The Lost Tribe

Part Thirty-four
Little is known of Hastings prior to the Norman Invasion, other than the fact that the Hastingas tribe occupied the area. The Chronicle of Simeon of Durham in 771 records(131):

In these days Offa, King of the Mercians, subdued by force of arms the Race of Hastings

Later the Charter of Offa to the Abbey of St.Denis in 795 describes Hastings as a seaport. No further mention is made until the edict of Greatley in the year 928 when the Hastings coinage began.

The people who occupied Hastings were different in some way from those in other settlements in Sussex. Peter Brandon, in his book The Sussex Landscape explains:

The third element in the old kingdom of Sussex was the hinterland of Hastings. In its place-name vocabulary, its dispersed hamlet settlement and paucity of evidence concerning common fields, the district has strong affinities with Kent. The origin of these peculiarities seems to be the settlement of the area by the Hastingas, the tribal followers of Haesta. This name is still preserved in Hastings, a folk name, current before the creation of administrative units like the shire, hundred and rape, when the pattern of early settlement was still dominated by wild nature and other physical barriers. The Hastingas selected the dry land between Romney and Pevensey marshes and , hemmed in by the sparsely inhabited forest inland, were able to preserve their identity within these natural frontiers even until the eleventh century. They have the distinction of being the only early English to make significant inroads into the Wealden forest, so breaking its long and almost impenetrable obscurity. Even so, they mainly settled the coastal margins, particularly the heads of the then several valleys which were great inlets of the sea south of the upland known as Battle Ridge.

In the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle the Hastingas were mentioned in 1011,(132) relating to the invasion of the Danes, who had over-run the area. The conclusion being that Hastings was effectively at that time a separate kingdom, even though the name of the dynasty attached to it is still unknown. The name Hastingas was omitted from the earlier Tribal Hideage, indicating that the forest of the Weald may well have protected them from the attention of the other lords, until much later.

The written evidence of manuscripts confirming this involvement at a place that later became known as Hastings, must be incorporated into the archaeology at the port of Hastings, in order for a consistent picture of the past to be substantiated. This evidence can be found in a number of places along the northern shore of the Combe Haven valley, when observed from the air. I therefore decided to search out any available aerial photographs of the area in question, with a view to looking for the tell tale signs of inhabitation which would back up the hypothesis to date. Most serious archaeologists accept that aerial surveys are an essential tool in validating any site prior to serious archaeological study on the ground. It is therefore with some satisfaction that I can produce aerial studies confirming all details previously reported. The significance of this I leave to the reader in evaluating the plausibility or otherwise of the proposal in hand.