The Court Room with its 17th Century Timber Ceiling
and Royal Arms of William III
The timber ceiling of the Court Room is 17th Century. Next door, the Robing Room displays the corporation’s official weight, measures and balance scales, a beautiful corn dolly and much else.
The Robing Room, Prison Cells and Exercise Yard below date from the Georgian period (1714 to 1830).
The Beadle (in glass case) wears a genuine costume nearly 200 years old.
In the 20th Century, during the Second World War, a captured German Airman was put in the cells. It is said the benches were covered in zinc around 1940 so the cells could be used as a temporary mortuary.
Bail certificates costing 20p upon release from the dock are available.
Also, very popular is our children’s new discovery trail which includes a dinosaur’s footprint!
Seal of Pevensey, Circa 1230 AD
Corporation’s iron seals, dating from circa 1230. They are the oldest surviving seals of the Cinque Ports.
On the obverse side is an antique ship of one mast, with its fore and stern castles.
The legend on the obverse is :
‘SIGGLLY BARONVM DOMINI ANGLIE DE PEVENES’
– meaning ‘The seal of the barons of our lord the king of England at Pevensey’
The reverse, or counter seal, exhibits two ships in full sail, one of which has no crew. In the other is a mitred figure, holding in one hand a crosier, while the other is raised in the attitude of benediction.
The legend on the reverse is:
‘SCE NICOLAE, DUC, NOS, SPONTE, TRAHE, PEV.’
the ‘Sce Nicolae’ is clearly an invocation, and the whole may mean ‘O St. Nicolas, lead us, freely bring us to Pevensey’
– an appropriate invocation, since St. Nicolas was the patron, not only of sailors in general, but of this port in particular.
The Pevensey Beadle wears the only surviving uniform of the corporation, which is nearly 200 years old. He was in charge of law and order, and of minding the prisoners in the gaol below. The Pevensey Beadle or more properly the Town Sargent is currently not on display as due to the ravages of time it is currently awaiting restoration. However his handcuffs and staff are still on view !!
Pevensey’s Royal Charter was granted by King John in 1207
In 1207 the Barons of Pevensey obtained a Charter from King John, which confirmed Pevensey’s status as a Corporate Member of Hastings. The Charter states that the land which lies between the port of Pevensey and Langney is “within the liberty of the Five Ports”, so it must be assumed that an agreement had been made with the Lord of the Manor of Pevensey, as the land was originally within his demesne.
A facsimile of this charter can be seen in the Court House. After obtaining their charter the Barons had a seal struck for their Borough and this is one of our most important exhibits, displayed in the central show case. The seal dates from some year between 1207 and 1230, and is the oldest original Cinque Ports seal, with a ship represented on both sides. King John issued a series of charters to the Cinque Ports in 1206, probably intending to ensure their loyalty in the coming war against France, by which he hoped to regain Normandy, lost to the French King in 1204.
A full-size hand-embroidered replica of the Pevensey scene from the Bayeux Tapestery, showing William of Normandy’s invasion landing here on September 218th 1066
This tapestry was donated to the Pevensey Courthouse Museum by Peter G. Crane
It was made by his mother Nellie Mabel Crane, nee Painter, who was born in March 1908 in London and died March 1997.
The linen and threads were bought at the Bayeux Museum in France around 1980. The tapestry to 4 years to make – between 1983-1987 – and she recieved no help whatsoever in the making of it.
Next to the Bailiff’s mace is a William II (Rufus) silver penny minted at Pevensey during the era of its greatest importance.
SOURCE SOME INFO
This beautifully carved example of the Royal Arms was placed in Pevensey Church in the years between 1694 and 1701. This was in compliance with the order originally made by HenryVIII at the Reformation to mark the royal headship of the Church. This order was re-enacted by Charles II. These arms are one of the rare examples from the reign of William and Mary. There is one other example of arms made during this reign in Sussex at Aldingbourne. The layout is that adopted by William after Mary’s death in 1694, showing his own Arms of Orange-Nassau on the inescutcheon at the centre.
The motto, translated is “I will stand fast”.
You can view a newly created painting by Andy Gammon, commissioned by the Pevensey Courthouse Museum, marking the 950th anniversary of William’s victorious return to Pevensey, with important hostages in 1067 (copies available).
Pevensey was part of the coastal confederation of Cinque Ports, set up as early as 1100 by the Anglo Saxons in Kent and Sussex.
The name is Norman French, meaning “five ports”. They were:
- New Romney (later replaced by Rye)
Other towns also contributed to the confederation, including the two so-called Ancient Towns of Rye and Winchelsea, whose councils traditionally maintained defence contingents for the realm of England, and seven ‘limbs’. (Rye replaced New Romney when that harbour silted up.)
- Lydd (Limb of New Romney)
- Folkestone (Limb of Dover)
- Faversham (Limb of Dover)
- Margate (Limb of Dover)
- Deal (Limb of Sandwich)
- Ramsgate (Limb of Sandwich)
- Tenterden (Limb of Rye)
There are in addition some 23 towns, villages and offices which have varying degrees of connection to the ancient Liberties of the Cinque Ports.
The coastal confederation during its mediaeval period consisted of a confederation of 42 towns and villages in all. These include:
- Limbs of Hastings – Grange (now part of Gillingham, Kent), Bekesbourne, Bulverhythe, Northeye (former village in Sussex ), Eastbourne, Hydney (now Hampden Park, part of Eastbourne), Pebsham (small village between Bulverhythe and Bexhill-on-Sea (then as Bexhill), Pevensey and Seaford (in Sussex)
- Limbs of Sandwich – Reculver, Sarre, Fordwich, Walmer, Stonar (near Richborough), and Brightlingsea (in Essex)
- Limbs of Dover – Birchington, St. Johns (part of Margate), St. Peters, Ringwould, Woodchurch and Kingsdown
- Limbs of Hythe – West Hythe
- Walmer, Ramsgate
Information from Wikipedia
This display records the Roman Fortress of Anderitum, built in around 290AD, whose massive curtain walls still stand. The Normans built a keep inside these walls which is now in ruins. The area designated “open sea” is now dry land and the location of the town of Pevensey.
This fascinating map reconstructs the coastline of Pevensey Bay in Roman times. It was very different from today! Click on the map for a larger copy (opens in a new window).
This was once big business on the South Coast. Click on the map for a larger version (opens in a new window).
Among the many bygones in this room are a collection of tools and artifacts donated by the Geering family when their forge at Blackness near Stone Cross closed in 1990.
The beautiful crown and other corn dolly items were made and presented by Mrs Olive Boniface who farmed at Hankham. She also donated many of the country tools.
The visitors’ book formerly kept at the Mint House opposite the museum is open at the page showing Queen Mary’s signature in 1933. The Mint House was famed particularly as an antique centre. The Robing room used to have a low ceiling however during the winter of 2022 the wallpaper stared peeling and revealed a large damp patch from a leaking roof. Roof repaired and 50s/60s plasterboard ceiling removed it has now been restored as original open to the beams !
The Geering Brothers, Solomon and Job, who worked at the Blackness Forge near Stone Cross in the 1880’s and 1890’s, made most of the ironwork displayed in this courthouse.
The Geerings, like their native Sussex, were closely associated with iron. Members of the family worked at the Ashburnham Foundry until the furnace closed down in 1809, when the Geerings established the blacksmith’s forge at Blackness. This photograph shows Job and Solomon in 1904.
Blacksmiths were once important men in rural England. They were not just farriers – they were also ingenious craftsmen who could make special tools for the particular needs of individual clients. The uses to which these sometimes-extraordinary tools were put are hard to comprehend today.
In the first cell on your left, note the fine old gaol window, probably dating from the 16th century, which was revealed during restoration work in 2017. Before the 1830 alterations it faced directly on to the High Street. The iron grille may have originated at the Castle!
In the second cell the wooden wall plank bears a prisoner’s inscription from 1822. The beds in these cells date from a later period. The iron fireplace at the back was cast in Sussex and is late Georgian.