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: 27/11/13