This collection consists of two parts: the records of the
Benedictine abbey of St. Martin at Battle, Sussex, England, dating before 1538, and
the papers chiefly of the Browne and Webster families, who owned the Battle Abbey
properties following the monastery's dissolution in 1538. The collection is
particularly rich in monastic and estate accounts, court records, and deeds for
lands possessed by Battle Abbey in Sussex and other counties.
The Benedictine abbey of St. Martin at Battle was founded by William the Conqueror to
commemorate his victory over Harold at Hastings. The first abbot, Gausbert of
Marmoutier, was consecrated in 1076 but the church, built on the precise spot where
Harold fell in battle, was unfinished when William died, and not dedicated until
1094. The Conqueror bestowed upon his abbey extraordinarily wide lay and
ecclesiastical jurisdiction, focused on the banlieu or leuga, a circle of land one league in radius centered at the high altar.
Within this liberty (geographically within but legally separate from and comparable
to the Rape of Hastings in Sussex) the abbey was free of all feudal dues and customs
and was enfranchised to exercise royal judicial and administrative rights
independent of both shire and hundred. These privileges, imperfectly recorded at the
time they were granted, were confirmed (partly on the strength of forged charters)
by Henry II nearly a century later.
Approximately 3,000 pieces
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