St Thomas the Martyr, Winchelsea, East Sussex - 31st October 2004

During the 12th century Winchelsea was larger and more important than its close neighbour Rye. The Old town was situated on a low lying island about three miles south east of the present town, approximately where Camber Sands are today. In October 1250 Old WInchelsea was partly submerged by a phenomenal high tide which was followed 37 years later by another inundation which virtually destroyed the town.

St Thomas the Martyr, Winchelsea, East Sussex - 31st October 2004 - MTC

Edward I planned a new town at Iham, a location high above the flooding danger from the sea, including a substantial new church.  What we see today is in fact the chancel and two side chapels of that planned building.  Whether the nave was ever fully built is unknown - but it is thought that there was once a massive tower over the nave crossing (the supporting piers are still visible).  It was probably brought down by raiders from France.

St Thomas the Martyr, Winchelsea, East Sussex - 31st October 2004 - MTC

Here are a selection of the fabulous windows.  The first threee shown here, in the north wall of the north aisle, are part of the war memorial and are the work of Dr Douglas Strachan, and an integral part of his great scheme of stained glass for the whole church.   They depict, in turn, Land, Air and Fire, and Sea.

St Thomas the Martyr, Winchelsea, East Sussex - 31st October 2004 - MTCSt Thomas the Martyr, Winchelsea, East Sussex - 31st October 2004 - MTCSt Thomas the Martyr, Winchelsea, East Sussex - 31st October 2004 - MTC

Here is a picture of the (huge!) east window. It has the theme of Praise and Resurrection, inspired by the Revelation of St John, Chapter IV.

St Thomas the Martyr, Winchelsea, East Sussex - 31st October 2004 - MTC

Here is the east window of the St Nicholas Chapel, with its theme of Death and Resurrection.

St Thomas the Martyr, Winchelsea, East Sussex - 31st October 2004 - MTC

The final window picture is of the most easterly of  the windows in the south wall of the south aisle.  It is the Lifeboat Memorial and was the gift of Lord Blanesburgh to commemorate the heroism of the Rye Harbour lifeboat crew who lost their lives in a great storm on 15th November 1928.  There is also a large memorial to the crew in the graveyard of the Church in Rye Harbour.

The other windows in this wall are partially obscured by the impressive Alard monuments.

St Thomas the Martyr, Winchelsea, East Sussex - 31st October 2004 - MTC

The font, once in St Nicholas Chapel, is now in the lady chapel which was restored as part of the War Memorial.  The unusual cover of carved oak was a gift by public subscription in 1952.

St Thomas the Martyr, Winchelsea, East Sussex - 31st October 2004 - MTC

The organ is contained on a west gallery. It was built by J W Walker and Sons.  The case was designed by Sir Mervyn Macartney, who supervised its erection. The organ is played from a detached oak console.

St Thomas the Martyr, Winchelsea, East Sussex - 31st October 2004 - MTC

These three tombs are on the north wall.  It is believed they were brought from the wrecked and partially submerged former Winchelsea church which was engulfed by the sea.  The ruins are thought to be buried somewhere beneath Camber sands.  The figures are of polished Sussex Marble and could be over 700 years old.  They are thought to depict members of the Godfrey family.

St Thomas the Martyr, Winchelsea, East Sussex - 31st October 2004 - MTC

The final view is from the south west corner of the churchyard. The small porch may well have originally been the porch of the south transept, the footings of which can still be seen.

St Thomas the Martyr, Winchelsea, East Sussex - 31st October 2004 - MTC

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