In about 290 AD, when Pevensey, in the English county of East Sussex, was still a peninsula surrounded by the sea and salt marshes, the Romans built the fort of Anderitum there to protect the southern coastline of Roman Britain from Saxon raiders. This was one of the last and strongest of the Roman Saxon Shore forts. It was built so stoutly that two-thirds of its towered walls still stand to this day. Anderitum was the foundation of Pevensey Castle.
This fortification was not garrisoned all the time. When Duke William the Conqueror of Normandy invaded Sussex in September 1066, he landed at Pevensey Bay and found no one defending this strategic position. He hastily ordered his men to dig a dry ditch around the west gate. Then he marched on to defeat the combined English armies led by King Harold II at the Battle of Hastings on Senlac Hill. Shortly afterwards, he gave Pevensey to his half-brother, Robert, the Count of Mortain.
Around 1100, Robert improved on the existing fort to build a castle. Pevensey Castle held firm throughout a number of sieges. It even managed to survive a demolition order by Queen Elizabeth I, which was ignored. Later Oliver Cromwell ordered to have it destroyed but somehow only a few stones were removed. In 1925, the last owner, the Duke of Devonshire, presented it to the state. Today Pevensey Castle is a Scheduled Monument in the care of English Heritage.
There are a number of resident specters taking care of Pevensey Castle, too. The most famous ghost is “The Lady in White”. She had been sighted many times in the surrounding meadowland.
Pevensey Castle Ghost of the Lady in White
A few years ago, on a warm summer evening, a group of twelve campers put up their tents in the protective valley of an adjacent field. Taking a break, one of them stood up to admire the castle. Then he saw, in the next meadow, what looked to him like an old lady dressed in a long, white raincoat that came down to her ankles. As he watched, he realized that this old lady was not walking. Instead she seemed to be gliding over the ground.
He pointed this out to his friends. All of them stopped to watch in fascination. The apparition floated up the slope towards the castle, passing right through a wooden fence on the way. They ran after her. As they got to within a few yards, the apparition drifted into a clump of bushes and disappeared from sight. They quickly surrounded the small copse and examined the foliage closely. However, they found no sign of anyone. Relating the incident, one of the campers said,
“We packed up as quickly as possible and left in a hurry.”
The Haunting of the Lady on the Parapet
There is another lady ghost haunting the inside of the castle. This apparition had been sighted pacing up and down one of the parapets. There are two possibilities as to who she might have been in real life.
One possibility is that she is the ghost of Lady Joan Pelham, whose husband took over the castle in 1394. Then he was called away with his troops to help fight a battle in the north. Lady Joan, a lady of strong character, was left in charge of Pevensey Castle, with only a very small garrison.
Forthwith, the castle was besieged by an invading army who demanded that Lady Joan surrendered in the name of King Richard II. Somehow she managed to smuggle a letter out to her husband saying, in part,
“I am laid here in a manner of siege … that I may not out nor no victuals get me.”
She steadfastly refused to surrender. Instead she paced the parapet every day looking into the distance, hoping to see a sign of her husband’s return. He did not fail her. He came back to successfully lift the siege and be re-united with his loyal wife. However, the experience was so traumatic for her that it is said the ghost of Lady Joan still paces the parapet to this day.
Another possibility is that the ghost on the parapet is that of Queen Joan of Navarre, wife of Henry IV, stepmother to Henry V and mother of nine children. In 1419, she was falsely charged with witchcraft by one Friar Randolph and put in the custody of Sir John Pelham at Pevensey Castle. Several years later, on his deathbed, Henry V reprieved her and she was released. It is possible that her anger at the gross injustice done to her caused her ghost to pace the parapet even to this day.
Pevensey Castle Specter of the Figure in Black
Recently there was a sighting of another apparition near the haunted Pevensey Castle. Actually it took three sightings before the person seeing it realized he had seen a ghost.
One of Westham’s residents used to take his dog for a walk in the castle grounds in the early morning. For three days in a row, at the same time of 6 am, he saw someone dressed in black on the far side of the meadow. He didn’t think much of it the first two times, assuming it was just somebody else, like himself, taking a dog for a walk.
On the third day, the figure in black was much closer. He still didn’t think that anything was amiss. As he often did, he picked up a stick and threw it into the air for his dog to fetch. A gust of strong wind caught the stick and landed it right behind the figure in black. His dog ran off eagerly to fetch the stick. The owner was astonished to see his dog passing right though the body of the figure in black. Needless to say, he left the scene in a hurry. The next day, he felt brave enough to go back to the same spot at 6 am but he never saw the figure in black again.
People with an interest in paranormal activities may want to try their luck at Pevensey Castle. Perhaps if they are persistent enough, they might be able to bring back documentary proof of a ghost or two. Until then, more spooks can be found in Haunted Pevensey Castle, the second part of our report on the Pevensey Castle Haunted.
Photo 2 of courtesy of Iconoclast!