, mainly by the exhaustive efforts ofÂ Secrets of the Norman Invasion website. The author believes that the invading army landed at the Coombe Haven inletÂ before moving inland a few miles for the fateful battle.
Whether WilliamÂ actually landed nearby or not, he certainly came here after England had been won and converted the fort to a stone castle. By the time the Domesday Book was written aÂ total 49 castles were built across England to help consolidate Norman rule over the country.
The Roman choice to build a defensive structure at this location was a sound one. Since it was built is has always served as a defensive hard point. At any time the country was under threat, whether from pirates, Vikings, the Spanish Armada, NapoleonÂ orÂ Germany the castle has been used as part of a network of defenses. The last from WW2 can still be seen incorporated into the ancient walls.