The Castle, From The North-East Corner
Photographer: Frith, Francis (1822-1898)
Medium: Photographic print
“Now for the castle. If you walk up the hill to save the horse, leaving him at the bottom, you will also save a shilling. Pay your threepence for admission, and sit down under the wall. Little spots of earth, upon which one knows that ‘nobody knows what’ must have happened, are certainly very interesting. You would like to know every particular? Well now, I am not sure that I should. Much of the detail would certainly be very painful and revolting, and could only feed a vicious and morbid love of bloodshed and wrong-doing of every possible sort. We can fancy the kind of people who have thronged this little space. First, perhaps, the Romans, in their sandal-leggings and short-armed battle-shirts, their straight broad swords and round shields hanging about upon the walls. Then Danes – rough, noisy fellows, making those same old walls ring with their drinking songs, not caring much how soon Britons or Normans sit in their places, so long as there are other castles on the coast with fresh stores of food and drink to be fought for and possessed. Then, at no uncertain period, Duke William of Normandy, on the day after his great fight, waiting to see whether he is yet King William of England. A turbulent scene was here on that day, my friend! A hasty out-going, and a wild in-coming!...A young Norman nobleman, sitting precisely where we are, is washing his sword and doublet in a little basin-puddle of blood and water, grinding his teeth at the Saxons. And there are Norman monks not a few, eagerly prowling about for their chances. By-and-by a chapel springs up within the walls. Here comes the ‘dean,’ Thomas-à-Beckett, of the ‘College of St. Mary-in-the-Castle’ (A.D. 1153), and behind him (two centuries) walks William of Wykenham, Bishop, Secretary of State, architect, and scholar. Lastly, still very old-fashioned dandies, come the Earls of Eu, popping over at intervals, longer and longer, from their château in Normandy, until the rain comes in at the chapel roof; and there is no fuel for the beacon fire; and the old, greasy, leather-jerkined warder is too infirm to lock the gates o’nights. Over the south cliff, thundering down 400 feet, goes the castle wall; the Richard, Thomas, and Henry of that day pilfer the stones for their own domestic uses; a band of brigands dodge about its mazy passages, banging their crazy old brass blunderbusses at King Harry’s troopers; crash goes another wall! ivy creeps up and up; and jackdaws talk; and people pay threepence a-piece to see the ruins!”
Descriptive letterpress by Francis Frith from his book 'The Gossiping Photographer at Hastings'
This view by Francis Frith (1822-1898) of Hastings Castle in East Sussex is one of sixteen photographs of Hastings, St Leonards, Winchelsea and Rye illustrating his book ‘The Gossiping Photographer at Hastings’, published in 1864. Frith was a pioneer in the field of travel photography, beginning his career with three trips to Egypt and the Holy Land between 1856 and 1860. In 1859 he founded a publishing firm in Reigate, Surrey, which issued albums and postcards of views throughout Britain. The firm was very successful and became the largest of its kind in the 19th century, continuing to be run as a family business until 1971. In Frith’s first album, ‘Egypt and Palestine Photographed and Described’, he also wrote the descriptive passages that accompanied his photographs and this form of dual authorship is continued in ‘The Gossiping Photographer at Hastings’. Its text is notable for the gently satirical attitude which Frith adopts in his travelogue of the 19th-century seaside resort and its sister towns.