Days Out In The South East: Pevensey Castle

Pevensey is a village in East Sussex, near the coast, just a few miles north-east of Eastbourne. It’s main claim to fame in English history, is that it was the site for William the Conqueror’s landing in 1066. But Pevensey Castle’s history reaches much further back, to Roman times, and it was in military use as recently as during World War II. The castle makes for an exciting site to explore and learn about different periods of England’s history!

Days Out In The South East: Pevensey Castle. Learn about #EnglishHistory from #Roman times, #MiddleAges and #WorldWarII at this #EnglishHeritage site in #Sussex - For more family friendly days out in the south east, visit us at sensationallearningwithpenguin.com #homeschooling #specialneeds

Visiting Pevensy Castle & Roman Fort

Nowadays, Pevensey Castle belongs to English Heritage and is open to the public. For details of opening times and prices, please check their website HERE. It’s currently open 10-17 every day, but during the colder months they will be closing and hour earlier. The medieval castle ruins sit within the walls of a Roman fort, and you can explore the outside of the castle as well as the Roman walls at any time and for free. It’s only when you cross the mote and enter the inner bailey that opening times and admission fees apply. That said, the most exiting parts are inside the castle walls, so it’s definitely worth getting in there.

This year, there have been improvements made to the visitor’s experience at Pevensey Castle, including a new exhibition space as well as new and improved signs with information and images regarding the castle’s history and function. We’ve visited the castle a couple of times before, and I can safely say that our latest visit (a few days ago) was the most rewarding one to date from a learning perspective, and this was largely thanks to the recent improvements.

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The sign pictured above is placed by the Roman west gate. On the map shown, you can see the walls of the Roman fort in red, while the medieval castle is mainly in green. As it says on the sign, the Roman fort was built in the 290s (so that’s over 1700 years ago! Mind-boggling, isn’t it?), while the majority of the medieval castle ruins stem from the 13th Century. That such a large part of the Roman walls still remains is quite amazing, isn’t it? And I really like the decorative bands of red tiles in them, as seen in my photo on the right here.

When William the Conqueror arrived at Pevensey, on 28 September 1066, he is believed to have immediately established a temporary castle (built mainly using timber and mud) within the partially ruined walls of the Roman fort, as a safe space for his men. A more permanent stone construction was eventually erected, as were other buildings inside the castle bailey.

Exploring Pevensey Castle

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Approaching the castle gatehouse.
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View from the bridge by the castle gatehouse. Apart from the mote, you can see part of the Roman fort walls and one of the remaining towers (and beyond that, the beautiful Sussex countryside).

On our visit the other day, we entered the castle bailey and showed our English Heritage membership card, then headed up into the North Tower. As usual, we let Penguin lead the way for the most part, as our whole experience is usually a more positive one when Penguin feels in control. When he feels that he’s NOT in control, he’s more likely to get stressed, anxious and upset (this is part of what being autistic is like for him), and that has the potential of spiraling into a very difficult and distressing situation. So to keep stress and anxiety low is a priority, and also important to aid his learning, as a stressed brain is unlikely to take any new knowledge on board.

344CA4A7-7D0A-4B83-B682-A01CF01090B8Inside the North Tower, you can look out through the arrow slits (also known as ’loopholes’), and imagine what it would have been like to be an archer during a seige, back in the Middle Ages.

Outside the tower is a platform from which you have a great view down towards the sea, where you can see the village of Pevensey Bay sitting on the seafront. The platform also provides an excellent view of the inside of the castle bailey and its features, mainly the chapel foundations and the well, as seen below. The pyramid of boulders that’s also visible in this picture, is old ammunition for a trebuchet or catapult. Very tactile (you’re allowed to touch them) and quite fascinating as objects.

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After descending from the North Tower, Penguin headed into the exhibition space. It’s made up of two rooms located above each other, linked by a steep wooden staircase, and includes displays of objects found during excavations of the castle and fort grounds, images and information telling us more about the history of this place, and a table with layers of pictures showing how the landscape has changed (a lot!) since Roman times.

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487D5186-9069-4EB4-B586-06C13EE243AAContinuing our way around the castle, the next room we entered had a display about how the castle was used during World War II. There was a desk with maps etc, and an old phone, which rang when we entered the room (there was supposed to be a message that would be played in the earpiece when anyone answeres the phone, but there was a note saying it was currently out of order). Penguin went straight to the phone to ‘answer’ it, which is quite funny as we’ve not had that kind of phone since way before he was born, and as he’s non-verbal he wouldn’t be able to speak on the phone either. I think he must have learnt how to ‘answer’ it from a toy phone. Do your children know how do answer an old-fashioned phone? And how about dialling from one..?

There was also a hat available to try on for a bit of roleplay or posing for photos. Penguin wasn’t too keen on it, but I never miss and opportunity to dress up if I can help it!

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After leaving the war room, we went to have a closer look at the old well, and the big round boulders that were made to be launched using a catapult or trebuchet. It’s quite impressive to think that they managed to make, lift and transport boulders like that without anything resembling modern machinery. And it must have been terrifying to have one come flying through the air towards you!

As we were about to leave the castle, we discovered a sign telling us that there was a dungeon to check out, down a narrow spiral staircase. We’ve totally missed that on previous visits. At the bottom of the staircase was an extremely damp room, which must have been thoroughly miserable to be imprisoned in.

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After seeing that dungeon, we felt extra happy to be free to leave the castle by our own choice, and we made our exit. We will no doubt be back again before too long.

If you too would like to explore Pevensey Castle, you can find directions and other info needed to plan your visit on the English Heritage website, HERE. There’s no café or restaurant at the site, but you’re welcome to bring your own picnic, or buy snacks and drinks from the little shop/ticket office. There are also pubs, cafés and restaurants available in Pevensey village, or you can do what we like to do, which is combine visiting Pevensey Castle with a trip to the beach in Pevensey Bay. It’s always nice, I think, to get a dose of ’vitamin sea’, and there are a couple of chip shops in the village in case you like having chips on the beach as much as we do.

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Thank you for reading! Do you have any favourite historical places to visit in your region? Please share with us in the comments, where questions and feedback is of course also welcome, as always x

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Linking up with:

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
Country Kids linky
Blissful Domestication

28 thoughts on “Days Out In The South East: Pevensey Castle

  1. This sounds like an interesting place to visit, and if it can be combined with chips on the beach, all the better. I know what you mean about children knowing how to answer an old fashioned phone. It’s a bit like children knowing how to use a tea set. My little girl has always known about teapots and sugar bowls, even though I make tea in a cup and there is no sugar bowl in the house! How do they know it?! #kcacols

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    1. Yes it’s great, and small enough to make a good combination with exploring the village around it or the seaside nearby. Or if you have a slow start to the day and just want something nice to do for a couple of hours in the afternoon. If you’re looking for places to entertain you for many hours, I think the best ones we’ve been to in our region are Walmer Castle (which also has some forest to explore, with nature play areas etc), and Dover Castle x

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  2. It looks like a lovely day out. And now that you mention it my daughters have never seen an old-fashioned phone but I bet they would know to instinctively answer it too! #KCACOLS

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  3. I’ve not heard of this castle before but it sounds like a really interesting day out. I love places like this when they have the notices up all around so you can understand what you’re looking at, and then really get a sense of the history there. x #KCACOLS

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  4. Sounds like such an interesting day out! My husband always loved visiting castles when we was little so we have quite a few on a list that we want to take the children to one day! x #KCACOLS

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    1. Oh yes, there are so many amazing castles to visit in the UK! We’ve been to quite a few in our region, but still have a few that are relatively close but which we haven’t got around to visiting yet (Hever and Arundel being two of the most famous ones). It’s such a lovely way to learn about history! xx

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  5. Pevensey Castle sounds like such a fascinating place to explore – I never knew that it was the site of William the Conqueror’s landing or that the castle dates back so long ago. The WW2 history sounds really interesting too. I love how children seem to instinctively know how to answer an old-fashioned phone even though they are too young to remember them. Thanks for sharing your day out with #CountryKids

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    1. Oh yes, Corfe and Stonehenge are places I’ve seen many beautiful pictures of, and which of course have a fascinating history to tell as well. I’m not yet as familiar with Lulworth, but that could be due to my Swedish background. I’m learning a lot more English history as we visit these places, and I think I’m learning at least as much as Penguin from our homeschooling adventures 🙂 xx

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    1. Thank you Jade! It’s perfect for combining with a visit to the beach (and/or exploring the surrounding village which is a sweet one with lovely old houses, cosy-looking pubs etc). It’s fairly big, but small in comparison with places like Dover, or even Walmer, where you could spend a full day. Pevensey Castle is fab for a couple of hours of exploring (which is pretty perfect for us, as we don’t risk running out of energy halfway ;-)) xx

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    1. Oh cool, yes that’s not too far! I think Pevensey Castle is perfect for a couple of hours of exploring, and then combine it with some time at the seaside or exploring the village of Pevensey with its old houses, pubs etc. If you’re more ambitious, you could do both Pevensey Castle and Battle Abbey (both English Heritage) to make a great day out themed around William the Conqueror 😉 x

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    1. Absolutely! And this is one of the smaller places, so I think it often gets over-shadowed by some of the other English Heritage sites in our region, such as Dover or Battle Abbey, for example.
      Pevensey Castle is lovely for a couple of hours of exploring and great for combining with a trip down to the seaside! x

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  6. Sounds like a really interesting pace to visit. We haven’t really visited many castles, but Oliver is just starting to really get into his history at school now, so I definetly think it will be on the agenda soon, maybe after Christmas. Colchester Castle is close to us which is the largest Norman keep in Europe, so maybe we will start there! Thanks for linking up to #KidsandKreativity, hope to see you back next time x

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