From The Neolithic To The Sea: A Journey From The Past To The Present


East Sussex
50° 55′ 30.36″ N, 0° 42′ 31.68″ E

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Winchelsea is a small town located close to Hastings in East Sussex.

Old Winchelsea was located on a massive shingle bank in the estuary of the rivers Brede, Rother and Tillingham. It provided a sheltered anchorage called the Camber. It was an important cross channel sea port as well as a naval base. The transient population was quite huge, with over 50 inns and taverns to accommodate them.

During the mid 13th century the town was being slowly destroyed by incursions of the sea, but in 1287 a massive tide flooded the town, completely destroying it.

In 1281, King Edward I ordered a new planned town to be built. He relied on Henry le Waleys and Thomas Alard to plan and build the town. The new town of Winchelsea kept the status of the old town, retaining its affiliation to the Cinque Ports due to its involvement in the wine trade.

The towns new harbour was located on the River Brede. It flourished until the middle of the 14th century when it was raided by the French and the Spanish during the Hundred Years War. King Henry VIII built Camber Castle in the early 16th century half way between Winchelsea and Rye. The port of Winchelsea silted up in the 1520's ending the towns prosperity.

Winchelsea is surrounded by largely empty marsh and is still protected by three out of four original town gates. The town windmill, built on the site of St Leonards church was blown down in the Great Storm of 1987.

The Royal Military Canal was built in the early 19th century to protect from the expected invasion by Napoleon Bonaparte passes to the east of the town, connecting to the River Brede.