Call for medieval Winchelsea gates protection from vehicles

A car crashed into the Pipewell or Ferry Gate on the A259 at the top of Ferry Hill, Winchelsea, on Friday, February 19. Photo courtesy of Richard Comotto
A car crashed into the Pipewell or Ferry Gate on the A259 at the top of Ferry Hill, Winchelsea, on Friday, February 19. Photo courtesy of Richard Comotto

An archaeological group is calling for more protection for Winchelsea’s medieval gates due to the damage accumulated from passing vehicles.

Winchelsea Archaeological Society (WAS) wants something to be done to stop the amount of people driving into the gates or HGVs scraping them.

There have been a number of incidents where drivers have crashed into the Pipewell or Ferry Gate on Ferry Hill as well as The Strand Gate at the other end of the A259.

WAS member Richard Comotto can foresee the gates being irreplaceably damaged if nothing is done.

“If you look at the gate, you can see regular indents,” he said.

“If a HGV was to hit it, no matter how strong the stone is, it would be in trouble.

“It’s getting a repeated bashing and it’s the same for the other gates as well.”

WAS has written to the Corporation of Winchelsea, who owns the gates, Highways England, who is responsible for the A259, East Sussex County Council’s highways department and the Rother District Council conservation officer about the issue.

The group wants the different parties to come together to protect the gates which are an important part of the town’s heritage.

“Nobody really seems to take it on board – I think it’s a lack of imagination but in fact there are fairly simple measures that can be done,” Mr Comotto said.

“But everyone says ‘it’s not our problem’.

“But it should be their problem and the highways agency must recognise they have not widened the road.

“The owners of the gate must act together and the community as a whole would be keen on protecting the gate but it just needs someone to take the lead.

“There are not that many of them in the world but when they have gone, I can’t see anybody rebuilding them.”

Winchelsea’s Community Speed Watch has been trying to reduce the number of oversized vehicles coming through the Strand Gate for some time too.

Mr Comotto suggested putting some stone bollards either side of the gate to create an illusion of less space which should make motorists slow down.

“They have a strong psychological effect as they look like it would stop you, and they are usually made of stone so they would not be visibly intrusive,” he said.

An East Sussex County Council spokesman said it is aware of concerns raised in the past about the damage being caused to the Winchelsea gates and is happy to discuss these with the community.

A Highways England spokesman said: “The A259 through Winchelsea already has a lowered speed limit as well as several on-road and roadside warning signs advising drivers of the road conditions ahead and we urge drivers to abide by these restrictions.

“We welcome any further suggestions from the community to improve the situation as safety is our top priority.”

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