The Mayor and Corporation of Winchelsea
There has been a mayor of Winchelsea for over 700 years, with records dating back to 1295.
The mayoring ceremony takes place annually on Easter Monday, and since 1665 it has been held in the Upper Court Hall.
The ceremony recognises the continuing existence of the last surviving unreformed Corporation of England and Wales, and comprises an ‘Assembly of the Freemen of Winchelsea’ followed by the ‘Annual Sitting of the Hundred’, the principal business of which is the installation of the Major for the coming year.
For detailed information on The Winchelsea Corporation and Act of Parliament that defined its current role, please click here.
Annual Mayoring Ceremony
Mayors appoint Jurats – usually twelve – to advise them. Jurats are chosen from among the Freemen of the Town at the Mayoring.
The Mayor is assisted by the Town Clerk, the Chamberlain and the Sergeant-at-Mace.
Winchelsea and the Cinque Ports
The Cinque – traditionally pronounced ‘sink’ – Ports is a confederation of medieval towns granted many rights and privileges by the King in exchange for supplying ships and sailors in time of need long before England raised its own Royal Navy.
The Head Ports are Sandwich, Dover, Hythe, New Romney and Hastings, together with the two ‘Antient Towns’ of Rye and Winchelsea. Other local towns joined the Confederation of the Cinque Ports to assist the Head Ports in fulfilling their duties.
Today the Corporation is responsible for representing Winchelsea at meetings of the Confederation of Cinque Ports. The seven Head Ports each in turn provide the Confederation’s Speaker, this being the Mayor for the time being of the duty port. Winchelsea’s turn comes next in 2019. Click here to go to the official Cinque Ports website.
The Seal of Winchelsea
The Seal of the Corporation is as ancient as the corporate seal of any port. It dates from the early part of the reign of Edward I (1272-1307).
The Obverse of the seal shows an ancient ship with a poop and embattled forecastle and the royal arms three lions passant. The translation of the legend is ‘The seal of the Barons of our Lord the King of England of Winchelsea’.
The Counter Seal (lost in the 18th century and recovered in 1907) shows parts of three public buildings of the town – the church of St Giles and a representation of St Giles, a tower, possibly the Town Hall with a warden holding a lantern and representations of the Annunciation and the Virgin Mary, and the church of St. Thomas with a representation of the martyrdom of St Thomas. At the base are representations of the religious houses of the town and of the sea. The surrounding legend is an invocation to Saint Giles and Saint Thomas for their protection although the precise meaning is not clear.