1066 And All That

A couple days ago, we visited Pevensey Castle where William the Conqueror established a military base upon invading England from Normandy in October 1066. After William had set up his defenses at Pevensey, he and his Norman troops engaged King Harold and his Anglo-Saxon soldiers at the Battle of Hastings, just a few miles away. Each side had somewhere between 5,000 and 7,000 men, but the Normans had cavalry and that, ultimately, made the difference. The Normans won the battle, King Harold was killed, William, formerly Duke of Normandy, became King of England, and the rest, they say, is history.

We visited the battlefield today. It was cold and rainy, so we didn’t do the full tour out into the fields, but we may come back and do a country walk all the way round when the weather clears.

The battlefield is a significant historical site to the British, kind of like our Gettysburg. Though the English lost the Battle of Hastings, they seem to trace their nationhood to that place and time; it’s hallowed ground.

Besides being a revered battleground, the site is also famous for the Abbey that William built here – supposedly on the very spot where King Harold met his end – as redemption for the slaughter; his men seem to have chased down and killed most of the Algo-Saxon troops.

The Abbey, completed around 1200 AD, and expanded in the 1400s, was contained within a walled compound. Here’s the Gate from the outside:

…and, again, from the inside:

This is the back of the renovated portion of the Abbey:

And here’s a view of the battlefield – King Harold and his troops were at the top of the rise (right behind where Dale is standing)…

William and his troops charged up hill from down there, but were unable to break through; however, when William’s troops retreated, the Anglo-Saxons gave chase and William’s cavalry swooped in and encircled them, killing every man and winning the battle. It looks peaceful now, but 7,000 men died there that day in 1066.

Here’s what remains of the Abbey after it was rebuilt in the 1400s (it was mostly torn down shortly after 1538 when King Henry divorced the Roman Catholic Church, set up his own Church of England, and confiscated the Catholic’s properties):

Although the roof was destroyed long ago, the main building is still sound, the ceiling still well supported by columns constructed more than 600 years ago.

We exited and went around back where I took this picture from the site of the original Abbey.

We left the Abbey and the battlefield through the main Gate and stepped back into the (relatively) modern world of the Town of Battle, England, just in time for tea.

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