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The settlement was already based on the port when the Romans arrived in Britain for the first time in 55 BC.At this time, they began to exploit the iron (Wealden rocks provide a plentiful supply of the ore), and shipped it out by boat.During a naval campaign of 1339, and again in 1377, the town was raided and burnt by the French, and seems then to have gone into a decline. Hastings had suffered over the years from the lack of a natural harbour, and there have been attempts to create a sheltered harbour.Attempts were made to build a stone harbour during the reign of Elizabeth I, but the foundations were destroyed by the sea in terrible storms.Iron was worked locally at Beauport Park, to the north of the town, which employed up to one thousand men and is considered to have been the third largest mine in the Roman Empire.

As a borough, Hastings had a corporation consisting of a "bailiff, jurats, and commonalty".It is thought that the Norman encampment was on the town’s outskirts, where there was open ground; a new town was already being built in the valley to the east.That "New Burgh" was founded in 1069 and is mentioned in the Domesday Book as such.Evidence of prehistoric settlements have been found at the town site: flint arrowheads and Bronze Age artefacts have been found; Iron Age forts have been excavated on both the East and West Hills.This suggests that the inhabitants moved early to the safety of the valley in between the forts.By the end of the Saxon period, the port of Hastings had moved eastward near the present town centre in the Priory Stream valley, whose entrance was protected by the White Rock headland (since demolished).It was to be a short stay: Danish attacks and huge floods in 10 motivated the townspeople to relocate to the New Burgh.William defeated and killed Harold Godwinson, the last Saxon King of England, and destroyed his army, thus opening England to the Norman conquest.William caused a castle to be built at Hastings probably using the earthworks of the existing Saxon castle.This is derived from the Old English tribal name Hæstingas, meaning `the constituency/followers of Hæsta'.Symeon of Durham records the victory of Offa in 771 over the Hestingorum gens, that is, "the people of the Hastings tribe.", Hastingleigh in Kent was named after that tribe.

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