Winchelsea is a historic ancient town which stands two miles west of the town of Rye. It was founded in 1288 as a port town to replace Old Winchelsea, which was overwhlemed by the sea during the 13th century, and is a splendid example of a medieval planned town, with a grid pattern of streets.
Winchelsea, along with Rye, was one of the ‘Ancient Towns’ who joined the Cinque Port Confederation in the 12th century. During the Hundred Years War, the town was attacked by the French and Spanish, but its demise came with the gradual silting of its harbour. Winchelsea was still fairly prosperous in 1500 but by 1560, it had dwindled to a “settlement” of 60 households.
One of the founders of the Methodist Church, John Wesley, preached his last outdoor sermon in the town on the 7th October 1790, when he was aged 87.
Today, Winchelsea is an unspoilt small town of much character, well worth exploring, with delightful walks and fine views towards the coast. There is a pub and a motel, both providing accommodation and serving lunchtime and evening meals, and a small coffee shop. Visitors may be interested in the surviving town gates, the medieval Church of St Thomas and a small museum which is open daily during the summer months. In the churchyard is the grave of much-loved comedian Spike Milligan.
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