Home >> Cyclopedia Of Knowledge >> Census to Constable >> Cinque Ports_P1

Cinque Ports

time, municipal, towns, five, dover, charters, sussex and hastings

Page: 1 2

CINQUE PORTS. It is stated by Jeake ('Charters of the Cinque Ports'), that in one of the records of the town of Rye is a memorandum that " the five ports were enfranchised in the time of King Edward the Confessor ;" the five ports here intended, the original Cinque Ports of the Normans, being the towns of Sandwich, Dover, Hythe, and Romney, on the coast of Kent, and Hastings on that of Sussex. Only three of these five ports being mentioned in the Domesday Sur vey, viz. Sandwich, Dover, and Romuey, Lord Coke thence infers that at first the privileged ports were these three only.

Though some part of the municipal constitution of the individual ports may be anterior to the Norman invasion, yet the organization of the general body, as it has existed in later times, is plainly traceable to the policy of the Conqueror in securing, by every means, his communica tions with the Continent. These ports and their members occupy exactly the tract of sea-coast of which, after the victory of Hastings, he showed most eagerness to pos sess himself, by sweeping along it with his army before he directed his march to wards London ; and the surrender into his hands of the castle of Dover, which is the centre of the Cinque Ports' juris diction, was one of the stipulations intro duced into the famous oath which, in Edward's lifetime, the duke had extorted from Harold. To enable his government to wield the resources of this maritime district with the greater vigour and promptitude, he severed it wholly from the civil and military administrations of the counties of Kent and Sussex, erecting it into a kind of palatine jurisdiction, under a gardien, or warden, who had the seat of his administration at the castle of Dover, and exercised over the whole district the combined civil, military, and naval authority ; uniting in his own hands all the various functions which, to use the terms most intelligible to modern readers, we may describe as those of a sheriff of a county at large, a custos rotu lorum, a lord lieutenant, and an admiral of the coast.

To the five ports of the Conqueror's time were added, before the reign of Henry III., with equal privileges, what Were called the ancient towns of Winchel sea and Rye, lying on the Sussex coast, between Hastings and Romney. To each of these seven municipal towns, except Winchelsea, were attached one or more subordinate ports or towns, denominated members of the principal port.

The internal constitution of each port, as well as the Norman denominations of jurats and barons, which, in lieu of alder men and freemen, have constantly pre vailed in them all since William's time, concur to show the solidity of his plan for rendering this maritime line one of the (yrrand outworks of the Conquest. The

earliest members of the municipal bodies established under these foreign denomi nations, at a time when the English mu nicipalities in general were subjected to the most rigorous enslavement, were doubt less trading settlers from William's conti nental dominions ; and the term barons, as applied to the Cinque Ports' representa tives, which in the later periods of English parliamentary history has usually been considered as simply synonymous with burgesses, did, before the several elements of the Commons' House coalesced into one homogeneous body, imply a political as well as a municipal superiority.

Until the time of Henry VII. the crown appears to have had no permanent navy : the Cinque Ports constantly furnished nearly all the shipping required for the purposes of the state, and their assistance to the king's ships continued long after that time. When ships were wanted, the king issued his summons to the ports to provide their quota. In the time of Ed ward I. the number they were bound to provide was fifty-seven, fully equipped. at their own cost : the period of gra tuitous service was limited to fifteen days.

Each of the five original ports returned two barons to parliament, as early as the 18th of Edward I. The peculiar nature of the relation between the Cinque Ports and the crown must have given the latter, from the commencement, a very power ful influence in their internal transac tions ; and, in later times, when the parlia mentary relations of the municipal towns came to be the grand object of solicitude to the royal prerogative, these munici palities imbibed an ample share of the prevalent municipal as well as political corruption. In the 20th of Charles II. the first open blow was struck by the crown at the liberties of the Ports in ge neral, in the provision of Charles's char ter of that year, by which the elections of all their recorders and common clerks were made subject to the royal approba tion. Subsequently, in 1685, all the gene ral charters of the Ports, and most of the particular charters of each individual town, were, by the king's special com mand, delivered up to Colonel Strode, then constable of Dover Castle, and were never afterwards recovered.

Page: 1 2