Abbot's House, Battle Abbey

Venue Type & Location

Monastic residence

Site Name: Abbot's House, Battle Abbey
Location: Battle
County: Sussex
Location Type: Town - in town at determined location

Performance Spaces


Battle Abbey was built on a quadrangular plan, with its 14th c. battlemented gateway entrance facing the high street of the town located on the main medieval road near the S coast. The ruins are mainly 15th c., located on the hill site of the 1066 battle of Hastings. Only the W range of the monastic cloister incorporating the former abbot's house remains relatively intact. The abbey's roofless dormitory and cellars, and 2 eastern turrets of the later 16th c. guest house range, complete the site.

Performance History

Extant abbey accounts between 1346 and ca. 1522 record payments to a variety of entertainers. The abbot's hall would have been a likely venue for performance before 1538.

Current Status

An English Heritage property. The abbot's house has been converted for use and leased to the Battle Abbey School. Not open to the public during term but tours available during school breaks.

History of the Venue

late 11th c.Benedictine abbey founded by William the Conqueror on the site of the final battle against the Saxon King Harold.

ca. 1200--50 Extensive rebuilding on a grander scale: chapter house rebuilt, abbot's house, new dormitory range to the E and guest range in outer court built. The first hall was on the upper floor.

later 13th c. New refectory, kitchen and church chancel built.

14th c. Alterations made, including the addition of new rooms over the porch, addition of a timber partition in place of the W wall of the hall and a new roof.

1338 Abbey granted licence to crenellate; great gatehouse probably built soon after.

15th c. Extensive rebuilding. A new hall on the ground level was built to the S of the 13th c. house. New wing built at S end of the hall for the abbot's private use and a new kitchen was added to the E. Most of the W cloister walk rebuilt.

1538 Abbey dissolved and the site granted to Sir Anthony Browne. Abbot's house converted to serve as a residence. New wing added on the site of the abbey guesthouse, with another connecting it to the S end of the later hall. Abbey church, chapter house and most of the cloisters demolished; S cloister used as a service area. The 13th c. hall was divided into bedrooms; new W front added to the abbot's great chamber.

ca. 1685 Abbey kitchen and possibly other buildings demolished.

1719 Sold to Sir Thomas Webster by the 6th Viscount Montagu. Some renovations including the addition of sash windows and a new entrance doorway.

later 18th c. Demolition of some 16th c. additions.

early 19th c. Extensive repairs and renovation by Sir Godfrey Vassal Webster. New timber roof and chimneypiece added to the hall as well as carved oak wainscotting and doors throughout. New kitchen and scullery built.

1858 Purchased by Sir Henry Vane, later Duke of Cleveland. Library and rooms in neo-Gothic style added to the S of the abbot's range.

late 19th c. Estate repurchased by Sir Augustus Webster.

1931 Fire gutted most of the house above the subvaults except the library and its adjacent rooms, the N end, kitchen and offices. Subsequent remodelling has restored some of the original layout (Brakspear, 'Abbot's House' 145).

1976 Abbey and battlefield purchased by the Department of the Environment.

Record Source

REED Sussex 182--6

Bibliographic Sources

Blaauw, W.H. 'Royal Licenses to Fortify Towns and Houses, in Sussex.' Sussex Archaeological Collections 13 (1861): 104–17.
Brakspear, Harold. 'The Abbot's House at Battle.' Archaeologia 83 (1933): 139–66.
Buck, Samuel, and Nathaniel Buck. [A Collection of Engravings of the Castles, Abbeys, and Towns in England and Wales]. 5 vols. London: The authors, 1726–52.
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Department of the Environment. List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest: District of Rother, East Sussex (area of the former rural district of Battle). Np: Department of the Environment, 1987.
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Graham, Rose. The Monastery of Battle. London: Journal of the British Archaeological Association, 1924.
Hare, J.N. Battle Abbey: the Eastern Range and the Excavations of 1978–80. Archaeological Report no. 2. London: Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England, 1985.
Hare, J.N. 'The buildings of Battle Abbey.' Proceedings of the Battle Conference on Anglo-Norman Studies III (1980): 78–95.
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Horsfield, Thomas Walker. The History, Antiquities, and Topography of the County of Sussex. 2 vols. Lewes: Nichols & Son, 1835.
Hussey, Christopher. 'Battle Abbey, Sussex – II.' Country Life 140 (Sept.–Oct. 1966): 920–3.
Hussey, Christopher. 'Battle Abbey, Sussex – I.' Country Life 140 (Sept.–Oct. 1966): 822–6.
Jones, Richard. 'Hastings to Herstmonceux: The Castles of Sussex.' . . The Archaeology of Sussex. David Rudling (ed). Great Dunham: Heritage Marketing and Publications, 2003.
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Lower, Mark Antony. A Compendious History of Sussex, Topographical, Archaeological & Anecdotal. 2 vols. Lewes; London: Geo. P. Bacon; John Russell Smith, 1870.
Nairn, Ian, and Nikolaus Pevsner. Sussex. The Buildings of England. Harmondsworth, Midd: Penguin Books, 1965.
Salzman, L.F., C.R.J. Currie and T.P. Hudson. The Victoria History of the County of Sussex. Victoria History of the Counties of England. 8 vols. London: Oxford UP, 1905–7 [vols 1–2], 1935 [3], 1953 [4], 1997 [5], 1980–7 [6], 1940 [7], 1937 [9].
[Ticehurst, F.W]. Gleanings respecting Battel and its Abbey. Battle: F.W. Ticehurst, [1841].