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Battle Abbey, Rye and Winchelsea

Day Five - A Journey of Discovery in East Sussex

Day Four I will write about and publish at a later date as my brother John and I focused most of the day on our family history archives and photographs he keeps at Bexhill so my blog subject will be on our family ancestry. Also my youngest son Marcus Gilmore came to join us via train from Beeston, Nottingham, and we collected him from Hastings station around 4.15pm. So it went on to be an entertaining evening of family recollections.

Day Five. Battle Abbey and the site of the Battle of Hastings of 14 October 1066 was on our wish list plan weeks before, so I had booked two days earlier timed tickets for English Heritage Battle Abbey at 11.00 am for Marcus and I. It certainly turned out to be a day to remember. Both Marcus and I are keen ‘medievalists’ and just love exploring historic buildings and landscapes, so 1066 Country was the perfect region to satisfy our history passions and all things heritage. https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/1066-battle-of-hastings-abbey-and-battlefield/ Please navigate around this website to find out everything for your visit.


Marcus by the great fireplace in the Gatehouse restored and decorated by EH as to how it would have looked in 13th century.

​After going through the Gatehouse entrance and submitting our digital ticketing receipts we entered into the courtyard terrace. Several EH staff were promoting their outside group talks at certain times of the day so we booked one at 12.30 to attend. I also asked whether there were any specific places or ancient stone walls we could do section graphite rubbings of, as we had come armed with an A3 sketch pad of white 100gsm paper sheets which John had given us together with two graphite sticks. One said he didn’t know particularly but he’d go and find out, and a minute later Caroline appeared and helped answer our questions. She asked us to follow her up one of the tower steps to the first and second levels. I loved the first floor studying all the educational EH banners telling the story of why and how the Abbey was built on this historic site. I could see a wonderful example to make a graphite rubbing showing the original 13th century herringbone stone pattern at the back of the fireplace.



After descending back onto the terrace below, we then walked along the pathway encircling the vast 100 acre site keeping to the outside of the perimeter walls. We ambled past the cafe, the abbey ruins, the walled garden, the ice house and dairy, so much to explore. The pathway around the battlefield we dismissed on this occasion leaving enthralled families to experience. Coming round to the original site layout of the monastery, it was a time to sit down and contemplate and Marcus started to sketch some scenes. Namely the Dorter or Dormitory over the Novices accommodation and Monks Common Room.


I noticed the 1903 memorial where ‘the brave Harold the Saxon fell’ and saw the chance to do a graphite rubbing of one of the surfaces as a memento. Our 12.30pm talk was ready so the young EH historian gathered us and several families inviting us to sit down on the lawn by the Abbots House where he related to us the story of Harold Godwinson during his last twenty years leading up to that fateful day in October 1066. I must applaud this young man who enthralled us all so much, so many facts we learned understanding Harold’s character and pathway to becoming successor to King William the Confessor, his brother-in-law, in January 1066. ​You can discover more about him on this Wikipedia link https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harold_Godwinson


Marysia at the Gatehouse, finishing off her ice cream!

Afterwards we walked back to the gatehouse and entered into the Shop which I was very impressed with, treating myself to a tapestry ceramic coaster (£5.00), greeting card (£2.50) and National Portrait Gallery Kings & Queens lined notebook (£2.50). You can buy online products from the shop too via the EH website. Caroline saw us exiting and called out how our tour went and what rubbings we managed to glean so we showed her and thanked her for her great help. We then wandered to explore the pretty village of Battle in front of us and sat down in one of the street’s bistros and relished some cool fruity drinks. ​ More useful links below. https://www.battlesussex.co.uk/ https://www.britainexpress.com/counties/eastsussex/abbeys/battle.htm

Back to John and Christine’s Bexhill home for a sandwich lunch, and then we all motored onward to Rye. Rye is a beautiful town that must be on everyone’s tour of East Sussex. It is full of history, ancient buildings, cobbled lanes, inns and enticing shops of all kinds. In medieval times, it was an important member of the Cinque Ports confederation and almost entirely surrounded by the sea. Read more about it here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rye,_East_Sussex and https://www.visit1066country.com/destinations/rye We had a great time exploring the streets, the beautiful and peaceful churchyard of St Mary’s high on the hill (below) and the castle, or Ypres Tower, built to defend the town from the French, now part of the Rye Museum. https://www.ryeparishchurch.org.uk/history.htm


Another Cinque Port we drove to was Winchelsea https://www.winchelsea.com/ close to Rye and admired its attractive streets and old houses, so we stopped for a few minutes for me to photo capture the church exterior and where John Wesley gave his last open air sermon on 7th October 1790. Wesley’s Chapel is a few minutes walk away.

We came back to base brimming full of history, our heads and conversations spinning and bodies tired, what a fantastic day! ​ After Marcus and I treated ourselves to takeaways, John and Christine cooked supper for their invited Bexhill friend and author, John V. Watson, who was a very entertaining raconteur of all things cinematic. John is an expert researcher and writer of cinema history and classic films with several books published and applauded by university academia. Most of his books are available to purchase on Amazon, his latest ones entitled “Paradise Lost: The History of the Regal Cinema, Swaffham, Norfolk: 1919-60. The history of a rural picture house long since vanished.” (2020) and “Julius Hagen: “The Czar of Twickenham” Film Studios. The Complete Filmography: Book One” (2019). https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=John+V+Watson&i=stripbooks&ref=nb_sb_noss

I veered happily exhausted off to bed leaving John, Christine, Marcus and John to continue conversations, for tomorrow Marcus and I were to explore Herstmonceux Castle grounds, Firle and visit friends in Lewes. I hope you enjoyed our Day Five and if so please click the blue ‘Like’ button below and write me any comments if you so wish. Many thanks. Marysia Zipser Website ART - CULTURE - TOURISM - Home Facebook Art Culture Tourism - International - Home Facebook /marysia.zipser.7/ Twitter Art-Culture-Tourism (@MarysiaZipser) LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/marysia-zipser- Email marysia@artculturetourism.co.uk