Updated: Mar 1
I have this love affair with a beautiful and historic town called Winchelsea. It actually feels more like a village, as it is a very small town consisting of a farm shop, Church and Inn surrounded by beautiful white weatherboard houses, listed medieval, Tudor and 18th-century homes from cottages to gorgeous Edwardians.
I drive through this quaint town most mornings en route to Rye and always admire it's beauty along with the lush green rolling fields filled with sheep and lamb.
Winchelsea’s history, in keeping with the local Cinque Ports was built back in the 13th century when there was a period of coastal erosion and the Great Storm slowly washed Old Winchelsea town away. The town was of great strategic value to the realm and the commissioners recommended that it should be rebuilt on a safer site on higher ground
to preserve the ability of the English Kings, to use the town as a base before sailing to the Continent.
Being a medieval trading port, the town had a considerable trade in wine from France. The new town was built to a French Bastide grid design much resembling the town of Monsegur in southwest France, then part of King Edward I empire. Some of the homes that were built had cellars built into the plots to keep the wine at just the right temperature. Almost fifty cellars are known and recorded but only 33 exist today of which guided tours are now available.
The town had intended to be a lot larger than it turned out and this was demonstrated by the huge Gates that were built. It was through these gates that the French are said to have gained entry in 1380, perhaps by treachery. This was probably the most serious of all their incursions into Winchelsea.
It is also a town, some say, inspired the blueprints for the city of New York.
The name "chelsea" came from the Saxon word meaning shingle beach and Winchelsea Beach is about a mile or so away and the very same beach that I run or walk along most mornings, of which I have written about on my previous blogs.
On a sunny day, I will drive through the town, park up and have a little wonder around the streets which, incidentally have no names. This makes it all the more fascinating as Winchelsea’s grid patterned streets were, in a highly unusual move, numbered rather than named, hence the rumour that they inspired the layout of New York.
I must apologise for rambling on about this place but History was one of my favourite subjects at school and town is brimming with it.
The homes here have the most magical gardens with some amazing views of the sea across Rye and Camber. A couple of times a year the owners will open their gardens to the public for a small fee which is given to charity.
The town even has it's own allotment which is the most tidiest and well kept allotment I have ever seen.
When walking around this magical place, I am immediately transported back to when I was a little girl, living in my little dreamworld of going on an adventure.
I would start by making myself a jam sandwich, a flask of water along with a blanket to sit on or keep me warm. Once my satchel was packed with these provisions, off I would go pretending i was travelling somewhere far far away but in fact it would be either to the village green where i would sit under an enormous oak tree eating my jam sandwich or to a cottage garden at the end of my road. That quaint cottage belonged to an elderly lady called Mrs Copsey, who would invite me into her pretty rose garden and there I would sit on a warm Summers day sipping her fresh lemonade and spending what seemed like hours, digging for treasure which turned out to be tiny pieces of beautiful broken vintage china that had been buried in her herb garden for many years.
If you are ever passing through this part of East Sussex, be sure to stop off and see how special this little town really is.