Sitting on a quiet lane within the Winchelsea Conservation Area in East Sussex is this charming three-bedroom cottage. Wrapped in a façade of Flemish bond red and grey brick with warm terracotta hung tiles, the Grade II-listed house is a wonderful example of the Victorian Sussex vernacular. 18th-century details continue internally, with weathered floorboards, exposed timber beams and original pine joinery characterising the living spaces, and a ragstone walled garden sits to the rear of the house. Winchelsea, perched on the edge of the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, is ideally placed for the delights of the Sussex coastline and for rail links to London.
Setting the Scene
Built in the early 18th century, the cottage sits on Hiham Green, which forms part of the grid system laid out when Winchelsea was founded as a fortified town. Similar in form to the French ‘bastide’ model, this medieval approach to town planning gives Winchelsea its character today. The town is still structured by the historic street pattern today, with a section of the 15th-century retaining walls still standing. Three of the original town gates also remain, with Strand Gate at the eastern entrance to the town, Pipewell Gate to the north-west, and New Gate to the south. For more information, please see the History section below.
The Grand Tour
Established edges line the front of the cottage on leafy Hiham Green. Set within a corniced architrave, the white-painted front door opens to the hallway, with a double-aspect living and dining room to the left. Here, the deep tones of the oak floorboards running underfoot are complemented by the white-washed timber frame. The current owners have arranged a cosy sitting area at the front of the room, where a casement window looks over the idyllic lane outside. A cast iron fireplace is framed by floral motif tiles and a pine surround; a matching pine cabinet sits to one side, perfect for storing books and board games. There is a window at the other side of the room, which is currently configured as a dining space, that looks over the landscaped rear garden.
Opening from the dining area is the kitchen, set towards the back of the plan. The cool tones of the flagstone floor are complimented by blue-painted timber cabinetry that houses a deep butler sink and a five-ring gas cooker. A door to the back garden opens from here, making it easy to dash for a handful of herbs to add to a meal. There is also a utility space at the back of the plan.
At the end of the ground floor hallway is a handy shower room. Timber panelling wraps around the room to add a decorative touch, and a copper basin sits on a reclaimed teak cabinet. Opposite is a generous rain-style shower.
A staircase rises from the hallway to the first-floor landing, around which are two double bedrooms and a bathroom. All have painted floorboards, with one bedroom housing a cast iron fireplace. The family bathroom has been fitted with a wonderful antique French Verdigris copper bath and a copper vanity.
On the second floor, there is a pretty eaves bedroom with views over the quiet road beyond.
The Great Outdoors
The kitchen leads on to a recently landscaped east-facing garden. Along with low-maintenance artificial grass, the current owners have introduced a large decked terrace and a bespoke outdoor kitchen, with a built-in charcoal barbecue and a pizza oven – perfect for al fresco dining during the warmer months. Home to a mature bay tree, the garden is also lined by well-established evergreens, and is enclosed by fencing and a ragstone wall. A gate leads from the garden to a private alley, giving access from Mill Road.
Out and About
Winchelsea, situated between the High Weald and Romney Marsh, is superbly positioned for easy access to the many highlights of the East Sussex coastline.
The town is on the edge of the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, composed of varying habitats including scrub, woodland and lagoons, and home to thousands of species of native wildlife. The expanse is a wonderful site for walking and cycling routes, or for days on the beach.
For daily amenities in Winchelsea, there is a village shop which supplies fresh bread and excellent coffee, as well as a farm shop and an independent butcher. The New Inn pub serves a menu of seasonal fare year-round, ales, beers and local wines. The popular town of Rye is less than three miles away and offers great restaurants – The Globe Inn Marsh, The Fig and Standard Inn are particularly notable. There is also an independent cinema alongside a growing number of independent boutiques. Hastings Old Town is a 20-minute drive away and is home to the wonderful Hastings Contemporary as well as a wide variety of shops and restaurants.
Nearby Pett Level marks the end of the Royal Military Canal, a defensive structure that runs for 28 miles to Hythe in Kent, built in preparation for a possible invasion by Napoleon. The shallow lakes and reed beds of Pett Pools attract an enormous variety of breeding and over-wintering wildfowl and water birds. The Saxon Shore Way footpath (running from Gravesend in Kent to Hastings) is easily accessed and there are spectacular walks along the Jurassic Coast across the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve. Pett Level Beach is also nearby and great for swimming, with a sandy cove which stretches towards Winchelsea and Rye Harbour.
There is a wonderful choice of state and private schools in the area, including Claremont School, Battle Abbey School, Buckswood at Guestling, Eastbourne College, Vinehall at Robertsbridge and Marlborough House in Hawkhurst.
Rail connections from Rye are excellent, with branch-line train services to Brighton and Ashford offering high-speed connections to London St Pancras.
Council Tax Band: E
Founded in 1288, Winchelsea was planned as a replacement for the earlier town of Old Winchelsea, which had been destroyed by coastal erosion and significant flooding in the late 13th century. When the rent roll was drawn up, the 150 acre town had been divided into 39 blocks for houses and shops, as well as additional blocks designated for churches, a medieval monastery, and a market square.
A prosperous trading port in the 13th and 14th centuries, Winchelsea’s position on the south-east coast lent it particularly well to the import and distribution of wines from France. The importance of the wine trade resulted in the construction of an extensive network of vaulted cellars, built from Caen stone that that was likely quarried, and cut, in Normandy rather than from Kent or Sussex. The construction of these cellars predates that of the houses that sit above, rendering them some of the earliest structures built in Winchelsea.
Henry of Anjou married Eleanor of Aquitaine to in 1152, and two years later when he was crowned Henry II of England, Gascony became part of the English Crown’s possessions. As such, Bordeaux increasingly became the source of wine imported into England, and its peak in the early 14th century, 100,000 tons of wine was exported from Bordeaux in a single season, and Winchelsea was one of the ports to which it was shipped.
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