20 Apr Pevensey Castle Phases I and II
Pevensey Castle is an impressive ruin which stands on high ground. This naturally defensible site was first fortified by the Romans and was most famously the place where the Norman Conquest of England began, when William the Conqueror landed there in 1066.
The castle has been at the centre of protecting England’s shores for millennia, forming part of a defensive network of forts running between Brancaster in Norfolk and Portchester in Hampshire – commonly known as The Saxon Shore Forts. These forts acted on behalf of the military command of the late Roman Empire and saw fortifications erected on both sides of the English Channel.
The earliest ruins point to Roman occupation back in the late 3rd Century under the Roman-Britannic Emperor Allectus and it most recently formed a similar role in providing command and observation posts during World War II. Pevensey became neglected during Tudor times and as explained above, although used briefly once again as a defence during WWII, has remained unoccupied and ostensibly ruinous since the 16th Century.
The outer walls are oval in shape and enclose a ten-acre site, making it one of the largest surviving Roman forts in Britain. Although today it sits 1000 metres inland, it was originally located overlooking the water. William the Conqueror built temporary defences at Pevensey, which were later developed into a more substantial medieval castle, much of which has survived, creating a rich vein of archaeology. Today, Pevensey stands as a Scheduled Ancient Monument and is managed by English Heritage. The boundary walls are readily open to the public, with the Inner Bailey containing a visitor’s centre; allowing the story of all previous inhabitants to be retold.
Vegetation had taken a stronghold around the ruin and in places deep root systems penetrated the masonry threatening to cause irreversible damage. Our team needed to cautiously remove this taking care not to destabilise the surrounding material. This project required a tentative approach to repair using injection grouting, lime mortar consolidation and localised re-bedding and repointing of the stone.
As with all ancient monuments, inevitably repairs have been completed over the centuries, with some attempts at restoration being rather more zealous than others. The Office of Works completed a number of capping repairs during the 1920’s, these were undertaken with very strong cementicious mortar – which we now know to be inappropriate. Many of these interventions are still in place and as can be expected, they remain solid, showing little or no sign of deterioration. They are however responsible for the exacerbated breakdown of adjacent material, bound by softer lime mortars, and so where it is possible to remove these without widescale dismantle, they are being replaced. Where stable however, the capping is being retained as current removal processes would be too invasive and in turn damaging.
The first phase of works rain between spring 2018 and Summer 2019 focusing on the Roman boundary walls and the external walls to the Medieval Bailey. Phase II looks at addressing the internal Bailey walls and the large 20th Century pill box defences which were added during the 1940’s. Works are currently in abeyance until the warmer weather returns in the Spring and will complete at the end of the summer in 2020.
To read an account of an overview to works in the form of the English Heritage design guide we helped compile, please click here