Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

St Thomas The Martyr, Winchelsea

St Thomas the Martyr, Winchelsea.

Winchelsea was founded by Edward I (Yes, Longshanks) to replace an earlier town that got drowned by the sea- and is now lost under Camber Sands. It sits on a promontory, almost an island- overlooking what was then the estuary of the River Rother and is now low-lying farmland. Edward wanted New Winchelsea to be a statement and he planned a very grand church- of which only the East end remains. Winchelsea was raided three times in the late 14th century- twice by the French and once by the Castilians- with great destruction and loss of life- and it's unclear whether the church's current state is the result of interrupted building work or enemy action. Many centuries later John Wesley recorded a visit to "That poor skeleton of Ancient Winchelsea with its large church now in ruins."

Edward visited the town regularly to inspect the ongoing work and there's a story that he was riding along the battlements, which overlooked a steep drop down to the bay when his horse got spooked by the turning sails of a windmill, leaped over the wall and disappeared out of sight. Edward survived, the horse was sold and the area is still known as King's Leap.

Before we go inside we ought to pay our respects to Spike. His grave is easy to find because pilgrims have flattened a path to it through the grass.

The family wanted the stone to say, "I told you I was ill" but the diocese wasn't keen. Eventually a compromise was reached and the words went on in Gaelic- " Dúirt mé leat go raibh mé breoite"
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