Battle, or Battel (St. Mary)

BATTLE, or Battel (St. Mary), a market-town, parish, and the head of a union, in the hundred of Battle, rape of Hastings, E. division of Sussex, 7 miles (N. W.) from Hastings, 63 (E. by N.) from Chichester, and 56 (S. E.) from London; containing 2999 inhabitants. This place, previously called Epiton, derives its present name from the memorable battle fought here, October 14th, 1066, between Harold, King of England, and William, Duke of Normandy. Though generally called the battle of Hastings, it took place at this town, where, in fulfilment of a vow, the Conqueror founded a magnificent abbey for monks of the Benedictine order, in which were preserved, until its suppression, the sword and royal robe worn by him on the day of his coronation, and the celebrated roll on which the names of the warriors who accompanied him to England were inscribed. He conferred on it the privilege of sanctuary, raised it to the dignity of a mitred abbey, and invested its abbots with the power of saving a criminal from execution, if accidentally passing at the time: at the Dissolution, its revenue was £987. 0. 10½.

The parish is situated in a beautiful valley, bounded on the west, south, and south-east by wood-crowned eminences. The town, which is built on rising ground, consists chiefly of one irregular line of houses forming three several streets, well lighted with gas, and amply supplied with water. The manufacture of fine gunpowder, established at a very early period, and for which the town has attained the highest celebrity, is carried on to a very great extent; and there is a large tannery. The market, granted by Henry I. on Thursday, has fallen into disuse, but a corn market is held on the second Tuesday in every month. The fairs are on Whit-Monday, and Nov. 22nd and two following days; and a large sheep-fair is held on the 6th of September: a great number of horned-cattle are sent from this part of the country to the London market. The town is within the jurisdiction of the county magistrates, who hold pettysessions here for the district on the second Tuesday in the month; but this being a franchise, the inhabitants are exempt from serving on juries at the assizes and sessions for the county. A coroner and other officers are appointed at the court leet of the lord of the manor. Here is a house of correction, appropriated for the reception of persons apprehended in the Battle district of the county, and of others summarily convicted by the magistrates, whose terms of imprisonment do not exceed one month.

The living is a vicarage, valued in the king's books at £24. 13. 4.; net income, £396; patron and impropriator, Sir Godfrey V. Webster, Bart. The church is a spacious structure, partly Norman, and partly in the early and later English styles, with a square embattled tower; and contains some ancient brasses, and a fine altar-tomb to Sir Henry Browne. There are places of worship for Baptists, Wesleyans, and Unitarians. In 1791, Mrs. Elizabeth Langton bequeathed £1500 for the instruction of fifteen boys and fifteen girls, and £200 for purchasing books, from the interest on which sums a master and mistress are allowed £60 per annum. The poor law union of Battle comprises fourteen parishes and places, under the care of eighteen guardians, and contains a population of 12,034 inhabitants. Of the ancient abbey there are still considerable remains; the gateway, a beautiful specimen of the decorated English style, is in entire preservation, and many parts of the conventual buildings have been retained in the present magnificent mansion of Battle Abbey. Southward of the grounds is a place called Tellman Hill, where William is reported to have mustered his army the evening before the battle; and to the north is another, named Callback Hill, from which it is said he recalled his troops from pursuing the vanquished enemy. The Rev. Edmond Cartwright, D.D., a celebrated writer, but better known as the inventor of the power-loom, was buried here.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.