The Weald of Kent, Surrey and Sussex
St. Mary      Battle  
The church of St. Mary, founded by Ralph, Abbot of Battle from 1107 to 1124, consists of a chancel, clerestoried nave, aisles, two chapels and an embattled tower of late date, 70 feet high, with the original Early English west door built in; an octagonal turret gives access to the belfry, which contains 8 bells: the arcades of the nave have pointed arches, supported on Norman piers; but the south aisle is Perpendicular and the chancel and clerestory Early English: the font is a rectangular work, resting on five supports and is of mixed Norman and Early English character: beneath the chancel is a spacious vault, the burial place of the Webster family and on the north side of the chancel, which is 51 feet long and 20 feet wide, is a splendid altar tomb of white marble to the Right Hon. Sir Anthony Browne K.G. Master of the Horse to Henry VIII. and to his wife (1540) : in one of the windows is the effigy of Hamond, the last Abbot of Battle and the letters R.B. in another window, are said to commemorate Abbot Robert de Bello, ob. 1304 : there are brasses with effigies to William Arnold, ob. 1435; Thomas Alfraye and wife; John Wythines D.D. dean of Battle, ob. 1615; Robert Clare, an earlier dean, ob. 1440; John Lowe, with effigy in armour, ob. 1426 and monuments to Isaac Myall, ob. 1798, aged 120 ; and Dr. Birch, dean of Battle till 1836.
extract from Kelly 1882 Directory

Parish records Before
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356Christenings20412621445367831
132Marriages8101418181430182
65Burials132191183252
 

Books and other documents
PublishedTitle, author and references
1851The Chronicle of Battel Abbey from 1066 to 1176 by Mark Antony Lower, M.A.p. 61
1904Highways and Byways in Sussex by E.V. Lucas ⇒ p. 355
1937Battle Abbey Under 39 Kings by Lilian Boys Behrens ⇒ p. 149
1972The Story of St. Mary's Church, Battle by The Very Rev. W. W. Youard, M.A., Dean and Vicar ⇒ p. 3

Historical records

1115HistorySt. MarySt. Mary's Church
The first Church of St. Mary, Battle, was built by Abbot Ralph, about the year 1115. There is no record of its size, or general form, but we may assume it was a very small and primitive affair in the Norman style of architecture, consisting of a plain nave; about 46 feet long, without aisles, and with a little chancel some 17 feet in length. The windows would be mere slits without glass, though probably there were shutters to keep out the worst kind of weather. Seats were not provided for the worshippers, who sat or knelt as occasion required on the bare, rush-covered earth floor. Heating in the winter was, of course, unheard of, but we never hear that our hardy Saxon forbears made a fuss on that score. It is probable that the present Font, or rather the bowl, which is Norman, stood in this first church.

1150 to 1200HistorySt. MarySt. Mary's Church
There were considerable enlargements of the church from about the middle of the twelfth century to the end, among them the addition of a tower which stood on the space now occupied by St. Catherine's Chapel. There were also extensions on the north and south sides of the Nave in the form of narrow aisles, not more than 6 feet wide, formed by erecting a 'lean-to' against the outside walls, and then piercing the inner walls from the outside and inserting arches.

c 1230HistorySt. MarySt. Mary's Church
The chancel was practically rebuilt in the Early English style about this time and extended to the east some 3o feet. With the exception of the east wall, which has been restored and altered twice since - in the fifteenth century and in 1869 - almost all this thirteenth-century work remains.

c 1350HistorySt. MarySt. Mary's Church
About 1350 some more additions and enlargements were carried out in the Chancel and North Chapel

c 1440HistorySt. MarySt. Mary's Church
In this century, about 1440, the many changes through which the form of the church had passed in the course of the years reached their culminating point. The old Norman tower erected on the south side of the Chancel in the twelfth century was now taken down and a new one in the Perpendicular style built at the west end. This is the one now standing. In the position occupied by the old tower a beautiful little chapel was constructed which was dedicated to St. Katherine. The niche on the east wall in which stood a figure of the saint is empty, the figure having been removed by 'reforming' hands in the past, but the emblem of her martyrdom, the wheel on which, according to tradition, she was torn in pieces, is still to be seen at the top of the niche.

27th May 1538HistorySt. MarySt. Mary's Church
On May 27, 1538, King Henry VIII's Commissioners, Sir John Gage and Dr. Richard Layton, arrived at Battle in order to effect the formal dissolution of this great Religious House, and the Abbot and his monks were duly sent about their business. What happened to the monks we do not know, except that they and the Abbot received pensions—a fact which should silence for ever any lying aspersions on their good name. But the Abbot, John Hammond, stayed on in Battle for the remaining eight years of his life, and was buried by his own wish under St. Katherine's Chapel. His will is still in existence, and in it occurs the following passage : I bequeath to the Church of Battel to preserve in the Chapel of S. Katherine there, my two chasubles and that belongeth to them, also a chalice and paten double-gilded, and a scutcheon of silver in the foot of it.

1540 to 1548HistorySt. MarySt. Mary's Church
Another interesting link with the Abbey is the handsome tomb on the south side of the Sanctuary. It is of Italian workmanship, and on it lie the recumbent figures of Sir Anthony Browne and his first wife Alice. She died in 1540 and her husband in 1548. The inscription round the tomb runs as follows :- 'Here lieth the Right Honourable Sir Anthony Browne, Knyght of the Gartere Master of the Kyng's Horcys, and one of the Honorable Prive Cowncel of owr most Drad sovereign Lorde and victorious prince, Kyng Henry the Eight, and Dame Alis his wyfe, whiche Alis decesid the 31st Day of Marche AoDNI 1540. And the sayd Sir Antony decesid the Daye of , AoD'NI , on whois sowls and all Christen Jesus have mercy, Amen.'
Sir Anthony was a great personal friend of King Henry VIII. He appears to have been one of the few people who never quarrelled seriously with the short-tempered Henry, for he was made executor of the King's Will and guardian of the precious heir, Edward, and of the Princess Elizabeth.
After the ejection of the monks from Battle Abbey Henry sold it to Sir Anthony, together with the extensive estates belonging.

1845Battle ChurchBattle ChurchSt. Mary's Church

c 1855Battle ChurchBattle Church by F.W. TicehurstPrivate collection

c 1855Battle ChurchBattle Church by F.W. TicehurstPrivate collection

c 1863Battle ChurchBattle Church by M.M. WhittakerPrivate collection

1869HistorySt. MarySt. Mary's Church
In 1869, during Dean Crake's incumbency, a good deal of much-needed restoration work took place at the hands of Mr. William Butterfield, an eminent architect of the day

c 1905Battle ChurchBattle ChurchPrivate collection

c 1920Battle ChurchBattle ChurchPrivate collection

c 1920Battle ChurchBattle ChurchPrivate collection

c 1970Battle Church from the SouthBattle Church from the SouthSt. Mary's Church

c 1970Battle Church, The InteriorBattle Church, The InteriorSt. Mary's Church

c 1970Battle Church, The Norman FontBattle Church, The Norman FontSt. Mary's Church

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