What to See in England
By Gordon Home
Public Domain Books
=How to get there.=–Train from Charing Cross or Cannon Street. South-Eastern and Chatham Railway. =Nearest Station.=–Battle. =Distance from London.=–55-1/4 miles. =Average Time.=–Varies between 2-1/2 hours and 1-1/2 hours.
1st 2nd 3rd =Fares.=–Single 9s. 4d. 5s. 10d. 4s. 8-1/2d. Return 16s. 4d. 11s. 8d. 9s. 5d.
=Accommodation Obtainable.=–"George” and “Star” Hotels. =Alternative Route.=–None.
Battle Abbey is open to the public on Tuesdays only, between 12 and 4. There is no charge for admission, tickets being obtained from the stationer’s shop bearing the name Ticehurst. It is situated close to the main entrance to the abbey. The great gateway through which one enters is illustrated here. It was probably built by Abbot Retlynge in the first half of the fourteenth century. The original abbey was built in fulfilment of a vow which William the Norman made just before the battle of Senlac Hill, the building being arranged so that the high altar was placed on the exact spot where the body of Harold II. was discovered on the awful field of slaughter. The sixty monks who started the monastery were brought over by William from the Benedictine monastery of Marmontier in Normandy. They were granted many extraordinary privileges, including the right of treasure-trove. A further privilege was given to the abbots in the form of authority to pardon any sentenced criminal whom they might chance to meet on the road. The abbey was not completed until after the death of William the Conqueror.
On the left, as one goes through the great gateway, are the portions of the abbey which have been converted into the house which was, until her death, the home of the Duchess of Cleveland. At right angles to these buildings runs a terrace, from which one looks towards the sea across the battlefield on which was decided one of the most momentous issues which have affected the English nation.
One must have read Lord Lytton’s Harold to fully realise the tremendous pathos of the struggle to the death between the English and the Normans. The green facing the great gateway has half hidden on its surface an old bull ring. In wet weather this is scarcely discoverable, the ring being easily hidden in the small puddles of water which accumulate.
[Illustration: Photochrom Co., Ltd. THE GATEWAY OF BATTLE ABBEY.
The high altar of Battle Abbey was placed exactly over the spot where the body of Harold II. was discovered after the battle of Senlac Hill.]