Winchelsea is a small cinque port, town and seaport, near the sea, and on the road from Rye to Hastings, 63 ¾ miles from London, and 3 south-west of Rye, and 8 north-east of Hastings, in the rape of Hastings, with 1,120 acres, and a population of 687, assessed to the Income Tax at £6,893. The benefice is a rectory, value, £278 per annum. This is an ancient town, and most probably derived its name from Winchelling, son of Cissa, founder of the South Saxon Kingdom. In the old English times it was of some importance, and was granted by Edward the Confessor to the monks of Fescamp, in Normandy. In 1067 William the Norman landed here, and in 1188 Henry II. It was made a cinque port before the time of King John. In 1250, more than 300 were destroyed by the sea. In 1266 the town was stormed by Prince Edward, and young Simon de Montfort defeated. The inhabitants petitioned King Edward I. to grant them a site for a new town; and a hill containing 150 acres, in the parish of Schlesham, and then a rabbit warren, called Sham, was granted for this purpose, and built upon, being divided into 40 squares of 2 ¼ acres, of which 39 may still be traced. In 1287 the old town of Winchelsea was finally swallowed up by the sea, on the eve of St. Agatha; it later became the place of import for French wines, for which massive crypts were built, and in the time of Henry VI. Was one of the chief ports of embarkation fro France; in 1360 it was pillaged by the French, and in 1380 by the Spaniards. Henry VIII. built the Castle of Camber, the ruins of which are still standing. The sea again made inroads, and in the time of Queen Elizabeth the harbour was choked up. Winchelsea, as a cinque port, is a member of Hastings, and is a borough by prescription, governed by a mayor and jurats, which hold courts of general session and gaol delivery, and have jurisdiction over capital offences; it formerly returned to members to parliament, but was, by the Reform Bill, attached to the borough of Rye. Robert de Winchelsea, Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1921, was native of this town. There was a market on Saturdays, which has been discontinued many years; the fair is on the 14th may for cattle &c. The churches of St. Giles & St. Leonard’s have long since ceased to exist. The benefice of St. Thomas-the-Apostle is a discharged rectory, value £278 per annum. The church forms the interesting remains of a large and ancient edifice, much of which is ruined. There are 3 altar tombs of the time of Edward I., called Crusaders, or Knights Templars; one is supposed to be a member of the Oxenbridge family. Here was a convent of Grey Friars, of which the choir, with some beautiful arches and windows, still remain. There were also a convent of Dominicans and a preceptory of St. Anthony, of which no relics exist. Of the 4 town gates, there are standing, in a ruinous condition, Landgate, Strandgate And Newgate. The court house and jail are in the Anglo-Saxon style.
Post Office – Richard Wilson receiver. Letters arrive from Rye at 8.15am; dispatched at 6pm.
Carrier to Rye – William Leonard, daily.
Dawes Thomas, esq.
Hannah Joseph, esq.
Legg Thomas, esq.
Sargent William, esq.
Southey Capt. William, R.N.
Stileman the Misses, the Friars
West Rev. James John, M.A. Rectory
Bailey Joseph, shoe maker
Barham Henry, tailor
Benfield Nathaniel, corn dealer
Blackman George, grocer & draper
Bray William, veterinary surgeon
Field Stephen, beer retailer
Fuller Walter, carpenter & glazier
Fuller William, farmer, Road End Farm
Haisell George, shoe maker
Hill Charles, shoe maker
Hoad Henry, farmer, Harbour Farm
Holt Jacob, bricklayer & parish clerk
Jenkins John, butcher
Jones Henry, butcher
Jones Mrs. Lucy, dressmaker
Lawrence & Osbourne, builders
Lawrence Stephen, plumber &c.
Leonard William, carrier
Mitchell William, grocer
Osborne Richard, “Castle”
Ruck & Davies, surgeons
Sargent William, miller & baker
Sharps John, miller & baker
Sharps Robert, shopkeeper
Stace William, blacksmith
Transcribed by Stacey Gardner