One of my photos


April 7th, 2007 · Posted by Skuds in Life · 2 Comments · Life

I have to get this out of my system first. It may only be a 7-year-old Ford, but we are quite excited about our new car.

Its a Mondeo estate, 2-litre GLX, which is a bit naughty in these carbon footprint-aware times, but then we do only have one car for the family and the idea of an estate was to hold all our camping gear so we can take holidays in Britain instead of flying away.

Anyway, when we took it out for a prolonged test drive we ended up at Winchelsea, which is a place I had known nothing about.

It is possible that I had been there as a child. We used to take a lot of holidays in that area and I can remember going to Rye, Hastings, Romney, Dungeness and other places nearby but I can’t remember this place, and it is a very memorable place.

The most striking feature is the church. It is quite a large church for a small place (it claims to be the smallest town in the country, but I’m not getting into that again) and its a very unusual shape. Reading about the history of the church reveals not only why it is such a strange shape but that it was supposed to be much, much larger.

It turns out that Winchelsea was an important place back in 15th Century. It had a port on the river (since silted up) which was the main port for importing wines from France, had its own mint and a naval base. At the time King Edward I had plans made up for a completely new town, based on a grid pattern, with a magnificent church as a centrepiece.

This was, arguably, the first attempt at organised town planning in the country, and would have resulted in a very impressive settlement. Who knows – if it had been built it and been successful it might have encouraged organised town planning centuries ahead of places like Bourneville and the garden cities, and the country might look very different now. On such things does history pivot.

Unfortunately the French kept popping over and raiding the place and it never really got properly established. The current church is what would have been just the choir section of the completed building. The remains of the two transepts, flank the entrance, but nothing remains of the rest of the building. I suspect the main body of it never got built, but standing at the entrance and comparing it to the original plans you can see that it would have been of cathedral proportions.

I would strongly recommend a visit to anyone who can get there easily, and to anyone who can’t I would recommend a visit to the town’s website instead.

And I can’t let this go without the obligatory plug for my Flickr page, where there are loads of other pictures of the church.

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2 Comments so far ↓

  • skud's sister

    I don’t remember Winchelsea so I don’t think we went as kids. We are planning to relive some old family memories by going to the New Forest this summer. I’ll try not to get kicked by the ponies this time….

  • Denise Brown

    hello, from texas!

    i was doing a Google search, and your blog popped-up with information & photos about WINCHELSEA.

    my personal interest in this community was piqued a few weeks ago because i learned a distant relative, ROBERT BRISTOW(E) lived there during the 15th century.

    family history searches & adventures are fun stuff.

    glad to have found your site.

    denise brown