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This site is protected as a "scheduled monument" under the provisions of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 (as amended). Without prior permission it is an offence to i) cause damage ii) to execute, cause or permit work iii) to use a metal detector.


Name:Battle Abbey, Battle : Norman/Medieval Abbey
HER Ref:MES3355
Type of record:Monument

Designations

  • Registered Park or Garden (II) 1000309: BATTLE ABBEY
  • Registered Battlefield 1000013: Battle of Hastings, 1066
  • Conservation Area: BATTLE
  • Scheduled Monument: BATTLE ABBEY
  • Archaeological Notification Area: Battle : historic town and battle field

Summary

Benedictine Abbey founded in 1067 and dissolved in 1538. Surviving features include the 13th century dormitory and a gate house of 1338. The site was incorporated into a house from the mid 16th century and has additions of 1857. School and visitor centre now occupy the site.


Grid Reference:TQ 747 152
Parish:BATTLE, ROTHER, EAST SUSSEX
Map:Show location on Streetmap

Monument Types

  • BUILDING (AD 11th Century to Modern - 1000 AD to 2050 AD)
  • ABBEY (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)
  • BENEDICTINE MONASTERY (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1539 AD)

Description

(Centred TQ 749 157) Remains of St Martin's Abbey (NR) (Benedictine Founded AD 1067). [1]
Battle Abbey, Benedictine, dedicated to St Martin, was founded in 1067, and dissolved in 1538. [2]
As described in the Official Guide. See illustration card. Frater and kitchen surveyed at 1:2500 remainder to be amended by Field surveyor. [3]
Battle Abbey Founded by William the Conqueror on the site of the Battle of Hastings, the high altar of the Abbey Church being erected on the spot where Harold fell. Of the Abbey Church there are practically no remains above ground, but in the last century the foundations were excavated and exposed of the original East end, and of the East end of the new Presbytery beyond it which was added in the C.14. The principal remains still standing are the Dormitory, the vaults beneath the Guest-house and the Gate-house. The Dormitory is a C.13 building with lancet ws. And beneath it three crypt rooms with vaulting. The Guest-house was also a C13 building on the site of the present terrace of the garden. The 8 barrel-vaulted chambers beneath it with buttresses on the South side survive. At the East end of these are two octagonal turrets built by Sir Anthony Browne in the C.16 after the dissolution when, as Guardian of the Princess Elizabeth, he was preparing a lodging for her in the Abbey. The Gate-house was built in 1338. It is of sandstone and consists of a large arch for vehicles and a small arch for pedestrians with 2 storeys over and 4 octagonal turrets at the angles. To the West of it is the porter's lodge and beyond that a C.12 room. To the East is a building of 2 s.and 4 w. with two round-headed arches, probably built by Sir Anthony Browne in the C.16 on the site of the Almonry of the Abbey and used as the court-room of the manor till the C.18. Beyond this to the East is the C.14 and ealier stone procincts wall with buttresses. The house itself, which is now leased as a Girls' School, is of various dates. It incorporates parts of the Abbot's house, the West end of the Frater and the West side of the Cloisters, all built in the C.14, This work, particularly the early Perpendicular arcading of the Cloisters, can be seen on the East side of the house. To the medieval work was added the house built by Sir Anthony Browne in the C.16, when the West end of the Frater was mutilated by the insertion of new windows. This was greatly altered and enlarged in the C.19 and the majority of the decorative features date from that period. In the centre of the triangular space in front of the Gate-house the old Bull-ring is still fixed in the ground. Ancient Monument. [4]
An archaeological watching brief was maintained during the construction of a new visitor centre and public toilets in the grounds of Battle Abbey (Planning Reference: RR/2005/1541/C1), adjacent to the gate house (TQ 7480 1570). A total of 37 separate site visits were made by supervisory staff from Archaeology South-East. The ground reduction comprised of an area formerly occupied by temporary buildings, public toilets and a World War II Canadian Dugout. The made ground/overburden on this area reached depths of up to 2m. These made ground deposits were nearly all dated to the post-medieval period. However, deposit (124), noted in section directly above the natural clay, contained only 12th century tile. The outer precinct wall of the Abbey and the remains of a possible buttress were located in an area of ground reduction during the construction of a new pathway. These were well preserved and constructed of sandstone blocks. In the area formerly occupied by pre-fabricated and temporary structures a gully dated to the late medieval/ early post-medieval period, was seen cutting into the natural geology beneath modern made ground deposits. Two possible medieval/early post-medieval walls were seen in a service trench excavated along Park Lane (Trench E). Of particular interest was a well recorded during ground reduction at the northern edge of the site boundary, next to Park Lane. This well was structured with sandstone bricks and was probably constructed during the 15th or 16th century AD. [5]
The plan has been prepared to inform the conservation and management of the buildings, park and battlefield at the English Heritage property of Battle Abbey. The plan outlined that English Heritage should comply with the legal and procedural requirements for scheduled monuments, listed buildings and conservation areas, together with best practice in the management and presentation of the non-statutory registered battlefield, archaeological notification areas, and registered historic park. The wider setting of the site within the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the policies in the High Weald AONB Management Plan 2014-2019 should always be considered in any actions. Best professional practice and English Heritage’s own advisory documents should be followed at all times. There are three particular subject areas that should be at the forefront of this approach within the plan period archaeological investigation and recording, the presentation of the building and the landscape and the wider setting of the property. [6]
Battle Abbey has been the subject of numerous archaeological and antiquarian investigations over the past two centuries.
Since the Department of the Environment’s excavations in the late 1970s, archaeology at Battle Abbey has been development-led rather than research-led, with the apparent exception of the unpublished gatehouse excavations. Although this work has been often small-scale in nature and ad-hoc in its coverage, it is valuable in giving thorough treatment to the walled garden and exploring aspects of the infirmary, outer court, precinct wall and the west front of the church.
Two main research questions have been identified for the site:
• The church nave. Although the basic plan of the church is understood, excavation would considerably enhance our understanding of the abbey’s most important building as well as to give coherency to what for visitors should be a focal part of the site. Much of the eastern part of the nave, the crossing and the transepts lie outside of the school grounds, and would be immediately accessible.
• The battlefield. No objects which can be related to the events of October 1066 have ever been discovered. The survival, location and nature of any battlefield archaeology needs to be addressed so as to safeguard against contamination and damage from modern battle re-enactment events. Identification of this material within the precinct would also re-focus our perceptions of where the battle took-place. [7]
Analysis was undertaken on timbers from the Gatehouse, the Dorter, and the Reredorter resulting in the construction of two site sequences. Site sequence BTLASQ01 contains three samples, two from the Reredorter and one from the Dorter, and spans the period AD 1310–1437. The Reredorter timbers are both likely to have been felled in AD 1416, whilst the beam from the Dorter has a terminus post quem for felling of AD 1452. The second site sequence, containing two Gatehouse samples, is undated, as are the remaining individual samples. [8]
A walled former abbey with a ruined church whose high alter marked the spot where King Harold died. This is now marked by an inscribed stone. The church was consecrated in 1076. [9]

Sources

<1>Report: East Sussex Historic Environment Record.
<2>Article in serial: Article in serial. Knowles and Hadcock (1953) Medieval Religious Houses, 59.
<3>Correspondence: 1952. Ordnance Survey Archaeology Division Field Investigators Comment. F1 NKB 18-MAR-71.
<4>Article in monograph: English Heritage. Register of parks and gardens of special historic interest in England . East Sussex Vol No. - Part 14.
<5>Report: Archaeology South-East. no. 2237 (2008) Riccoboni, P..
<6>Report: Archaeology South-East. ASE 7045 Vol 1 (2015) Masters, P; Shapland, M.
<7>Report: Archaeology South-East. ASE 7045 Vol 2 (2015) Masters, P; Shapland, M.
<8>Report: English Heritage. EH 58-2016 (2016) Arnold, A; Howard; R; Tyers, C.
<9>Web site: Imperial War Museum. 2019. Imperial War Museum Memorial Records. 43443.

Associated Events

  • Battle Abbey, High Street, Battle : Field observation
  • Battle Abbey, Battle Vol 1 : Conservation Management Plan
  • Battle Abbey, Battle Vol 2, Gazetteer of Sites : Conservation Management Plan
  • Battle Abbey, Battle Vol 3 : Conservation Management Plan

Associated Monuments

  • MES36807 - Parent of: Battle Abbey, Battle : Med / PM Abbey Landscape (Monument)
  • MES36803 - Parent of: Battle Abbey, Battle : Med Abbey Church (Monument)
  • MES36806 - Parent of: Battle Abbey, Battle : Med Abbey Precinct (Monument)
  • MES36801 - Parent of: Battle Abbey, Battle : Med Abbots House (Building)
  • MES36802 - Parent of: Battle Abbey, Battle : Med Claustral buildings (Monument)
  • MES36805 - Parent of: Battle Abbey, Battle : Med Former Abbey Guest range / undercroft (Monument)
  • MES36808 - Parent of: Battle Abbey, Battle : Med Monastic Barn (Monument)
  • MES36810 - Parent of: Battle Abbey, Battle : WW2 evidence (Monument)
  • MES3364 - Parent of: Battle Abbey, High Street, Battle : Commemorative stone plaque (Monument)
  • MES36804 - Parent of: North Hillside, Battle Abbey, Battle : Med / PM features (Monument)
  • MES3388 - Parent of: Pilgrim's Rest, High Street, Battle : C15 Almonry (Building)
  • MES36809 - Related to: South of Powdermill Lane, Battle : C19 Walled Garden (Monument)

Associated Finds - none recorded