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Letters-to-the-Editor111-1

Dear Mr Montgomery and Dianne Dear,

Further to your kind help of last year, I have pleasure in informing you that the novella in question: This Saxon Shore, which features a fictitious young lady graduate and a Professor of history from UCL and a young doctor in Pevensey in 1900, has just come on sale on Kindle/Amazon at a very low starting price. I do believe you can download the electronic version free for a limited time.

https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/bookshelf (select This Saxon Shore or The Limit or Henry Daniels)

I would like to thank you again for your help, without which the novella would have been a worse one.

Should you decide to read it, any comments you would care to make, will be welcome, particularly as I am planning further stories featuring the same three characters.

I hope you are not suffering from the heat as we are in France, and I wish you a pleasant summer.

Kind regards,
Henry Daniels


background correspondence
Dear Sir or Madam,

I wonder if you can help me? I am in process of writing a short story set in Pevensey in October 1900, which involves, inter alia, people travelling from London to Pevensey.

I have discovered that the railway station was not built until 1905, so I need to know how one would do this journey in 1900. I imagine one would take the train from London to Eastbourne and then what? Was there any public transport? If not, would a pony and trap be the only way to do the 25-mile journey? Do you happen to know if there were carriers who took passengers to and fro regularly along this route?

Any information you can supply me with will be most gratefully received. In the event of your not being able to come up with any answers, may I ask you to pass on my enquiry to members of local history groups or the like?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours faithfully,
Henry Daniels
Emeritus Prof of Linguistics,
Université de Bourgogne,
France

Information provided by Pevensey Timeline Association volunteers for novella This Saxon Shore, by Henry Daniels

Railways in Sussex
Pevensey Bay Halt
Pevensey and Westham Station
Interest in day trips
Horse and cart
Population growth
Conclusion

Railways in Sussex
Then railways arrived in Sussex in the 1840s, so by the turn of the century they were very well established and thriving.

The story of Pevensey station is much more complex.

Pevensey Bay Halt
What is now called Pevensey Bay Halt as a station dates back to Novemberr 1865.

The largest Finback Whale ever beached was in the Pevensey Havm in November 1865. The skeleton is about to become the star attraction in the new Cambridge Museum of Zoology in the summer of 2016 with a £19.8 million new museum.

At the time the train halted at what was just a line to let people jump down to visit the beached whale. Estimates of the number of people alighting from the train, coming by cart, walking and by other means vary. Perhaps as may as 20,000 people came to see the Whale. (the ad hoc stop was the closest point to the beach).

At the time the railways were all private and companies were competing over an extraordinary new market, people from London could pay for the first time and see themselves at the seaside. Coming to see the whale in 1865 on the train must have been something like a science fiction experience for people. The railways had only been operative for something like seven tears on this part of the line.

In London, the private rail company saw an opportunity to make a killing in sales of tickets to see the whale. They even went as far as coining a new name for the area. On the posters they called the area “Norman’s Bay”, in spite of the fact that there is no evidence of any description that the Normans landed in Pevensey. The safe money now says Bulverhythe 6 miles away.

There has been a stop at the Pevensey Halt since 1865, because of the story of the whale. But that is about where the story of the halt ends. Only three trains a day stop there now. Likely not to have have been different in 1900.

The naming of the station, as you suggest, was 1905. But this was a renaming. There had been an ad hoc stop there since November 1865 when the railway company laid sleepers to make a kind of station.

This station would not have been the one that people utilised to visit Pevensey. It is way out of the village and a good half hour walk into Pevensey Bay and then another good half hour walk into Pevensey, around the long corner.

Pevensey and Westham Station
The station that they would have utilised is Pevensey and Westham which is sat inside Westham, the small village next to Pevensey. They would have walked around the corner into Westham High Street, about five minutes, carried on walking round the castle walls and into Pevensey High Street, total walk 10 minutes.

What kind of people would have been on the trains in 1900?

Interest in day trips
Pevensey was still well established as a visitor destination at the time, in fact there is evidence that the notion of ‘seaside trips’ was growing in interest.

We are before the First World War, we are after the economic depressions of the 1880s, evidence of some description that we have a late pre-Edwardian boom about to happen around i1900. In Pevensey the only hotel (ornate, quasi gothic with a little fluff of architectural icing and nod to the Brighton Pavilion is built her in the Bay in 1899). Business visitors, commercial travellers, holiday makers beginning to happen of some description.

Evidence not just of visits to Pevensey Bay but stays. Big classy development, almost a kind of hotel complex on the corner of the main road in the Bay. Biggest building around. Think Hilton of the era.

People on the trains would have been from all classes piling out from Eastbourne, there were 3 classes on trains at the time in this country. So side by side in carriages would have been gentlemen, ladies with hampers moving down to commercial travellers, the emerged business or middle classes, through to workers on a high day our holiday.

People really piling off the trains at Pevensey and Westham, as many perhaps as 200 a day? Perhaps more.

Station built 1851, that is where people arrived to visit Pevensey.

Was this the only basis on which people could visit Pevensey or Pevensey Bay?

Horse and cart
By no means. There is evidence of horse and cart trips into the Bay from as early as 1812. There is a fifth generation taxi driver in Eastbourne who will tell you the story.

One of most common firms of transport form Eastbourne to Pevensey would have been horse and cart, day trip style visits, Six miles. Cheap and cheerful, well established route and arrangement. Perhaps even in 1900 still a common mode of transport. Quaint but part of the day tripper experience in 1900.

We are talking about 6 miles. Of course a common form of transport by people in 1900 would have been walking. It cost nothing. It can be done in just under an hour.

Populations
In 1700 more people live in Pevensey than Eastbourne. Charter going back 7 years before Magna Carta. Reason? the 2,000 year old castle. Town Trust right up to 1880, a court, a gao., a cinque port dating back to 13th century. What happened? The harbour here silted up. The area rapidly declined, leaving the castle. Pevensey Bay emerges from the silt about 1750.

Eastbourne grows and grows. Then bingo, wind the clock forward to 1850. The railways arrive. Growth in population in Brighton 20,000 in forty years. In Eastbourne something similar. By 1900, Eastbourne booming, little Pevensey, Pevensey Bay trying to recast their fortunes with the new hotel advertising trips for people.

Conclusion
You are right. London to Eastbourne on train is easy, about 1 hour 20 minutes, about the same in 1900. From Eastbourne not 22 miles, only six, maybe seven miles to Pevensey, and all easily done by train, almost certainly with what we would now call ‘connections’.

So how did the person in your story arrive in Pevensey from Eastbourne?

We reckon they got off the London train, looked at the board at Eastbourne station, saw at least eight trains a day to Pevensey (maybe more), cheap, bought a ticket and got into one of the three classes of carriage. When they got to Pevensey and Westham station after the train had built up a bit of steam (about eight minutes from station to station), they tipped their hat to the stationmaster amongst a bustling group of about twenty people getting off the train if they were a business or a commercial traveller, or if they were a scullery maid, in their finery they alighted gently, either way, the person walked from the station, turned right into Westham High Street, right next door to Pevensey and found themselves within 5 minutes looking at the walls of Pevensey castle. Wallking round the corner guided by the walls, they walked straight into Pevensey High Street.

I hope the information has been of use.

You are welcome. Good luck with the story.