Battle & Hastings – Birthday weekend on the coast
April was a very festive month for me. I celebrated my birthday, there was Easter and it was the Dutch King’s Day. It’s always a bit hard to have your birthday when your family is living in a different country. I was therefore extremely grateful that my parents and grandparents came over to England during the Easter weekend to celebrate with me.
Battle of Hastings
We spent the weekend on the South Coast, near Hastings. As is expected from a good expat, I learned a little bit about the history of this area. ‘The Battle of Hastings’ is a historic event that is taught to children here from a very young age, but I never learned about it in the Netherlands.
I learned that the Battle of Hastings took place between the Norman-French army and an English army under Anglo-Saxon King Harold Godwinson on 14 October 1066. The fighting grounds would have been about 7 miles (11 kilometers) from Hastings, near the town of Battle. It all started when King Edward the Confessor passed away and multiple candidates were attempting to concur the thrown. Eventually Harold became king, but invasions followed. Including that of the Norman-French army led by William, the Duke of Normandy, who was eager to take the thrown. The battle lasted from 9am to dusk, and the Norman-French army successfully killed Harold after which Harold’s army retreated quickly. William was crowned as king on Christmas Day in that same year. History buffs, please do correct me if I’ve got any of the facts wrong!
So far a bit of background on the Battle of Hastings. Our weekend in Hastings of course couldn’t go past without having visited the famous grounds. The most famous landmark in the town of Battle is that of Battle Abbey. This is a monastery, founded by William on the grounds of the battle. Word goes that the high altar of the abbey church is located exactly on the spot where Harold died.
What I personally believe is absolutely fantastic about the English is their extreme pride for traditions and history. Just walking around in Battle alone made me feel like having stepped back in time. Not only the abbey, but also the historic Wealden Hall house The Pilgrims Rest, and the old-timbered buildings for example are part of the whole setting.
It very much feels like walking around in an open-air museum.
Speaking of going back in time. I fell absolutely in love with Hastings Old Town. So different from the city center of Hasting with its standard shopping streets, beach fun fairs and the like. Old Town Hastings is just another piece of open-air museum that dates from a later time than Battle were my immediate thoughts.
To start with, The Stade on the seafront, is a lush fishermen area that’s still in use. Looking up to my right I noticed one of the funiculars that takes people up the clifftop hills. On my left were a few fishermen boats, the Fisherman Museum and a fish market.
Walking further down The Stade towards the center of Hastings Old Town we first came across some more half-timbered houses like so many in England. I can’t get enough of them though!
Old Town is simply a picture-perfect place. Artistic galleries, artisan food places, and antique stores are all scattered around the little area between the hills.
When we passed by Ye Olde Pumphouse I couldn’t help but giggle, as loud sounds from Duran Duran’s Hungry Like the Wolf came out of this grade 2 listed building. However, even though this pub seems to be built in the Tudor era, it’s actually a fake and was constructed post war. Oh well, who cares. It’s a nice building to look at!
Of course we couldn’t leave Hastings without having visited the famous pier. Pleasure piers seem to be a real thing here in England: practically every coastal town has one. Providing that they aren’t destroyed like Hastings pier was during a storm in 1990, and yet again by fire in 2010. Hastings Pier reopened in 2016 and is now home to a restaurant, and several stalls with food and souvenirs. If there are any fans of Foyle’s War reading this post, you must recognise this construction from that series I was told.
Hastings is easy to reach from London via London Victoria Station. Journey time is approximately two hours. By car, the journey takes a similar amount of time, but can be affected by traffic. Battle can be reached by train from London Charing Cross Station in about 2,5 hours (2 changes).