While staying at the Powder Mills Hotel recently, we came upon a wonderful little Museum while walking through the town of Battle in East Sussex.
It covers the history of the area from pre-historic times and is run by volunteers. Its roots grew from a local exhibition for the Festival of Britain in 1951.
It is well known for its
• 1066 exhibition including “Battle of Hastings” axe
• Local memorabilia
• Roman finds from Beauport Park, thought to be the site of the third-largest iron works in the whole Roman Empire and where a well-preserved bath house was discovered.
• Almondry Gardens
As we approached the Museum, we saw a sign stating that unfortunately the Almondry Gardens were closed due to work going on. The garden surrounds the Museum and is maintained by ‘Battle Beautiful’ – a group of 70 volunteers. The front area contains herbaceous plants, traditional shrubs and a Judas tree which blossoms each May. Pods from the tree are dried, and the seeds are available for sale in the shop. There is a cottage garden to the rear of the Museum with a herb garden and an Elizabethan themed garden.
Upon entry to the Museum, which is free admission, we were fortunate to have a volunteer named Simon who gave us a great deal of interesting information and who also told us he was the author of a website called Anglo-Saxon History providing all information relating to the Saxon invasion in the 5th century. It is really worth looking at.
The shop is just inside the entrance of the Museum and stocks a range of books about the area’s history and hand painted pottery, mugs, badges and fridge magnets as well as several things for children including helmets, swords, dinosaur models and eggs. Maps and guides for the area are also available.
The Museum’s collection has artefacts from prehistory including a footprint cast and bone fragments of an Iguanodon – an early Cretaceous dinosaur, 9 metres long with a horny beak and hoof like claws.
Roman finds found in the area are also on display, including a good example of a tiny tear vase. Tear vases were fairly common in Roman times around the time of Christ, when mourners would fill small glass bottles or cups with tears and place them in burial tombs as symbols of respect. Women were sometimes known to get paid for to cry into vessels as they walked along the mourning procession.
A Saxon battle-axe head from the Battle of Hastings is in the Museum (featured in Time Team’s investigation into the site of the battle) It is thought that this axe could well have been used in the momentous encounter?
The Battle area was an important centre for making gunpowder for quite a few centuries, and the Museum’s collection contains a lot of items from its manufacture and use.
Victoriana is on display in the form of many unusual gadgets and early versions of items we just take for granted today.
Not to forget, the Battle Museum houses a print of the Bayeux Tapestry, alongside replicas of other tapestries with a 1066 theme.
The Battle Tapestry is a copy of the original, which can be seen in Battle Church and shows, in the style of the Bayeux Tapestry, events after the battle and how the town grew up around the Abbey. It was created in 2016 by local artist Tina Greene, who was helped by 714 stitchers from Battle and beyond. Tina has a book about the making of the ‘The Battle Tapestry’ in the Museum shop.
‘The Stothard Print’ – Charles Stothard produced an engraving of the Bayeux Tapestry in 1818. Only 4 complete copies are thought to have survived.
The final section of the Bayeux Tapestry is missing and ‘The Alderney Tapestry’ is a replica of the re-creation by the islanders of Alderney in 2013, led by Kate Russell, who envisages what this may have looked like, concluding with the coronation of William I. The only rather strange addition is a donkey, a puffin and a toad to represent the main Channel Islands!
Both World Wars affected many towns in Sussex, with Battle being no exception. In World War 1 the High Street was bombed, taking a toll on the population. There is a special exhibition in the Museum to commemorate its centenary.
We really enjoyed our visit.
The Museum is open 12.00 – 3.00 Monday to Thursday.