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Battle Abbey

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Title: Battle Abbey  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Norman conquest of England, Michael P. Grace, Battle of Hastings, List of monastic houses in England, Cowdray House
Collection: 1070S Establishments in England, 16Th-Century Disestablishments in England, Battle, East Sussex, Benedictine Monasteries in England, Buildings and Structures in East Sussex, Christian Monasteries Established in the 11Th Century, English Heritage Sites in East Sussex, Gardens by Capability Brown, Grade I Listed Buildings in East Sussex, History Museums in East Sussex, Military and War Museums in England, Monasteries in East Sussex, Museums in East Sussex, Norman Conquest of England, Religious Museums in England, Ruined Abbeys and Monasteries, Ruins in East Sussex
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Battle Abbey

Battle Abbey - Gate House

Battle Abbey is a partially ruined abbey complex in the small town of Battle in East Sussex, England. The abbey was built on the scene of the Battle of Hastings and dedicated to St. Martin.[1]


  • 1066 Battle of Hastings, Abbey and Battlefield 1
  • History 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5

1066 Battle of Hastings, Abbey and Battlefield

The Grade I listed site is now operated by English Heritage as 1066 Battle of Hastings, Abbey and Battlefield, which includes the abbey buildings and ruins, a visitor centre with a film and exhibition about the battle, audio tours of the battlefield site, and the monks' gatehouse with recovered artefacts. The visitor centre includes a children's discovery room and a café, and there is an outdoor themed playground.

Battle Abbey - French monument to Harold


In 1070 Pope Alexander II ordered the Normans to do penance for killing so many people during their conquest of England. In response, William the Conqueror vowed to build an abbey where the Battle of Hastings had taken place, with the high altar of its church on the supposed spot where King Harold fell in that battle on Saturday, 14 October 1066. He started building it, dedicating it to St. Martin, sometimes known as "the Apostle of the Gauls," though William died before it was completed. Its church was finished in about 1094 and consecrated during the reign of his son William Rufus. William the Conqueror had ruled that the Church of St Martin of Battle was to be exempted from all episcopal jurisdiction, putting it on the level of Canterbury. It was remodelled in the late 13th century but virtually destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries under King Henry VIII.

Battle Abbey - Dorter

At the time of the Dissolution, the monks of Battle Abbey were provided with pensions, including the abbot John Hamond and the prior Richard Salesherst, as well as monks John Henfelde, William Ambrose, Thomas Bede and Thomas Levett, all bachelors in theology.

Battle Abbey - Novices Common Room

Following the dissolution, parts of Battle Abbey became a private home, and other parts of the monastic buildings were ravaged for building materials. Sir Thomas Webster, MP and baronet (1677–1751, created a baronet 1703, baronetcy extinct 1923), married the heiress Jane Cheek (granddaughter of a wealthy merchant, Henry Whistler, to whose vast inheritance she succeeded in 1719). In 1719, he bought Battle Abbey from Sir Henry Whistler, and was succeeded by his son, Sir Whistler Webster, 2nd baronet (died 1779, leaving a widow, but no children; whereupon he was succeeded in the baronetcy by his brother). Battle Abbey remained in the Webster family until 1858, when it was sold by the sixth baronet, who died in 1853, to Lord Harry Vane, later Duke of Cleveland. On the death of the Duchess of Cleveland in 1901, the estate was bought back by Sir Augustus Webster, 7th baronet. It was an all-girls boarding school when Canadian troops were stationed there during the Second World War, and continues as a school now. Sir Augustus (son of Sir Augustus, 7th baronet) was born in 1864 and succeeded his father as 8th baronet in 1886. In 1895, he married the only daughter of Henry Crossley of Aldborough Hall, Bedale. Sir Augustus was formerly a captain in the Coldstream Guards. The descendants of Sir Augustus Webster, 7th and last baronet (died 1923), finally sold Battle Abbey to the British government in 1976 and it is now in the care of English Heritage.

Battle Abbey - Dorter, remains of cloister and Battle Abbey School
An aerial view of the Dorter.

All that is left of the abbey church itself today is its outline on the ground, but parts of some of the abbey's buildings are still standing: those built between the 13th and 16th century. These are still in use as the independent Battle Abbey School.[2] Visitors to the abbey usually are not allowed inside the school buildings, although during the school's summer holidays, access to the abbot's hall is often allowed.

The church's high altar reputedly stood 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. The ruins of the abbey, with the adjacent battlefield, are a popular tourist attraction, with events such as the Battle of Hastings reenactments.

In 1989, the rock band Black Sabbath filmed a music video here for the title track from their 1989 album, Headless Cross. [3]

See also


  1. ^ The name was initially the monastery of St. Martin of Battle, but the abbey has been known for centuries as Battle Abbey.
  2. ^ "Battle Abbey".  
  3. ^ "Headless Cross". Black Sabbath Online. Retrieved 2015-03-23. 

External links

  • 1066 Battle of Hastings, Abbey and Battlefield - official site at English Heritage
  • Historical record for Battle Abbey
  • Battle Abbey and Town amateur information website
  • Battle Abbey School
  • [2]
  • Battle Abbey: The Eastern Range and the Excavations of 1978-80 (English Heritage Monograph)

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