Winchelsea, East Sussex

Ancient town and member of the Cinque Ports Confederation

Winchelsea: 1288-present


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Winchelsea, founded in 1288 by Edward I, is located in East Sussex ("1066 Country") about a mile inland from the current coastline. It lies approximately two miles from Rye and seven miles from Hastings. The ward of Winchlesea now is part of the Icklesham Parish Council area and lies within the local authority area of Rother District Council

The town was laid out in a grid pattern of streets, as is clearly still visible to the present day (see maps for more details). A large number of cellars were constructed at the time, and guided tours of these famous Medieval Cellars are run by a team of volunteers - please click here for more details and booking or email for details.

Almost the entire town is a designated Conservation Area and most of the surrounding land is owned and managed by the National Trust. Many buildings in the town are Grade I or Grade II listed. The present town replaced an earlier town of the same name, sometimes known as Old Winchelsea, destroyed by storms in the late 13th century.

Winchelsea is often described as the smallest town in Britain to have its own Mayor. Although the Mayor and Corporation lost their civil and judicial powers in 1886, the formal structures were preserved by an Act of Parliament in order to maintain the town's membership of the Confederation of Cinque Ports. They retain both a ceremonial role and responsibility for a number of the ancient monuments of the town, including the historic Court Hall, the medieval town gates (Strand Gate, New Gate and Pipewell Gate), the Town Well and a number of other important sites. For more details see our Mayor and Corporation and History sections, and the newly added Historical Anecdotes.

In recent times Winchelsea has become a vibrant community, with shops, businesses and a varied and active population of full-time and part-time residents. In addition to the retail enterprises, there is a very active church community (St Thomas' Church), an extremely popular Primary School (St Thomas' C of E Primary School), farming and farm produce enterprises, environmental conservation projects, and a huge number of clubs and societies.

This Website is run on a non-commercial basis for the benefit of the town, for charities and societies within the town, for those interested in visiting the town and for those involved in research into the town's history. Suggestions for improvements, corrections and recommendations are very much welcomed. All information provided on this site should be considered as copyright unless otherwise stated. We acknowledge the encouragement of many individuals and organisations in and around the town in the construction and ongoing content management of this Website. Please also see the About page of this website for additional information on its origins and usage.

Please explore this website, which has been produced by volunteers in our community with the assistance of the members of the Corporation of Winchlesea, a unique organisation in England that remains closely involved in the welfare of the town and its residents.

Winchelsea: Much more!

Cellar tours 2015

Pipewell Gate 3D model (MP4)

Pipewell Gate Project (PDF)

1290 Massacre at Jury's Gap booklet (PDF)

Books by Malcolm Pratt

Books by David and Barbara Martin

Winchelsea Singers Xmas 2014 - Click to enlarge

Annual Mayoring , April 2014
Xmas Carol concert 2014
Winchelsea Singers in St Thomas' Church

Mayoring 2014 - Click to enlarge

Annual Mayoring , April 2014
Annual Mayoring , April 2014
Mayor (Stephen Turner), Mayoress (Jo Turner), Deputy Mayor (John Spencer) and Town Clerk (Angela Hill)

NGS Open Gardens - Click to enlarge

NGS Open Gardens, June 2013
NGS Open Gardens, June 2013
Cleveland House