Highways and Byways in Sussex - online book

An illustrated appreciation, of the most interesting districts in Sussex.

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the stone, which was brought all the way from Caen quarries, until, according to an old writer, a pious matron dreamed that stone in large quantities was to be found near at hand. Her vision leading to the discovery of a neighbouring quarry, the work proceeded henceforward with exceeding rapidity.
Although the first Abbot was appointed in 1076, William the Conqueror did not live to see the Abbey finished. Sixty monks of the Order of St. Benedict came to Battle from the Abbey of Marmonfier in Normandy, to form its nucleus. It was left to William Rufus to preside over the consecration of Battle, which was not until February, 1095, when the ceremony was performed amid much pomp. William presented to the Abbey his father's coronation robe and the sword he had wielded in the battle. Several wealthy manors were attached and the country round was exempted from tax ; while the Abbots were made superior to episcopal control, and were endowed with the right to sit in Parliament and a London house to live in during the session. Indeed nothing was left undone that could minister to the pride and power of the new house of God.
The Abbey of St. Martin was quadrangular, standing in the midst of a circle nine miles round. Within this were vineyards, stew ponds and rich land. Just without was a small street of artisans' dwellings, where were manufactured all things requisite for the monks' material well-being. The church was the largest in the country, larger even than Canterbury. It was also a sanctuary, any sentenced criminal who succeeded in sheltering therein receiving absolution from the Abbot. The high altar, as I have said, was erected precisely on the spot where Harold fell: a spot on which one may now stand and think of the past.
Battle Abbey was more than once visited by kings. In 1200 John was there, shaking like a quicksand. He brought a piece of our Lord's sepulchre, which had been wrested from Palestine by Richard the Lion Heart, and laid it with tremulous hands,
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