'The Great Battle'....history of the most eerie kind!

This morning we set off on a 2 hour drive across to 'Battle' in search for history surrounding the date of one of the most significant battles in the history of England - October 14, 1066. This battle, where William the Conqueror found his way onto the English shore and defeated King Harold of England, is known very famously as 'The Battle of Hastings'.

We were surprised to discover, when planning our trip, that it was not actually the heart of Hastings where this battle ensued. The place where this battle was fought is actually named 'Battle' and is 7 miles north of Hastings itself.

As you approach the car park for the Battlefield you are instantly drawn to the enormous fortress of the 'Great Gatehouse', rebuilt in about 1338. The brick work, like so many of these old English Heritage buildings, looks like something out of a medievil film, with large, irregular bricks that have stood for centuries and, yet, still look so imposingly strong....amazing!



Once inside we quickly located some 'audio tour aids' which we have become quite accustomed to when visiting castles protected by the 'English Heritage' group. These audio tours are so informative. As you proceed throughout the significant parts of these historical sights you simply press the matching number on the device and get a full commentary on this historical significance of this particular place. It is really worthwhile picking up these devices whenever they are available as they help to give you real insight to the history...if you are open to imagination then you can actually feel the history happening around you...it's like taking a real step back and seeing it first hand....brilliant!

The boys and I went into the visitor information centre for a look while Matt and Storm went for a quick roam around the gardens outside...yes, even dogs are allowed inside the battlegrounds (just not inside the modern visitor centre). Inside we saw old armour, chain mail, plus Norman and English swords, shields and spears that were used in the battle. We also stopped to watch a small video on the day of the famous battle. We were amased to discover that this historical event was over and done with in one day (a very long one at that). What we hadn't realised was that this is where the Anglo Saxon line of Kings in England ended.

Once back outside with Matt & Stormy we wandered around the battlefields, listening to the audio tour as we went. There was an eerie feeling as we crossed the lush green battlefields where over 7000 bodies lay at the end of that hisorical day which could so easily have gone the other way if it had not been for Williams persistance. We stopped to ponder just how things may have changed if the Normans had not successfully taken the English throne...guess we'll never know. We stood on the spot where King Harold fell for the last time. This place was later surrounded by an Abbey built by order of King William II (the conqueror) in memory of that fateful day when Harold fell to the Normans. The Abbey was later destroyed during other battles. To this day it is still not known exactly how Harold died. Some say he was struck in the eye by an arrow. Others say he was hacked down in battle. Others say both happened...guess we'll never really know. All we do know is this: The battle continued for over 10 hours, leaving soldiers tired and hungry after so many hours, and finally finished sometime before nightfall after the Normans broke the weakening Saxon wall of shields. Finally, the Normans tricked the Saxons into believing they were retreating and then encircled and slaughtered them the moment they started to relax...trickery at its worst!

Once we had finished soaking up the atmosphere here (several hours later) we headed to the nearby town of Pevensey to visit the Castle where William and his men first came to shore before the attack. Most of this castle is in ruins but the wall separating the inner and outer bailey still stands, along with the dungeons below (which were sadly flooded after recent rain) and the turretts, which are now approximately half their original size after centuries of deterioration. Parts of this castle (one of Britain's oldest stongholds) were build back around 400AD in Roman times and so has stood for over 16 centuries. Despite the ruinous state it is now in it is one of the few strongholds whose walls were never compromised during the many wars it has seen - including WWII where it was used to protect the coast from invasion, yet again.


On the whole, a very satisfying day for all, including a very happy Stormy girl who got to wander around the castle grounds with us. The boys even scored a bow and arrow set (suction pad ends, of course) from Mummy, for being so good all day. Then we stopped of at The Hungry Horse (Portsmouth) for dinner on the way home. This was our 3rd visit to The Hungry Horse since we first arrived in England. It's a great pub attached to a family hotel. It even has a big play room (the kind with 2 story climbing gear, balls below...the same kind as back home) so Matt and I got to enjoy a chat over our Coke and Lemonade while we waited for our rums steak (delectable). We then all enjoyed our meals together and headed home for a much needed rest......tomorrow....Rest and Relaxation day.....ahhh!

For more information and official photographs on this amazing place go to
http://english-heritage.org.uk/battleabbeyandbattlefield

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