The Weald of Kent, Surrey and Sussex
Battle Abbey      Battle  
Battle Abbey, now and since 1857 the property and seat of the Duke of Cleveland K.G. was founded by William the Norman on the spot where Harold was slain and his standard overthrown and was dedicated to St. Martin: in the abbey was preserved the celebrated Battle Abbey Roll, which formed a list of those families which came over with William the Norman: the only rooms ordinarily shown to visitors are the great hall, 57 feet in length, the same in height and 31 feet wide, with a fine timber roof and a vaulted apartment adjoining it, supposed to have been the locutorium or reception room; the gate-house which directly fronts the street from the London road, is a tower about 35 feet, square and 54 feet high, comprising three stories, with an octagon turret at each angle and was probably erected by Abbot Retlynge, in the time of Edward III. when the abbey was enclosed and fortified and is one of the most perfect specimens of monastic gate-houses in the kingdom; the refectory is 154 feet long and 35 broad and three of its sides are nearly perfect; beneath its whole extent are vaulted rooms of various heights, supported on massive pillars; the west side only of the cloisters is now existing and exhibits a series of nine arches on clustered pillars and enclosing panelled tracery. Eastward of the north end of the refectory is a row of lime trees, near which was discovered in 1817 what was supposed to be the foundation of the chapter house. The spot where Harold fell has been identified by the discovery of the remains of the church, which seems to have extended along the north side of the cloisters, over the present flower garden and several stone graves have been exposed. The abbey was built of local stone, its ornamental portions being of Caen stone; and of the existing portions, the refectory &c. is Early English, the gateway Decorated and the cloisters Perpendicular; the ruins of the abbey cover three sides of a square.
extract from Kelly 1882 Directory


Books and other documents
PublishedTitle, author and references
1851The Chronicle of Battel Abbey from 1066 to 1176 by Mark Antony Lower, M.A.p. iii
1904Highways and Byways in Sussex by E.V. Lucas ⇒ p. 348
1937Battle Abbey Under 39 Kings by Lilian Boys Behrens ⇒ p. i
1972The Story of St. Mary's Church, Battle by The Very Rev. W. W. Youard, M.A., Dean and Vicar ⇒ p. 3

Historical records

14th Oct 1066HistoryBattle AbbeyThe Chronicle of Battel Abbey
William the Conqueror's Vow before the Battle of Hastings
'I know, my dearest friends, that if I had any confidence in omens, I ought on no account to go to battle to-day; but, committing myself trustfully to my Creator in every matter, I have given no heed to omens; neither have I ever loved sorcerers. Wherfore, now, secure of His aid, and in order to strengthen the hands and courage of you, who for my sake are about to engage in this conflict, I make a Vow, that upon this place of battle I will found a suitable free Monastery, for the salvation of you all, and especially of those who fall; and this I will do in honour of God and his saints, to the end that the servants of God may be sucoured; that even as I shall be enabled to acquire for myself a propitious asylum, so it may be freely offered to all my followers'

14th Oct 1066HistoryBattle AbbeyThe Chronicle of Battel Abbey
Upon the hill where the Abbey now stands, the English supported their king in a compact body. But at length, by a preconcerted scheme, the duke feigned a retreat with his army, and Eustace, the valiant count of Boulogne, nimbly following the rear of the English, who were scattered in the pursuit, rushed upon them with his powerful troops ; meanwhile the duke returned upon them, and they, being thus hemmed in on both sides, numbers were stricken down. The miserable English, feeble and on foot, are scattered abroad. Pressed upon, they fall ; they are slaughtered, and killed ; and their king being overthrown by a chance blow, they fly in all directions, and seek their hiding places. And then, after an innumerable multitude had been slain on the field, or rather in their flight, a very great calamity presented itself before the eyes of all.

Yet it is proper to add that, the battle being at length concluded, upon that triumph England submitted to the Normans.

c 1070HistoryBattle AbbeyThe Chronicle of Battel Abbey
The king on making careful enquiries as to the progress of the work, was told by the monks that the place where he had determined to build the abbey was situated upon a hill with a parched soil, dry, and destitute of water and they entreated him that a more convenient spot in the immediate vicinity might be chosen for so important a work. Upon this the king grew angry, and commanded them with all haste to lay the foundations of the temple on the very place where he had achieved the victory over his enemy. Not daring to resist him, they complained of the scarcity of water; to which the king is reported to have replied in these memorable words: 'If God spare my life, I will so amply provide for this place, that wine shall be more abundant here than water is in any other great abbey!' They next complained of the unfitness of the place, because, the ground being woody for some distance round, proper stone for the edifice could not be obtained; but the king, undertaking to defray all expenses out of his own treasury, sent ships to the town of Caen to bring over abundance of that material for the work. And when, in compliance with the royal order, they had imported some part of the stone from Normandy, in the meantime, as is said, it was revealed to a certain religious matron, that upon digging in the place indicated to her in a vision, they would find plenty of stone for this purpose. They commenced a search accordingly, and, at no great distance from the boundary which had been marked out for the Abbey found such an ample supply, that it plainly appeared, that a concealed treasure of it had been divinely laid in that very place from eternity, for the building there to be erected!
Thus at length were laid the foundations of this most excellent work, as it was then considered ; and in accordance with the king's decree, they wisely erected the high altar upon the precise spot where the ensign of King Harold, which they call the Standard, was observed to fall.

1538HistoryBattle AbbeyBattle Abbey Under 39 Kings
In 1538 he [Sir Anthony Browne] received from Henry VIII, in recognition of his services, the "house and suite of the late monastery of Battle, in Sussex, to him, his heirs, and assigns for ever."

Sir Anthony claimed his possession in Battel three months after the dissolution of the monasteries, literally turning the monks out of the gates in 1538. Legend says they went to Senlac House, the Abbot going to Abbot's Cottage in Upper Lake, built perhaps in 1530.
The site of the late monastery and all its possessions in Sussex and Kent, with the exception of the Manor of Alciston, already granted to Sir William Gage, fell to Sir Anthony's lot. The whole revenue was valued at the time at £987 11s. 6d. (Dugdale).

1607InheritanceAnthony Maria Browne, 2nd Viscount MontaguBattle AbbeyBattle Abbey Under 39 Kings

1629 to 1682HistoryBattle AbbeyBattle Abbey Under 39 Kings
Sir Anthony Browne died in 1629, leaving a son Francis, 3rd Viscount Montagu. The estates of this peer were sequestrated in 1650, two-thirds being seized by the Commonwealth because he was a Papist.

The family of Browne suffered greatly in fortune during the Civil War, and in 1661 Francis, 3rd Viscount, found himself obliged to "dispark the deer park of Battel Abbey". This Viscount spent a good deal of money on running and hunting dogs, and her ladyship spent her share on balls and suppers in town.
He died in 1682.

1683 to 1708HistoryFrancis Browne, 4th Viscount MontaguBattle AbbeyBattle Abbey Under 39 Kings
Francis, 4th Viscount, pressed for money, so that in 1683 the great monastic kitchen was taken down and the materials sold. This building was 70 ft. square and had five large fireplaces, of which one remains; the kitchen was vaulted in the middle and surrounded by aisles, containing sculleries, pantry and a bakehouse. A barrel-vaulted cellar was underneath the south aisle, lighted by a lancet window in each bay. In 1685, 1686, and 1687 frequent mention is made of the sale of materials from the kitchen in the family accounts.

1708 to 1719HistorySir Anthony Browne, 6th Viscount MontaguBattle AbbeyBattle Abbey Under 39 Kings
In 1715 the family of Browne had ceased to live at the Abbey; so Sir Anthony, 6th Viscount, only son of Henry, Lord Montagu, sold the estate, soon after he had inherited it, to Sir Thomas Webster. Ruined and neglected, it had become the favourite resort of smugglers, who found the range of vaults excellent storehouses for their goods, and with well-wooded surroundings they were practically safe from capture by custom officials.

1760South West View of battle AbbeySouth West View of battle Abbey by Samuel & Nathaniel BuckPrivate collection

1773Battle Abbey, South FrontBattle Abbey, South Front, watercolour painted by Samuel Hieronymus Grimm© British Library Board - Shelfmark: Additional MS 5670, Item number: f. 45 (no. 83)

1773Budgen's View of Battle AbbeyBudgen's View of Battle Abbey, ink wash on paper drawn by Samuel Hieronymus Grimm© British Library Board - Shelfmark: Additional MS 5670, Item number: f. 37 (no. 72)

1783Vestibule at Battle AbbeyVestibule at Battle Abbey, ink wash on paper drawn by Samuel Hieronymus Grimm© British Library Board - Shelfmark: Additional MS 5670, Item number: f. 49 (no. 87)

1783Inside of Battle Abbey GatewayInside of Battle Abbey Gateway, watercolour painted by Samuel Hieronymus Grimm© British Library Board - Shelfmark: Additional MS 5670, Item number: f. 39 (no. 75)

1783The West Front of Battle AbbeyThe West Front of Battle Abbey, watercolour painted by Samuel Hieronymus Grimm© British Library Board - Shelfmark: Additional MS 5670, Item number: f. 40 (no. 77)

1783Rooms under Battle Abbey RefactoryRooms under Battle Abbey Refactory, ink wash on paper drawn by Samuel Hieronymus Grimm© British Library Board - Shelfmark: Additional MS 5670, Item number: f. 44 (no. 81)

1783Battle Abbey, East FrontBattle Abbey, East Front, watercolour painted by Samuel Hieronymus Grimm© British Library Board - Shelfmark: Additional MS 5670, Item number: f. 47 (no. 85)

1783Great Hall at Battle AbbeyGreat Hall at Battle Abbey, watercolour painted by Samuel Hieronymus Grimm© British Library Board - Shelfmark: Additional MS 5670, Item number: f. 48 (no. 86)

1783Battle Abbey from Starrs GreenBattle Abbey from Starrs Green, watercolour painted by Samuel Hieronymus Grimm© British Library Board - Shelfmark: Additional MS 5670, Item number: f. 34 (no. 64)

1783Abbey Gate at Battle taken from the Market PlaceAbbey Gate at Battle taken from the Market Place, watercolour painted by Samuel Hieronymus Grimm© British Library Board - Shelfmark: Additional MS 5670, Item number: f. 38 (no. 74)

1783The Inside of Battle Abbey RefactoryThe Inside of Battle Abbey Refactory, watercolour painted by Samuel Hieronymus Grimm© British Library Board - Shelfmark: Additional MS 5670, Item number: f. 43 (no. 80)

1783The South End of  Battle RefactoryThe South End of Battle Refactory, watercolour painted by Samuel Hieronymus Grimm© British Library Board - Shelfmark: Additional MS 5670, Item number: f. 41 (no. 78)

1783The East Side of  Battle RefactoryThe East Side of Battle Refactory, watercolour painted by Samuel Hieronymus Grimm© British Library Board - Shelfmark: Additional MS 5670, Item number: f. 42 (no. 79)

1790Battle AbbeyBattle Abbey by ThorntonPrivate collection

1850Battle AbbeyBattle Abbey, watercolour (30.3 x 42.4cm) painted by William Buckler© British Library Board - Shelfmark: Additional MS 37120, Item number: f. 6

1850The Remains of the CloistersThe Remains of the Cloisters by Newman & BarclayPrivate collection

c 1900Cloister Front, Battle AbbeyCloister Front, Battle Abbey photographed by Valentine's seriesPrivate collection

1911Gateway, Battle AbbeyGateway, Battle Abbey photographed by Valentine's seriesPrivate collection

1913The Cloisters, Battle AbbeyThe Cloisters, Battle Abbey photographed by The Sussex Photographic Co, HastingsPrivate collection

c 1920Battle AbbeyBattle Abbey photographed by Judges Ltd, HastingsPrivate collection

c 1920The Crypt, Battle AbbeyThe Crypt, Battle Abbey photographed by Judges Ltd, HastingsPrivate collection

c 1920Battle Abbey GatewayBattle Abbey GatewayPrivate collection

c 1970The Gateway, Battle AbbeyThe Gateway, Battle AbbeySt. Mary's Church

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