November 2017


LATEST ON THE TIMELINE : From Bridge Farm to Westham, the untold story of Pevensey School

Elvers Under the Bridge

Tales from the Timeline
Peter Roper—Kingdom of Sussex Lost
Val Coppard—From Cattle to Cars, a short history of Pevensey Car Park
Carolyn Little—Crumbles Green Coat Murder
Peter Roper—Fortress Pevensey
Frances Brown—Elvers Under the Bridge


Childhood memories : Timeline graduate Frances Brown begins her journey of discovery one grey May morning under Pevensey Bridge in 1960

Walking to catch the school train at Pevensey Bay Halt on a grey May morning in 1960, I glanced over the low wall at the south east corner of the bridge spanning the River Haven at Bridge End, next to Banks Farm, to see part of the annual migration of elvers.

A seething mass, boiling the water, awaited their chance to pass under the bridge to travel up river. I walked over the bridge daily, watched the tidal waters, and saw the elvers and thought little of the structure beneath me and its age and history. Over fifty years later, I had the chance to add the first of my childhood memories to the timeline.

Pevensey Bridge lies at east end of the east-west High Street and is grade II listed building.

There is no evidence of a bridge at Pevensey in the first part of the thirteenth century, as a man on horseback found the obstacle of ”the water of Pevensell” c1230 travelling from Pevensey to Bexhill.

It appears that the Pevensey Levels were increasingly drained and that the need for a bridge became more pressing.

From around the year 1300, burgesses of the town petitioned for a bridge. Since the bridge was explicitly referred to in 1326, we can assume that it was built between these dates, although it has also been suggested that the bridge was built slightly earlier, c1292 replacing a ferry (adding to the dating confusion).

There were two main tidal channels draining the Pevensey Levels, the Haven being one of them. Its outfall since the 17th century is 1.5 miles south east of Pevensey Bridge at Pevensey Bay. Before this date, the outfall appears to have repeatedly moved due to longshore drift. The silting of the river became an increasing problem to vessels wanting to reach port.

Some of the stonework dating from 1675 was re-used to face the 2 cutwaters and the flanking portions, and the eastern flank still displays the date.

The south side dates from later. This is of red brick and grey headers in alternate courses and consists of one wide and 2 narrow round-headed arches with the date 1816 on the keystone of the wide arch.

In 1933, Pevensey Bridge was widened on the North side by the body that is now East Sussex County Council. This was in plenty of time for me, as a schoolgirl in 1960, to cross the bridge on that grey May morning to see the annual migration of the elvers.

Research and story : Frances Brown

The National Heritage List for England, English Heritage, November 30th 2011
Historical Character Assessment report March 2008 Sussex (EUS) – Extensive Urban Survey, by Roland B Harris
Image Source, OS MAP, 1875