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Church of St Thomas the Martyr, Winchelsea

St Thomas the Martyr, Winchelsea

Winchelsea is a small village in East Sussex with a fascinating history. A hint of it’s previous importance can be seen in the Church of St Thomas the Martyr, the only remaining one of three churches that the town once sustained. It was once the size of a small cathedral, however only the chancel remains. The reason for the deconstruction is not known for sure, raids by the French is one possible reason, or the church was downsized to reduce the tax burden when the community was impoverished.

Although the weather looks pleasant in these photos, it was so cold it was making my hands ache. I planned to spend more time here, but it’s hard to be creative when most of my thoughts were on returning to the warmth of the car.  There is so much to photograph in Winchelsea though and I will be back, but on a warmer day.St Thomas the Martyr, Winchelsea

4 responses to “Church of St Thomas the Martyr, Winchelsea”

  1. davidoakesimages avatar

    I do like the looks of the Church…..if the surrounds are as interesting then you have a great location

    1. compellingphotography avatar

      It is, as the information provided below explains!

  2. Ro avatar

    It’s a fascinating building – potted history can be read at Winchelsea was founded by Edward 1 and built between 1288 – 1295 and was once a large and important town, and the first in England to be built on a grid plan like the Bastides of France. It’s been featured in paintings by Millais (who was staying with Holman Hunt in nearby Pett), and Turner; Dante Gabriel Rossetti visited the town, having been introduced to the area by Edward Lear. Winchelsea was for a time the home of writers Ford Madox Ford and Joseph Conrad, and Thackeray set one of his novels here…the list goes on….it’s a lovely town to visit, set on it’s hill above the marshes, and when you get tired of wandering you can pay your respect to Spike Milligan, who’s busied in the church graveyard, before going to a have a cup of coffe in the upmarket delicatessen, which sells all manner of local goodies as well as a fine selection of meats and cheeses from elsewhere. Twice a year, some of the houses open under the National Gardens Scheme, and for a fiver you can go and nose around to your hearts content. There is also occasionally a “Winchelsea Secret Cellars” day, when you can go and explore some of the extensive cellars under the town, dating from the days Winchelsea was an important port.

  3. Mick Pelling avatar
    Mick Pelling

    Look at Winchelsea now, a quiet village on the top of a hill.
    When the town was built, circa 1287, the sea lapped around the bottom of the hill, it was a major port, exporting wood, salt, herrings wheat etc.
    The imports included wine from Gascony, it is noted in records that Winchelsea ships 1575 tuns of wine in the period 1303 to 04.This equates to approx 350,000 gallons !
    Stored in the secret cellars.
    Winchelsea was also a Cinque Port, Cinque Ports provided ships for the Kings navy, in exchange for certain rights and privileges.
    France being a notable enemy.
    The 100 years war broke out in 1337, Winchelsea townsfolk built and provided ships and crews for the King, the men of Winchelsea fought with distinction.
    Around 1349, the black death reached the area, quite likely killing 50 {9bc1cc8a9198725c785dc299d4853e65ac3850b4f9eac8bd629e2a5d8cbd0524} of the population,
    Victories on French soil…Poitiers 1356 for instance caused a mis judgement as to the strength of the French navy , and when King Edward the third sailed to France, taking much of his fleet with him, it left the coast unprotected.
    Other English ships were in the mouth of the Thames, when in 1360, the French sacked Winchelsea, killing and raping as they went, the population was virtually destroyed.
    Winchelsea which had fallen into disrepair, was attacked again in in 1377, the French, having pillaged Rye turned their attention to Winchelsea, but were beaten off.
    In 1380, “Castilians” allies of the French, attacked and caused so much damage, the town was abandoned.
    It is assumed that the major damage to St Thomas the Martyr was caused in this raid.

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