Battle and District
                 Historical Society





This month’s talk : Thursday 20 May 2021 – ‘The Shetland Bus’  by Gilly Halcrow

Gilly Halcrow lectures widely on behalf of her chosen charities, cancer, environmental and military, raising money which she sees as “icing on the cake”. After her children left home, Gilly was the Volunteer Co-ordinator at Knole for 21 years. The job included organising talks for the volunteers and this encouraged her to take up lecturing herself.  For the BDHS her account of the special operations link between Shetland and Norway 1941-45 should be fascinating. Gilly donates her fees to support The Land, Sea & Islands Centre, Arisaig, in the Highlands of Scotland, which has links with the Special Operations Executive.

As usual, the Zoom link will be sent to Society members the day before the talk.

Battle Museum

The Museum reopens on Tuesday 1 June under Covid compliant arrangements until at least 21 June. 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. Nearer 1 June, please check opening times on the Museum website.

Browsing in Battle

BDHS member Ian Cawley has reopened Rother Books in the High Street, with brisk business. A couple out of many interesting reads:

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!

Loot: Britain and the Benin Bronzes: Author Barnaby Phillips will be giving a talk on this subject to the Society on 20 January 2022. He gave a talk to the Society in 2017 on Britain’s Forgotten Army – quite an eye opener. See below for recent press coverage of the Benin bronzes controversy. In his book Barnaby Phillips explores the history of the Benin bronzes back to the sixteenth century and then analyses the complexities of repatriating the bronzes up to the present day. NB There are two Benins: one is a country to the west of Nigeria which used to be called Dahomey; the Benin which Barnaby Phillips is writing about is a province in Nigeria.

Mission: Author David Brown narrates the story of how the project to send a probe to the Jovian moon Europa- where some think there may be life in a subterranean ocean- survived the labyrinthine politics of NASA. Brown employs a folksy news journalist style to keep the book entertaining as we go through the complex scientific politics of NASA. It’s an interesting account of the workings of a vast organisation. Most notable of the many scientists with whose biographies we become familiar is Louise Prockter who began her career as a typewriter salesman in England and wound up as Head of Planetary Missions at NASA.

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

The Egyptian Pompeii has been discovered. Dating back about 3,400 years to the reign of Amenhotep III (Tutankhamun’s grandfather), archaeologists report that it is one of the biggest settlements found so far in the Nile Valley. Well preserved artefacts include jewellery, scarab beetle amulets, pottery and mud bricks bearing royal cartouches, as well as human and animal remains: much still remains to be excavated. The city has been named ‘In Aten’, a reference to the Sun God. It is expected that the finds will shed light on a turbulent period in Ancient Egyptian history.

Benin bronzes: The Horniman Museum has agreed to make its Benin Bronzes available for repatriation. National museums are legally bound to retain such objects but regional museums are not subject to the same restrictions. The Horniman will allow the return of 49 objects, including 15 metal plaques considered to be Benin Bronzes. Lambeth Palace has also announced that two bronze busts which were given to Archbishop Runcie will be returned after it was discovered they were supposedly looted by the British in the 1890’s but subsequently it has transpired that they were in fact fakes made in the 1980’s! Burstow and Hewett auctioneers of Battle have not escaped the controversy: the Times reports that they had to withdraw from sale a 16th century plaque of three bronze figures . Professor Dan Hicks, Curator of the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford queried the proposed sale because being as old as it was the plaque would certainly have been among the items looted from Benin by the British in 1897. The situation was compounded by the fact that it turned out that the export licence was missing, so the item, pictured below, was withdrawn.

Dead Sea Scrolls: An operation to help deter archaeological theft has led to further discoveries. The most exciting finds are fragments of the Book of Twelve Prophets from the second of three sections of the Old Testament, thought to have been copied by scribes about 2,000 years ago. The find was extra special as it was discovered in its original resting place, together with coins and other remnants which connect it with the Jewish Bar Kokhba revolt against the Romans in AD132-136. More surprisingly, a body of a girl dating back around 6.000 years was also found and, under a metre of earth, a 10,500 year-old reed basket.

Child activists are nothing new. Recent research has highlighted how children in the late 18th and early 19th centuries were involved in the abolitionist movement. They gave up cakes and sweets as part of a larger boycott against sugar to protest against slavery and often acted independently of their parents, gave pocket money to anti-slavery campaigns and embroidered samplers with antislavery messages. One example was Mary Anne Schimmelpenninck, nee Galton, born to a Birmingham Quaker family in 1778, who recalled that she and her female cousins read antislavery pamphlets, examining every detail. Despite mentioning adult influences, she presented their boycott as a positive decision by herself and her peers.

Tudor ceiling bosses at St Mary’s Church Beverley: This church has some 600 ceiling bosses dating from 1520, depicting scenes and individuals of the time, saints, beasts and so on. But it’s hard for visitors to see them almost 50 feet below. So in partnership with the University of York and Flight Sight aerial photography, the church is taking close-up photos with a drone and making 3D copies of each boss, which will then go on tour. We liked this boss of the fox/priest and geese/congregation, from

Hastings Museum and Art Gallery online events

A new exhibition, Ingenious Contraptions, opens 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 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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