About 60 miles southwest of London is the town of Battle, the site of the famous “Battle of Hastings” that changed the course of history for England (and the western world). The battle takes its name from the coastal town of Hastings which is less than 10 miles away. It was here that William the Conqueror from Normandy (France) defeated Saxon King Harold on October 14, 1066. This monumental event began the long and bloody intertwined royal history between England and France. The battle raged all day, and King Harold’s army fought valiantly (after no rest from a long journey from the north of the country), but by the end of the day King Harold was dead and his army vanquished.
There was no town here in William’s day. The famous Benedictine Abbey of Battle was built (begun in 1070) on the spot where Harold fell, as a penance by the Normans for the great loss of life that took place here and throughout William’s conquest of England.
The abbots of Battle were powerful, and the abbey played a role against invasions from France and other countries over the centuries, until it was surrendered by the monks during the “Dissolution of the Monasteries” under King Henry VIII in 1538.
Although the original abbey church no longer stands (the foundation and outline can still be seen), other monastery buildings remain, as well as the spot marking King Harold’s death and the original battlefield, which thankfully has been preserved for almost 1,000 years.
The easiest way to get to Battle is by car. Southwest England has many great historical sites and towns, and Battle is one of them. Battle Abbey (and Battlefield) is under the administration of English Heritage. In February 2012, the entrance fee was £7.30/person. Included with the entrance fee is an audio guide tour and several trail routes of varying length that describe the historic battle and abbey.