Battle and District
                 Historical Society





This month’s talk : ‘Sheila Kaye Smith – Who Do You Think You Are?’  by Gina Doherty

On Thursday 17 June at 7.30 pm we hear about ‘Sheila Kaye Smith: Who do you think you are?’ from Gina Doherty. Gina is a specialist in Battle’s best known novelist (pictured); Gina is Archivist of the Society and a keen family historian.

The Zoom link will issue the day before the talk as usual.

Battle Museum

The Museum reopened on Tuesday 1 June under Covid compliant arrangements until at least 21 June, 12-3 Monday to Thursday. A visit from the Mayor, Glenna Favell, was much appreciated. There’s a fresh chance to see the surprising exhibition Books of Battle as well as the 1066 exhibition and many other cases of local interest. Please check opening times after 21 June on the Museum website :

Browsing in Battle

These books can be ordered from Ian Cawley of Rother Books.

BC to 1066: This BDHS book by Keith Foord has had a run of sales at Rother Books in the last couple of weeks. For £14 you get a vivid account of the events in this area over 1000 years until the Battle of Hastings: more happened than most people think!

The Anglo Saxons: Marc Morris has brought out a book about The Anglo Saxons from the decline of Roman Britain until the rise of the house of Godwine. The author keeps a lively and interesting narrative going despite the plethora of lesser known characters to be dealt with.

History in the News

If any member spots something of historical interest in the media, please let us know by sending a scan to the BDHS email account

Execution in Roman Britain: The Times reports that a newly-found Roman burial site in Cambridgeshire reveals the realities of forced labour in Roman Britain. About a third of the bodies buried in the fourth century, near a state-run grain farm, had been decapitated, rough justice it would seem, although 3-6% of burials across Roman Britain were of decapitated people. Several of those executed were from Ireland, the Alps, and the Mediterranean.

Another row at Jesus: Another row at Jesus Having only just extricated themselves from a Benin Bronzes scandal, Jesus College Cambridge now have another problem : they decided to avoid protest by removing a statue of their 17th century benefactor Tobias Rustat from the College Chapel (he was involved in the Royal African Company), only to find that Historic England are refusing approval.

Henry VI’s arm bone: Henry VI’s arm bone Recent research into a 1535 audit of royal relics, suggests that the arm bone of Henry VI was stolen and passed off by the monks of Chertsey Abbey as the arm bone of St Blasius , famous at the time for miraculous cures of throat complaints. The procedure for pilgrims was to suck up wine through the arm bone, using it like a straw.

Neolithic Scotland: Recent excavations at a burial site in Argyllshire have revealed Neolithic cave paintings for the first time in Scotland, featuring reindeer.

Weather forecasting: Weather forecasting: In The Times, Ben Macintyre refers to the first public weather forecast carried in The Times on 1 August 1861. He describes the life of Robert Fitzroy, onetime Captain of HMS Beagle, who invented the phrase “weather forecasting” and the practice of it in the mid Victorian era. His work in collating weather reports using the telegraph saved many mariners’ lives but, depressed by criticism of his accuracy and accusations that he was thwarting God’s will, Fitzroy look his own life in 1865.

White Ship disaster: The Telegraph reports the initial success of an expedition sponsored by Earl Spencer, author of a recent bestseller about the 1120 disaster off Barfleur where William the Aetheling, Henry I’s only son, drowned with many others. Divers have identified a piece of wreckage corresponding to modern understanding of what the ship would have been like.

Hastings Area Archaeological Research Group (HAARG)

In 2019 HAARG were invited by the National Trust to re-survey land at Smallhythe Place near Tenterden, the site of a medieval shipyard. The site has previously been investigated by the Channel 4 programme ‘Time Team’ in June 1998 (Season 6 Episode 6 available on You Tube). HAARG’s survey identified additional features suggestive of a settlement area further up the kiln field.

The National Trust is running a two-week programme of further investigations. HAARG has been invited to run a series of trial excavations in the settlement area. HAARG feel that this is quite a privilege. The work will commence from Wednesday 4th August to Friday 13th August, with Sunday 8th August as a rest day; hours 10am to 4pm.

Hastings Museum and Art Gallery

A new exhibition, Ingenious Contraptions, runs 29 May-2 August. It introduces the visitor to amazing automata from the collection of the Cabaret Mechanical Theatre, an engaging and entertaining exhibition for families and enthusiasts alike. The automata will be displayed with carefully selected Museum items to marvel at their mechanics. More information is available at The opening hours will be Thursdays to Sundays from 10 am to 12.30 pm and 2pm to 5pm. Tickets need to be purchased in advance, either from their website or by phone on 01424 451052.

More information on the Museum’s exhibitions is available at


Adrian and Sarah Hall


Website news

The British Library is going to archive our website in the UK Web Archive and to make it publicly available via that route. The UK Web Archive was established in 2004 to capture and archive websites from the UK domain and across the web, responding to the challenge of a digital black hole in the nations memory. It contains specially selected websites that represent different aspects of UK heritage on the web, as well as important global events. We work closely with leading international institutions to collect and permanently preserve the web, and the open UK Web Archive can be seen at
Also an on-line version of the BDHS Journal for 2019 has been added – see Previous BDHS Journals

Meet our new President

Our new President, Professor David Bates, gave his inaugural lecture entitled ‘Writing a Biography of William the Conqueror’ at a very well attended meeting on 16 January. His presentation was well received and afterwards David had the opportunity to meet many members of the Society and be photographed with all members of the BDHS Committee. He also gave another lecture – by Zoom on 15th October. This was about ‘New thoughts on the Bayeux Tapestry’.

Meeting with the new Dean of Battle

The new Dean of Battle, the Very Reverend Lee Duckett, together with his wife Ange, has been presented with some books from BDHS members Keith Foord and Tina Greene, which are concerned with the Church and the Battle Tapestry, currently on display there. BDHS hopes to develop some mutually beneficial projects based on the church’s archives and the use of the church environmental space for exhibitions etc..

The Dark Ages’ greatest Christmas relics were at Battle Abbey

The Guardian and other media have reported that a medieval manuscript listing Battle Abbey’s relics has been analysed and transcribed for the first time by English Heritage historian Michael Carter. It reveals that the relics were the most prestigious given to any abbey, more significant even than those at Westminster Abbey.

A report on this can be found at Carter’s paper can also be found in full using this reference: Carter, M: The Relics of Battle Abbey: A Fifteenth-Century Inventory at The Huntington Library, San Marino The Journal of Medieval Monastic Studies 8 (2019)

Video: The Battle of Hastings. No – the Battle of Battle!!

BDHS Members Michael Hodge, Alan Judd and Peter Greene, working in close cooperation with Natasha Williams of English Heritage, have produced a video explaining where the Battle of Hastings actually took place and why we have a town called Battle. The video has been released by Mirador Television and can be found via Youtube link:

Amazing find by BDHS

In the process of changing over BDHS archivists Gina Doherty and David Sawyer unexpectedly turned up an old small parchment that appeared to originate from Abbot Richard Tovey of Battle Abbey in 1493. Christopher Whittick of ESRO confirmed its authenticity This is a ‘pass’ entitling the carrier to travel freely in England and quoting the old charter rights of the abbey. Gina has produced an excellent summary of this find which can be read in Section A3.4 of Collectanea.  BDHS has also given a facsimile copy to Battle Abbey for future display.

L-R: Neil Clephane-Cameron, Keith Foord, George Kiloh, Gina Doherty, Natasha Williams (English Heritage) handing the parchment to Christopher Whittick (Vide-President of BDHS). Picture Peter Greene

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