Pevensey Courthouse and Museum

Inspired by my friend Rosie’s thrilling account of her trip to this tiny but perfectly formed local museum at the Museums Showoff last Thursday, I decided to follow in her footsteps and see if her incredible tales were true…

It’s surprising that such a small building could function as a working Court House and gaol for that is what it was “back in the day.” Built in 1541, the only change made to the Court House was the raising of the ceiling, everything else remains the same. Well, more or less, there are only two accessible cells; the others are beneath the adjacent Beadle’s house.

As soon as we arrived, we were greeted by a volunteer whose enthusiasm was only surpassed by his knowledge of the museum. He was quick to stress the past importance of Pevensey, which again made you think “but it’s so small!” Once he had given  us a brief tour through the history of the town, we went about exploring.

For such a small space, there was a surprising amount of information on display. Quite literally every inch of wall space was covered by interesting local facts. The effect was quite dizzying. “Where do we even begin?” I wondered, before settling on the natural history display (it’s been ages since I saw a Dinosaur in a museum)

 

Meet Master Dobbs…

One of the more fascinating stories in the museum is the story of Master Dobbs; a local variation on the Helpful Faerie Folk found in all the best traditional fairytales – usually doing some housework or shoe cobbling or similar activity. Although they could generally be relied upon, they could be spiteful when given an insulting reward.

And what kind of reward would incur Dobb’s wrath? If you want to keep him on side, give him food or milk. A gift of clothes, maybe a pair of socks, would NOT go down well.

The inspiration for Dobby the House Elf?

Perhaps a certain Ms. Rowling paid a visit to the museum when she was writing her world-famous story of the Boy Who Lived?

The Gaol

Although the goal hasn’t been in use for an age (I forget the exact date) there was is a colourful story of when they were last used.

It was during the Second World War, German planes would hum menacingly overhead while anti-aircraft guns would do their best to shoot down the enemy. On one occasion, they succeeded. The townsfolk rushed to the crash site armed with pitchforks and other impressive looking farm tools. Upon inspecting the wreckage, they found one German alive and promptly marched him to the town’s goal.

Here is the tiny cell he stayed in…amusingly he was very relieved when the army came to relocate him…

 

The museum also had some stocks so could get a feel for the fate of past ne’er-do-wells. It’s more uncomfortable than it looks.

The Adventurer in the stocks

Pevensey Courthouse and Museum is proof that you don’t need to be a massive museum to have a massive impact on your visitors. If you fancy popping along, the place is open Easter weekend, then daily from 1st May to 30th September and admission is the bargain-tastic fee of £1.50 for grown ups.

 

 

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