Historic document discovery sheds light on the area following Battle of Hastings

Battle Abbey Document SUS-180803-123901001

An original document has come to light in the Battle and District Historical Society archive which describes the ancient freedoms granted by successive Kings from William the Conqueror onwards to the people of the town of Battle and its Abbey.

The document, written by Abbot Richard Tovey in 1493, takes the form of an open letter confirming the bearer’s right to freedom from various taxes and to trial at Battle’s own court as a town resident.

Benefits included freedom from tolls throughout the country – no equivalent of the Dartcharge for the fifteenth century traveller from Battle!

Society volunteer archivist Georgina Doherty was amazed to find the document. She said “I was startled to see that this document was written in 1493. Not many documents survive in this country from the time the Abbey was still a religious house – most records were sold off in the nineteenth century and are now in the Huntington Library, California. The document is really very interesting historically – a crossed out reference to the Pope shows that the ancient liberties granted to Battle by William the Conqueror were being claimed right up to the time of Henry VIII’s split with Roman Catholic Church just before the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536.”

The document made a final visit to its original home, Battle Abbey, on March 5, when the Society handed it to Christopher Whittick, County Archivist, for safekeeping in the County Record Office.

Society chair, George Kiloh said: “We are pleased to ensure the preservation of this remarkable document for future generations. Copies of the document will be retained in Battle.

More information on the document and a digital image, can be seen on the Society’s website www.battlehistory.btck.co.uk . The Society meets monthly to hear lectures on various historical topics. New members/guests are always welcome. See website for more details.

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