Winchelsea is a small town in East Sussex, England, located between the High Weald and the Romney Marsh, approximately two miles (3 km) south west of Rye and seven miles (12 km) north east of Hastings. The town stands on the site of a medieval town, founded in 1288, to replace an earlier town of the same name, sometimes known as Old Winchelsea, which was lost to the sea. The town is part of the civil parish of Icklesham.
It is claimed by some residents that the town is in fact the smallest town in Britain, as there is a mayor and corporation in Winchelsea, but the claim is disputed by places such as Fordwich. The mayor of Winchelsea is chosen each year from amongst the members of the corporation, who are known as freemen, rather than being elected by public vote. New freemen are themselves chosen by existing members of the corporation. Thus, in its current form, the corporation is effectively a relict of Winchelsea's days as a 'rotten borough' (when Winchelsea elected two MPs but the number of voters was restricted to about a dozen, sometimes fewer).
The corporation lost its remaining civil and judicial powers in 1886 but was preserved as a charity by an Act of Parliament in order to maintain the membership of the Cinque Port Confederation. The mayor and corporation in Winchelsea now have a largely ceremonial role, together with responsibility for the ongoing care and maintenance of the main listed ancient monuments in the town and the Winchelsea museum.