MY DAD'S BATTLE GUIDE
With acknowledgement to my dad's friend the late James Oliver, Printer of Battle, who wrote most of these words just after World War Two, when he and my dad produced this 24-page booklet.
Profits from the sale of this booklet were given to the Royal Air Forces Association. (Battle Branch )
The Booklet contains more of his narrative, and more of the unique photographs which my dad made
for this publication, with the kind permission of Ms. Helen Sheehan-Dare of Battle Abbey
The Cover was designed by J.R.Simmons Esq.
THE HISTORIC TOWN
COUNTY OF SUSSEX, ENGLAND
THE NORMAN CONQUEST OF BRITAIN
UPON THIS SPOT, where now stands the historic town of Battle and its Abbey, occurred a clash of arms which has echoed and re-echoed into almost every corner of the earth for nearly one thousand years.
This last great invasion of Britain introduced to sturdy English stock the virile Norman blood, and so produced this great race, which, in its turn has brought into being so many great nations.
Probably more than any other area in this country, the neighbourhood of Battle has cradled the men and women, who through the years, have pioneered the way into new lands all over the world.
How many of the founders of the Empire, the Commonwealth and the United States of America could trace their ancestry back to the Norman Conquest of Britain and to Battle?
It is the object of this book to provide the visitor with a souvenir that will be valued; a pictorial reminder of this little Town, steeped in history, tradition and beauty, and of its inhabitants who are deeply conscious of their responsibility to preserve this treasure unspoiled.
BEFORE what is commonly known as The Battle of Hastings," fought on this spot on October 14th in the year 1066, William, Duke of Normandy, vowed that if he was victorious - Upon this place of battle I will found a free monastery for the salvation of you all, 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 succoured" (Battle Abbey Chronicle c 1180)
William, being victorious, ordered William Faber, a monk of Marmoutier, to arrange for stone to be brought from Caen in Normandy, and with monks from the Abbey of Marmoutier, work was commenced on building the Abbey. The cost for this work was to be borne by the King.
In the year 1076, the second Abbot, Gausbert, was blessed by the Bishop of Chichester at the high altar, built on the spot where Harold was killed.
William had intended to be present at the dedication of the Abbey, but in the year 1087, he died in Normandy after being thrown from his horse during the burning of Mantes. His wish was to be buried here in his Abbey, but for some reason he was buried in Normandy.
The dedication eventually was
performed by St. Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, on February 11th, 1094, in the presence of Rufus, the Conqueror's son, Bishops, Barons, Clergy and Lay folk.
The Abbey has a haunting quality, like some far-away melody borne across the changing tides ; a dream of Old England, linking the past nine centuries with to-day.
THE BATTLE OF HASTINGS
ENGLAND was invaded by William, Duke of Normandy, on September 28th, 1066.
Whilst Harold, King of England, was celebrating his victory over the Danes at Stamford Bridge, William landed at Pevensey with no opposition from the English, and setting up his wooden fort at Hastings, sent his warriors to plunder and destroy in the neighbourhood.
News of the landing reached Harold on Oct. I st, and with all available speed he mustered his somewhat disorganised army and marched south. By Oct. 13th he had taken up his position confronting William's army which was well prepared for the attack. On the morning of Oct. 14th, 1066, on this spot where Battle now stands, occurred that great clash of arms "THE BATTLE OF HASTlNGS".
It requires but a little imagination to stand with the Saxon men upon Caldbec Hill and see again the invading Normans moving down the hill from Telham to do battle in the valley; to see the morning sun glinting upon armour and showing up the red and gold of banners and heraldic devices; to follow the course of the battle
attack repulse strategic retreat the Saxons falling into a trap Harold's final
stand and the falling of the arrow which caused his death.
After the battle the victorious William reaffirmed his vow to build an Abbey upon the scene of his success and to call the place "La Battaile."
The English were defeated and William the Conqueror was crowned King of England.
Many relics of interest can be found within its walls.
THE CHURCH OF ST. MARY, THE VIRGlN, originally built in the 11th century, was first called ''the Parish Church" in the year 1271, and was restored in 1845.
Two brasses can be seen on the floor of the chancel ; on the north side is one of Robert Clere, Dean, ob. 1450, and on the south side is a fine brass effigy on a black marble slab, of John Wythines, Dean, ob. 1615. Another brass effigy represents John Lowe, ob. 1426.
Eight bells made in 1739 hang in the old Norman Tower. which was built in the 15th century. The clock was added in 1869.
Throughout the years Battle Church has always been "a chapel" connected with the Abbey.
An imposing alabaster tomb of Sir Anthony Browne who died in 1548, and of his first wife Lady Alis who died in 1540, can be seen in the church and is believed to have been erected after the death of Lady Alis. The tomb has been slightly damaged probably by Cromwell's soldiers in the 17th century.
In the Churchyard amongst numbers of quaint headstones of 17th and 18th century origin, may Le found that on the grave of Isaac Ingall, who died in 1798, aged 120 years.
The churchyard was consecrated in the 8th century.
THE PILGRIM'S REST
THE PILGRlM'S REST standing within the shadow of the Abbey wall, was-rebuilt in 1420, on the site of a 12th century monastic "hospital", and is an authentic example of an early timber-framed building. A first floor was inserted in the 16th century, but was removed and to-day the building stands as originally planned.
It represents one of the earliest lnns during the period of the Maisons Dieu. These were free houses, established by the Church for the shelter of Pilgrims too poor to gain accommodation in the ale stakes, until the Abbey gates were opened.
To-day we find the Pilgrims Rest, a replica of the distant past providing comfort and refreshment within its ancient walls, for Abbey visitors of the Twentieth century
THE TOWN OF BATTLE
SET in a large Rural Area, the little Town of Battle has grown through the years into a busy market place and centre of administration and many Architectural Periods are represented in its buildings and dwellings.
Fine examples of the craft of builders of past ages are :-
THE ALMONRY. a private dwelling built in the 15th century with an additional wing and chimney added a century later. The ancient stairway, ceilings and fireplaces are exquisite examples of 16th and 17th century architecture.
THE GUlLDHALL, built in the 16th century with its 14th century cellar.
THE DEANERY, an example of Tudor architecture, built at the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
LANGTON HOUSE, dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries.
These are but a few of interest ; many more are to be seen which have some connection with past centuries.
THE COUNTY OF SUSSEX
AT THE CONQUEST, Sussex was divided into sections known as Rapes. These
extended in oblong tracts from South to North, each having a sea coast with port, a river, an inland town and a region of forests. The latter were penetrated in places by smelters of iron and hewers of wood. The abundance of rich iron ore and timber gave cause for Sussex to become a County of great national importance.
In 1543 the first pieces of cast iron ever to be made in England were cast at Buxted. The use of wood charcoal for the blasting furnaces made such havoc of the woods that in the time of Henry VIII and Elizabeth, various laws were passed for the protection of forests, the substitution of coke instead of wood charcoal being the result.
The year 1825 saw the last of the iron furnaces in Sussex, but a new industry, the making of gunpowder, came into being.
Of all parts of our coast, Sussex was perhaps the best fitted for smuggling, which at one time became a very active industry and hardly a coast town is without its stories and traditions of smugglers.
Many historical places which have withstood the passing of time are to be found in Sussex. Winchelsea with its ancient West Gate and Priory ruins, and Rye with its quaint old cobbled streets and old world buildings give vivid impressions of days long past. Hastings, once a very active fishing port, with its ruined harbour and castle on the hill, and Pevensey, the landing place of the Normans, with its castle, turn one's attention to matters both historical and pictorial. Eastbourne with its low coast and Martello Towers, the South Downs with old-world villages hidden in the folds of the hills, the magnificent cliff scenery of Beachy Head, can all be described as the delights of Sussex.
Many have sung the beauties of Sussex, and rightly so, for in this corner of England can be found some of the loveliest stretches of country-side in the world.
Compiled and Designed by
(Member of the Master Printers' Federation)
Photographs by IVOR N. WHITE
Battle Abbey photographs by kind permission of the Trustees
Reproduction of cover by courtesy of J. R. Simmons, Esq.
Printed in Battle by Olivers Printing Works
Profits from the sale of this book will be given to The Royal Air Forces Association, Battle Branch