Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Postcards from Brighton

This is how our days go: we spend the morning in our 'loungewear' reading in the front room. At some point we realize it's too late to go out before lunch, so we eat lunch at home and then we go out. We have been to The Pavilion to see an exhibition of Regency Costume called 'Dressing To Excess'. It was small but good.

Another day we went to the Brighton Museum, which is in the former stables of The Pavilion. There was a terrific exhibition about Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant's work, as well as more costumes and various other stuff. We are hoping to get to Charleston, the summer home of the Bells and the Bloomsbury Group now run as a museum.

We've taken quite a few walks along the seafront. We walked to Rottingdean again, along the cliff tops this time, and then inland to see the pretty little historic center of the town. Rottingdean was a big site for smuggling during the years when luxury good were being smuggled in from the Continent. I'm curious about this, but don't know much else about it.

Yesterday afternoon we went to Lewes. The COG did 6 months in a practice there when he was training. The practice was in Castle Lodge, which is built within what was grounds of Lewes Castle - immediately to the right just out of view in the picture. At that time the castle wasn't opened to the public, but it is now. so we visited it.

It was really very interesting and a good 'beginner' castle. Lots of stuff for kids to do, but also it's got an interesting history. The land was granted to one of William's earls a man named de Warenne, right after the conquest in 1066. De Warenne became one of the richest and most powerful men in the world at that time. He was worth nearly 100 billion pounds in today's money. He began the castle immediately after the Norman Invasion and he and then his descendants expanded several times within the next couple of hundred years. It was one of the few castles not ruined by Cromwell's men, so although it's not intact completely, it is a bit better than most.

At first there de Warenne built a motte with a wooden bailey and stockade but this was soon replaced by stone keep and walls. Very unusually, there were two mottes, the first wooden one which was later fortified and a second one built in stone within a very few years of the first. The mottes are two hills with buildings on them both of them enclosed in one large wall. The part that's open today is the higher of the two hills and the only one with castle left on it. You can see the other motte - it's an odd flat hilltop, but it's not open to the public. The views of the countryside from the top of the existing castle are fantastic.

The castle saw real action, unlike most castles. In the Spring of 1264, Simon de Montfort, the father of the English Parliament, defeated Henry III at the Battle of Lewes on the weald just below the castle. Henry, who held the castle, surrendered to de Montfort in May or June of 1264. Then, the following January, de Montfort called the first parliament, which included not just nobles but also representatives of every shire and town.

De Montfort was killed in another battle, the Battle of Evesham, in which King Henry III regained his power a few months after this first parliament.

One of de Montfort's captains - I've forgotten his name - fought on as a rebel in Sherwood forest for some years until his capture. He is thought by some to be the origin of the Robin Hood story.

We also walked around Lewes, which is a lovely town, and visited the misleadingly named Anne of Cleves House Museum. Anne of Cleves got the house as part of her divorce settlement, but probably never visited it. It's a 15th century yeoman's house - a MacMansion at the time it was built. It's just a lovely old house, not that large by today's standards but full of interesting construction details.

So that's it for now. We are having a laid back and pleasant time. Today, we are going to walk downtown to go to the Farmer's Market in the city center. And then walk home. Exciting.

1 comment:

David Briggs said...

According to Wikipedia, the name of Simon de Montfort's Captain who fought on in Sherwood Forest was Roger Godberd. It goes on to say that his story is one possible progenitor of the Robin Hood story, which has the ring of truth to me because of some facts within the Robin Hood story (to be exact, a man fighting the king in favor of another king.)