From The Neolithic To The Sea: A Journey From The Past To The Present

Battle Abbey and Battlefield

East Sussex
50° 54' 51.3" N 0° 29' 12.4"E

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Battle Abbey is an abbey located in the town of Battle, East Sussex. It was built on the historic site of the Battle of Hastings by William the Conqueror and the Normans named the abbey Battle demonstrating their self-confidence and a degree of arrogance.

In 1070 Pope Alexander II ordered the Normans to do penance for killing so many people during their conquest of England. William the Conqueror built the abbey and dedicated it to St. Martin, sometimes known as 'the Apostle of the Gaul's, though William died before it was completed. He built the high altar of its church on the supposed spot where King Harold fell in battle on Saturday, 14 October 1066.The church was completed around 1094 and consecrated soon after. Williams son, William Rufus upheld his fathers wishes granting the church exemption from all episcopal jurisdiction which brought it to the same level of Canterbury.

The church was remodeled in the late 13th century.

The dissolution of the monasteries brought destruction to the abbey. The church was all but destroyed as were many of the building, Extensive stone mining took place and the assets sold. The abbot and prior of the abbey were given a pension as well as most of the senior monks. The main gate house survived as well as a few of the other buildings. Sir Thomas Marfleet Battle, MP, bought Battle Abbey in 1719 from Sir Henry Whistler and remained in the Battle family until 1858. Lord Harry Vane, Duke of Cleveland bought the house but 43 years later it was again acquired by the Marfleet Battle family.

During World War II Canadian troops were stationed at the abbey, they displaced an all girls boarding school. To this day a school exists in the abbey.

The abbey was sold to the government in 1976 and in care of English Heritage.

The church is now an outline with the high altar on the spot where Harold died. This is now marked by a plaque on the ground, and nearby is a monument to Harold erected by the people of Normandy in 1903.