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    Old Winchelsea
(Abandoned after the Great Storm)
Antient town of the Cinque Ports

Name Derivation

General Details

Old Winchelsea was located about 1 mile to the south east of Winchelsea on an island between modern day Rye Harbour and Winchelsea Beach .

Old Winchelsea was an old Saxon fishing port with trading links between europe and England.

Before the Norman conquest Old Winchelsea was an important enough port to have its own mint. In Edward the Confessors time a confederation of local ports, later to be known as the Cinque Ports, were granted semi-independant status in return for providing ships and sailors to the crown, Winchelsea was a major contributor.

In 1067 William the Conqueror returned to Normandy, and on his return landed at Old Winchelsea now a major port.

A report from the time of Henry III in the 1260's describes Old Winchelsea as 'a pretty town' and shows the size of the old town, there were over 700 houses, 2 churches and over 50 inns and taverns implying a population of 4-5 thousand people. During the Hundred Years War, Old Winchelsea provided 21 ships and 596 men for the King . The churches of St Thomas and St Giles and a Franciscan monastic house provided spiritual support for the population.

The 1200's provided a catastrophic time for Old Winchelsea, it was attacked by the French a number of times and swamped by the sea. The sea washed away part of the town in 1250, 1252 and again in 1254. During this time 300 houses and churches were swept away.

Sixteen years later in 1266 it was sacked by Prince Edward, in order to put an end to the indiscriminate piracy rife amongst Old Winchelsea's seamen.

In 1282 the King's treasurer had been sent to the Old town to investigate the danger to the town from the sea, the report was to abandon the town and create a new town on the heights of Petit Ihamme nowadays Icklesham .

Then before the plans could be carried out in 1287 a great storm destroyed the remains of the old settlement, the survivors moved to the area of the new town. The new Winchelsea was built by Edward I, designed on the grid system, with it's tidal harbour on the river Brede .


By all accounts Old Winchelsea would have been an extremely good place to have lived, as it had all the services of a busy port, and thriving town.

Nothing remains of Old Winchelsea as with Broomhill so we will have to imagine its bustling and busy streets.


The views from the island in the sea must have been similar to those that can be found at Winchelsea Beach and Camber sands, when looking out to sea you can imagine hundreds of sailing ships tied up to the island.

Inland where Winchelsea now lies would have been forested headland.

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