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Cellar and historical tours of Winchelsea

The Winchelsea Archaeological Society conducts an annual series of historical tours around Winchelsea in order to increase public awareness of the importance of the local heritage and build long-term public support for its conservation. The tours are led by volunteers. They are carefully researched and draw on work done by the Society and other archaeologists. The aim is to provide an entertaining and informative picture of medieval Winchelsea.

Under Winchelsea --- a tour of the cellars of Winchelsea

Winchelsea has more medieval cellars than anywhere else in England, apart from Norwich and Southampton. There are 56 known medieval cellars (and a few post-medieval), although only 33 are currently accessible. All date from the late 13th century and most were built to service the wine trade with Gascony. The cellars are only open to the public during these tours, which explain how and why the cellars were built, set against the dramatic historical background of medieval Winchelsea.

Winchelsea cellar

Westside Story --- the lost suburbs

Explore the remains of the long-lost western defences & suburbs of medieval Winchelsea, in a walk down to its southernmost point at the New Gate, then back through open countryside, following forgotten streets along the western slopes of Iham Hill, past the location of the missing Pewis Gate, to the site of the village of Petty Iham, overlooking St Leonard's Marsh.

The New Gate from the west

Hidden Winchelsea --- the lost buildings

Walk through lost medieval buildings, and learn about their architecture, the people who lived and worked in them, and what was happening when they were built. The layouts, as revealed by archaeology, will be traced on the ground and the architecture of each building described to you on the very spot where it stood. A unique opportunity to discover what is hidden under the fields and lawns of Winchelsea. The tour usually includes the nave of the Church, Blackfriars Barn, and the Blackfriars and Greyfriars monasteries, but access to Greyfriars has unfortunately been withdrawn by the new owners.

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Calendar of tours in 2014

The programme of Under Winchelsea cellar tours for 2014 (all dates now confirmed) is:

  • Sunday 20 April
  • Sunday 4 May
  • Saturday 24 May
  • Saturday 7 June
  • Sunday 15 June
  • Saturday 5 July
  • Sunday 13 July
  • Saturday 2 August
  • Sunday 10 August
  • Sunday 24 August
  • Saturday 6 September
  • Sunday 14 September
  • Saturday 20 September
  • Saturday 4 October
  • Saturday 12 October

The next Westside Story archaeological walk is uncertain. We cannot get a reply from the tenant farmer over whose land we need to we walk.

Private tours can be arranged for groups at any time of the year.

See what some visitors thought of a previous tour.

Booking

It is helpful to us to know how many people are likely to turn up for a tour, so that we can arrange extra guides, if necessary. So if you do wish to come along or if you wish to arrange a private tour for a group, please e-mail us at tours@winchelsea.net or call 01797 224446.

Other information

Tours cost £5 a head (proceeds go to WAS, which is a registered charity). A special guide book is provided for each tour.

Cellar tours will generally start at 2:00pm and lasts about 90 minutes or longer (depending on numbers), while the other tours take about two and a half hours. If a cellar tour fills up, we often put on an extra tour, starting at 4:00pm.

Under Winchelsea involves going up and down cellar steps, which can be steep and are often worn. You are advised to wear "sensible" shoes and to leave your hands free. Westside Story is partly across open countryside and involves climbing over stiles. Think about bringing a bottle of water and a sun hat in hot weather, and waterproofs in doubtful weather (we will still run the tour in rain).

All tours meet by the Town Well in Castle Street. You can find this on the Town Map or use your SatNav to get to TN36 4ED (Castle Street).