1066 (28th September)
William of Normandy landed at Pevensey with a sizeable force of Norman, Breton and French knights and infantry.
1066 (30th September)
William of Normandy decided to move his army to Hastings as there was insufficient food in Pevensey to feed the army for more than a few days. Hastings also offered better defence and a more direct route to London.
1066 (14th October)
Battle of Hastings
After a battle lasting all day, William of Normandy defeated the Anglo-Saxons. King Harold II
was killed towards the end of the battle.
1066 (25th December)
William of Normandy was crowned King William I after receiving the submission of the leading nobles.
Harrying of the North
Although William had been crowned King of England, there was marked resistance to his rule, particularly in the north. William now set about ruthlessly putting down all resistance to his rule. Rebels were executed, livestock killed, crops burnt and the land was poisoned to prevent fresh crops being grown. It is estimated that only 25% of the population in the north survived.
The Benedictine abbey at Battle, dedicated to the Trinity, the Virgin and St Martin of Tours, was founded by King William I. The abbey was built to remember those that died in the Battle of Hastings and also to atone for the blood shed during the Norman Conquest
. William ordered that the high altar of the abbey church be built on the exact spot that King Harold had been killed. Four monks from the Benedictine Abbey at Marmoutier in France were brought to Battle to begin the order. William decreed that the abbey was exempt from episcopal jurisdiction which meant that local Bishops could have no say in the running of the Abbey.
People had begun to settle in the area around the abbey founding the town of Battle. Abbot Ralph ordered that the Church of St Mary’s be constructed to serve the spiritual needs of the people of Battle.
Walter de Luci became abbot of Battle Abbey and made a number of improvements including rebuilding the cloister. Fishponds to the south of the abbey may have been dug around this time.
The Bishop of Chichester, challenged the abbey’s exemption from episcopal jurisdiction. He went so far as to excommunicate Walter de Luci the Abbot. De Luci referred the matter to King Henry II
while the Bishop referred the matter to Rome.
The Bishop of Chichester and Walter de Luci were summoned to Westminster to present their cases regarding the exemption of Battle Abbey from episcopal jurisdiction. King Henry II found in favour of the abbey.
Abbot Walter de Luci died. Henry II gave control of the abbey to Walter’s brother, Richard de Luci.
The monks of Battle Abbey paid King John
1,500 marks to grant them the right to elect their own abbot.
The Bishop of Chichester, Ralph Neville appealed to Rome regarding the right of Battle Abbey to freedom from episcopal jurisdiction. It was agreed that the monks could retain autonomy but that the Bishop had to right to intervene if anything was found to be amiss in the monastery.
Ralph of Coventry was elected Abbot of Battle Abbey.
A number of the original buildings were now updated and replaced.
It is known that during the 14th century, monks and abbots spent time hawking on the Pevensey marshes and also spent time at Barnhorn Manor which was owned by the Abbey. Most of Battle Abbey’s corn was grown in the fields of the Manor.
The Hundred Years’ War with France began. As the major landowner in the south-east, the Abbot of Battle Abbey organised the coastal defences of the area.
Work began on constructing the Gatehouse, which formed the entrance to the monastery, was built. Its construction was ordered by the Abbot, Alan of Ketling as a defensive measure to protect against any attack by the French during the Hundred Years’ War.
The Black Death
killed around 18 monks living at the Abbey. It is recorded that the number of monks reduced from 52 to 34. It also vastly reduced the population of the town of Battle which had been around 2500 before the plague.
The nearby coastal town of Hastings was sacked by the French. Abbot Hamo of Battle led English troops to defend against the French. Records show that the Abbot wore armour and used a crossbow.
During the fifteenth century improvements were made to the monks’ sleeping area. It is likely that the vast area was partitioned into smaller areas each with its own fireplace.
John Hammond was elected Abbot of Battle Abbey.
The Abbey was visited by Dr Richard Leyton on the orders of Thomas Cromwell
to carry out a survey on the wealth of England’s monasteries.
1538 (27th May)
Dissolution of the Monasteries
The abbey was dissolved as part of the dissolution of the monasteries ordered by King Henry VIII
. An inventory of the monasteries possessions was compiled by Richard Leyton. Abbot Hammond was given a pension of £100. He lived out his years in a house on Battle High Street. The monks of the Abbey were given lesser pensions.
Henry VIII gave the abbey and the surrounding land to Sir Anthony Browne. Browne demolished the church, the chapter house and part of the cloister and turned the rest of the building into a country house.
Sir Anthony Browne died. He was buried in the parish church of St Mary’s. His son, also called Anthony inherited the property.
Sir Anthony Browne built the courthouse at Battle Abbey.
Battle abbey had remained the home of the Browne family being passed down through generations. The owner, Anthony Browne, sold the property to Sir Thomas Webster for £56,000.
Sir Godfrey Webster added the dairy and the ice house.
The abbey had been passed down through the Webster family but was sold to Lord Harry Vane. The Vane family built the terrace walk which lies a few metres in front of where the Saxon shield wall would have stood.
The property was bought back by the Webster family and became the home of Sir Augustus Webster.
A plaque was placed on the spot where Harold II died in 1066. At the same time a monument to Harold, donated by the people of Normandy, was set adjacent to the plaque.
Part of the Abbey buildings were leased to St Etheldreda’s school. The school still exists, now named Battle Abbey Prep School.
1931 (31st January)
A fire destroyed much of the property. The areas destroyed were restored.
Battle Abbey was sold to English Heritage.
Published Jul 29, 2020 @ 3:00 pm – Updated –
Harvard Reference for this page:
Heather Y Wheeler. (2020). Battle Abbey 1066 – Present . Available: https://www.totallytimelines.com/battle-abbey-1066-present. Last accessed September 17th, 2022