Winchelsea has a long and illustrious history. It originally began as an Old Saxon fishing town sometime around 800AD. It subsequently became a major port of the region. The name Winchelsea is integral to gaining an understanding this tiny town in Sussex. The suffix Chelsea is rooted in the Saxon word chesil, which refers to a shingle beach or embankment. The prefix Win on the other hand has been derived from the colloquial word qwent and refers to the marshland behind the town.
A wide shallow bay called the Camber was formed by the estuaries of the Rivers Brede, Rother and Tillingham and was situated behind the great shingle bank on which Old Winchelsea was perched. It provided a large tidal anchorage sheltered from the sea and ships would anchor stem-to-stern all along the channels and creeks. This would help them restock for supplies and get some rest before they move on for the rest of their journey.
The first documentary evidence for the existence of Old Winchelsea might be present in the Domesday Book (1086), which contained one of the earliest descriptions of present day Rye and Winchelsea.