WinchelseaWinchelsea is a quiet place which was once really important - a fully fledged member of the Cinque Ports and a seafaring town of some renown.
Winchelsea is one of the most enjoyable places to visit in East Sussex, with the centre of Winchelsea being full of lovely old buildings which stand as evidence of the exalted status Winchelsea once enjoyed.
So what happened then?
The sea. Storms. Longshore Drift. The Black Death, The French. And silt.
You could say that Winchelsea has been rather unlucky.
Old WinchelseaThe original port of Old Winchelsea was located south of the current village - although technically Winchelsea remains a ceremonial town with a mayor, it's really the size of a village, without even its own parish nowadays.
Old Winchelsea was built on a huge shingle bank where the River Brede and the River Rother met the sea. Winchelsea enjoyed a massive amount of trade and was a military port of some standing.
But a series of storms shifted the river and beach during the 13th century.
And a cataclysmic storm washed away Old Winchelsea in 1287. The ruins of Old Winchelsea are somewhere out in Rye Bay.
New WinchelseaIt was decided to start again inland. New Winchelsea was a model of town planning. Laid out on a grid pattern in 1238, it was hoped that New Winchelsea would still be an important wine port.
Mother Nature had better ideas with the new town being left two miles inland from the sea, leaving the once tidal reaches of the Brede Estuary silted up.
It was now a case of too little sea, whereas before Winchelsea had had too much of it.
While the slopes around Winchelsea once had the waves lapping at them, nowadays Friars Cliff are buffeted by nothing but fresh air.
Three of the town gates remain today - Strand Gate, Pipewell Gate and New Gate which is now nearly 500 metres south of the present shrunken village.
Places of interest around WinchelseaThe many interesting places in and around Winchelsea include:
- Winchelsea Court Hall Museum
- Camber Castle, which once sat right on the coast and formed the front line of Henry VIII's defences against the French;
- Rye Harbour Nature Reserve which occupies the land between Winchelsea and its rich neighbour, Rye;
- St Thomas' Church - the church has been greatly reduced in size by French raids, but what's left of St Thomas' Church shows what an important place it would have been in the middle ages. There's a plaque in the churchyard recording the final sermon preached here by Charles Wesley;
- The 1066 Country Walk passes through Winchelsea, as does the
- Saxon Shore Way; and
- Royal Military Canal Path
Winchelsea travel notesThe nearest towns to Winchelsea are Rye and Hastings.
Winchelsea has its own railway station.
By road, the village lies on the A259 between Rye and Icklesham.
© East Sussex.org 2008-10.
Saturday April 20