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    Winchelsea
(Inland Cinque Port !!)
Antient town of the Cinque Ports

Name Derivation

General Details

 Town gate house.
Winchelsea is located 2 miles to the South West of Rye on the A259.

Before the Norman conquest it used to have its own mint, and became a port of considerable importance in the 11th century. However in 1250 it was partially submerged by the sea. Sixteen years later in 1266 it was sacked by Prince Edward, in order to put an end to the indiscriminate piracy rife amongst Winchelsea's seamen. Then in 1287 a great storm destroyed Old Winchelsea and the townsfolk who survived moved to the present location.

A new town was built by Edward I, designed on the grid system, and with it's tidal harbour on the river Brede , Winchelsea became a member of the Cinque Ports Federation, providing ships for the defence of the country. Although not one of the Cinque ports, Winchelsea was an 'Antient Town' affiliated to the Cinque ports, similar to Rye .

The Black Death of 1348 took its toll on the town, and it is believed that the dead were buried in a large, circular, tree covered mound in the open fields on the south end of town close to the New Gate. This site, ( which, incidentally, is as far from the inhabited area as it is possible to get and still be on the hill - not a trivial consideration for a mass grave!) has always been known to local folk as 'The Plague Pit'. Of course, there is no proof that it was the burying place for Plague victims but it is clearly man-made, and is at least a credible location. (Many thanks to Dr R.E.Turner for this detail) In the 14th and 15th centuries the French attacked and plundered Winchelsea seven times , devastating the place, and reducing the population over the years from 6,000 to only a few hundred.

Deadmans lane provided a location to bury the dead from the French raids.

At that time, St Giles Church stood above this deep track down to the shoreline. The French, breaking into the town, caught many people at mass in the church on Sunday (although I wonder if they were not merely seeking sanctuary there) and slaughtered them, tossing many of the bodies down into the lane. They were found there after the French had vacated the sacked and burned town and the survivors crept back to face the devastation. (Many thanks to Dr R.E.Turner for this detail) Gradually the sea retreated, the harbour silted up, and then the once proud port was marooned.

In 1539 the harbour was looked on as important by King Henry VIII and the small defensive fort of Camber Castle was expanded to provide cover to the harbour in the Camber(Chambre) between present Camber , East Guldeford , Rye and Winchelsea. The fort became obsolete by 1637 as the Camber had silted so badly.

On the 7th October 1790, that great apostle of the 18th century, John Wesley, preached his last open-air sermon under the great ash tree. Wesley's ash tree was uprooted in 1927, but another was planted to replace it. This stands on the west side of the churchyard of St Thomas's church. This was a glorious building, which suffered much like the rest of the town.

Across the road from the churchyard stands the Great Hall. One of Winchelsea's oldest buildings, the lower floor was once the gaol. The first floor is now the museum, full of relics of the history of Winchelsea , and a model of the town before the French destroyed it.

Winchelsea is the smallest town in the country to have its own Mayor, and boards in the museum list all the Mayors back to Gervase Alard in 1295.

Famous people who lived in Winchelsea are commemorated by plaques on the walls of the houses. Amongst them are the famous writers, Thackeray and Joseph Conrad. Ellen Terry the great actress whose museum is at Smallhythe , lived in a cottage beside the Strand Gate - one of the three medieval entries into the town. The Victorian artist Millais painted his famous portrait, 'The Blind Girl', down on the marshes, with Winchelsea on its hilltop in the background.

Finally the much loved comedian, author and TV personality Spike Milligan famous for the Goon Show is buried in the churchyard.


Services

 Beautiful surroundings.
The main A259 passes along one edge of the town, and this road gets very busy in the summer tourist season, however the main part of the town is quite peaceful.

Winchelsea is a very small town with only a few shops which include the award winning Tea Tree Tea Rooms a member of the Tea Council Guild of Tea Shops, just the place for lunch or a refreshing cup of tea. The limited services available in the town are more than made up for by its beauty.

The Hastings to Rye hourly bus route passes through the town.

There is a station just outside the town on the Ashford to Hastings line, with an hourly service during the day, and more frequently during rush hour.

The main shopping centres are Rye about 2 miles East, or Hastings about 9 miles West.


Views

St Thomas the Martyr church (Winchelsea East Sussex)
There are many views in Winchelsea , walk to the sea gate, and look out over the seaside village of Winchelsea Beach to the English Channel.

The town has many beautiful buildings, and just walking around is a delight.

There are so many pretty places to see, that you should spend an hour or two just exploring this peaceful town. The 1066 Country Walk runs through the village.

 
       
 
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