The Court Hall, High Street
|OS grid reference|
|• London||54 miles (87 km) NW|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Ambulance||South East Coast|
Winchelsea ( // ) is a small town in the non-metropolitan county of East Sussex, within the historic county of Sussex, England, located between the High Weald and the Romney Marsh, approximately 2 miles (3.2 km) south west of Rye and 7 miles (11 km) north east of Hastings. The name may be derived from the colloquial word 'qwent' that refers to the marshland behind the town and the Saxon word 'chesil' meaning shingle beach or embankment.
The town stands on the site of a medieval town, founded in 1288, to replace an earlier town of the same name, sometimes known as Old Winchelsea, which was lost to coastal erosion. The town is part of the civil parish of Icklesham.
It is claimed by some residents that the town is in fact the smallest town in Britain, as there is a mayor and corporation in Winchelsea, but that claim is disputed by places such as Fordwich.[ citation needed ] The mayor of Winchelsea is chosen each year from amongst the members of the corporation, who are known as freemen, rather than being elected by public vote. New freemen are themselves chosen by existing members of the corporation. Thus, in its current form, the corporation is effectively a relic of Winchelsea's days as a 'rotten borough' (when Winchelsea elected two MPs but the number of voters was restricted to about a dozen, sometimes fewer).
The corporation lost its remaining civil and judicial powers in 1886 but was preserved as a charity by an Act of Parliament to maintain the membership of the Cinque Port Confederation. The mayor and corporation in Winchelsea now have a largely ceremonial role, together with responsibility for the ongoing care and maintenance of the main listed ancient monuments in the town and the Winchelsea museum.
Winchelsea constitutes neither a local government district, civil parish nor charter trustees area.
Old Winchelsea was on a massive shingle bank that protected the confluence of the estuaries of the Rivers Brede, Rother and Tillingham and provided a sheltered anchorage called the Camber. The old town was recorded as Winceleseia in 1130 and Old Wynchchelse in 1321. The Norman used to call the place Wincenesel.
After the Norman Conquest, Winchelsea was of great importance in cross-Channel trade (acting in particular as an entrepôt for London) and as a naval base. In the 13th century, it became famous in the wine trade from Gascony.
There may have been, in the 1260s, over 700 houses, two churches and over 50 inns and taverns thus implying a population of thousands of people at the time.Prior to 1280 incursions by the sea destroyed much of the town until a massive flood completely destroyed it in 1287.
Today's Winchelsea was the result of the old town's population moving to the present site, when in 1281 King Edward I ordered a planned town, based on a grid, to be built. The names of the town planners are recorded as Henry le Waleys and Thomas Alard.The new town inherited the title of "Antient Town" from Old Winchelsea and retained its affiliation to the Cinque Ports confederation together with Rye and the five head-ports.
Winchelsea was greatly involved in the wine trade with Guyenne and the extensive wine cellars under the town may still be visited on open days.
The town had a tidal harbour on the River Brede. It flourished until the middle of the 14th century. It then suffered French and Spanish raids during the Hundred Years' War until the 15th century and was hit by the Black Death. In 1350, the Battle of Les Espagnols sur Mer was fought nearby. In 1360 the town was sacked and burnt by a French expeditionary force, sent in an unsuccessful attempt to retrieve their King John II of France captured at the Battle of Poitiers four years earlier.The town remained prosperous, although reduced in size until the 1520s. The silting of the harbour ultimately destroyed its prosperity. Camber Castle was built by Henry VIII in the early 16th century halfway between Winchelsea and Rye to guard the approach to the Camber. Much of the stone used in its construction may have been taken from the demolition of the Franciscan monastery of Greyfriars.
Winchelsea retains its medieval setting on a hill surrounded by largely empty marsh, the original layout of the planned town and the largest collection of medieval wine cellars in the country with the possible exception of Norwich and Southampton. It also retains three of the four town gates and several original buildings, including the parish church, which is dedicated to St Thomas the Martyr. Another church, St Leonard's, was later the site of a windmill, which was blown down in the Great Storm of 1987. Some of the original 13th/14th-century fortifications can still be seen at the Strand Gate and Pipewell or Ferry Gate. The scale of the original plan for New Winchelsea can be judged by the site of the "New Gate", over half a mile outside the current town.
Across the road from the churchyard stands the Court Hall, one of Winchelsea's oldest buildings, the lower floor once being the gaol. The first floor is now a museum, full of relics of the history of Winchelsea, the Corporation, and a model of the town. Nearby is the town well, dug in 1851 to save water being carried up the hill. It is thought to be 80 feet deep.At the foot of Strand Hill stands the town workhouse Strand House just behind the port area of Winchelsea which runs along the river bank on the far side of the main road. This area contains the remains of several old buildings, such as the Old Malt House and Appletree Wick while Strand House itself was built around 1425 according to dendrochronology. These buildings made up the workhouse of the parish of Winchelsea being known as "The Old Poor Houses". The area was a subject of archaeological investigation in 2013 which found the remains of the medieval wharf and a medieval boat next to the Bridge Inn.
Winchelsea stands on the main south coast road, the A259. The Royal Military Canal built in the early 19th century as a defence-line against the highly anticipated invasion by Napoleon Bonaparte passes the eastern side of the town and connects to the river Brede.
The town lends its name to the nearby seaside village of Winchelsea Beach.
In 2006 a group of local residents requested Rother District Council to review the parishing arrangements of Icklesham, with a view to creating a separate Winchelsea Parish. The Parish of Winchelsea Action Group submitted a petition in favour from 228 electors. Other survey and polling evidence suggest the residents of Winchelsea are in favour by a majority of up to 2–1, but that the remainder of Icklesham parish was against the idea by a wide margin.In the May 2007 parish council elections, the proposal for a separate parish council was the key issue. The three candidates supporting a separate parish for Winchelsea were elected by a clear majority in a record turnout of some 66% and the two opposing candidates (including a member of the Corporation and former councillor) were defeated.
Winchelsea railway station is located 0.75 miles (1.21 km) to the north in the Brede valley, on the Marshlink line between Ashford International and Hastings.
The A259 road, a major road from Hastings to Folkestone, runs around the edge of the village. Stagecoach Group run a bus service from Hastings to Rye via Winchelsea.
The Confederation of Cinque Ports is a historic series of coastal towns in Kent, Sussex and Essex. It was originally formed for military and trade purposes, but is now entirely ceremonial. The ports lie at the eastern end of the English Channel, where the crossing to the continent is narrowest. The name is Norman French, meaning "five ports". They were:
Romney Marsh is a sparsely populated wetland area in the counties of Kent and East Sussex in the south-east of England. It covers about 100 square miles (260 km2). The Marsh has a fascinating history. Due to its location, geography and isolation it was a smuggler's paradise from the 17th through to the 19th centuries. The area has long supported a high density of sheep and to this day Romney Marsh sheep are considered one of the most successful and important breeds. Criss-crossed with numerous waterways, and with some areas lying below sea level, the Marsh has over time sustained a gradual level of reclamation, both through natural causes and by human intervention.
The Brede is an English river in East Sussex. It flows into the Rock Channel and then onto the River Rother at Rye, Sussex. It takes its name from the village of Brede, which lies between Hastings and Tenterden.
Rye is a small town and civil parish in the Rother district, in East Sussex, England, two miles from the sea at the confluence of three rivers: the Rother, the Tillingham and the Brede. In medieval times, as an important member of the Cinque Ports confederation, it was at the head of an embayment of the English Channel, and almost entirely surrounded by the sea.
The A259 is a road on the south coast of England passing through Hampshire, West Sussex, East Sussex and part of Kent. The main part of the road connects Brighton, Eastbourne, Hastings, Rye and Folkestone.
Winchelsea railway station is a railway station in East Sussex, England. It is about 0.62 miles (1 km) from Winchelsea and is actually in the neighbouring parish of Udimore. It is on the Marshlink line 9.3 miles (15 km) north east of Hastings, and train services are provided by Southern. The station originally had two platforms, but in 1979, the line was singled and only the up platform is now in use. The former down platform and station building are now converted to a private house.
Hastings and Rye is a constituency represented in the House of Commons of the UK Parliament since 2019 by Sally-Ann Hart of the Conservatives.
Icklesham is a village and civil parish in the Rother district of East Sussex, England. The village is located about six miles (10 km) east of Hastings, on the main A259 Hastings to Rye road.
Camber is a village and civil parish in the Rother district of East Sussex, England, 3 miles (4.8 km) south-east of Rye. The village is located behind the sand dunes that occupy the estuary of the River Rother, where the seaside settlement of Camber Sands is situated.
Brede is a village and civil parish in the Rother district of East Sussex, England. It is located eight miles (13 km) north of Hastings and four miles (6 km) west of Rye.
Winchelsea Beach is a seaside village in the parish of Icklesham in the Rother district of East Sussex, England. The village is located about ten miles (15 km) east of Hastings, and about 1.5 miles (2 km) south east of Winchelsea.
The River Tillingham flows through the English county of East Sussex. It meets the River Brede and the eastern River Rother near the town of Rye. A navigable sluice controlled the entrance to the river between 1786 and 1928, when it was replaced by a vertical lifting gate which was not navigable. The river provided water power to operate the bellows of an iron works at Beckley Furnace, used to make cannons for the Royal Navy between 1578 and 1770, when it became uneconomic, and a water mill which replaced it, until that burnt down in 1909. The lower reaches supported a thriving shipbuilding industry from the early nineteenth century onwards, and although on a smaller scale, was still doing so in 2000.
St Mary's Church is an Anglican parish church in the diocese of Chester, the archdeaconry of Macclesfield and the deanery of Chadkirk. It is on a hill overlooking the village of Disley, Cheshire, England. It is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade II* listed building. Its benefice is combined with that of St John, Furness Vale.
Eaton Hastings is a village and civil parish beside the River Thames about two-and-a-half miles (4 km) north-west of Faringdon. It was in Berkshire until the 1974 boundary changes transferred it to Oxfordshire. Eaton Hastings was once much larger than it is today, when it is regarded as a deserted medieval village. The 2001 Census gave the parish population as 81.
Strand House was the Parish Workhouse of the Sussex town of Winchelsea known as the "Old Poor Houses". It was located on The Strand.
Sir Goddard Oxenbridge was an English landowner and administrator from Sussex.
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