The History Of Winchelsea
A town planned: the public buildings
The centre of new Winchelsea was a market square called (at least from the early 15th century) the Monday Market. It occupied its own quarter of almost three acres located in what is now the parkland of Greyfriars, off Monks Walk. New Winchelsea held a market for three days each week and two fairs: one for 15 days at the feast of the Holy Cross in May and the other for seven days at the feast of St Andrew. The Monday Market and the fairs were where trade was conducted between the residents of Winchelsea and neighbouring towns and villages, which is why the Monday Market was situated in the centre of the town and not near the port. The trading of fish and bulk imports was probably conducted down by the harbour, on the Strand.
It is assumed that the Monday Market had a market hall. It is known to have had a market cross, as the Corporation sold the bells of the 'Great Cross' in 1548. The Monday Market was abandoned in 1572 and market activity moved to a site by St Thomas’s Church, which was closer to the centre of the contracted town. A market continued in Winchelsea on Saturdays until about 1792.
Quarter 27 of New Winchelsea is thought to have been reserved for the mayor and was used as the Hundred Place, the plot for the holding of open-air Hundred Courts. The original Town Hall was probably close to the Monday Market square, but the precise location is not known. By 1538, it had moved to its present location, the Court Hall, on the corner of the High Street and German Street. This had been built as a private house for Gervase Alard junior. The present Court Hall was known as the Freemans Hall, and the original Court Hall was an extension, built over what is now the garden of the Court Hall. The extension was demolished in 1666, and the Freemans Hall took on the name of Court Hall. Part of the building served as the town gaol until 1879.
One of the buildings formerly considered as a possible Town Hall is now known as Blackfriars Barn, whose ruins can be seen on Rectory Lane, opposite the Methodist Chapel. The building has a magnificent triple-chambered cellar underneath. The cellar is unusual in having a fireplace in the front chamber, while the building has a very large cesspit, which suggests communal use (which has lead to the suggestion that it was the Town Hall). An alternative function would have been as some sort of guildhall, and the building is said to be reminiscent of guildhalls in Kings Lynn.
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