The hotel dates from the 14th Century making it even older than the famous Mermaid Hotel in Rye, Sussex. It was a hospital inhabited by monks and was added to in the 15th Century when it was the village workhouse. Close to the Cinque Ports of Rye and Winchelsea, the hotel is full of period detail with has low oak beamed ceilings in many of the rooms, winding stairs, inglenook fireplaces in both the lounge and dining room, leaded windows.
As a workhouse, Strand House served the parish of St Thomas the Apostle and in 1777 a parliamentary report listed 24 inmates as being resident. With the foundation of the Rye Poor Law Union on 27th July 1835 it was closed and the poor moved to the main Union in Rye which was on the site of Hill House Hospital, on the Peasmarsh road. Strand House was used as a working farm into the 20th Century.
In 1922 it was bought by two sisters and converted into a guest house for 'paying guests.' At that time the property comprised Strand House, The Crow's Nest, Apple Tree Wick and the Old Malt House (which is now on the other side of the road) and was known as the "Old Poor Houses". It was certainly trading as a guest house in 1947, because we have had residents visiting who stayed here just after the War.
Strand House is a grade 2 listed building which actually consists of two houses one behind the other. The front house was probably built in 1425 and has been the town’s workhouse for much of its life. The original building would have been an open hall with galleries at either end. The main brick chimney stack and the floors were added in the 17th Century and main layout of the building dates from this period.
The ‘Crows Nest’ cottage which stands behind it (the Crow’s Nest, Willow Room and Inglenook Room and Pink Sitting Room) is older and was built in the 13th Century as a malt house. It may pre-date the building of Winchelsea “New Town” in 1288 and so may be one of the oldest buildings in the area.
The sea originally came up as far as the car park and the port of Winchelsea was close to the railway station. Strand House stood on the quay of town next to the fish market which is now under the main road. This must have been a busy area as the remains of other buildings can be seen in the field on the other side of the laurel hedge.
After the port declined in the late 15th Century and the front house was built, its main use was as the town workhouse, though the tunnel at the rear of the house is reputed to lead up to the Armoury in Winchelsea and is said to have been used by smugglers. In 1780 there was an armed clash between the Excise men and smugglers in an adjoining meadow.
In the 19th Century, Winchelsea became popular with Victorian artists and the house was painted by JMW Turner and it almost appeared in a landscape by John Everett Millais. The artists communit included writers such as Joseph Conrad (The Typhoon) and Ford Maddox Ford (Parade's End which was a recent BBC drama series).