The Mint House at Pevensey - Page 2

Mint House at Pevensey - Page 2

The Servant's Hall
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The Servant's Hall at the Mint House

Next to the Edward room is the bedroom usually occupied by Andrew Borde when a cessation from duty with King Henry gave him the opportunity of retiring at intervals to the quietude of Pevensey.  And it may be mentioned that some of these intervals were more than mere voluntary retirements.  Put plainly they might be termed banishments, since Borde could not by any stretch of the imagination be considered a "saint," and occasional lapses from the path of correct behaviour caused even the broad-living King Henry to suspend him from the Court, as a mild mark of the royal displeasure.  Borde was, however, on terms of fairly close familiarity with his monarch and a week or two of absence always resulted in a summons to return to duty.  During these vacations Borde employed his time as an author, and no doubt portions of many of his better-known works were penned under the roof of the Mint House.

Andrew Borde
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His last, or nearly the last visit, seems to have been his stay here as host to the "Boy-king" in 1547.  The closing of Andrew's strange career was in keeping with the many variations of his eventful life.  This man, a personal friend of two kings, was arrested in 1549 and died in the Fleet prison.  

The window of the Borde room is not of great height from the street level, and formed an easy way out to death for a later occupant of the chamber.  It is an interesting little story, and the date was 1607.

On a September night one Sir Harry Ralt was a guest at the Mint House, and sleeping in this room, when he was disturbed by the noisy arrival of some strange gentlemen on horseback who had halted at an inn almost opposite.  The good folks of Pevensey had long since retired to rest and the inn-keeper, from his bedroom window, had just refused admittance and refreshment to the party.  At this, these gentle equestrians, five in number, dismounted and made a cheerful and whole-hearted attempt to beat down the inn door.

Ralt, from his bedroom window, made a vigorous protest and requested that they should cease their noisy efforts, go their way, and leave Pevensey people to slumber in peace.  The replies of the horsemen were unsatisfactory and their manner impertinent, so much that Sir Harry, clad only in his night shirt, leaped down, sword in hand, from his from his window and demanded that they should continue their journey without delay.  The riders refused and after hot words on both sides, drew swords and set upon him.  Ralt. however, proved a fair match for them and made such a vigorous defence that the inn-keeper found sufficient courage to come to the knight's assistance.  Between them they so badly wounded three of the travellers that the other two were obliged to help them to their horses and then gallop off.

The noise of the conflict had aroused most of the residents in the vicinity and the Mint House servants coming now upon the scene found Ralt so badly wounded that they had only time to carry him indoors when he died, exclaiming, "The knaves; The knaves; I vow they durst not disturb my next sleep."

In the next room on the same landing the present owner was successful in discovering traces of delicately tinted frescoes — these, as in the Edward bedroom — having been at some earlier date covered over with a film of plaster.  This film has been carefully stripped off and some interesting details of the various designs are now visible.  On the same floor but at the rear of the house are several other rooms of curious construction, these being entirely without windows or any trace as to how they could ever have been illuminated by natural light.  They are much too spacious to be considered as "secret chambers" or as mere store rooms.  In the top left side of the illustration of the Minting Chamber, can be seen a doorway which gave access to two of these rooms. The opening was probably masked by one of the many cunning devices employed by the builders for presenting an unsuspected exterior to the hiding places of the houses of older days.

One can only conjecture the earlier uses to which these hidden apartments were put, and they might well have been used for smugglers' holes in the days when smuggling was at its height.  It must be remembered that Pevensey housed a veritable hot-bed of the smuggling fraternity who carried on their industry quietly, or with with force of arms, just as the circumstances of the particular expedition demanded.  Many thrilling tales of these happenings are still remembered as items of local gossip and, justly or unjustly, both Pevensey Church and the Mint House are referred to having been store places for concealing dutiable articles from the eyes of the Revenue men.

The Mint House in its present day is well furnished with an interesting collection of genuine antique furniture that helps, in a measure, to convey the appearance the rooms would have had in the times of earlier occupants.  To the casual visitor, alike with those concerned in matters antiquarian, the house is interest;  in its age and style of construction, its substantial woodwork and thickly timbered ceilings.  And when one considers the size of the private citizens' dwellings of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries the Mint House must, by comparison, have ranked as a large dwelling.

There are many items of bygone history connected with the place; quaint little tales for which there is no room here, but which can be culled from works in reference libraries by those interested in such matters.  In these anecdotes those of earlier date refer to the "Mynte" House, but later the name changes to the "Borde" or "Boorde" House, whilst in some stories it is referred to as "the house by the castle postern."  It is certainly the oldest house in or around Pevensey, and the date of erection has been fixed as 1342 A.D. It was purchased by Andrew Borde two hundred years later, in 1542, and a few months after he had considerable alterations made to the interior, spending the legacy just obtained from the estate of his brother, Dr. Richard Borde, a former Vicar of Pevensey, Westham and Northeye, who had died in exile after bequeathing his his possessions to Andrew.

The public whipping post and stocks stood in the little square in front of the house, and remained there as an object of interest until about seventy years ago.

Andrew Borde — or Boorde as the name is often found written —was the owner of the Mint House from 1542 until his death in 1549.  He was born near Cuckfield, in Sussex, in 1490, and had one brother, Richard.  Andrew was educated first at Winchester and later at Oxford, being brought up under the stern discipline of monks of the Carthusian order, prior to his University days.  At the age of thirty-one (in 1521), he became a Suffragan Bishop of Chichester.  In 1525 he commenced upon the study of medicine and three years later, managing to secure a dispensation from his vow, forsook the Church and studied medical matters in several towns on the Continent; among others at Orleans, Toulouse, Montpellier and Wittenburg.  On returning to England he was patronised by Lord Cromwell and travelled on his behalf on a confidential mission through France and Spain, supposedly to gather current information regarding the state of feeling in these two countries concerning Henry the Eighth, whose religious policies were then causing considerable alarm and dissension.

The year 1536 was spent by Borde in practising medicine.  Then, after returning to London, he again crossed the sea and travelled through Antwerp, Cologne and Venice to Jerusalem.  After this tour he again took up residence in Montpellier, in which town he gained his final degrees as a doctor.  In the meantime his brother, Doctor Richard Borde, who was made Vicar of Pevensey in 1520, had received in addition the livings of the neighbouring Parishes of Westharn and Northeye.  Richard resided in Pevensey and acquired considerable property there, but by 1540 he had found the many changes in the ceremonials of the Church obnoxious to his original training and beliefs, and was beginning to rebel against the new orders.  

Finally he boldly declined to assent to them, and then, fearing attachment, fled from Pevensey and left the country; and failing to induce some of the monks of Lewes Abbey to accompany him, retired alone to safe hiding.  In the following year the Vicarship of Pevensey was filled by Robert Otes, and at about the same time Richard died in exile, leaving his Pevensey possessions to his brother Andrew.  In 1542 Andrew returned to England, was admitted to Oxford, and made a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians.  He then entered into possession of the properties left him in the Pevensey district, and at the same time purchased the Mint House as a dwelling for personal use.  In this year the interior of the house was considerably altered in order to meet his requirements.

Having been appointed a Court Physician to King Henry the Eighth, Borde next took up his residence at Winchester.  From this time his career became a mixed one, and he appears to have been a man of many parts and good education but sadly lacking in the ideas of dignity one would expect from a person of his station.  Certainly he was a man with good talents and held good positions, yet he was best known to his associates for the buffoonery and general wittiness he displayed.  He figured as an author and gained considerable reputation in this direction, writing many learned books on serious subjects, few of which are now commonly known.  He appears to have been more successful in works of lighter vein, and his quaintly-worded "chapbooks." full of irresistibly droll text, were still being reprinted fifty or sixty years ago.  

Andrew was often getting into disgrace with his royal master (it must be remembered that Henry was one of the most changeable and capricious monarchs that ever ruled England), and on each of these occasions the physician retired to his Pevensey residence and employed himself in writing, until such time as he became re-established in the favour of the Court.  His writings were sometimes learned dissertations on medical matters, and at other times of lighter vein and humorous nature.  Sometimes he wrote under the pen name of "Andreas Perforates," but most of his works are simply signed as Borde, or A. Boorde. The best-known books were:

A Dyetarv, published in 1542.       Brevyary of Health, 1547.      and    The first Boke of the Introduction of Knowledge, 1547.

Probably the original sheets of many of his works were written in the Mint House, and his "Tales of the Mad Men of Gotham," written in both poetry and prose, satirises, amongst others, prominent persons then living in the Pevensey district.  Although recognised as a clever physician, Borde appears to have deviated considerably during one period of his association with King Henry as he developed into the position of Court Jester, and was the original of the now familiar designation, "Merry Andrew."   Whilst at Winchester his flagrant licentiousness — according to some authorities brought him into serious trouble, so that to save further unpleasantness he retired to the quietude of Pevensey, and worked diligently as an author.

At Henry's death Borde presented himself at the New Court and secured appointments with Edward the Sixth, acting as physician and companion to the lad, and in 1547 entertaining him at the Mint House.  In 1549 Andrew was unlucky enough to ridicule and seriously offend a high personage at the New Court, the sequel to which was his arrest on a trumped-up charge of "debt."
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He was consigned to the Fleet prison, but confinement came ill to the man who had been a broad traveller and fast liver most of his life, and his health quickly failed.  The closure was in keeping with the many variations of his strange career and Borde, the personal friend of two kings, died in prison in the same year.

Written by  A.J.Jinks