Positioned fittingly in the centre of Winchelsea is the church dedicated to ‘St Thomas the Martyr’ – Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury.
The church was built at the same time as the town itself but we cannot be sure whether the whole of it was ever built. Today only the chancel and chapels remain in use. The transepts are in ruins and there is no evidence to be seen of a nave.
It was the wealthiest of the three churches and is renowned for its 20th century stained glass windows by Douglas Strachan and the medieval Alard tombs. Robert de Winchelsea who became Archbishop of Canterbury, was born in old Winchelsea in 1230 . He officiated at the marriage of Edward I to Margaret daughter of Phillip III of France. He died in 1315 and is buried in Canterbury Cathedral.
The relentless decay of the town affected the church and, for hundreds of years after the French had invaded and sacked the town, the church remained in a deplorable state. But in 1850 the perilous condition of the fabric of the church was realised and extensive repairs were carried out. Today it stands well-restored, well-used and much cared for.
You will also find among its many treasures a modern tapestry – the Millennium Tapestry – created by over twenty women of the Town to celebrate that occasion and record the face of the town as it is today.
There is a guidebook on sale in the church that gives a full account of the history of the church. You will find more on the Church website and on the Sussex Parish Churches website