October 14, 1066 − a most famous date that changed the course of English history. The English army, led by King Harold, was deployed on Senlac hill, where the town of Battle and its beautiful abbey presently stand. William (“The Conqueror”), positioned his army strategically, and although it’s understood to have been a close battle, at the end of a very long and bloody day in time, William won the war, bringing Norman rule to England.
Back then, the coastline of Sussex was different to what it is today − positioned much closer to the site of the 1066 clash. Additionally, there was only one major ‘road’ between London and the region, which went through the village of Battle. If Harold had held his ground, William would have struggled to save his own campaign, probably never gaining control over this critical path to the nation’s core.
While the battle took place coming up on 1000 years ago, the story is an extraordinary one, and can be retraced by any individual on a visit to “1066 country” − Hastings and Battle, Sussex in England.
Battle is a quaint village situated about 15 minutes train or car journey from the seaside city of Hastings (pictured above, where most travellers base themselves for a few days in order to explore the many attractions of the region); or a two hour train journey from the Capital’s London Bridge station.
Battle Abbey (pictured below) is the striking centrepiece of the town, behind which lies the field where many perished on a cold October day all those years ago. The field is vast, and if you’re lucky, you will have space of your own to wander the track around the site − relatively silent these days, but for serene sounds of birds in the trees, water life splashing in nearby ponds and small herds of sheep meandering across the green grass (pictured above). The track itself is quite boggy and marshy, probably similar to what the armies of men plundering into battle would have endured.
Poignant but pretty − it is difficult to imagine the place had seen such ferocity. Gazing through the woodland however, back at the medieval abbey and surrounding grand old structures, a visitor can happily dwell for a while in notions of the past.
Take a trip through English history:
Images and feature: Sarah Blinco and Cooper Dawson.