In September 1066, Duke William II of Normandy landed a French force at Pevensey, intent on taking the English throne from King Harold II. Two weeks later, the English forces were defeated at the Battle of Hastings. And in December 1066, William II was crowned in Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day – so called William the Conqueror.
We took a trip down to Pevensey to see the bay (point of disembarkation) and to visit Pevensey castle (a pre-existing Roman castle) used by the French to consolidate troops, stores and equipment before the battle at Hastings. It’s a easy to visualise the ships anchored in the bay and the march of thousands of armoured troops up the beach, into the castle and subsequently on to the conflict at Hastings (where Battle is today). (The Romans originally built the castle at Pevensey in the 290’s, one of twelve along the coast, to defend England from attacks by the Saxons, from Germany. As we know, this ultimately failed and Saxons eventually had control of England by the 500’s.)
Pevensey is a historic location that heralded the arrival of French language, customs and architecture in England. The last successful invasion of England! Writing this piece, I discovered that even the word ‘disembarkation’ is french – ‘des’ meaning ‘from’ and ‘barque’ being a small boat.
Pevensey is a great stop over to see the bay and beach, take in the air and get some local refreshments. After seeing the bay where the Normans landed in 1066, visit the nearby castle and have lunch at the pub just outside the castle’s Norman gates.