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A walk within Winchelsea

Coming out of the church, turn right, pass through the ruined transept arch and take the path to the northeast corner of the church square at the junction of the High Street and St Thomas's Street. On the other corner, on the same side of the High Street, is a house with white weatherboarding down the High Street side and black weatherboarding above a random rubble wall along St Thomas's Street. This is Firebrand. The weatherboarding, which was added in the 20th century, hides one of the three or four most complete houses dating from the foundation of the new town in 1288. The house is built around a central hall that would originally have been open to the roof. At either end of the hall was a two-storey block. At the western end were private quarters and, at the eastern end, the kitchen and other domestic services. In the 18th century, a first floor and an internal chimney stack were added to the hall. As the straight lines of Georgian improvement did not match the more pragmatic lines of the medieval building, one can see the beams carrying the floor of the attic cutting behind one of the first floor windows. Underneath the services block of the house, there is a well-preserved barrel-vaulted cellar with chamfered ribs of Caen stone. The cover over the front opening of the cellar can be seen on the High Street. There is another opening at the back of the house. Firebrand would have been equivalent to a large medieval manor house. It occupies two of the original building plots laid out when New Winchelsea was founded and is on an important corner site. It would therefore have been the home of a fairly important citizen of the new town.

The name of the house may commemorate HMS Firebrand, a fire ship lost off the Scilly Isles in 1703 along with three much larger ships of the fleet of Sir Cloudsley Shovell. Some 1,500 men were lost in what still ranks as the worst maritime disaster off the coast of Britain. There were only 30 survivors, of whom 29 were from the Firebrand. The link with Winchelsea is uncertain, although one of the lost ships was manned by Hastings men.

On the diagonally opposite corner to the church square is Periteau House. The name commemorates a Huguenot resident whose family had settled in England to escape religious persecution in France. The Georgian appearance of this L-shaped house is deceptive. It actually dates from 1500 and was originally a three-storeyed timber-framed Tudor building with the first and second floors overhanging the street. The house was built for one Richard Barkley, probably a rich merchant, and demonstrated that there was still money in Winchelsea as late as the early 16th century. The Georgian appearance of the house dates from the 1760's, when the house was modernized by Arnold Nesbitt MP. The third storey was replaced by a tiled roof and a brick facade built around the Tudor core.

Walk to the High Street

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7 High Street

Firebrand
Firebrand

Periteau
Periteau