November 2017


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

pevensey whale tote bag

National Pevensey Whale merchandise is to go on sale in Pevensey Bay before being made available more widely.—Bay Life, 27 May 2017

Residents in Pevensey Bay will have the opportunity to buy licenced Pevensey Whale merchandise first in the next few weeks, before they go on sale to a national audience.

The story of the Pevnsey Whale is about to gain national status as the Museum of Zoology in Cambridge opens to the country, with the 71ft skeleton of the Pevensey Whale going on display, suspended over two floors in an architect designed annexe.

Here in Pevensey Bay with the launch of the new museum in Cambridge, which will draw visitors from across the county, there is a small launch of products in the place where the story of the Pevensey Whale began.

On 13 November 1865 at around 8:00pm, a coastguard spotted the gigantic whale, which was later beached. The whale was visited by upwards of 20,000 people, becoming a national story. Many of the people coming to see the whale arrived by train. The railway in the locality had only been in existence for seven years.

To many of the people coming by train, jumping down from the carriages at the place closest to the whale on the beach in a hastily prepared halt, it must have seemed like science fiction. Not only for many of these people must it have been their first day trip on a train, no doubt for all of them it must have been the first time they had seen a gigantic whale washed ashore.

The Pevensey Timeline Association has commissioned a web development team to profile the story of the Pevensey Whale with a new web platform that will launch this autumn.

The web platform will tell the story of the Pevensey Whale, provide a sales point for merchandise and include some research undertaken by volunteers working with the association.

The research includes details of what is believed to be a skipping rhyme discovered from a letter sent to the local press by a retired colonel in 1932, in which he recalled in his childhood, hearing the rhyme sung about the beached whale by children in Sussex playgrounds at the time.

The rhyme has been featured on BBC South East with the children of Pevensey and Westham CE School reciting the two couplets. The fact that the rhyme is in two couplets identifies the lines, almost certainly, as a skipping rhyme.These traditions can be traced back to at last the 17th century.

Big events at the time passed virally between children in playgrounds the form of songs and skipping rhymes in much the same way that social media works now. Proof that there is nothing new under the sun. Some of these rhymes, even appeared contemporaneously. The most notorious rhyme of this type began circulating during the 1892 murder trial of Lizzie Borden;

Lizzie Borden took an axe
She gave her mother forty whacks,
After she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.
Lizzie Borden got away,
For her crime she did not pay.

At the time of the flu epidemic which began in January 1918 there was another skipping rhyme;

I had a little bird,
And its name was Enza.
I opened the window
And in-flew-enza.

These skipping rhymes took the form of news broadcast headlines, moving from playground to playground. The possibility that the rhyme re-discovered about the Pevensey Whale was sung contemporaneously in the playgrounds of the schools of Sussex in November 1865 is a tantalising possibility. The couplets now rhyme through history. The re-discovery of the rhyme puts the story of the Pevensey Whale back in the national handbook of children’s folklore.

I went to Pevensey for to see the whale
And when I got there I could only see his tale
His tale was so long and the smell so strong
it made people sick to stay there long

Here where the story began, the launch of Pevensey Whale merchandised begins on Monday 5 June.

The first offering of merchandise is the Pevensey Whale tote bag, created by mixed media artist Caroline Hack, based in Norfolk.

Caroline works in a range of media to make predominantly object based imagery. Most of her work is inspired by Moby Dick and British Arctic Whaling, and informed by her travel and research.

She has travelled for research and inspiration to a wide range of whaling and whale related sites in the UK, Europe and North America. As part of these travels she has developed a range of products that are for sale.

Her work has included visits to European Arctic locations, UK and European whale and whaling related sites to collect source material.

Her trip to the high Arctic in 2012 inspired a series of prints of the stunning rock and ice landscapes in Spitsbergen.

Visits to whaling heritage sites in the Faeroes, Norway, Iceland and the White Sea in 2013 led to work incorporating imagery of parts of whale skeletons. This was partly in response to her participation in Moby Dick on the Mersey, a marathon reading of that book, where she read aloud the chapter on the measurement of the whale skeleton amongst others.

A voyage to Greenland in 2014 inspired a range of pieces incorporating imagery of whaling ships among the icebergs.

She recently completed an Arts Council Funded Artist In Residency at Burton Constable Hall near Hull where she produced an exhibition of work inspired by both their iconic Sperm whale skeleton mentioned in Moby Dick and items in the Hall itself.

Dianne Dear, chair of the Pevensey Timeline Association said, ‘we are inspired, privileged and so excited to be joined by someone of the calibre of Caroline Hack, with her reputation for her work with print and textile work with the history of British Whaling.

“In terms of developing our product line to tell the story of the Pevensey Whale, I can not imagine a better person anywhere to help us in the endeavour to tell the story of the Pevensey Whale creatively to residents and visitors to Pevensey Bay”.

Caroline Hack commented on hearing about her commission with the Pevensey Timeline Association, “I’m really excited to be a part of this project.

“I visited Bexhill Museum earlier in the year and their collection and records have been an invaluable starting point.

“I’m developing the Peveney Whale ident by looking at the coastline and maps of the time the whale washed up and using elements of those in my design. I’m also enjoying the challenge of producing an appealing but simple fin whale drawing.”

The tote bag, which traces the coastline from the time, as part of the commissioned ident, features an original drawing of the Pevensey Whale created by Caroline Hack. The tote bag is to go on sale exclusively to residents and visitors on Monday 5 June at the 1066 store in Pevensey Bay.

A spokesman for the Timeline Assocation said, “we are deliberately making the tote bag exclusively available only to residents and visitors initially here in Pevensey Bay because it is where the story of the Peveney Whale began”

The tote bag is expected to become a collectors items and is to retail at £6:45. The bag will continue to be available only locally in the 1066 store in Pevensey Bay throughout June and July.

Suresh Neesarajah who runs the 1066 store told Bay Life “we are delighted to have been chosen exclusively to sell the tote bag in June and July here in Pevensey Bay and look forward to being part of the launch of the national sale of Pevensey Whale merchandise with this first product”.

“We would like to thank the Pevensey Timeline Association for choosing us as the exclusive location to purchase the tote bag.”

Pre-orders are now available from the 1066 store.

The Pevensey Timeline Association told Bay Life “this is our story, the story of the Pevensey Whale and the launch of the museum, whilst a national story, is something that is so special and specific to Pevensey Bay that we believe by making this first product available only to the residents and visitors to Pevensey Bay initially, that we will be putting the first stirrings of the Pevensey Whale back on the national map.”

During the story of the beached whale, the name Normans Bay emerged as a location, first promoted, it is believed by a savvy private London train company needing to sell day trips to ‘see the monster whale” with an exact location. The name on the posters Normans Bay stuck. The story may be apocryphal, but nonetheless there appear to be no mentions of a Normans Bay in the British Library archive of local newspapers before this date, so perhaps the story bears scrutiny.

The tote bag is a licenced product by the Pevensey Timeline Association and also bears the name of the mixed media artis , Caroline Hack.

The story of the Pevensey Whale looks set to add another dimension to the visitor profile of Pevensey Bay, feeding from the national attention being drawn by the new museum in Cambridge.

The Pevensey Tmeline Association also plans to reproduce the original report conducted by Royal College Surgeon William Henry Flower at the scene of the beached whale.

New products that will be appearing in the autumn of 2017 in the lead up to the launch of the museum in Cambridge include the Pevensey Whale fisherman’s tin mug and a ruler outlining the length of the whale and including the childrens’ skipping rhyme sung in 1865 about the whale in playgrounds across Sussex.

The Pevensey Timeline Association says that by bringing the story of the Pevensey Whale back to the place where the story began that they are not just helping to put Pevensey Bay on the national history map, but also encouraging local business to see the potential value of what is clearly an extraordinary story to tell and sell locally.

Talking to Bay LIfe a volunteer working with the association said, “It would not surprise me if we see a shop, cafe or some other outlet in the Bay that is named after the Pevensey Whale. it is the kind of profile you see in other small coastal locations to promote specific pieces of history and legend, and it works because visitors love it .

“Perhaps we will be seeing some savvy local entrepreneur picking the story and seeing an opportunity to promote their business somewhere close to the beach where the story began.”