Winchelsea: Port of Stranded Pride
Winchelsea is a beautiful Sussex village built
on the bones of a medieval town. It is a hidden delight for
visitors to discover, but
also home to an active community.
Seven centuries ago, the town of Winchelsea
was founded by Edward I to take the place of an older town
of the same name, which had been lost to the sea in a
series of great storms. Old Winchelsea
was one of the principal ports on the Narrow Seas and, along
with Rye, had been
invited to join the Cinq
Port Confederation as a Head Port. New Winchelsea
swiftly filled the gap left by Old Winchelsea, rising
to the status of Ancient Town. However, the prosperity of
the new town was gradually sapped by the silting of its harbour,
shifts in the pattern of trade and disasters such
as war and plague. By the middle of the 16th century, it had
been left high and dry.
Today, Winchelsea sits quietly on its hill,
gazing across marshland at the now-distant sea: one of Kipling's
ports of stranded pride.
But all around the village are the evocative remnants
of the past: the Church of St Thomas the Martyr; three medieval
gates standing guard against long-departed foes; and beneath
the broad streets, the hidden wine cellars
of the old port town. Some claim Winchelsea is the smallest
town in England, as it retains a defunct mayor and corporation.
But as no one elects them, they are a costumed relic of Winchelsea's
days as a Rotten Borough rather than a celebration of the
medieval Cinq Port.
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Last Updated: 26/04/14