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The Cinque Ports date from the time of William the Conqueror, and refer to the five south-eastern ports of Hastings, Sandwich, Dover, Romney and Hythe. Cinque is, of course, the French for “five”, although when referring to the Cinque Ports it is pronounced “sink”. These five ports were known as the Head Ports, and were thriving fishing and trading centres.

"Kent - Cinque Ports"

The coat of arms of the Cinque Ports is three lions passant guardant conjoined to as many ships’ hulls and this device is included in the majority of the coats of arms of the towns comprising the Ports and the Limbs.

The Cinque Ports date from the time of William the Conqueror, and refer to the five south-eastern ports of Hastings, Sandwich, Dover, Romney and Hythe. Cinque is, of course, the French for “five”, although when referring to the Cinque Ports it is pronounced “sink”. These five ports were known as the Head Ports, and were thriving fishing and trading centres.
In the thirteenth century, Rye and Winchelsea also became Head Ports and the formal title became
“The Confederation of the Cinque Ports and the Two Ancient Towns of Rye and Winchelsea”.
The Cinque Ports History
THE CINQUE PORTS
The Cinque Ports date from the time of William the Conqueror, and refer to the five south-eastern ports of
Hastings, Sandwich, Dover, Romney and Hythe. Cinque is, of course, the French for “five”, although when referring to the Cinque Ports it is pronounced “sink”. These five ports were known as the Head Ports, and were thriving fishing and trading centres. In the thirteenth century, Rye and Winchelsea also became Head Ports and the formal title became “The Confederation of the Cinque Ports and the Two Ancient Towns of Rye and Winchelsea”.
Until the reign of King Henry VIII, England did not have a navy so, to provide a means of defence, the Cinque Ports were required to provide ships and men to the King on demand. The requirement for Dover, Sandwich and Romney to place ships at the King’s disposal was recorded in the Domesday Book (1086) and it is likely that the arrangement started in the 10th century. The King first granted a charter to the Confederation in 1260, and by 1278, the men of the Cinque Ports - the Portsmen- were required to supply 57 ships, fully manned, for 15 days a year. In return, they were given numerous concessions,
including:
Honours at Court – a privilege allowing the Cinque Ports to provide and bear canopies over the king and queen on their way to their Coronation. This privilege still exists, although today it is restricted to the Barons of the Cinque Ports attending Coronations and lining the aisle at Westminster Abbey.
Courts of Administration and Justice – originally granted to allow the Portsmen to govern themselves in local matters, independent of the King’s and Ecclesiastical Courts. Now, this is a ceremonial privilege only, restricted to the Court of Shepway, which meets to confirm a new Lord Warden, and the Courts of Brotherhood and Guestling, which are called annually, or as necessary, to discuss the business of the Cinque Ports.
Den & Strond – this entitled Portsmen to land their ships at Great Yarmouth in the herring season, without paying a fee, to dry their nets and administer justice at the Herring Fair. This much-resented privilege was ended during the reign of Charles II.
Infantheff – the right to judge wrongdoers taken within the Ports’ jurisdiction.
Outgangtheff – the right to pursue wrongdoers outside the Ports’ area and return them for trial at the Courts of the Confederation.
Right of Wreck – the right to any vessel, goods or fish washed ashore with the Ports’ jurisdiction.
Right of Withernam – this gave Portsmen the right to pursue and enforce payment of debts through their own courts.

Head Ports found their obligation difficult to meet and enlisted the assistance of smaller ports, which became known as limb ports.
Margate was attached to Dover, along with Folkestone and Faversham. The other limbs were Lydd (attached to Romney), Deal, Walmer, Fordwich and Ramsgate (attached to Sandwich), Seaford and Pevensey (attached to Hastings) and Tenterden (attached to Rye).
There is no doubt that the limb ports played their part in the Confederation. In return, they shared some of the privileges of the Head Ports as well as their protection. The importance of the Ports waned in the 14th century, not least because of the ever-changing nature of the Kent and Sussex coastline which left a number of the ports, such as Romney and Winchelsea, landlocked. The final downfall came in the 15th century, with the founding of the Royal Navy, which meant the end of the Ports’ requirement to provide ships. The Cinque Ports still exist, of course, but are now a part of the ceremony and history of the south-east coast.
The office of Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports was established in the 13th century to act as the link between the King and the Ports. Although a royal appointee, the Lord Warden swears an oath to uphold the rights and privileges of the Portsmen. The current Lord Warden is Admiral the Lord Boyce GCB OBE DL, who was sworn in on 12th April 2005. His immediate predecessor was HM Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother and another notable Lord Warden was Sir Winston Churchill, who served from 1941 until his death in 1965.
Sandwich
SANDWICH The town of Sandwich is now two miles from the sea. When it was at the height of it's power, between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries, Sandwich Haven was a major port in England. It was the landing place for pilgrims on their way to Canterbury and travellers to London. According to the Cinque Port Charter of 1668, Fordwich was then a corporate member town, associated with Sandwich, and Deal a non corporate member. Deal grew to be a much busier port and took over Fordwich's position and is now the main associate. Sandwich only began to decline as a port in the sixteenth century, as the sea began to recede, and the Wantsum Channel silted up.
SANDWICH
Rye
RYE Before 1247, Rye and Winchelsea belonged to a French monastry. Henry III decided this could be dangerous, so he negotiated an exchange of lands and the towns became Crown property. The Great Storm of 1287 submerged Old Winchelsea but changed the course of the River Rother from Romney to Rye. Rye prospered and continued to provide ships for the Crown Fleet for the next few hundred years. In 1573, Queen Elizabeth I was so impressed with the port, she gave it the title, Rye Royal. Old Winchelsea, which was prospering before the storm, was eventually rebuilt on higher ground. As with the other Cinque Ports, the sea eventually receded. Today, Rye and Winchelsea are no longer ports, but still retain their ancient character. The painting on the left, The Blind Girl: 1856 by John Everett Millais, shows a view of Winchelsea in the background.
Lydd Limb
LYDD LIMB Lydd is the Associate town of New Romney. As can be seen on the maps, the Bay of Romney is now Romney Marsh, and Lydd is no longer on an island. Tenterden is now quite a few miles inland, but originally, it had it's own port of Smallhythe which had it's own shipyard and quay.
LYDD
Tenterden Limb
TENTERDEN LIMB Tenterden is the Associate of the Two Ancient Towns of Rye and Winchelsea. As can be seen on the maps, the Bay of Romney is now Romney Marsh, and Lydd is no longer on an island. Tenterden is now quite a few miles inland, but originally, it had it's own port of Smallhythe which had it's own shipyard and quay.
TENTERDEN
Ramsgate Limb
RAMSGATE LIMB The Ramsgate Coat of Arms was granted in 1884. The top left hand quarter is the Kent County emblem, the horse rampant Invicta. The top right hand quarter is the sign of the Cinque Ports, indicating Ramsgate as a Limb or Liberty of Sandwich, one of the ancient and orginal Cinque Ports.
RAMSGATE
Dover
DOVER In the past, Dover received a great deal of Royal support, probably more than the other Cinque Ports. For example, in Henry VIII 's time, an embankment was built as a barrier to the sea and wind.When these defenses were later damaged by the sea, Elizabeth I built a new harbour. Dover still stands as a major port,mainly using the Eastern Docks, although the Channel Tunnel is now a major competitor as regards freight and passengers on their way to and from France.
DOVER
Folkestone Limb
FOLKESTONE LIMB One of three towns are the Associates of Dover. Margate, like Ramsgate was on an island in medieval times and the area is still called the Isle of Thanet. King Steven,his wife and son are buried at Faversham, a town that still retains it's ancient character.
FOLKESTONE
Margate Limb
MARGATE LIMB One of three towns are the Associates of Dover. Margate, like Ramsgate was on an island in medieval times and the area is still called the Isle of Thanet. King Steven,his wife and son are buried at Faversham, a town that still retains it's ancient character.
MARGATE
Deal Limb
DEAL LIMB A massive history surrounds this small, peaceful seaside resort that is often called the ‘Mecca for Anglers’. From the time Julius Caesar landed nearby, Deal became an important defensive position. Henry VIII chose it for the largest of his coastal forts and Deal Castle was held in readiness again during the Napoleonic Wars. Attached to Sandwich.
DEAL
Fordwich Limb
FORDWICH LIMB Although it now lies many miles inland, it was the main port for Canterbury before the Wantsum Channel silted up, which once separated the Isle of Thanet from the rest of Kent. The town grew in the Middle Ages as a port for boats on their way upriver to Canterbury. All of the Caen stone used by the Normans to rebuild Canterbury Cathedral in the 12th and 13th centuries was landed at Fordwich. It later became a limb of the Cinque Ports.
FORDWICH
Walmer Limb
WALMER LIMB Lies adjoining to Deal southward, being probably so called quasi vallum maris, that is, the wall, or fortification made aginst the sea. It was once part of the hundred of Cornilo, but was very early made a branch of the cinque ports, and a member to the port of Sandwich; nevertheless, king Henry VI. on some disputes arising concerning it, again annexed and confirmed it to that jurisdiction, in which it still continues.
WALMER
Hythe
HYTHE In the past, Hythe had important status as a Head Cinque Port. The Shepway Cross beside the Hythe to Lympne Road, was the traditional meeting place of the Shepway Court. This was made up of the Barons of the Cinque Ports and the Lord Warden. West Hythe was an important harbour, but like so many of the Cinque Port towns, the sea receded and the harbour silted up. Today, Hythe's beach is about half a mile from the town. Hythe is still a seaside resort and it has another claim to fame, the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway.
HYTHE
Romney
ROMNEY Today, New and Old Romney are small inland towns on the edge of Romney Marsh. NewRomney is not really 'new', it acquired its name in the thirteenth century, when the wharf at Old Romney deteriorated. New Romney used to stand in the Bay of Romney - the medieval coastline can be seen on the map. In 1287 there was a great storm which caused mud to block the River Rother. The river changed course and flowed, instead, to Rye. As a result, Rye prospered, but New Romney never really recovered. It retained its as a Head Port, however, because it is situated between the Kent and Sussex ports, so was regarded as a suitable place for meetings.
NEW ROMNEY
Winchelsea
WINCHELSEA Before 1247, Rye and Winchelsea belonged to a French monastry. Henry III decided this could be dangerous, so he negotiated an exchange of lands and the towns became Crown property. The Great Storm of 1287 submerged Old Winchelsea but changed the course of the River Rother from Romney to Rye. Rye prospered and continued to provide ships for the Crown Fleet for the next few hundred years. In 1573, Queen Elizabeth I was so impressed with the port, she gave it the title, Rye Royal. Old Winchelsea, which was prospering before the storm, was eventually rebuilt on higher ground. As with the other Cinque Ports, the sea eventually receded. Today, Rye and Winchelsea are no longer ports, but still retain their ancient character. The painting on the left, The Blind Girl: 1856 by John Everett Millais, shows a view of Winchelsea in the background.
Hastings
HASTINGS At the time of the Norman Conquest, in 1066, Hastings was a flourishing port, and continued to be so for the next two hundred years. In the twelth century, Hastings was supplying twenty ships to the Crown Fleet, but when Edward I's Charter of 1278, was drawn up , the harbour was already beginning to silt up. The Great Storm of 1287 added to its difficulties, and the next few centuries were spent in continual struggle with the receding sea. Today,it is no longer a port and the harbour no longer exists, but it is still a coastal town, full of history and on the cliffs can be seen the remains of the Norman castle, built after the Conquest.
Faversham Limb
FAVERSHAM LIMB One of three towns are the Associates of Dover. Margate, like Ramsgate was on an island in medieval times and the area is still called the Isle of Thanet. King Steven,his wife and son are buried at Faversham, a town that still retains it's ancient character.
FAVERSHAM
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