1066 Battle of Hastings, Abbey and Battlefield

High Street Battle East Sussex TN33 0AD

The most famous battle in English history – the 1066 Battle of Hastings – didn’t actually take place in Hastings; it was fought 6 miles away at what is now the town of Battle. After William’s Norman soldiers defeated King Harold’s Saxon army, the newly crowned Conqueror founded the magnificent Battle Abbey on the spot where Harold fell, and over the centuries that followed the abbey grew to become one of the richest in the country. The abbey and battlefield site is now managed by English Heritage, and while the original abbey church is long gone (a victim of Henry VIII’s spree of monastery destruction), several other crumbling abbey buildings from the thirteenth-century and later can still be explored. The real point of a visit here, though, is to find out all about the famous battle and soak up the atmosphere, and the site does this brilliantly: an excellent visitor centre explains the background to the battle and describes how events played out on the day; and the audiotour accompanying the battlefield walk brings to life the gory battle site which, according to a local chronicler, was “covered in corpses, and all around the only colour to meet the gaze was blood-red”. If you manage to time your visit with the annual re-enactment of the battle, which features hundreds of roaring, sweaty men in chain mail brandishing swords, swears and clubs at each other, so much the better; it’s held in October, on the anniversary of the battle.

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