Battle Abbey & Battlefield Hastings
English Heritage
High Street
East Sussex TN33 0AD
 
 
A pivotal event in the history of Britain occurred on 14 October 1066 near the town of Hastings in south east England. In the Battle of Hastings the Anglo-Saxon forces of King Harold 11 were defeated by the French troops of William, Duke of Normandy and Britain became the possession of the French.
 
Where it all happened is known simply as ‘Battle’.
 
Battle Abbey built on Senlac Hill marks the spot where King Harold fell. Only the gatehouse and some ruined buildings remain and it is here visitors start their tour of the battlefield.
 
King Harold was a good strategist and chose to assemble his troops on the highest ground so the French would have to fight up hill. The ridge was called Santlache ("Sandy Stream") but after the battle the French called it Sanguelac (“Blood Lake”) which was shortened to Senlac.
 
Like most battle sites, the 'Battlefield' is just a field stretching down to the stream at the bottom but the audio tour brings the battle to life and identifies significant sites.
 
Of course, the best time to visit is when the Battle is being re-enacted which occurs each year during October.
 
Battle Abbey
Although the Pope had approved of William’s decision to invade England, he was horrified by the number of men killed in the process. In 1070 Pope Alexander II ordered William to do penance. To do this, William leveled off Senlac ridge and built Battle Abbey.
 
Work started and the Benedictine Abbey was dedicated to St Martin in 1095. William died before the Abbey was completed but his son, William Rufus completed the job. The High Altar in the Abbey church was reputedly placed on the spot where King Harold died.
 
The Abbey church has been demolished but a plaque in the ground marks the spot where the High Altar stood. A memorial to King Harold given by the people of Normandy stands nearby.
 
The Abbey and monastery were large and influential. It was a 'Royal Peculiar' which meant it was answerable to the Sovereign and not to the local Bishop or Archbishop. It became an important place of pilgrimage and was regularly visited by royalty. The imposing Gatehouse was built in 1338 as a protection from a possible French Invasion.
 
Many of the abbey buildings were demolished during the 1538 Dissolution of the Monasteries by King Henry VIII, including the abbey church.
 
Visitors can wander through the novices dormitory and among the remains of the crypt and other buildings. The complete gatehouse houses an exhibition of artefacts found on the site.
 
King Henry gave the Abbey and estates to his favourite Master of the Horse, Sir Anthony Browne. Sir Anthony’s splendid Tudor tomb can be seen in the Church of St Mary the Virgin, Battle.
 
Battle Abbey School
The old abbey buildings left intact have been incorporated into Battle Abbey School and are not open to the public except during August school holidays.
 
The little town of Battle has grown up around the abbey and the English Heritage 1066 Visitor Centre in the High Street is where your tour starts.
 
Plan Your Visit 
English Heritage Membership - Join here:     External Link

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Open
All year:   Every day except 25/26 December and 1 January.
Summer: 10:00 – 18:00 hours.
Winter:    Check the website - link below.
 
Admission Cost
English Heritage members: Free.
Visit the EH website (Link below) for up to date prices for all other visitors.
 
Disabled Access
Wheelchair users please ring the bell at the Abbey Gatehouse where you will be met by a staff member.
Full access to Visitor Centre plus toilets.
Shop requires entry through exit door.
Steps in abbey and other buildings. Battlefield is rough ground but can be seen from lower terrace.
 
Facilities
Visitor Centre, free audio guides, toilets, shop and refreshments.
Gatehouse exhibition.
 
Accommodation - Search & Book through Expedia here:    External Link
 
Contact & Further Information
Telephone  +44 (0)1424 772 792
Website  English Heritage - Battle    External Link
 
Getting There
Parking is 82 yards (75 metres) from abbey entrance
 
Google Maps - Battle Abbey and Battlefield