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A walk within Winchelsea

You now need to get to Mill Lane. Retrace your steps back up North Street and turn first right into School Hill. On the opposite corner is a block of houses. These are The Five Houses. Like Barrack Square, they were built to house the workers of the English Linen Company in the 1760’s and were built over repaired medieval cellars that were used in the preparation of flax. At the first junction on School Hill, turn right into Mill Road and walk to the junction with Rectory Lane (A259). Cross over into Mill Lane.

In the field immediately on the right-hand side of Mill Lane are the buried remains of the Monastery of the Black Friars, built in 1358, dissolved in 1538 and demolished in 1559. The Black Friars or Dominicans, also known as the Friars Preachers, supplied the personnel for the Inquisition and, possibly because of excessive evangelism, were not popular in Winchelsea when they arrived in 1318. There were street brawls between the monks and townsfolk. The first Black Friars monastery was sited in the south of Winchelsea. They then moved to a site at the end of Mill Lane outside the town and finally, in 1358, got hold of a prime site near the Pipewell Gate.

Follow Mill Lane until you get to a gate. Climb over the stile by the side of the gate and walk to the small mound dead ahead. This was the site of St Leonard's Windmill. Unfortunately, this was demolished by the great storm of 1987 having just been repaired. The windmill was moved here in the early 19th century (the National Trust plaque, which says 1703, is wrong by almost 100 years) on the site of the Church of St Leonard's. This served the village of South or Petty Iham, a small Saxon settlement which predated New Winchelsea and remained outside the jurisdiction of the new town. Indeed, there are boundary stones in the nearby fields inscribed with the letters "CH" meaning the Corporation of Hastings.

On one of the ruined brick piers of the windmill is an interpretation board describing the view from the windmill site and the history of the location. There are similar boards at three other cardinal viewing points around Winchelsea (the Look Out in the east, the bottom of School Hill in the north, and by St Johns Hospital wall in the south).

At the foot of the hill is St Leonard's Spring. Legend has it that, if you drink of its waters, your heart will remain in Winchelsea and you will eventually return. In his book, Return to Yesterday (1931), Ford Madox Ford wrote that he had taken his friends, Joseph Conrad, Stephen Crane, Henry James and WH Hudson, to drink at the spring, adding, “They are all dead now”.

To the right of St Leonard's Windmill is an unusually square area sometimes called Castle Field. The name reflects the popular belief that this was the 12 acres that Edward I ordered to be set aside for his use when New Winchelsea was laid out and that the King actually built a fort here. It has also been suggested that there was a Roman fort here. There is however no evidence of either fort.

Walk to the site of St Leonards windmill and church

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10 North Street to the old windmill site

Five Houses
Five Houses

Pipewell Field
Pipewell Field

The interpretation board at the former windmill site
The interpretation board at the former windmill site

Windmill
Windmill

Windmill
St Leonards Windmill