"Prehistoric Remains"

History of Hastings Castle 1909

Charles Dawson

[v] Preface

Concerning Hastings Castle a recently-published Hastings guidebook informs its readers that "one of the charms of this venerable ruin is, that no authentic record of its history exists." It is, therefore, with some diffidence that the author intrudes upon this state of bliss by presenting to the public a connected series of records, unrivalled in local history, relating to this castle.

The lack of special knowledge and opportunities under which the majority of students of history labour renders it impossible for them to study our ancient chronicles and records in their original form. The extended versions of the records, even when freed of calligraphic difficulties and contractions, do not always bear in their classical construction the mediaeval sense. The author believes that average reader will prefer to read their ancient records and chronicles, in the same way as most persons read their Bibles, that is, by means of a translation, and he has provided accordingly. For the rest, it is hoped that the references given to the original documents will prove sufficient.

The plan of the present work at the outset was an ambitious one, namely, to take as a type an English Castle and Barony, the details of the history of which were almost unknown ; to search out its records in the British and foreign depositories, public and private ; and finally to arrange them in chronological order, interspersed with extract from contemporary chronicles, in such a manner that the whole collection may tell its own story. Indeed, its author hopes that it may do something more, by disclosing much of the military and fiscal workings a great castle and barony under feudal conditions; and by following the vicissitudes of its various lords and by the introduction of pertinent matters of contemporary interest, he hopes to throw a strong side-light on the history of England itself.

The history of the Collegiate Church (or " Royal Free Chapel ") founded within the walls of the Castle forms another item of interest; and, as the documentary evidence is most complete, the author is enabled to introduce ecclesiastical matters of great and unusual interest, both generally and with special regard to the history of this class of foundation.

An account of the Battle of Hastings (one of the "Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World") is inseparable from the castle which formed its base. In view of has already been written concerning the battle (educational though such criticisms may be), the author believes that the account will prove clearer and fresher by providing translations of the extracts concerning it, from all the known contemporary and other important chronicles, grouping them in parallel columns [vi] under the heads of the leading incidents of the battle to which they refer. Where previous translations have been adopted, care has been taken to check them by the aid of the best evidence available.

The aim of the whole work is thus to present to the reader the most reliable data obtainable, retaining to a great extent all the vigour and beauty of the original draftsmanship, freed from and untrammelled by former conclusions, and in such a manner that he may enabled to picture for himself the true history. as nearly as possible, at first hand.

The History of Hastings as a Cinque Port is in many respects so distinct from the history of the Castle and Rape, that the subject receives only passing references. The author is in possession of numerous local records relating to the former subject, and hopes to deal with it specifically on another occasion. In the meantime, the interested should refer to the short History of the Cinque Ports by the late Prof. Montague Burrows (Chichele Professor of Modem History, in the University of Oxford), in the revision of which the present author was concerned for the edition of 1903.

In the present work the author has endeavoured to avoid, as far as possible, matters of controversy, and it is only here, in mentioning the former literature related to the Castle, that he points out certain matters which require refutation because they appear to have taken an undue hold upon the public mind.

William Prynne, in his history of the Papal Usurpations (entitled An Exact History of the Pope's Intolerable Usurpations Upon the Liberties of the King and Subjects of England and Ireland, Volume III, 1670, quoted largely from the public records (then preserved in the Tower of London) when dealing with the controversy between the Bishop of Chichester and the King's Clerks respecting the jurisdiction of the former over the Royal Free Chapels.

Of early published accounts relating to the Castle that of Francis Grose (Antiquities of England and Wales, 1773-87, Volume III.) may be considered the first important printed topographical reference, and it has been much copied and quoted by various local writers. The quotation referred to by Grose respecting Arviragus, of whom it is said that when he threw off the Roman yoke he fortified certain places including Hastings, turns out to rest historically upon the sole authority of the writer of the Chronicle of the Dover Monastery of St. Martin, a production of the late thirteenth century, and this statement is probably therefore mere guess-work of little historical weight.

The next account of any importance is by William Herbert who, in the year 1824, wrote the letter-press of Moss's History of Hastings , but without acknowledgment by the ostensible writer. This must be regarded as the first serious attempt to unravel the history of the Castle.

The Reverend Prebendary Mackenzie E. C. Walcott, B.D. (Guide to the South Coast of England, Stanford's, 1859) is responsible for the publication of two absurd "traditions," as he calls them, relating to the Castle: one, that the first tournay in England was held there in the time of William L; and another story ending with a conflagration at the Castle. These tales bear internal evidence of having been composed since the date of the excavations at the Castle in the year 1824, and would not have been mentioned here, had not some writers [vii] (including Mr. T. H. Cole, M.A., in his Antiquities of Hastings ) given undue prominence to them.

The Reverend E. Turner, M.A., compiled a very creditable summary of the history available to him of the Castle and Collegiate Church in the year 1861, which was published in Volume XIII. of the Sussex Archaeological Collections, page 132.

Mr. T. H. Cole, above mentioned, had few opportunities of original research, but did useful work in collating the works of some former writers and in offering from his stock of local knowledge suggestions upon them. Lack of knowledge of "Record Latin" led him (and his copyists) into confusion concerning the Royal Free Chapel, causing him to believe that there were two chapels, one of which he knew within the castle-walls, and a more ancient one which he thought existed below the present site. The assumed evidence for the existence of this last-mentioned chapel arose from his mistranslation in the records of the words "infra claustrum," which he read as beneath the fortification; but the word infra, in Latin of the Records, was nearly always used in the sense of within and not below, for which the Latin word sub was commonly used.

Mr G. T. Clarke (Medieval Military Architecture of England, 1884, republished from The Builder ) wrote what is, in many respects, an excellent if brief description of the architectural details of the Castle and Chapel ; though, as he was wont , he identified the Castle Mount with an Anglo-Saxon keep, which is a matter open to the gravest doubt. As usual, his visit seems to have been a hurried one, or he would not have committed the unpremeditated irreverence of referring to the large circular roof of the modern St, Mary's Church as the local gas-works, a mistake which leads to some topographical confusion. the latter flourishing concern being situate in an opposite direction.

With respect to the materials made use of by the present author down to the reign of Henry IV., they are almost entirely the result of private researches in the of records compiled by the Royal Historical Commissioners and the Public Record Office; some, however, are derived from France,

and others from diocesan records in England and from private sources.

Hastings Castle having been one of the Royal Castles, held with its Rape as a tenancy-in-chief under the Crown till the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the documents relating to its transfer and to many titular and other proceedings were filed among the Royal records. In the same manner the documents of the Collegiate Church (which had been adopted, though improperly, as a Royal foundation), the visitations and appointments to its prebends, while under the Royal control, were filed among the Sovereign's records.

One of the most useful documents relating to the history of the Chapel is one of extraordinary length among the Chancery Miscellaneous Rolls, containing a copy of all the evidence known respecting the jurisdiction of the King and the Bishop of Chichester over the Chapel that could be found m the year 1421, a special search having then been decreed. At this time a dispute had arisen. as before mentioned, between the King and the Bishop, and the document was drawn up on behalf of the King's Clerks in support of their case. It was written upon skins some twelve feet in length, and contains about 13,800 words. By [viii] means of the chronological arrangement of the present work these historical details are dissected, and fall into their proper order along with the other records exhibited.

From the time when the Pelham family obtained possession of the Castle and Rape, in the year 1424, the documents respecting their title and proceedings had been preserved in extraordinary volume and completeness. It was not until subsequent to the year 1887 that a beginning was made with the dispersal of this series of records by Waiter John Pelham, fourth Earl of Chichester. The earlier title-deeds among this series were presented by him to the then newly-founded Hastings Museum, where they have been since preserved under the author's nominal keepership, as head of the section dealing with local records. Most of later deeds and documents of the series were presented by his Lordship to the Sussex Archaeological Society, and a huge miscellaneous mass of

documents relating to the manorial history of the Rape, since its possession by the family, was presented by him to the Manuscript Department of the British Museum, where they are indexed under the name of "The Newcastle documents." As to the chapter relating to this latter mass of documents the author wishes to acknowledge the skilled assistance of Mr. D. T. Baird Wood, M.A., who catalogued this series for the Manuscript Department of the British Museum.

For any record of the excavations conducted among the ruins of Hastings Castle, which took place in 1824, the author for a long time sought in vain; but at last he discovered some drafts in manuscript of such a description in the Guildhall Library, where Mr. Herbert, above mentioned, was formerly the librarian. Mr. Herbert, it seems, had been employed by Mr. Thomas Thorpe (the compiler of the catalogue of the Battle Abbey Documents in 1835) to examine the deeds and documents (then known as " the Pelham Evidences ") in the possession of Thomas, second Earl of Chichester, with a view to the identification of the boundaries of the lands adjoining the Castle. This he had done in a full and conscientious manner. Upon the introduction of Mr. Moss he had conducted, for Lord Chichester, the excavation at Hastings Castle initiated by the discovery of certain remains by Mr. Joseph Kay (the Architect of Greenwich Hospital), who was engaged in excavating the Castle cliff for the building of Pelham Crescent and St. Mary's Church, now situate below the Castle. Mr. Herbert was indefatigable; he noted and planned almost every detail that was discovered, and subsequently prepared in handsome form a fair copy of his work, which he delivered to Lord Chichester.

Upon hearing of the present author's researches Lord Chichester (the fourth Earl) in 1897 most generously presented him with this invaluable record. Mr. Herbert's work is executed in a fine neat hand, and the text is illustrated by maps and drawings plotted out by an artist named B. Howlett. Some of these drawings, executed in black and white wash. are originals, and others are copied from certain eighteenth-century drawings by James Lambert of Lewes and S. H. Grimm, now in the British Museum and in the Bodleian Library, at Oxford. The author in the compilation of the present work has made free use of this magnificent record.

Thus splendidly equipped, the author, by leave of Lord Chichester, commenced a further series of excavations at Hastings Castle, with the view of verifying Mr. Herbert's previous discoveries, which had subsequently been covered [ix] over, as well as to test many other doubts and theories. For assistance during these operations the author is greatly indebted to Mr. John Lewis, C.E., F.S.A., and for his drawing of the plan which appears in this section of the work.

Dealing with the history of the prebends of the Collegiate Church and its prebendal churches, the author wishes to make it clear that these accounts do not profess to be exhaustive histories of the several localities; but he mentions such items of local interest as have presented themselves during the course of his researches. In the description of the architecture of the Castle Chapel and most of the prebendal churches the author is indebted to the able advice of Mr. W. M. Alderton, late Director of Art in the Education Branch of the Corporation of Brighton, whose kindness he gratefully acknowledges.

The ancient mint and coinage of Hastings having hitherto received inadequate treatment, the author has taken advantage of the opportunity to give an exhaustive account of the subject. It seems curious that many of the best preserved specimens of the mint, along with those of other English mints, found their way to Copenhagen; and it is perhaps a little humiliating to modem ideas that their presence in Denmark is accounted for by their having been paid as tribute by the English to the Danes. In the compilation of this section of the work the author acknowledges the skilled assistance of Mr. G. F. Hill, M. A., of the Coin Department of the British Museum.

Owing to the chronological arrangement of the work, it has been thought unnecessary to elaborate unduly the index. which has been left in the able hands of Mr. George Clinch, F.G.S.

In conclusion, the author must express his grateful acknowledgement to the many experts, both living and dead, who have personally or by their writings contributed assistance to him in the production of those volumes. For those manifold errors and omissions inevitable in a work of this character, so easily overlooked and yet so vexatious, to a conscientious writer, the author can but crave the indulgence of the reader.

Uckfield, Sussex



Contents to Volume I Pages

Introduction to the History of Hastings Castle–The Physical Changes

On the Coast–Prehistoric Remains 1-10

Part I

Early History 11-16

Part II

A Chronicle and Chantulary on the Castle and Chapel of Hastings from the

Conquest by William I of England to the Dissolution of the Monasteries 17-319

Part III

Chart Showing the Descent of the Castle and the Rape of Hastings to face p. 321

A Recital of the Leading Points Connected with the Title and Descent of the Castle

and Rape from the Dissolution of the Monasteries to Modern Times, with

Notes on the Manorial Records of the Rape 321-356

. . . .

[6] Prehistoric Remains

Before noticing later antiquities found at Hastings and in the immediate vicinity, it is proper to mention certain prehistoric remains which have been discovered.

The Wealden rocks, upon which Hastings stands, are, in common with the greater part of the Wealden area, rarely overlain by the more recent deposits in which the remains of the older flint-age may be expected to occur. However, a very considerable number of worked flints, belonging to the later or Neolithic stone-age, have been discovered at and near Hastings either upon the surface of a few inches below it. These specimens have occurred mostly, if not exclusively, upon the higher levels of the district.

[7] Dr. Smart has remarked 1 upon their discovery in the neighbourhood of Hastings, more especially at Ore. Mr. Thomas Ross and the present author have found them in a field immediately south of "Old Roar" and at the Borough Cemetery, Hastings, and the former also describes a flint arrowhead from the "East Hill" at Hastings. 2 From observations which the author has made, these objects appear to be less uncommon in the upland area of the Weald than has been generally supposed. What, however, more nearly affects our subject is the fact of their occurrence in considerable quantities on the southern and weathered slope of the outer earthwork at Hastings Castle, commonly known as "the Lady's Parlour." They were first remarked by Mr. Garraway Rice, F.S.A., who devoted much attention to their collection, and it was through him that the author first heard of their occurrence. Since then, repeated discoveries have been made by various explorers. Numerous examples have been collected recently, and the subject has been worked out in considerable detail by Mr. W. J. Lewis Abbott F.G.S., who has published a notice on these prehistoric remains in the Journal of the Anthropological Institute, vol. xxv.

The bulk of the specimens have been found in the surface-soil which rests upon the sand-rock of the hill, and in the earthy matter that fills the rock-fissures which abound in the Hastings Sands.

The earth in the fissures contains, besides worked flints, numerous bones, shells, fragments of rude pottery, and ashes, forming a midden-like deposit. The author has examined a large number of specimens discovered by different explorers. The flints seem to have been worked on the spot, and since flint does not occur in situ within 18 miles of Hastings (Eastbourne and Polegate), the matrix was probably selected by the ancient workmen from the seashore. Most of the specimens are small, and, probably owing to the condition of the flint, they do not show such elaborate working as may be seen in specimens from the Chalk districts, where flints can be obtained fresh from their beds. Finished implements are extremely rare. Both flakes and implements are commonly not much bleached or patinated The pottery is of a crude and coarse thumb-made variety. Some of it is black, and is mixed with pounded flint (the so-called "Celtic" pottery). Other pieces are brown or red, very coarse; they show rarely any trace of ornamentation, and are associated with a large quantity of ash and other charred substances. The brown or red pottery is sometimes found blackened, as if it had been used over a fire.

No bronze or other metal objects have been discovered among the specimens in these rock-fissures. The above-mentioned deposits must be distinguished from other midden-like heaps of the mediaeval period which occur at the foot of the hill to the south, and contain bones and glazed pottery.

Without entering into various controversial matters which might arise from details in Mr. Abbott's paper, it may be said that special interest attaches to the determination of the bones found in association with these early specimens of human handicraft. Mr. E. T. Newton, F.R.S., has identified traces of the following organisms among the specimens discovered by Mr. Abbott–Vertebrates: (fishes and reptiles), the gurnet, mackerel, turbot, plaice, whiting, cod,–the toad or frog; (birds), black grouse, red grouse, duck (of some kind); (mammals), rabbit, [8] horse, deer, sheep or goat, ox, pig, badger, dog, wolf, fox, man. Molluscs. . . The bones appear to have been sometimes cut and notched by human hands and some are worked into tools. . . .

[513] The Early Earthworks

The first earthworks raised upon the hill probably consisted of a pre-Roman irregular entrenchment, with a bank following the contour of the ground around the edge of the plateau.

In all probability the bounds of this fortification are the banks which are still to be traced along the northern and eastern side of the plateau. Those on the northern and eastern sides of the eastern portion of the plateau appear as mounds of considerable height, being in part natural and part artificially raised, and the land below excavated and hollowed out. The earthworks guarding the southern edge above the naturally-weathered scarp of grey sandstone cannot now be traced, partly on account of the weathering of the rocks, but probably chiefly by reason of the gradual destruction wrought by the immense number of people who in late years almost daily over-run the spot for the sake of the fine air and the view. It is, however, recorded in the description by Mr. Herbert in 1824, that there was formerly an embanchment along this edge, but smaller than those on the north-east. These earthworks were perhaps formed by the hollowing out and levelling of the centre of this portion of the plateau. The entrenchments bounding the northern and western slopes of the present inner ward (which originally formed the western portion of the plateau, afterwards divided by the inner trench) are perhaps now occupied by the ruined curtain-walls of the inner ward of the Castle. So great have been the changes wrought upon the hill since the development of the nineteenth century, that it will be useful to give in extenso the account of the general earthworks of the Castle as they appear between the middle of the eighteenth century and the commencement of the nineteenth century, which is taken from the Herbert MS.

"The great inner Moat-–0f this only a small part at present exists. It measured from its commencement to its close (allowing for circuitous winding) more than 2,000 feet in length, was 100 feet broad at the top, and of great depth. This ditch appears to have begun its course opposite the southern end of the eastern wall, at a distance of about 30 feet on that side, from the Castle: it ran northwards till it passed a bridge attached to the eastern gateway; and thence narrowing by degrees to the second drawbridge, whose foundations are stated (1824) to be still standing near the principal entrance." . . . . [Ed note: in extenso quoting continues beyond p. 541]