5. Seaside Piers and Disapproving Saints
After the gorgeous country environs of Battle we wanted a sea breeze again and made our way back to the coast. We arrived in the seaside town of Eastbourne. Developed around 1859 at the direction of the Duke of Devonshire (he'll play a part later in our journey as well), Eastbourne is a Victorian era resort town with it's roots in the Anglo Saxon period. Originally called Burne, which means "stream", the town is connected to our 1066 journey by way of ownership by William the Conqueror's half brother, Robert, Count of Mortain. It was four villages or hamlets until the mid-19th century when William Cavendish, the aforementioned Duke of Devonshire came in with a plan for a resort to be built "for gentleman by gentleman". Thus, it's heyday began.
We made our way to the waterfront which was chock-a-block with hotels, people and coaches. The thing about England (and probably most of Europe) is it's not car friendly. Obviously the towns and roads were built well before the car, so not only are the roads narrow and unnecessarily windy, but parking is a nightmare. Most hotels don't have parking available on site so for us it became a game of: pick a hotel closest to a car park, oh and within our budget. Seeing as we were on the cusp of busy season we were still able to get our hotels the day of stay, but prices were starting to go up which meant we needed to do research before waltzing into a hotel lobby with our bags in tow. We parked our car at the most central car park we could find (with good reviews about security!) and set out on the promenade to find accommodation.
As I mentioned, Eastbourne has a treasure trove of hotel options right on the seafront. Of course I will always gravitate towards the Victorian baronial ones, preferably with Queen in their names but the aforestated budget was precluding these from the list. We settled on Shore View Hotel. It was nothing fancy, but it was clean and had a view. Now that we had secured a hotel for the night it was time to walk back to the car park to get our luggage. Again, this is where the lack of parking situation becomes a bit of a farce. The car park was a little under half a mile from the hotel which meant we were wheeling our suitcases through the crowds on the sidewalk, dodging venders and barely clothed beach goers. Lot's of "excuse me.", "pardon me.", "on your right.", kind of things going on all the while the wheels of our suitcases were noisily bumping along, ocassionally thumping our ankles. Half a mile isn't a long distance but it sure feels like it when you are limping on a broken toe with an unruly suitcase bouncing around behind you.
To be honest we weren't in Eastbourne very long- just long enough to eat dinner, sleep, have breakfast and go. What Eastbourne did start for us was our Wetherspoon's grand tour. Wetherspoon's is a chain of pubs- they're everywhere, much like Starbucks in the US. They're cleverly decorated using themes drawn from the former life of the building or surrounding area. I don't know what the reputation of the chain is in England, but we found them to be really nice and very inexpensive, attracting all sorts of people. We ended up, kind of by accident but eventually on purpose going to a Wetherspoons for breakfast (and sometimes dinner) almost daily.
Next stop for us and the true reason we headed back down the coast was Brighton. This seaside town has roots all the way back to the Neolithic period and has always been an important fishing port, attracting people to settle there. It's struggled throughout history with foreign attacks, devastating storms and a declining fishing industry. In 1708 the surrounding parishes in Sussex were charged rates to help alleviate the poverty in Brighton, but by 1730 it was starting to gain momentum as a resort town where people would "take the cure". In the 18th century there emerged a fad for drinking and bathing in seawater as a way to cure illness. Spas and indoor baths started to pop up around now this time as well making Brighton a wellness destination. The Prince Regent at this time (later George IV) began to patronize the town, building the Royal Pavillion, encouraging the fashionable elite to start visiting the town. Brighton's temperate climate attracted many as well. Described as "mild, calm weather with high levels of sunshine, sea breezes, and a "healthy, bracing air".
We were lucky to find ourselves there on one of those temperate days. It was clear, hot, and pleasant. We headed straight for the seafront and the Palace Pier. Brighton is famous for its piers. There were two piers in Brighton, the Brighton Marine Palace and Pier (known as the Palace Pier) and the West Pier. The West Pier, built in 1866 was closed in 1975 and is now abandoned after 2 fires in 2003 left it a charred skeleton. The Palace Pier however is vibrant and still very much in use! Opened to the public in 1899, it's had various entertainment incarnations but currently houses an amusement park and arcade. Not gonna lie, we made a beeline for the arcade. Of course it was filled with tweens and we were by far the oldest people there, but did we care? Uh, no. We messed around with a couple arcade games but were feeling miserly and frankly I wanted to save my coins for parking. How very adult of me.
We left the pier and there was only one thing left to do- eat ice cream, I mean walk The Lanes...no, actually I mean eat ice cream. Well hell, eat ice cream AND walk The Lanes. We paid entirely too much for our first "99's" of the trip. (For US readers a 99 is a soft serve vanilla ice cream on a cone with a slender chocolate bar stuck in it). We happily took our cones and walked back to the shopping area known as The Lanes. Here's where I made some rookie blogger mistakes (that I should know better not to do!!!) I didn't take a single photo of The Lanes. I do actually know the reason why, and it's as simple as this: I was living in the moment and honesty never thought to take a photo. I was so fascinated by the narrow, winding alleyways and the storefronts that opened up on them. Jewelry store upon jewelry store crammed into some real tiny spaces- I did some serious window shopping. (Do yourself a favor, since I didn't do my blogger job- search the hashtag #thelanesbrighton on Instagram to see pics of this cute area).
As we were leaving Brighton we drove through the modern shopping area, in my head I was screaming, "Stop the car!!"- I was just itching to get into those brightly lit stores full of shoes and clothes. Lucky for Daniel there wasn't a parking space in sight so I had to just watch those stores pass by. I think we saved a lot of money that day!
Our next stop put us back into Norman territory. The Cathedral at Chichester was founded in 1075 during the reign of William the Conqueror, and built to replace a much earlier cathedral founded in 681. During the 13th century a man by the name of Richard de la Wyche, became Bishop of Chichester after turning his back on a profitable family estate and an advantageous marriage. He was more interested in study and a priestly life. When he was elected bishop in 1244, the King of that time Henry III disagreed with the cannons choice and refused to give Richard the property and revenues of the See. Richard appealed to the Pope and was confirmed in Lyons by Pope Innocent IV. Despite the fact that the Pope agreed with Richard's election, Henry III still refused to recognize Richard as Bishop. Poor Richard was forced for years to live off the kindness and charity of those who were brave enough to defy the King and feed and house him. Eventually in 1247 fearing excommunication by the Pope, King Henry relented and Richard was able to take possession of his cathedral. He proved to be a well loved bishop who during the years he was forced to move from house to house would visit his entire diocese on foot. He dedicated himself to reforming the manners and morals of the clergy and to restoring order and reverence into church services. Only 8 years after finally gaining possession of the cathedral at Chichester he died of natural causes at the age of 56. Richard was canonized as a Saint 9 years after his death and a shrine was erected at the cathedral. This shrine no longer exists because in 1538 Henry VIII order the destruction of all Shrines. In 1984 a modern shrine was erected.
We arrived in Chicester and immediately went in search of food. Low and behold a Wetherspoons pub was right there in front of us. I kid you not, this one wasn't planned. Right across from the Cathedral is the Dolphin and Anchor where we were serenaded by a tired, screaming child our whole lunch. I have never eaten so fast in all of my life- I even sacrificed a few French fries just to get the heck out of there quicker. I think my ears are still ringing from the sounds of her screams.
I mentioned St. Richard for two reasons. One: he is an important figure in the history of the church but also that region of England, and Two: there is a large, imposing statue of him as you walk up to the cathedral. After reading about his life and disposition I feel that this statue really does the man a disservice. To me the bronze statue makes him look stern and judgmental of those who pass below him. Contemporary accounts describe him as energetic, kind, cheerful and modest- this statue says none of those things to me. In fact when we walked past it, before I knew anything about St. Richard, I remarked to Daniel about how judge-y that Saint was. I felt like he was condemning you instead of offering you benediction as you passed below. Poor Richard, he deserves a much kinder face.
We arrived at the cathedral just before a concert was due to start. They allowed us to come in but our time was limited to just 30 minutes. We were not able to walk back to the modern shrine to St. Richard because of the set up for the concert but we were able to explore the two aisle and side chapels. I was immediately drawn to a medieval tomb and made a beeline for it. I have such a fascination with tombs with recumbent figures on them. It's like a connection to the person buried there- I love to look at their likeness, it's the closest we'll get to a medieval photograph. This particular tomb had personal meaning as well. For the effigy on this tomb is my 20x's Great Aunt.
The Arundel Tomb features the recumbent figures of Richard Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel, and his second wife, Eleanor of Lancaster (My great-aunt, her sister Joan was my 20th Great Grandmother). Richard's first marriage was by arrangement at the age of 7, his bride Isabel (also a distant ancestor of mine! Those Plantagenets sure got around!!) was just 8 years old herself. This marriage was annulled 23 years later on the grounds that it had been a forced marriage. By the next year Richard was married to Eleanor. They had 7 children together and seemed to live a happy life. Eleanor died first in 1372 and was followed in death by her husband 4 years later. Richard's will requested he be buried near his wife and that his tomb be no higher than hers. It looks as though her original tomb and his were merged together to make the one we see today. The stand out feature of this tomb is their clasped hands. For years this was thought to not be original to the medieval tomb, but a 19th century alteration when restoration work was undertaken by Edward Richardson. It was believed that he got a bit fanciful and added this romantic gesture to the two figures, although now recent research indicates that this may have indeed been the figures original poses. I choose to believe this little addition is in fact a faithful reproduction as the couple is known to have shown real affection and appeared to have been in love, starting out their relationship by choice before Richard was granted his annulment. Another stunning feature of the effigies is Eleanor's slightly turned body towards her husband Richard. This is an incredibly rare pose for effigies and if my research is correct this is the only medieval tomb where the wife is posed in such a way.
Not far from the Arundel Tomb is the tomb of Joan de Vere. Her tomb has a little damage to the face and seeing as she died in 1293 and her tomb has been moved at least once I'd say it's doing quite well for something that's 725 years old. Again I'm drawn to tombs with effigies on them, feeling as though I get a little connection to the person it's meant to represent.
The other feature that I love about Chichester Cathedral is just as you enter (or leave in our case) is a little surprise. Blink and you'll miss it, but Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip are watching over you. The gargoyles of their Royal Majesties look down from either side of the doorway. I haven't been able to find a history of these gargoyles, so I don't know when they were placed there- although it must not have been too long ago, as the faces are a bit aged and don't represent a young queen and her husband. So, if you go to Chichester Cathedral, don't forget to look up as you enter and tip your hat to HRH.
Chichester was lovely and although we wanted to stay and explore it a bit more we needed to hit the road to get to our final destination of the day, the glorious cathedral city of Salisbury. But first, a pit stop in Winchester for a much needed bathroom break. I only mention this because the public toilet in the Abbey Gardens in the Winchester city center right next to the statue of Alfred the Great was amazing. I couldn't believe my ears as I sat to do my thing- they were piping the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy from the Nutcracker into the bathroom. How sophisticated is that? I've never experienced that in a public restroom before. I must say it was quite a pleasant experience and right then I knew Winchester was a classy place. We'll be back to Winchester for sure, as we didn't get a chance to explore- there is a gorgeous cathedral there, a ruined castle and an old mill among other things. It was on our original itinerary but our plans changed and it was struck off the list. Looking back I wish we'd have stayed there the rest of that day and made adjustments to the following days to fit it back in. But another cathedral city awaited us with it's own mini drama and maybe a conspiracy or two?