The Battle of Hastings on October 14, 1066, occurred just a few kilometres from the Saxon village of Herste, would be site of Herstmonceux Castle, and changed the course of world history.
The History of Herstmonceux Castle
The first written evidence of the existence of the Herste settlement appears in William the Conqueror’s Domesday Book which reports that one of William’s closest supporters granted tenancy of the manor at Herste to a man named ‘Wilbert’.
By the end of the 12th Century, the family at the manor house at Herste had considerable status. Written accounts mention a lady called Idonea de Herste, who married a Norman nobleman named Ingelram de Monceux. Around this time, the manor began to be called the “Herste of the Monceux”, a name that eventually became Herstmonceux (pronounced Herst-mon-soo).
A descendant of the Monceuxs, Roger Fiennes, was ultimately responsible for the construction of Herstmonceux Castlein the County of Sussex. Sir Roger was appointed Treasurer of the Household of Henry VI, and needed a house fitting a man of his position, so construction of a castle on the site of the old manor house began in 1441. Today, Herstmonceux Castle is the oldest brick building of any note still standing in England.
The castle was built of brick, a highly unusual material for the time in Britain, and the builders of Herstmonceux Castleconcentrated more on grandeur and comfort than on defence to produce a truly magnificent estate. The property passed through the hands of a number of private owners until it was sold in 1946 to the British Admiralty, who converted it into the new home of the Royal Greenwich Observatory. The site subsequently served as an important scientific institution for over 40 years. The Estate still provides housing for the Newton Telescope and the Equatorial Telescope Buildings, which have been converted to an interactive science center for schoolchildren.
The Ghosts of Herstmonceux Castle
Herstmonceux Castle is reputedly haunted by several ghosts. A giant nine foot tall drummer, who walks the battlements beating his drum. A white lady, a grey lady and even a lady on a donkey are all said to haunt this castle..
The drummer may be associated with the story of a Lord Dacre who would constantly beat his drum to drive would be suitors from his much younger wife. Eventually she decided to lock him a small room and left him there to starve, though the ghostly beating of his drum may still be heard. Another person to starve in the castle is a young who supposedly wanders the corridors.
In the grounds a distressed white lady haunts. Allegedly she had fallen foul of Sir Roger Fiennes (veteran of Agincourt) who abused her then murdered her.