Battle and District
                 Historical Society





Live Lecture

Welcome back after the August break. In a change to the previously advertised programme, September’s lecture (at 7.30 pm on Thursday 15 September in the Main Hall, Memorial Hall) will now be delivered by Hugh Willing on ‘To be a Soldier: General Murray of Beauport Park’ (as originally scheduled for November).

General the Honourable James Murray, or ‘Old Minorca’ Murray, as he was nicknamed towards the end of his career, was a Scottish soldier who saw extensive service in the British Army during the Seven Years’ War. He served alongside General James Wolfe at the Siege of Louisbourg in 1758 and was one of Wolfe’s three Brigadiers at the Siege of Quebec in 1759. The house and park that he acquired through marriage in the hills behind Hastings was named after the port on the north bank of the St Lawrence River which was captured by Murray’s Brigade before the main battle for Quebec during which Wolfe was killed. Consequently, it was Murray who became the first British Governor of Quebec Province after the British victory in Canada and went on to serve as Governor of Minorca where he was besieged by the French and Spanish before capitulating. Attempts to twice discredit him after his tenure as Governor of Quebec and Minorca were roundly rebutted in subsequent Court Martials. This talk is about a little-known fighting soldier in the early Georgian era who lived in Hastings and was proud to say that he had served in every rank in the Army except Drummer.

Oliver Everett will be giving his talk on Buckingham Palace in November.

It would be much appreciated if you would wear a mask on entering the Memorial Hall until you have been to the Membership desk. Masks are not required in the Main Hall. Many thanks for your help in this matter.

We do hope that you will be able to join us!

Date for the diary: ‘Appeasement – was Chamberlain right?’ by Professor Sir Richard Evans at 7.30 pm on Thursday 20 October.

Society Facebook Page

If you have not already done so, do not forget to check out the new BDHS Facebook page. For those who are Facebook users, please find it at or by searching for Battle and District Historical Society when logged into your Facebook account. Remember to like and follow the page to get notification of our posts.

Battle Museum is open!

The museum is open until the end of October, so if you have not already done so, why not come to see this year’s special exhibition ‘Battle Books’. The museum is open 10.00-4.30 pm Tuesday-Thursday inclusive.

If you are interested in volunteering, do pop in during opening hours or leave your contact details using the “Contact us” link on the left.

Gresham College Lectures

Gresham College has just published its programme of lectures from September 2022, which you can find at

There are a wide range of History lectures on offer including such topics as Gods of Prehistoric Britain, Royal Courts on the Move in Tudor and Stuart England, the Lost Cities and Amazing Heritage of Kenya, Partition of British India 75 years on and The Irish Question and the Ulster Question, to name but a few. Speakers include Professor Ronald Hutton, Simon Thurley, Professor Sir Richard Evans and Professor Vernon Bogdanor. There are also a wide range of other subjects to discover.

New History Magazine

A new online, free monthly magazine reports the news from 200 years ago as if it was happening now, and in today’s language. 200 Magazine makes use of contemporary newspapers, magazines, diaries and images from the 1820s. The front section contains news coverage from then, and the back pages link them to now, highlighting related visitor attractions, websites, books, magazines, organisations, and TV/film/radio output. News stories in the first three editions have included the deaths of the poet Shelley and the Foreign Secretary, Lord Castlereagh, a famine in Ireland, construction under way on the Stockton and Darlington railway, a big slave revolt in the USA, and now King George IV’s historic visit to Scotland. On a lighter note, there has been news of London’s first nude statue, a big cricket row at Lord’s, and an awkward meeting between Beethoven and the rising star of classical music, Rossini. Other big names in its pages so far have included Wordsworth, Byron, Constable, Turner, Madame Tussaud, and George Stephenson. The magazine is featuring news from every corner of the UK and Ireland, and internationally so far from the US, South America, Australia, Spain, South Africa and the Greek war of independence.

Editions can be found at

History in the News

Henry VIII’s menu: a rare 486-year-old manuscript signed by Henry VIII for a St George’s Day banquet has sold for £43,000. He ordered his treasurer to pay £19 and 13 shillings (the equivalent of £8,000 today) to sponsor the 1536 feast. It states that the payment should be made to Sir Edmund Peckham, who was then accountant of the Royal House. The document, 9 inches by 8 inches, on vellum, which is described as in ‘fine’ condition, is signed ‘Henry R’.

St Peter’s birthplace: according to the Gospel of St John, St Peter was born in a place known as Bethsaida. Archaeologists excavating el-Araj, north-west of Galilee, have found evidence that confirms their belief that the site was the birthplace of St Peter, the most prominent apostle in Christianity and first Pope. According to St Luke, it was near this site that Jesus performed the miracle of feeding 5,000 followers. They have found evidence of its habitation in the 1st century AD, along with a Byzantine church. They found an inscription that showed the church was dedicated to St Peter – the writings recorded a prayer for intercession to ‘the chief and commander of the heavenly apostles’ which was how the Byzantine church referred to him. Previously, a Roman bathhouse was uncovered at a layer underneath the church, fitting the records of the settlement of Bethsaida. Between the bathhouse and church was a layer of silt from the time the town was flooded by a rise in the level of the Sea of Galilee, which could explain its disappearance from the historical record.

Medieval Cure for gout: Cambridge University is starting a 2-year project to digitise more than 8,000 recipes from medieval manuscripts held across the Colleges, the Library and Fitzwilliam Museum – most date from the 14th and 15th century, although the oldest is from one thousand years ago. The rendered fat from a roasted puppy stuffed with snails and sage, and a baked owl ground to a powder and mixed with boar’s grease are just two treatments detailed in a medical manuscript. Also included are highly detailed anatomical drawings as well as legal, liturgical, alchemical and literary documents. Many are in dire need of conservation before they can be scanned and uploaded. The project has been made possible by £500,000 of funding from the Wellcome Trust and once completed, the online documents will be available free of charge to the public.

Welsh Atlantis: the legend of Cantre’r Gwaelod, a lost land sunken below Cardigan Bay, has persisted for almost a millennium. First written about in the mid-13th century, it is likely the myths and legends date from long before that. A medieval map has been uncovered which depicts two islands, each about a quarter of the size of Angelsey, off the Ceredigion coast – now lost to history. The two islands are clearly marked on the Gough map and may corroborate contemporary accounts of a lost land mentioned in the Black Book of Carmarthen. From the time of Ptolemy, the Roman cartographer, and the building of Harlech Castle by the Normans, the seascape altered completely. Later maps show the islands have disappeared yet further up the coast at Harlech, the castle which was built to have a strategic advantage on the coastline now found itself more or less landlocked. The erosion of any islands would have released boulders that are likely to have contributed to the accumulation of the distinctive stone structures known locally as sarns. Researchers believe that these sarns have played a vital part in perpetuating the story.

Other history articles in the press: If any member spots an interesting history article, just email a scan of it to and we’ll feature an edited version of it in the next Newsletter.

The Arts Society Rother Valley (ASRV)

Future lecture topics include: Dale Chihuly – the world’s foremost glass artist; Tantrums and Tiaras – Covent Garden; Cash for Coronets – an architectural legacy; and Gregorio Vasari – artist, architect and historian. Please first check the ASRV website or talk with Jenny Fairfax on 01424 421344.


Sarah Hall


Online Archive Update – September 2021

Exciting news! We now have a great new resource available online. The original Battle Town Index, identified by advisers from the National Archives as potentially the most important item in our archive, was recorded on a series of Index cards. Members of our Society started the Index with the aim of recording information on the use and occupants of all the buildings in the town centre. Information, gleaned mainly from trade and other directories, was recorded up to the early 1990s. The online version of the Index has been edited so that beyond 1940 only information on businesses and a few private individuals reasonably assumed now dead have been included in the online version. This complies with the recommendations of the National Archives on publication of material which is covered by the Data Protection Act. It still, however, provides a wealth of information and is found in our online archive as a series of searchable .pdf files. Go to our archive page The Battle & District Historical Society Archives and search for Battle Town Index to see the available .pdf files. When you have downloaded the file you can find the search function by clicking on the magnifying glass symbol and entering your search term.

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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