Last weekend we went on a tour of the cellars in Winchelsea, organised by the Sussex Community Rail Partnership.
Unsurprisingly, we therefore started at Winchelsea station, although we actually walked there, as it's only about 2 miles from our house.
From there it was a 15 min walk along the side of the river Brede towards Winchelsea:
Then up the A259 for a short distance towards the landgate on that side of town.
There's a similar gate on the other side of town too:
It's a pretty good view from up there. Winchelsea was built on a hill in the 13th century, after Old Winchelsea succumbed to the waves - it's south of Rye, somewhere in the English Channel now! It was a storm in 1287 that finally finished it off.
Although there's some big old-looking houses in Winchelsea, our guide told us that they are not the original ones, as the town was attacked and burned by the French and Spanish several times. Perhaps this is why they still play a game there called 'Kick the Frenchman's head'!
There are still some remnants of the old town, like this bizarre wall between two houses:
We started the tour proper at the town well:
From there we went to our first cellar. The town used to be much larger than it is now, and there are cellars all over the place, most of them owned by whoever lives above them. This one was in someone's garden:
As you can see, they're quite spacious inside. This one was pretty basic, with no special features:
Obviously not everyone wants to open their cellar to the public, and some aren't safe to go down. As a result there are numerous signs of cellars that are locked up:
This one was under someone's house, though it was accessed from outside:
It still had the dressed stone on its arches:
All in all, a smarter cellar, mainly because the owner is actually using it for storage, and had put lighting down there and concreted the floor:
The next one was awkward to access, going through this hatch:
The ceiling of this one was very impressive, almost like the inside of a church, and it was divided into several sections:
We were told that troops had been billeted there in the second world war, and there was still some evidence, such as this ancient hand grenade!
The next cellar was integrated properly into someone's house:
It was still in very active use:
With an impressive store of wine! Not surprisingly the Winchelsea Wine Society meets here...
Finally, we visited the cellar under our guide's house. There was a grille over one of the light/ventilation shafts:
This cellar was actually being excavated by an archaeologist, and had various markings in it, such as these crosses carved into the arches:
Anyway, that's it. Well worth a visit if you're in the area. I'm told you normally book the tours through the Winchelsea Post Office.