Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Cinque Ports

Cinque Ports

Cinque Ports – Historic Series of Coastal Towns – Kent/Sussex

Cinque Ports is said to be a historic series of coastal towns in Kent and Sussex. It is an association of ports which was formed in 1155 and was originally formed for the military and trade purposes but for several generations, was a real force at sea and on land. It lost its main functions, though presently is entirely ceremonial.The word Cinque is pronounced as `sink’ inspite of its derivation from the French word `cinq’ which is pronounced as `sank’. It is situated at the eastern end of the English Channel where the crossing is the narrowest to the continent. It is called the Norman French which means `five ports’ namely
  • Hastings 
  • New Romney 
  • Hythe 
  • Dover 
  • Sandwich

Provided Permanent Nucleus of the Royal Fleet

But Rye, which was earlier a subsidiary of New Romney, had changed to become one of the Cinque Ports when Romney had been damaged by storms and silted up. The other towns had also made their contribution to the confederation comprising of two Antient Towns and seven Limbs. Cinque Ports, the medieval confederation of English Channel ports in south eastern England, had been formed to furnish ships and men for the service of the king. To the original five ports, ancient towns of Winchelsea and Rye were later added, with the privileges of head ports. Over 30 other towns were also attached in the counties of Kent and Sussex and till the 14th century, the Cinque Ports provided permanent nucleus of the royal fleet. They were first possibly connected in the reign of Edward the Confessor for the defense of the coast as well and cross channel passage. The importance mounted after the Norman Conquest of 1066 and in return for ship service, their privileges had been increased to reach their summit in the 13th and the 14th centuries. The Royal Charter which was issued by King Henry II in 1155, granted significant privileges to the earlier five posts and were permitted powers of self-government over tolls, lost goods, criminal damage, wreckage together with debris and were freed from royal tolls on imports and exports.

Smaller Ports Decline – By Silting/Erosion

In return they had to offer 57 ships for the use of the king for 15 days every year. The benefits which accumulated to the Cinque Ports due to this arrangement were immense. Within a few decades, Rye and Winchelsea joined the association as `antient towns’. Towards the end of the 15th century, Lydd Faversham Folkestone, Deal, Tenterden Margate and Ramsgate had also joined in though they had a lesser status.After around 1550, changes in shipbuilding meant that huge vessels would conduct the trade with the continent and the smaller ports decline where in some cases were hastened by silting or erosion of the coastline. By 1700 only Dover remained to be an important port. The association adopted a more social and ceremonial feature wherein the post of warden of the Cinque Ports became an easy ride which brought with it a relaxed dwelling in Walmer Castle. Inspite of this shift in character, Cinque Ports maintain a link to the Royal Navy as a warship, at all times is affiliated to the association and that honour, presently is held by HMS Kent, a Type 23 Duke class frigate.

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