One of my earliest memories in primary school was learning about the Bayeaux Tapestry. I remember it being this super long piece of fabric, intricately embroidered with a story. A famous story of a battle that happened somewhere in England. A battle of kings. I don’t remember much of the story back then … but I always remembered the Bayeaux Tapestry.
Fast foreword three decades later and I am taking my children back in time. Back in time to 1066 where the most important battle in England happened. The Battle of Hastings.
One lazy day, me and my family travelled down to Hastings visiting the battlefields and trying to learn about what happened on that tragic day.
The Battle of Hastings took place in the year 1066 on October the 14th.
It was a battle between William of Normandy (also known as William the Conqueror) and King Harold (who was King of England at that time). William of Normandy thought he was the rightful king of England.
So William of Normandy sailed his 700 ships across the English channel to the coast of Hastings. They battled for over nine hours. The English were totally outnumbered and didn’t stand a chance against the Normans.
The Normans beat the Anglo Saxons (the English) and King Harold was killed in battle. William of Normandy was crowned king of England on Christmas Day.
We took the long scenic route around the battlefield with our audio guides. There were information points along the way and our audio guides spoke about much of the bloodshed that had happened there.
There was no evidence or relics left behind from the battle and now the battlefield is used as a park. It was a breathtaking sight. There was a odd silence when overlooking the park. Like the ghosts of those who died were still wandering around in a silent echo. Thousands of men died in the battle and the grim reality is that we do not know exactly how many men died, but the bloodshed would have been insurmountable.
After William the Conqueror gained victory over the Anglo-Saxons, he founded a monastery where the battle took place. The monks settled there and began to erect the other buildings which some still stand today (albeit a little worse for wear).
Straying away from the battlefield, we headed towards the abbey. This is the dairy and ice house (picture above). It’s a cute little outhouse on the grounds and it was build with eight walls and was used as an outdoor kitchen. It was built in the the early 19th century (centuries after the great battle) to store ice and other products that need to be kept cool during the warmer seasons. Think of it like an outdoor fridge.
The latrines (toilet facilties) was very important to the monks. They had clean running water which was unusual for that period in time. The monks were clean freaks!
The foundations of the abbey church crypt remain here as a reminder of the bloodshed.
The monks spent a lot of time in the abbey church, praying, reading and working.
The novice’s chamber was breathtaking. The design and architecture of it still blows my mind. It is believed that it was used as a common room for the monks. The chamber is always quite cold, even when the fireplace was lit, it just couldn’t warm up the huge space.
The remains of the chapter house can be seen below. The chapter house was an important part of a monk’s life. It was mainly used to discuss business within the community.
The dormitory (above) were the monk’s sleeping quarters. It is a huge space with many windows giving way to a lot of light. It resembles that of a church or a cathedral with the stone walls and high ceilings.
The building above (which we were not allowed access to) is the refectory also leading to the site of the cloister walk, west range and abbot’s lodgings.
This plaque: “The traditional site of the high altar of Battle Abbey founded to commemorate the story of Duke William on the 14th OCtober 1066. The high altar was placed to mark the spot where King Harold died.”
Here are some facts about the most important battle in British history:
- The battle didn’t actually take place in Hastings, but about seven miles away in a town now called Battle.
- During the battle, both sides took a break for lunch (can you imagine them enjoying a cheese sandwich and a sausage roll with a thermos of tea).
- The battle lasted the best part of a day … starting around 9am and finishing when the sun went down.
- Genealogists believe that about 25% of the English population are descendents from William of Conqueror.
- Both sides had around 7000 men so you can imagine how crazy the battle would have been.
- The Bayeaux Tapestry was made in the 11th century and tells the story of the battle and is the longest piece of embroidery in the world.
- The first person to die in the battle was William The Conqueror’s jester, Taillefer.
- King Harold was famously known from dying from an arrow in the eye, but he actually died by getting beaten to death.
- William the Conqueror when he won the battle, erected an Abbey in memory of the battle and of the men killed.
- The Normans won by pretending to be scared. They pretended to retreat which forced the English to break formation.
Battle Abbey and Battlefield I felt was different to the usual places we visit. I think the gruesome history affected me a bit. One thing I was wondering though … they state that no remains or relics were ever found from the battle. So where were all the men buried? There were thousands of them. Where were they? They were all wearing armour and helmets of some sort with many different weapons. There must be relics somewhere right? There must be something!
Another curious thing we noticed when we went there was the huge number of school children on a day trip there. I presume they were from France because they were all speaking French to each other. I guess it makes sense as the Battle of Hastings affected them too. The Normans were of course from France!
Don’t forget to drop me a comment or message before you leave. Let me know your thoughts on this historical topic.
Lots of love
~ The Cake Lady xx