William the Conqueror Trail
William,7th Duke of Normandy (1027-1087), set his stamp on the history of the Duchy of Normandy and of the Kingdom of England, their destinies becoming closely entwined for more than a century. The symbolic date 1066 marks the subjection of England by William the Conqueror and his Barons. By winning the Battle of Hastings William became King of England. He and his successors put down firm roots into English soil, reinforcing cultural, economic and political links between the Normans and the Anglo-Saxons. In memory of this giant of our two histories, the William the Conqueror Trail invites you to step back in time. Discover those places which were the setting for the main episodes of William's life and his victorious achievement.
Although traditionally called "The Battle of Hastings" the greatest conflict in English history took place here, and gave the simple name "Battle" to the charming market town that developed.
Historians generally agree now that the Abbey was founded when the papal authorities insisted the Normans do penance for the great loss of life incurred during the Conquest. The high altar was placed on the spot where Harold fell. Building started in 1070, and the abbey church was consecrated in 1094 in the presence of the Conqueror's son,
King William Rufus.
The abbots at Battle were very powerful, and in the 14th century the Abbey played a vital role in defending the whole area against raids from the French; hence the fine fortified gatehouse (1338) and the wall walk. It was the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII that brought the Abbey's power to an end. Battle Abbey estate stayed in private hands until 1976, when it was purchased for the nation. It is now in the care of English Heritage. An audio tour in several languages brings the battle and the splendid ruins to life.
Nearby, the beautiful parish church of St Mary the Virgin, founded in 1115, is only one of the fascinating historic buildings that make a stroll through the town worth while. Others can be seen on the Battle Town Trail, details of which are available from the Tourist Information Centre.