- Everyone knows at least one date in English history – 1066, the year the invading Normans defeated the English at the Battle of Hastings. In fact the conflict took place some seven miles north of Hastings, at a place then called Senlac. Here, William the Conqueror later founded ‘Battle’ Abbey to commemorate the event, and on the site of its high altar, you can stand on the very spot where King Harold of England fell. Little of the original Norman structure survives, but you can still see many later monastic buildings, including the dormitory range with its fine vaulted novices’ chamber. The west range, incorporating the abbots’ Great Hall, was converted into a mansion after Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries, and is now a school. Best preserved and most impressive of all is the Great Gatehouse, rebuilt c. 1338 and perhaps the finest surviving monastic entrance in Britain. The exciting new exhibition, 1066: The Battle for England, uses the latest technology and interactive displays to draw a vivid picture of the social and political events, both for Saxons and Normans, of the years which led up to the conflict, and illustrates the impact this pivotal battle had on shaping English history. Hands-on interactives, touch screen displays and listening points look at how life was for the opposing sides. Central to the new exhibition is a short film which dramatically explains the events leading up to this bloody struggle, culminating in the events of 14 October 1066. The new building also houses a stylish cafe serving light refreshments all day. A new audio tour re-creates the sounds of the battle, as you stand where the Saxon army’s ridgetop ‘shield wall’ watched the Normans advancing towards them. After about an hour of fighting, the Normans panicked and fled, but William rallied them and successfully counterattacked. Several ‘pretended retreats’ followed. After some ten hours of fighting, the Normans launched an assault which finally broke the fatally weakened Saxon shield wall. By nightfall the Norman victory was complete. Our new family tour uses ‘interviews’ with soldiers, monks and key figures from the time to retell the story of this fateful event. Visit the Abbey Museum, which explores the history of the abbey and includes artefacts found on site during excavations. Following your visit, why not while away a pleasant afternoon in the town of Battle? It has a Town Trail, a museum, and plenty of antique shops. From Battle you can also take the 1066 Walk to Pevensey Castle (one of Britain’s oldest strongholds) where William first landed before moving to Hastings.
Battle Abbey - English Heritage