Esplanade, Seaford

Esplanade looking West, Seaford
Postmarked 1914
Publisher: Arrow Series

Esplanade Hotel on the right.

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In the Middle Ages, Seaford was one of the main ports serving Southern England, but the town’s fortunes declined due to coastal sedimentation silting up its harbour and persistent raids by French pirates. The coastal confederation of Cinque Ports in the mediaeval period consisted of forty-two towns and villages; Seaford was included under the “Limb” of Hastings. Between 1350 and 1550, the French burned down the town several times. In the 16th century, the people of Seaford were known as the “cormorants” or “shags” because of their enthusiasm for looting ships wrecked in the bay. Local legend has it that Seaford residents would, on occasion, cause ships to run aground by placing fake harbour lights on the cliffs. Seaford’s fortunes revived in the 19th century with the arrival of the railway connecting the town to Lewes and London. It became a small seaside resort town, and more recently a dormitory town for the nearby larger settlements of Eastbourne and Brighton, as well as for London.

Various companies were set up to try to develop the town as a resort. A better, but far from impregnable, sea wall was built, the elevated roadways from the Steyne to the sea front were constructed, and the promenade and the first terraced houses were built facing the sea including in 1891 the Esplanade Hotel, the flagship of theenterprise. In 1905 Edward VII honoured Seaford by staying in the Esplanade Hotel. The town was aiming to imitate Brighton, but the entrepreneurial Seaford Bay Estate Company had overlooked the rigours of Seaford’s winter gales and their few seaside homes and lodgings were never to prove commercially viable.

The Company’s proposed developments were very grandiose and the whole area from Splash Point to the present end of Dane Road was planned on the lines of Brighton with 12 parallel roads of terraced houses running back in serried rows from the Esplanade to College Road and Steine Road (sic) only relieved by a miniature ‘Royal Crescent’ on the centre line of the Martello Tower. Behind this, Cricket Field was to be flanked on the north and east by 22 seaside bungalows (of three storeys!), nine of which were actually built before the company went bankrupt and any further permanent development subsided under the threat and eventual demands of the Great War.

In an Edwardian guide to the town the Esplanade Hotel is extolled as being a very handsome and ornate building with over 50 rooms, and ‘furnished in recherche style’.There were also the less prestigious Bay Hotel in Pelham Road and the New Inn, which became the Wellington Hotel, and several other lesser hotels and boarding houses. There were bathing machines ‘of the most improved style’, boats for hire, and yacht trips in the bay. Later the old Martello Tower offered ‘teas and refreshments’and roller skating round its dry moat, so the town did a reasonable trade in the summer season. The grand development, however, was dead. There was not the demand for yet another resort in the 20 miles of coast between Brighton and Eastbourne, and Seaford, having lost its Duke of Newcastle, was in no position to vie with ‘Prinny’ or the Duke of Devonshire – the patrons of its more prosperous neighbours. The Esplanade Hotel survived for about 80 years and the rumbustious old town took on a more genteel aspect, but it somehow became more withdrawn. The sea front remained half developed and half derelict and, without the right atmosphere, the entrepreneurial spirit also died.
Seaford Museum & Heritage Society

Pevensey Castle, Pevensey, East Sussex

Pevensey Castle, Eastbourne
Postmarked 1907
“The ‘National’ Series”

We know little about the early history of Anderida, the Roman fort at Pevensey. Tree-ring dating of wooden piles sunk into the wall foundations suggests that it was built in about AD 290. At that time the coastal defences of Roman Britain seem to have been systematically strengthened, and a number of other forts around the south and east coasts, such as Portchester, Burgh, Richborough and Lympne, were built or reconstructed.

After the withdrawal of Roman troops from Britain in the early 5th century, Anderida’s walls continued to shelter a community. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records that in 471 the fort was besieged and its population slaughtered by Saxon raiders. The fort was abandoned for around a century before it was inhabited again. Little is known about it in Anglo-Saxon period, though traces found by archaeologists such as fragments of glass suggest it was a high-status place. It may even have acted as a royal centre.

Pevensey’s history changed dramatically when, before dawn on 28 September 1066 – three days after King Harold’s victory at Stamford Bridge – William, Duke of Normandy, sailed his invading fleet of about 700 ships into the Bay of Pevensey. After landing, he immediately built a temporary fortification, almost certainly within the walls of the Roman fort, to shelter his troops. He cut a ditch across the peninsula to isolate the ruins from the mainland and repaired the walls to create a castle.
English Heritage

It is not known for certain when the stone buildings of Pevensey Castle’s Inner Ward were built but a series of regular payments by Richard I in the 1190s suggest substantial building activity at this time. It is possible the Great Keep was one of these buildings or, if it already existed, it was certainly substantially modified at this time. However, the castle was probably slighted by the forces of King John in 1216 during the First Barons’ War, when south-east England fell under the control of Prince Louis of France. The damage was repaired after the war and in 1230 the castle was granted to Gilbert Marshal, Earl of Pembroke. In 1246 it was given to Peter of Savoy who commissioned substantial upgrades to the site. This included halving the size of the Inner Bailey and replacing the former timber palisade with a stone wall. . . . The castle played no part in the Wars of the Roses and was allowed to fall into decay and ruin although its role as a regional prison continued. Inmates included a number of high status magnates including King James I of Scotland, who had been captured in 1406, and Henry IV’s widowed queen, Joan of Navarre. By the sixteenth century the castle itself was ruinous although in 1587, faced with the threat of a Spanish invasion, emergency repairs were made by Elizabeth I and a gun emplacement built within the Outer Bailey.
Castles Forts Battles

Layout of Pevensey Castle, from “The castles of England, their story and structure“, James Dixon Mackenzie, 1896 p.82

The Normans, who at once saw the value and took possession of Pevensey, probably were for a time content with the Roman walls as they stood, and with the palisaded citadel of the mound. At least, there is no certain trace of any very early Norman masonry. Indeed, the only masonry of Norman date at all now to be seen is a fragment of wall with a window, the remains of a superstructure upon one of the northern towers, and some patchwork in flints, and a few courses of stone laid herring-bone fashion, by which the face of another of the Roman towers has been repaired. Had the Normans of the eleventh or twelfth centuries constructed any eastern walls, gatehouses, or mural towers within the court, some trace of them would probably remain. The chapel, indeed, judging from its dimensions, was Norman, and the base of the font decidedly so; and it is possible that the shapeless fragments of rubble masonry which encumber the top and slopes of the mound may be of the same, that is, of late Norman, date. In truth, the castle, as the Normans found it, was a very strong place. The walls only needed a battlement, and even if this were surmounted, the entrenched and palisaded mound would be perfectly defensible so long as provisions held out.

Flanking the gatehouse, at a distance of 33 yards north and 54 yards south, are two grand round towers, each capping an angle of the curtain. The north curtain has a base or plinth slightly battering. The wall is vertical. There is no cordon between them. The north-west tower is 30 feet diameter, and has a basement, ground, and upper floor. The basement, though below the inner ward level, is on the level of the ground outside. It is arcaded, having six arches in its rounded sides, and one in its flat end or gorge. These arches have a drip of the double-scroll pattern, and between each pair springs a moulded rib, and one from each of the two right angles, eight in all. They are broken away, but their profile is seen, and the plan of the vault may be inferred. The entrance to this chamber is by a straight staircase from the inner366 ward, and at the foot of the stairs is a lobby on the left or west side leading to a postern doorway placed at the junction of the tower with the curtain. In the gorge wall is a fireplace, the hood of which seems to have been of timber. It is difficult to understand what this chamber can have been intended for, with its ornate details and a fireplace, and yet half under ground.
Mediæval Military Architecture in England, Vol. II“, George Thomas Clark, 1884

Kitchen, Mermaid Inn, Rye, England

Old Fireplace, Mermaid Inn, Rye
Publisher: Judges Ltd

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The Mermaid Inn is a Grade II* listed historical inn located on Mermaid Street in the ancient town of Rye, East Sussex, southeastern England. One of the best-known inns in southeast England, it was established in the 12th century and has a long, turbulent history. The current building dates from 1420 and has 16th-century additions in the Tudor style, but cellars built in 1156 survive.

Rye — A room in “The Mermaid”
Publisher: “Deacon’s Series, Rye”

Madeira Walk, Brighton, England

Madeira Walk, Kempton, Brighton
Publisher: Alfred William Wardell, Brighton
Google Street View (approximate)

Madeira Terrace was originally built as a covered promenade to attract tourists from London when the new railway opened in the late 1800s. It was built by borough surveyor Philip Lockwood and opened to the east of Royal Crescent in 1890, before being extended to meet the Aquarium in 1927 to 1929. It is considered the longest cast iron structure in Britain, running from the Aquarium Colonnade to the Volk’s railway maintenance building.
Brighton & Hove City Council: Madeira Terrace restoration

The Madeira Drive runs from the Aquarium to King’s Cliff, Kemp Town. The sea-wall is a fine work, about 25 feet thick at the base and 3 feet at the summit. The creepers and shrubs by which the wall is partially screened do much to relieve what would oherwise be a rather dreary prospect. An Arcade, about half a mile long, running eastward from a point near the aquarium, with an asphalted terrace walk on the top, and provided with seats, affords cover in wet weather; and near the eastern extremity is a large Shelter Hall and Reading-Room, similar to that on the beach at the foot of West Street. Refreshments can be obtained in the Shelter Hall, and time-tables, etc., consulted. A Lift communicates with the Marine Parade above. Here, too, is a Bandstand. The slopes at the eastern end of the Madeira Drive, known as the Duke’s Mound, are planted with shrubs, and the carriage drive extends as far as Black Rock.
Brighton Toy Museum (has more pictures)

Madeira Terrace, Madeira Walk, lift tower and related buildings (Madeira Terrace) were built between 1890 and 1897 to the design of the Brighton Borough Engineer, Philip Lockwood (1821-1908). They were constructed by Messrs J Longley and Co of Crawley, at a combined cost of £13,795 Earlier, between 1830 and 1833, the natural East Cliff at Brighton was made good by the application of a concrete covering, and was then planted up to achieve a green wall which is now believed to be the oldest and largest of its kind in Europe, with over 100 species of flowering plants recorded. The concept of attaching a cast-iron terrace to the cliff was inspired by the innovative construction, expressed at the Great Exhibition, Crystal Palace of 1851. The idea was promoted by one of the great iron foundries of the Victorian period, Macfarlane and Co of Glasgow as early as 1874, but was rejected as being unworkable. By 1880, public funding had been arranged and the concept became a technical reality. Madeira Terrace was built under the terms of the Brighton Improvement Act of 1884 and was open to the east of the Royal Crescent by 1890, but controversy prevented its completion to the west.
Historic England

Lewes Castle, Lewes, East Sussex

Lewes Castle
Publisher: Shurey’s Publications (1903-1927)
On back: This beautiful Series of Fine Art Post Cards is supplied free exclusively by Shurey’s Publications, comprising “Smart Novels,” “Yes or No.” and “Dainty Novels.” The Publications are obtainable throughout Great Britain, the Colonies and Foreign Countries.”

Google Street View.

In the immediate aftermath of the Norman invasion, William I divided Sussex into five administrative zones (known as rapes). Each of these were granted to his most trusted companions who were responsible for constructing castles to secure control of the area facilitating unhindered access with Normandy. The rape of Lewes was granted to William de Warenne, a Norman baron who had participated in the Battle of Hastings (1066) and owned substantial holdings in Varenne (Normandy) as well as Conisbrough (Yorkshire), Reigate (Surrey) and later Castle Acre (Norfolk). He commenced work on Lewes Castle around 1067 which was built to dominate and control the Saxon settlement and port. This initial castle was an earth and timber motte-and-bailey fortification. The motte itself is known today as Brack Mount and was probably built on top of a much earlier burial mound. Around 1077 William de Warenne founded Lewes Priory as an outpost of Cluny Abbey in Burgundy. Around 1100 Lewes Castle was rebuilt in stone and a second motte was added again probably being built over an existing burial mound. This new motte supported the shell Keep, part of which remains visible today, and a similar but smaller structure (now gone) was built on top of Brack Mount. A large gatehouse was also built to replace the former timber gateway into the bailey. Further modifications were made to the castle in the thirteenth century with two (possibly three) towers being added to the main shell Keep.
Castles Forts Battles

In the 14th century, the barbican was the last addition made to the castle. There was most likely a drawbridge leading to the entrance way of the barbican over a deep dry ditch, where today, a cobblestone road exists. Lewes Castle remained in possession of the de Warenne family for nearly three hundred years. When John de Warenne died in 1347 without any heirs, the castle passed to his nephew, the Earl of Arundel, who already owned great estates. Thereafter, the castle began to slowly fall into decline. In 1381, during the Peasants Revolt, the castle was attacked by a mob who broke inside and stole casks of wine, as well as destroyed several documents.

By the 17th century, Lewes Castle was quickly becoming nothing more than a ruin. Later in the 18th and 19th centuries, some restoration work was conducted. The West Tower was altered and arrow slits were replaced by Gothic style windows. However, the flared medieval embrasures were left in place. The Sussex Archaeological Society leased the keep and barbican for a display of local antiquities and was granted the freehold in 1920. The castle still remains in their care today.
Great Castles

Lewes Castle
Postmarked 1904
Publisher: Evelyn Wrench

The castle is composed of a shell keep with octagonal corner towers, and a striking 14th-century barbican. Unusually, there are two mottes within the oval bailey enclosure, a curious design found elsewhere only at Lincoln. The smaller of the two mounds is known as Brack’s Mount. Tradition suggests that it was raised first, then found to be too small, so another, larger motte was built at the other end of the bailey to control the town. The larger mound is topped with a shell keep on a circular plan. Only the southern half of the keep is relatively intact. The use of herringbone masonry in the surviving walls suggests a date in the first half of the 12th century, probably during the life of William de Warenne II, who died in 1138. A pair of flanking towers were added in the late 13th century.
Britain Express

The bailey, which enclosed an area of about 3. acres, is now covered with houses and gardens, but parts of the curtain wall on the S.E. and E. stand on banks, bearing witness to the original wooden fortifications. The great interest of this bailey is its ancient Norman gateway. The entrance was regarded by medizeval architects as the weakest part of the fortress, and we frequently find that it was the first part to receive stone defences.’ It is not surprising that at such an important place as Lewes, which was then a port leading to Normandy, and at the castle of so powerful a noble, we should find an early case of stone architecture supplementing the wooden defences.
“The Early Norman Castles of the British Isles”, Ella S. Armitage, 1912

“The Early Norman Castles of the British Isles”, Ella S. Armitage, 1912

The castle was quite irregular in its trace, suiting the contours of the hill top, and enclosing within the walls an area of about 3I acres. These were defended on the N. E. and S. sides by a ditch, while on the W. a very steep escarpment sloped down to the lands below. Within, the builders found two large mounds, the foundations doubtless of ancient houses, on the N.E. and S.W., and on these they erected two keeps, 800 feet apart, being the only instance of double keeps known. On the former, called the Bray or Breck Mount, was the chief tower or donjon, formed of a cluster of octagonal towers set round a centre one, on a plan similar to that of the keeps of Coningsburgh and Castle Acre, both of which castles belonged to the first Earl Warren, as well as Lewes.

This tower is 75 feet in diameter, and at a later period two octagonal towers were added, having three storeys each, which remain, and have of late years been made habitable. Traces only exist of the second keep in some heaps of masonry, and little more than half the external walls may now be seen, but no vestiges remain of the buildings contained in the base court. In front of the old Norman entrance, in the S. wall of the castle, stands the barbican or outer gateway, a square tower flanked with two circular angle towers, having a spiral stair in the N.W. corner, and armed with machicoulis and battlements that have been partly renewed ; there were two portcullises and a drawbridge here. The date of these buildings is about the middle of the thirteenth century.
“The Castles of England: their story and structure, Vol 1”, James Mackenzie, 1896

Hastings Castle, Hastings

Hastings | The Castle
Publisher: J. Davis, 24 Queen Victoria St, E.C.

Google Street View (approximate).

Hastings Castle is a keep and bailey castle ruin situated in the town of Hastings, East Sussex. It overlooks the English Channel, into which large parts of the castle have fallen over the years. Immediately after landing in England in 1066, William of Normandy ordered three fortifications to be built, Pevensey Castle in September 1066 (re-using the Roman Saxon Shore fort of Anderitum), Hastings (prior to the Battle of Hastings) and Dover. Hastings Castle was originally built as a motte-and-bailey castle near the sea. Later that year, the famous Battle of Hastings took place some miles to the north of Hastings Castle, in which William was victorious. In 1070, William issued orders for the castle to be rebuilt in stone, along with the St Mary’s Chapel.

Motte under construction Wikimedia Commons

Hastings Castle is one of the few Norman structures that can be dated with certainty. Not only is there is a picture on the Bayeux Tapestry, its narrative states William the Conqueror “commands that a castle be dug at Hestengaceastra”. The castle is also mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and the Domesday Book (1086). Finally the Chronicle of Battle Abbey stated William I built a “wooden castle” at Hastings. Together these sources strongly suggest the castle was started before the Battle of Hastings (which wasn’t fought until 14 October 1066) using wooden prefabricated parts imported from Normandy. William was probably accommodated within its walls prior to the battle and in the immediate aftermath it would have been crucial as a secure logistical hub ensuring his sustainability in the south east.

The original castle consisted of a motte, which would have been topped by a timber palisade and tower, with a large broadly rectangular bailey to the west. An outer bailey, probably used for livestock, was located to the east. The castle was built on top of a cliff overlooking the Saxon settlement, markedly different from elsewhere which saw Norman castles stamped on top of former urban settlements (good examples can be seen at Exeter, Totnes and Wallingford).

In 1216, during the latter days of the turbulent reign of King John, the castle was deliberately slighted to avoid it falling into the hands of Prince Louis of France. Louis had invaded at the request of the Barons opposing the King and the Royalist faction was keen to deny them a strong base near a significant harbour facility. The damage done is not known but some sources suggest only the timber elements (floors and internal buildings) were destroyed. Regardless the damage was rectified in 1220 when Henry III ordered the re-fortification and repair of the castle. Throughout its history the castle suffered from coastal erosion and during the thirteenth century particularly acute weather caused much damage. As early as 1287 the sandstone cliffs on which the castle was built started to fall into the sea along with a portion of the bailey curtain wall. The harbour also suffered resulting in a general decline in the economic worth, and thus the military importance, of Hastings. This led to infrequent repairs and, by the fourteenth century, the castle was ruinous. The situation was further exacerbated by French attacks in 1339 and 1377.
Castles Forts Battles

Hastings Castle
Dated & postmarked 1904
Publisher: The Philco Publishing Company, London

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