References to Pevensey:-
Bayeux Tapestry - Soldiers ride off to gather food
Chronicles of Battle Abbey
The duke, therefore, with a prodigious army, and attended by the divine favour, arrived safely near the castle called Pevensey.
Anglo Saxon Chronicles
Meantime Earl William came up from Normandy into Pevensey on the eve of St. Michael's mass; and soon after his landing was effected, they constructed a castle at the port of Hastings.
The 'Roman de Rou' by Master Wace is a text describing the reign of William Duke of Normandy, the piece we are interested in
is the details of the Battle of Hastings, and on this page specifically the details of the march to Pevensey.
Please Note:- The area shaded in blue is a much more detailed plot using the 5 meter contour line to show the extent of the
shoreline in this area.
The details that Wace provides includes the following mentions of the day after landing.
The first day they held their course along the seashore ; and on the morrow came to a castle called Penevesel.
The squires and foragers, and those who looked out for booty, seized all the clothing and provisions they could find, lest
what had been brought by the ships should fail them ; and the English were to be seen fleeing before them, driving off
their cattle, and quitting their houses. All took shelter in the cemeteries, and even there they were in grievous alarm.
The march to Pevensey.
The description is that it took more than a day to get to Pevensey, this is in keeping with the distance of
28 miles shown in blue which follows old and proposed Roman roads around the area. The troops sent were probably a
small detachment with their associated squires and foragers.
As you can see from the yellow dots there was damage done to the villages along the downs from Pevensey to
Lewes, but they weren't destroyed, so is consistent with the foraging description by the Normans. This provides more
proof that Master Wace's text was reasonably accurate.
Master Wace doesn't mention Hastings in the context of the Landing, however it is mentioned three times in his writing.
'They arrived near Hastings, and there each ship ranged by the other's side.'
So it would seem that it was not at Hastings but nearby.
'Harold returned rejoicing and triumphing, bearing himself right proudly, when news met him that put other
thoughts in his mind ; for lo ! the knight is come who set out from Hastings. ' The Normans,' he cried, ' are
come ! they have landed at Hastings ! thy land will they wrest from thee, if thou canst not defend thyself well ;
they have enclosed a fort, and strengthened it round about with palisades and a fosse.''
The knight who went to Harold came from the Hastings area, so would describe the location to Harold as Hastings
as it was the nearest place he would know to the landing.
'The duke placed a guard in Hastings, from the best of his knights, so as to garrison the castle well, and went
thence to Romenel, to destroy it utterly, because some of his people had arrived there, I know not by what accident,
and the false and traitorous had killed them by felony. On that account he was very wroth against them, and
grievously punished them for it.'
Right at the end of the writing, after the battle Wace says that the Normans garrisoned the castle at Hastings.
A small wooden fort would have needed more defenses, so garrisoning implies that the castle was already there and
larger, therefore more likely to be the Burghal Hidage fort described by Alfred the Great.
Assuming the translation is correct, Wace describes the prefab defenses as a fort not a castle as in the
The word castle is only mentioned above and when describing the Roman fort at Pevensey, so implying a large
already constructed defense.