Westham

The village lies, literally, in the shadow of Pevensey Castle, but Westham has its own identity and is anxious to preserve it. When it was proposed to combine the village with Pevensey to make one parish named Anderida the message from the packed public meeting was a firm ‘Hands off.’

The church was built soon after the Normans landed and in the churchyard lie the ‘plague stones’, four unmarked stones in the shape of a cross which mark the communal grave of the victims of the disastrous epidemic of 1666. An old sexton was said to have been scared to dig a new grave near them, and local tradition says that there was a pest house nearby.

A shameless piece of ecclesiastical vandalism was carried out by the Rev Howard Hopley in 1860 when he took part in the excavations of the first temple of Jerusalem. He chipped off a splinter of stone, which was set in onyx and marble, and fixed it to the wall of the church during his incumbency from 1885 to 1917 with the legend: ‘Fragment of Solomon’s Temple.’

Another vicar of Westham tried (in vain) to keep Charles II on the straight and narrow path of morality. Brian Duppa, vicar here in 1625, was made Dean of Christ Church and Chancellor of Oxford, then consecrated Bishop of Chichester, translated to Salisbury and finally to Winchester in 1660. He was tutor to Charles II, having spent much time with his ill-fated father. The Merry Monarch seems to have had a real affection for the holy man, and also some feelings of remorse for not having adhered to his spiritual guideline. The King repeatedly visited the Bishop as he lay on his deathbed, knelt at his side and craved his blessing.

Another Westham clergyman of note was William Leeke, curate from 1829, who was a standard bearer at the Battle of

Waterloo. He held special services for coastguards stationed in the martello towers in these parts. They were held at irregular hours so the smugglers would not know when no watch was being kept.