The Sussex Coast - online book

A Literary & Historical travel guide to the Sussex Coast

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WINCHELSEA                          369
have had no north aisle, it formed the preaching-house of the brothers whose convent was on its southern side. During the eighteenth century it was the home of the Weston brothers, who figure in Thackeray's unfinished novel, Denis Duval, which ends abruptly with the story of a fearful fight between a king's ship and John Paul Jones, "than whom a braver traitor never wore sword." Squire Weston and his brother were immensely respected in Winchelsea. Thackeray makes one of them churchwarden, but as they were Roman Catholics this point seems to require explanation. It eventually turned out that their real mode of livelihood was highway robbery, and after some almost incredible escapes they were eventually executed together. The whole of the conventual buildings were destroyed in the early years of the nineteenth century when the present house was erected, remarkable for its park and wide plantations, and all that characterises a country mansion within the defences of a town.
The most beautiful object in Winchelsea, its yard occupying a whole block, is the parish church, dedicated to St. Thomas. It was originally cruci­form, but there only remain the chancel with its side chapels and the ruined transept. It is of early fourteenth-century character, the most beautiful of its date in Sussex, and it has not many rivals of its own class nearer than Exeter Cathedral. The nave aisles were a little narrower than the chapels of the chancel; nothing remains above ground, but its tiled floor has been found in digging graves. Deep arched recesses with clustered responds enclose the east windows of the roofless transepts, and on the south a trefoiled piscina remains. Both chancel and chapels have
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