It seemed fitting for my 100th post on this blog to write about an historical event, one with far more importance though…
It is a date that every English child will know sooner or later. The year 1066, when King Harold was shot in the eye by an arrow and died on the battlefields at Hastings. The most famous battle fought on English soil and the last successful invasion of this country.
A couple of days after Christmas I dragged my OH, my daughter and her partner and three pre-teen grandchildren down to Battle Abbey, with the promise of fish and chips on the beach at Hastings afterwards. I have never been to Battle. I have been to Hastings a few times, but Battle with its Abbey and battlefield always passed me by – or I it. I felt it was time to go and see what had happened there which marked the end of Anglo-Saxon England.
The first thing to do once you have entered the abbey grounds through the courthouse (now the entrance and shop) is to make your way to the visitors centre and watch the film depicting the famous battle. I thought the children would be bored, but no they were fascinated by the tale, and even more fascinated by the chain-mail and heavy shields which the soldiers of the day had to carry. I learned something new. I hadn’t realised that Harold and his men shortly before this battle had marched up to York and fought a major battle (at Stamford Bridge) with the Vikings before marching back down to the south-east (another 5 days march) to face Duke William of Normandy and his army. I also hadn’t realised that our army didn’t use horses in battle at that time (although they did use them to get to and from battlefields), which proved to be a major mistake in this confrontation.
(click on a photo to enlarge)
The battle aside, the grounds make for a lovely stroll – we oldies forgo the steep and muddy walk around the battlefield and made our way along the Terrace Walk where King Harold’s English army awaited battle looking across the valley to the south where Duke William’s Norman army attacked from.
King William I marked his victory by building a Benedictine abbey on the site. This abbey was given to a close friend of King Henry VIII in 1538. The new owner, Sir Anthony Browne, kept the great gatehouse but destroyed the church, chapter house and refectory, though the lodge house remained as a private house. The house is now Battle Abbey School, but the grounds and ruins of the abbey can be enjoyed by all. Oh, and collect an audio guide (included in the entrance price) to make the most of your visit.