The first inhabitants of Winchelsea built their homes on a shifting coast

The life of Winchelsea has always been bound up with the sea and the winds. They have played strange tricks.

The result is that our coastline has been alternately eroded and built up in erratic cycles that might last for many years and cannot be predicted. It was this shifting coast that the first inhabitants of Winchelsea selected for their homes.

Winchelsea was not originally built on the hill top where it now stands but on a shingle spit running out from Fairlight cliffs towards the north and east. The original site has been engulfed by the sea. It is generally agreed that it was offshore from the present village of Camber.

There is no certain reference to it until the 12th century when it appears as a town of some importance whose help was sought by Hastings in fulfilling its duties as a Cinque Port. The ‘Ancient Towns’ of Winchelsea and Rye then consented to join the confederation of the Cinque Ports on very favourable terms, as complete equals of the five head ports.