The town of BATTLE, six miles inland from Hastings, occupies the site of the most famous land battle in British history. Here, on October 14, 1066, the invading Normans swarmed up the hillside from Senlac Moor and overcame the Anglo-Saxon army of King Harold, who is thought to have been killed not by an arrow through the eye – a myth resulting from the misinterpretation of the Bayeux Tapestry – but by a workaday clubbing about the head. Before the battle took place, William vowed that, should he win the engagement, he would build a religious foundation on the very spot of Harold’s slaying to atone for the bloodshed, and, true to his word, Battle Abbey was built four years later and subsequently occupied by a fraternity of Benedictines.
The magnificent structure of Battle Abbey, though partially destroyed in the Dissolution and much rebuilt and revised over the centuries, still dominates the town. You can wander through the ruins of the abbey to the spot where Harold was killed – the site of the high altar of William’s abbey, now marked by a memorial stone – while a visitor centre holds an interactive exhibition and an auditorium showing a dramatic re-enactment of the battle using film and computer simulations.