As someone who never paid any attention to History or Geography when I was at school (I was mathematically minded and very interested in the sciences) and have in later life regretted this, I found the visit to the Abbey and Battlefield extremely interesting. I learnt loads and thoroughly enjoyed the day.
We arrived at Battle and promptly stopped at The Pilgrims’ rest for lunch. The building is 600 years old and we walked into a beautiful but quaint old barn like building. The log fire was burning and the whole ambience of the place boded well for our visit. I had mushrooms on toast to die for – the best I have ever had. Huge wild mushrooms on a generous helping of what appeared as home made bread.
Then we paid the entrance fee to the Abbey and Battlefield and believe me when I say it is definitely worth the £7.50. You have the opportunity to take a short tour – round the Abbey with views over the Battlefield or you can take the longer route round the Abbey and around the Battlefield. We took the long route round the grounds and Abbey to experience the battle that was to change England for good and make it what it is today.
For those, if there are any, like me who don’t know the history behind the battle here goes.
King Harold of England had been crowned at the beginning of 1066 and had been very successful in winning a number of battles up to and including when he was King. In fact just prior to the Battle of Hastings he had had victory in Yorkshire with the Battle of Stanford Bridge.
William the Bastard (as he was known prior to being crowned) was a Norman and his army was made up of a number of different European nationals. Harold had promised William he would be King in exchange of half of the kingdom. This and the fact that England was so powerful William was after what he wanted and believed he was entitled to.
King Harold and his army took 9 days to travel back from Yorkshire but in his haste to get back and defend the country he hadn’t prepared himself enough, probably because he had been so successful with previous battles and therefore possibly was his downfall.
Thousands of soldiers lost their lives during the battle and it was a very bloody battle.
My impression of the battlefield itself was that I expected it to be a much larger space for the battle to take place. It was hard for me to imagine so many people in the same area fighting to win supremacy over each other and ultimately England.
I found the audio, which you are offered when you are admitted to the grounds, a valuable resource for the visit and would definitely recommend others to take this with you around the grounds – it made the whole experience a lot more realistic.
After William and his army succeeded, William was crowned William the Conqueror.
Because of William’s gratitude for his victory he later founded Battle Abbey as a monument to remember the thousands who died on 14 October 1066.
As part of the tour you get the opportunity to literally walk around inside the old Abbey to experience and get a feel of how the Abbey was and how it worked with all the monks.
King Harolds final resting placeNear the old Abbey is where the high altar was and there lies King Harold, where he fell and died during the battle. Around his final resting place there were a number of bouquets of flowers with messages left. I can only assume that because it was The Festival of Hastings on 15 – 16 October, the weekend before, regular people have taken the time to acknowledge what King Harold tried to do on that day back in 1066.
The Battle of Hastings has shaped the England of today….. it has cultivated our culture, language etc, it would have been a very different country if King Harold had won.
I really enjoyed the visit, found it extremely informative and would strongly recommend anyone visiting East Sussex to take the time to learn more about the Abbey and Battlefield.
To finish our visit of the town Battle, we couldn’t resist popping back to The Pilgrims Rest for a cup of coffee and a fruit scone.
Great day out.