In 1415 June 5, Maior et Communitas were granted, by Henry V, (In year 3 of his reign) a Royal licence to crenellate Wynchelse (New Winchelsea)
Maior et Communitas ... villam de ... Wynchelse, Sussex. (Parker and Turner)
Know that whereas our beloved Mayor and Commonalty of our Town of Wynchelse have long had and held the same Town, for themselves and their successors of us, and our progenitors, for a certain Fee-Farm (feudi firma), of £14 11s, 5 d., and whereas they have and hold them of us at the present time, for the aforesaid Fee-Farm, and the site of that town is so wide and spacious, that all dwelling in the said Town would by no means suffice, or be able for the defence and protection of the same, if it were assaulted or besieged by enemies, which may God forbid, without the assistance and support of the adjacent parts, and on that account the aforesaid Mayor and Commonalty now propose by means of our license, to fortify the aforesaid town with a certain wall of stone and lime, and with a certain foss in a lesser circuit as well upon our land in the Town, which is called the Waste (Vastum), as also upon the holdings of of the same Town, which are held of us as parcels of said Fee- Farm, for this purpose to be bought, provided, and made by the same Mayor and Commonalty, and they may enclose, krenellate, entower, and embattle, the said wall, and may enclose with the same foss, the said town so fortified, entowered, krenellated, and embattled, we are earnestly desirous that those places which are adapted for fortification should be made strong for the security and defence of the people subject to us, and for the terror and repulse of our enemies, and considering how the said Town lies situated on the coast of the sea, and on the frontier of our enemies, and is to all and singular our lieges, and our friends passing at sea by there as it were, the key, refuge, and guard of those parts against the tempestuousness of the sea, and the insults of our said enemies, and wishing, moreover that the good and laudable proposal of the same Mayor and Commonalty in this particular should result in a due and speedy effect, of our certain grace, and of our certain knowledge, we have granted and given license, on behalf of ourselves and our heirs, as much as in us lies, to the aforesaid Mayor and Commonalty, that they, their heirs and successors may fortify our aforesaid Town with a certain wall of stone and lime, within a lesser circuit in the manner that may seem most expedient to them; may krenellate, entower, and embattle it, and also enclose it with a certain foss, both upon our own foresaid land, and upon that of others, as is premised, and may have and hold that Town so fortified, krenellated, entowered, and enclosed, together with the residue of the site of the same Town, for themselves and their successors, of us and our heirs, &c. Witness the King at Westminster, on the 5th day of June, (Pat. 3 Hen. V,, p, 2, n. 28. Extracts). (Blaauwcorrectly referenced but wrongly dated to 1463 - ? 3 Edw IV)
Granted at Westminster. Grant by King.
Parker footnotes "The entry states that the town had been laid out too large for its population, and permits a smaller line of defence to be fortified. The mayor and corporation are permitted "firmare, kernellare, turellare et batellare." A gatehouse of this period, called the North-gate, is still preserved."
Although the town was vulnerable to French raids trade was failing off because of harbour silting. Restructuring the walls may have been an attempt to increase confidence for merchants. Here, not unusually, fear of French raids may be taking the 'blame' for other economic factors.
Original source is;
Lyte, H.C. Maxwell (ed), 1910, Calendar of Patent Rolls (1413-16) p. 368-9 online copy
(In fact, the original source given is usually a transcription/translation
of what are precious medieval documents not readily availably. It should be
noted that these transcription/translations often date to the nineteenth or
early twentieth centuries and that unwitting bias of transcribers may affect
the translation. Care should also be taken to avoid giving modern meaning to
the medieval use of certain stock words and terms. Licentia is best translated as 'freedom to' not 'permission'.)
Significant later sources are;
King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 479n67 Blaauw, William Henry, 1861, ' Royal Licenses to Fortify Towns and Houses in Sussex' Sussex Archaeological Collections Vol. 13 p. 115 online copy Turner, T.H. and Parker, J.H., 1859, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 3 part 2 p. 421 online copy
More information about licences to crenellate can be found here.
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Record created by Philip Davis. This record last updated on Wednesday, February 20, 2013.