WINCHELSEA is a small cinque port, corporate town, and seaport, member of the parliamentary borough of Rye, railway station, near the sea, and on the road from Rye to Hastings, 84 miles from London, 3 south-west from Rye, and 8 north-east from Hastings, in the Eastern division of the county, rape of Hastings, Rye union and county court district, diocese of Chichester, archdeaconry of Lewes and rural deanery of Dallington. This is an ancient town, and most probably derived its name from Wincheling, son of Cissa, founder of the South Saxon kingdom.In the old English times it was of some importance, and was granted by Edward the Confessor to the monks of Fecamp, in Normandy: in 1067 William the Norman landed here and in 1188 Henry II.: it was made a cinque port before the time of King John: in 1250 more than 300 houses were destroyed by the sea: in 1266 the town was stormed by Prince Edward, and Young Simon de Montfort defeated: the inhabitants petitioned King Edward I. to grant them a site for a new town; and a hill containing 150 acres, in the parish of Schlesham, and then a rabbit warren, called Sham, was granted for this purpose, and built upon, being divided into 40 squares of 2¼ acres of which 30 may still be traced. In 1287 the old town of Winchelsea was swallowed up by the sea on the eve of St. Agatha. The new town afterwards became the place of import for French wines, for which massive crypts were built, and in the time of Henry VI. was one of the chief ports of embarkation for France: in 1360 it was pillaged by the French, and in 1380 by the Spaniards. Henry VIII. built the castle of Camber, the ruins of which are still standing: the sea again made inroads, and in the time of Queen Elizabeth, the harbour was choked up. Winchelsea as a cinque port, is a member of Hastings, and is a borough by prescription, governed by a mayor and jurats, who hold courts of general session and gaol delivery, and have jurisdiction over capital offences. It formerly returned two members to Parliament, but was, by the Reform Bill, attached to the borough of Rye. Robert de Winchelsea, Archbishop of Canterbury in 1291, was a native of this town. There was a market on Saturdays, which has been discontinued many years. The fair is held on the 14th of May. From an opulent town it is now reduced to a mere village; but, though so small, it contain some good houses, amongst which is Mariteau House, the splendid mansion of Robert Buchanan-Dunlop, Esq., The Friars, occupied by Capt. Robert Stileman; also a new rectory house, commanding a most extensive view. The churches of St. Giles and St. Leonard have long since ceased to exist. The church of St. Thomas the Apostle, with the churchyard, occupies one of the centre squares, and from its remains may be judged to have been a large and beautiful building: the chancel, which is spacious and lofty, is now used by the parishioners for their place of worship: the walls on the south and west are covered with ivy, and have a solemn andmajestic appearance: there are three altar tombs of the time of Edward I., called Crusaders or Knights Templars, one ofwhom is supposed to be a member of the Oxenbridge family. Date of register, 1538. The living is a discharged rectory, value£278 per annum, in the gift of the present rector and his co-trustees, and held by the Rev. James John West, M.A. Here was a convent of Grey Friars, of which the choir, with some beautiful arches and windows, still remains. There was also a convent of Dominicans and a preceptory of St. Anthony, of which no relics exist. Of the four town gates there are standing, in a ruinous condition, Landgate, Strandgate, and Newgate. The Court House and Gaol are in the Anglo-Saxon style. The area is 1,120 acres, and the population in 1861 was 719. [Kelly's Post Office Directory of Essex, Herts, Middlesex, Kent, Surrey and Sussex, 1867.]
|St Thomas the Apostle, Camber, Church of England|
|The Parish Church of St Thomas the Martyr, Winchelsea, Church of England|
|Grey Friars Monastery Church, Winchelsea, Pre-Reformation|
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