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The location of England's most famous conflict

In the year 1066, William the Conqueror's victory was absolute. His army sailed to England, and met the forces of King Harold II. The Norman archers, infantry and cavalry killed hundreds of enemy soldiers. Then, in the heat of battle, Harold himself had an arrow put through his eye. At that moment, William knew he had won.
The Pope, Alexander II, had supported the Norman invasion of England. Even so, he was saddened to hear just how many lives had been lost. He ordered William to try and make up for it, in any way he could. England's new King obeyed, by building an abbey on the site of the battle. The altar of its high church was placed on the very spot where Harold fell.
Today, this location is marked by a plaque on the ground. The altar itself is gone, and so is most of the abbey. Nevertheless, its ruins maintain a quiet, majestic atmosphere. They're looked after by English Heritage, who have also built a visitor centre nearby. Here you'll find out what the famous conflict would have looked and sounded like.
The town that emerged next to the abbey was named in honour of its dramatic past. Although it has remained a largely peaceful place, for many years Battle still had links with combat and conflict. It was home to a series of gunpowder mills, which were hailed as being the best in Europe. The finished product was used extensively in the war against Napoleon. Unfortunately, this was a dangerous industry, and there were plenty of accidents. On one particularly memorable occasion, 15 tonnes of gunpowder were left in the oven for too long. The resulting explosion caused a mess that took a long time to clean up! Even so, this was a mere hiccup compared to the intentions of Guy Fawkes. It's likely that he came here to buy his supply of powder, shortly before attempting to blow up the Houses of Parliament.
Battle's high street offers a quick snapshot of the town's history, with buildings from all the stages of its life. The oldest is St. Mary's Church, a 12th century building with rare medieval wall paintings. Many of the other houses and shops are Georgian, or even older.
One of the buildings transports you back into a relatively recent period of history. In Yesterday's World, you'll stroll through Victorian back streets, watch Elizabeth II being crowned and relive the psychedelic 70s. The displays include over 100,000 artefacts from days gone by.
The more famous periods of the town's past are examined at the Battle Museum of Local History. They have the world's oldest effigy of Guy Fawkes, from the early 1700s. The custom back then was to chop his head off, and throw the body on the bonfire. Another gunpowder-related exhibit is a deadly firework called the "Battle Rouser". They were officially banned in the 50s, as they invariably caused more damage than entertainment. Of course, the museum also looks at the Battle of Hastings. They have an axe that was actually used in the fight. It's the only one to have ever been found. Another exhibit recreates the Bayeux Tapestry, a 70 metre-long strip of embroidered linen cloth made over 900 years ago. The original is on display at the town of Bayeux in northern France. It's a bit like a comic strip, telling the story of the battle that gave the town Called Battle its name.
Visitor Information
Battle Abbey and Battlefield is open daily, 10am to 4pm (later in summer). Entry costs around £7 for adults, £3.50 children. Battle Abbey, TN33 0AD. Tel: 01424 773792
Battle Museum of Local History is open Monday to Saturday, April to October, 10am to 4.30pm (plus selected Sunday's, noon to 3pm). Entry costs around £1 for adults. The Almonry, High Street, Battle, TN33 0AQ. Tel: 01424 775955

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