What to See in England
By Gordon Home
Public Domain Books
Winchelsea and Rye
=How to get there.=–Train from Charing Cross, Cannon Street, or London Bridge. South-Eastern and Chatham Railway. =Nearest Station.=–Winchelsea. =Distance from London.=–72 miles. =Average Time.=–Varies between 2-1/4 to 3 hours.
1st 2nd 3rd =Fares.=–Single 12s. 0d. 7s. 6d. 6s. 0d. Return 21s. 0d. 15s. 0d. 12s. 0d.
=Accommodation Obtainable.=–"The New Inn,” etc., Winchelsea. =Routes.=–Via Ashford or via Hastings.
Winchelsea, situated about 8 miles from Hastings, though now a small village, was once an important seaport, being one of the Cinque Ports. It has suffered severely from the sea, having been completely destroyed in 1287 by an inundation. It was afterwards rebuilt by Edward I. on higher ground. The French made several attempts on the town, and in 1380 succeeded in capturing and burning it. The gradual decay of the port was due to the retiring of the sea in the fifteenth century, which rendered the harbour useless. Winchelsea is a pretty place with massive gateways, survivals of the old fortified town. In the centre of the village is a square containing the remains of the old Parish Church built in 1288 in the Decorated style. The nave and transepts have gone, having been destroyed by the French, and only the chancel remains. It contains some interesting canopied tombs, one being to Gervase Alard, Admiral of the Cinque Ports in 1383. John Wesley preached his last open-air sermon in the churchyard.
Rye lies 2 miles east of Winchelsea, and though more flourishing than the latter place, has much dwindled in importance, since it too was a Cinque Port. The town is built on a hill, and the steep, narrow streets are filled with quaint houses. The harbour is still visited by small fishing-boats. The French constantly attacked Rye, and in 1380 they succeeded in burning it. Overlooking the sea and belonging to the old wall is the Ypres Tower, built in the reign of Stephen by William de Ypres.
Close to the tower is the large Parish Church, which contains much Decorated Gothic work, although its oldest portions are Norman, the church having been partly rebuilt after the destruction caused by the French in 1380. It contains a wonderful clock, made in Queen Elizabeth’s reign, and said to be the oldest in England still in working order. It has a long pendulum which comes through the ceiling and swings in the church.
[Illustration: Photochrom Co., Ltd. WINCHELSEA CHURCH.
The French did much damage to the building in 1380, and portions of it are still in ruins.]