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Martin Ashley Architects completes Battle Abbey conservation

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Martin Ashley Architects has unveiled its work to conserve Battle Abbey as celebrations mark the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings


The project formed part of English Heritage’s £1.8 million revamp of the historic battlefield and abbey.

The scheme transforms the visitor experience and provides public access to parts of Battle Abbey for the first time.

A new freestanding observation deck gives access to the roof of the site’s 14th-century gatehouse and provides views over the battle ground.

The practice also oversaw extensive masonry repairs across the four hectare site including in the abbey crypt and a long terraced walkway overlooking the battlefield. A 19th-century dairy building was also rethatched and the Harold Stone - a large sandstone plaque marking the high altar at the spot where King Harold was killed - was recarved.

Battle Abbey was established by King William I to mark his victory at the Battle of Hastings and went on to become one of England’s richest monastic houses. After the dissolution of the monasteries parts of the abbey became a private home and this is now home to Battle Abbey School while the rest of the site is looked after by English Heritage.

Battle Abbey by Martin Ashley Architects

Battle Abbey by Martin Ashley Architects

Architect’s view

It has been a privilege to work alongside English Heritage on such an extensive and significant project at Battle Abbey. Throughout we have sought to balance respect for the abbey’s historic fabric with the need to increase public access to enhance visitors’ appreciation and enjoyment of the abbey and battle site. We are very pleased with the outcome, and delighted that Battle Abbey’s long term survival has been ensured in this 950th anniversary year of the Battle of Hastings.

Intricate repairs to stone staircases within the gatehouse leading to the observation deck entailed dozens of separate interventions, each informed by a rigorous conservation approach that carefully balanced historic authenticity with public access and understanding of the building.

The 13th century dorter (dormitory) range is the most impressive of the abbey’s ruined buildings. Here we oversaw the installation of a timber staircase leading to the first floor of the range, and a timber barrier from where visitors can overlook the ruined abbey church. Vegetation, which covered the walls and threatened the building’s structure, was removed to reveal the building’s impressive silhouette, and showed the condition of the stonework.

Battle Abbey by Martin Ashley Architects

Battle Abbey by Martin Ashley Architects

Project data

Location Sussex
Type of project heritage
Architect Martin Ashley Architects
Client English Heritage
Budget £1.8 million
Completion October 2016

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