The Attack at the Buckle

From Quirky Sussex History by Kevin Gordon


On 18thJuly 1545, a French fleet led by the High Admiral Claude d’Annabant attacked the south coast of England. He was rather miffed that the English had just captured the port of Boulogne and was after revenge. At Portsmouth, Henry VIIIs ship “Mary Rose” had promptly sunk as it tried to engage them. Further down the coast the French attacked Hove, Brighton and Meeching (now Newhaven) before coming ashore here in Seaford Bay, where they “set certain soldiers on land to burn and spoil the country”. But us Sussex folk ‘will not be druv’ and were having none of it and a local militia was gathered by Sir Nicholas Pelham (1515 -1559) of Lewes.

The Buckle attack

The French attack Brighton and Hove

One chronicler said the beacons were fired and the inhabitants thereabouts came down so thick that the Frenchmen were driven to fly with loss of diverse of their numbers, so that they did little hurt.  Another account says the French were met with such manful resistance… they were fain to betake themselves to their ships and galleys and to retire with considerable loss to their own side

It is estimated that 1,500 Frenchmen landed and they burnt half a dozen cottages at “Blechington Hille” before they were repulsed by Pelham’s rag-tag army which consisted of local townsmen, gentry and yeoman who were presumably getting fed up with the regular incursions by the French, who had been attacking the Sussex coast since the 14thcentury.

It is not recorded how many Sussex men lost their lives in this skirmish, but over a hundred Frenchmen were either killed or drowned.  The local people were relieved by this victory and Sir Nicholas became a local hero.  The area where the attack had taken place was named after the Pelham symbol and is still to this day known as ‘The Buckle’ and a pub of the same name stood here for many years.

Buckle Map1

The Buckle Seaford

Pelham’s memorial in St Michael’s church in the High Street, Lewes shows him at prayer with his wife Anne Sackville above his children all kneeling on cushions.    The memorial is in the form of a Tudor pun “What time the French sought to have sack’t Seafoord, this Pelham did repel them back aboord

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