Highways and Byways in Sussex - online book

An illustrated appreciation, of the most interesting districts in Sussex.

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362                                      THE ALARD TOMBS                                chap.
New Winchelsea was soon busy. In 1350 a battle between the English and Spanish fleets was waged off the town, an exciting spectacle for the Court, who watched from the high ground. Edward III., the English king, when victory was his, rode to Etchingham for the night. In 1359, 3,000 Frenchmen entered Winchelsea and set fire to it; while in 1360 the Cinque Ports navy sailed from Winchelsea and burned Luce. Such were the reprisals of those days. In 1376 the French came again and were repulsed by the Abbot of Battle, but in 1378 the Abbot had to run. In 1448 the French came for the last time, the sea having become very shallow; and a little later the sea receded altogether, Henry VIII. suppressed the religious houses, and Winchelsea's heyday was over.
She is now a quiet, aloof settlement of pleasant houses and gardens, prosperous and idle. Rye might be called a city of trade, Winchelsea of repose. She spreads her hands to the sun and is content.
Winchelsea's church stands, as a church should, in the midst of its green acre, fully visible from every side—the very antipodes of Rye. Large as it now is, it was once far larger, for only the chancel and side aisles remain. The glory of the church is the canopied tomb of Gervase Alard, Admiral of the Cinque Ports, and that of his grandson Stephen Alard, also Admiral, both curiously carved with grotesque heads. The roof beams of the church, timber from wrecked or broken ships, are of an integrity so thorough that a village carpenter who recently climbed up to test them blunted all his tools in the enterprise.
All that remains of the Grey Friars monastery may now be seen (on Mondays only) in the estate called The Friars: the shell of the chapel's choir, prettily covered with ivy. Here once lived, in the odour of perfect respectability, the brothers Weston, who, country gentlemen of quiet habit at home, for several years ravaged the coach roads elsewhere as highway­men, and were eventually hanged at Tyburn. Their place in
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