Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

A contemporary painting of the Winchelsea coastline © Ben Fenton

A historic storm

Landscape artist Ben Fenton reminds us of the power of the weather throughout time.

On 4 February 737 years ago, the great storm of 1287 hit the south east coast of England. The storm was so powerful that a large section of the West Hill in Hastings, including a sizeable area of the Norman castle which sits atop it, collapsed in the storm and forever cut off the original Hastings port which was situated where Priory Meadow now stands (hence the recent flooding, which should not have been a surprise). This led to the repurposing of the Old Town’s coast as the town’s harbour, with the protection of the harbour arm.

The river Rother, which met the sea at the coastal town of New Romney, was diverted 15 miles away to its current mouth at Rye, between Camber and Winchelsea Beach. New Romney was no longer coastal, and overnight found itself a mile from the sea, and the Church entrance and floor half a foot below street level.

Most incredibly though, we suffered our own Atlantis. The old town of Winchelsea was entirely lost to the tempest. It was eventually rebuilt, surveying much of the channel its predecessor was lost to, on the hill that it occupies today.

The location of the original Winchelsea is estimated to have been roughly off Broomhill Sands, so would have been visible in this painting.

The coastline of Romney Marsh was irrevocably altered and lives and livelihoods lost forever, so this is why we “Serve God, honour the king but first maintain the wall”!

Ben Fenton is a locally based artist whose deceptively simple paintings portray the architecture and landscapes of East Sussex and Kent. You can still hear Ben talk about his work, and how painting helps with his mental health in a Radio Four feature recorded last summer.

You can follow Ben on Instagram and Facebook, or visit Taylor Jones & Son Gallery to see more of his paintings for sale.

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Posted 18:20 Sunday, Feb 4, 2024 In: 1067 & All That

Also in: 1067 & All That

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