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Into Battle, 1066 and all that History

scratchcarbineOct 2, 2020, 7:30:29 PM

A day trip was taken to Battle, East Sussex the village that was site of the Battle of Hastings 14th October 1066 the decisive battle of the Norman conquest of England.

  • A brief History

Before Harold II (Harold Godwin) came to the Anglo-Saxon throne of England Edward the confessor had been the King of England and being childless a successor was needed. There were several claims including Tostig the exiled earl of Northumbria and Harald III Sigurdsson King of Norway both defeated and killed at the Battle of Stamford Bridge September 25th 1066 by Harold II and his forces. William the duke of Normandy was also have said to have been promised the throne by Edward in 1051. However, Harold an earl of Wessex was said to be named successor when Edward was on his death bed 5th January 1066 and becoming King setting the stage for a struggle for the throne of England.

We arrived from the North travelling along route 1066 more commonly known as the A21 to the village of Battle, East Sussex about 7 miles north west of Hastings. The village has been built up around the site of the Battle of Hastings with its most prominent feature being the Abbey built between 1070 – 1094. The Gatehouse here was thought to have built 1338 with it later being added to sometime in the 15th Century.

A view from on top of the Gatehouse looking north in the village of Battle
Recently discovered secret stairs and passageway

Also in Battle but outside the walls of the Abbey can be found the Tudor Pilgrims rest and a Norman 12th century church St Mary's.


In the grounds of Battle Abbey stands the old Abbots Lodge with Great hall now a boarding school as well as this there are a few remains of the church and cloisters which were closed then destroyed or left to ruin during Henry VIII suppression of the Monasteries. The dormitories of the Benedictine Monks were left untouched during this period and taken as a residence along with the Lodge by Henry VIII friend Sir Anthony Browne.  Later in 18th century the old monks' dormitories fell into disrepair with the roof falling in.

Abbey Lodge
Benedictine Monks dormitories
1st floor sleeping quarters
Ground floor common room
Ground floor Novices room (trainee monks)


Left wondering if this is where the Benedictine monks washed their underpants what would the church have looked like!? We moved on to a 45-minute walk around the battlefield to learn about the battle of Hastings with the sun making an appearance.


The battle of Hastings (14th October 1066) was thought to have taken place on the hill where the Abbey now stands the Saxon position and in the valley with Normans approach from the hill opposite having come ashore in Pevensey 28th September. The numbers are estimated at roughly 7,000 per side with the Saxons mostly being Infantry men and the Normans a mix of Infantry, Cavalry and Archers/Crossbowmen. 

The day started with a series of Attacks from William first from Arches then Infantry then Cavalry in which for a time William was thought by his men to have been killed however, William was still alive and rallied his troops. Feigned attacks with some success took place to try and drawn and weaken Harold and his knights shield wall and defensive position on the hill. 

It was late afternoon and a final push starting with Arches sending volleys of arrows in which Harold was said to be injured. This was followed by an attack by the remaining Infantry who stormed the hill shortly followed by William with a final Cavalry charge. The Normans were victorious Harold was dead and William the conqueror would rule England being crowned King Christmas Day 1066 in Westminster Abbey.

The hill of Harold II and his Anglo-Saxon knights last stand


On our travels a local told us that the famous Bayeux Tapestry image of Harold taking an arrow in the eye may have more to it than meets the eye. Apparently, there are some who think the arrow may have been added or that Harold is not the Saxon with an arrow in the eye but another in the tapestry. All new to me!


After our battlefield excursions refreshments were taken at the Abbey hotel, two pints of battle beer (a good brew) then leaving for the car park a nice sight of the Battle Abbey gatehouse in the evening Sun.


Some sources that were helpful and informative