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THE exact origin of the Cinque (Five) Ports Federation is uncertain, but it appears to date from the latter part of the Saxon period. The name Cinque for the Five Ports of Sandwich, Dover, Hythe, Romney, and Hastings, appears soon after the WilliamI's Norman Conquest and acquired a general use in the reign of King John. The two "ancient towns" of Rye and Winchelsea were added to the number of the principal ports in 1220 making seven in total but the familiar name of Cinque Ports was, nevertheless, retained.

The first mention of the Cinque Ports is in a charter of King Henry II in 1155 which granted the member ports of the Federation considerable rights and a great measure of autonomy; "Exemption from tax and tallage" exemption from taxes and tolls, "Right of soc and sac" the right to self government, "tol and team" permission to levy tolls, "blodwit and fledwit" punish people who shed blood or flee from justice, "pillory and tumbril" punishment of minor offences, "infrangentheof and outfrangentheof" the power to detain and execute felons both inside and outside the jurisdiction of the port, "mundbryce" punish breaches of the peace, "waives and strays" take ownership of lost and unclaimed goods after one year, "flotsam and jetsam and ligan" take ownership of goods thrown overboard or floating wreckage.

In addition to the main ports of the confederation, there are corporate towns which were (and still are) called "Limbs of the Cinque Ports", towns such as Folkestone, Tenterden, Ramsgate, and Fordwich - as far westwards as the Port of Poole in Dorset. These "Limbs" ranked after the principal ports themselves, each of which was from ancient times a Parliamentary Borough and sent two Members to Parliament.

The object of the Cinque Ports Federation was to provide a fleet for the protection of the south-eastern shores of England

Although there is no connection between the Cinque Ports Confederation and the Roman occupation of the British Isles, the Romans found it necessary to appoint a " Count of the Saxon Shore" who was responsible for the defence of the south-eastern coasts against marauders from Continental Europe.

from attack from the Continent. The Cinque Ports were also required to perform "Ships Service" in furnishing the King with ships when he required them for military purposes (as there was no standing or other navy at his disposal - a matter which attained great importance after the Norman Conquest when the monarch had interests on both sides of the English Channel). In return for their Ships Service, the ports were rewarded with important rights and privileges - far greater than those afforded any other corporate towns.

It would be fair to say that the Cinque Ports Federation which which carried on the Roman provision of a Classis Britannica, a British Fleet, was the precursor of our modern Royal Navy as a national institution.

The cinque Ports were required to provide ships and men to the king at their own expense for fifteen days of the year - if he required them for longer, he defrayed their expenses as long as he needed their ships.

If the king required more ships and men than the Ships Service of the Cinque Ports provided for, he could, and did, hire ships and crews from other English ports such as Brixham, Southampton and Yarmouth. Nevertheless,by the charters granted to the Cinque Ports by William the Conqueror and subsequent kings, it was only the Cinque Ports (assisted by their limbs) which were legally bound to furnish a predetermined number of vessels and their proper crews for the monarch's use.

Each of the Cinque Ports was individually assessed for its obligation of Ships Service in terms of quota of ships, men and boys according to its size and prosperity. This quota varied with the prosperity of the port.

The men of the Cinque Ports enjoyed a reputation not only for their excellence as mariners, but also for their tenacity in fighting. Never averse to fighting the French even in peacetime (when the two side frequently raided each other's ports and coastal towns - and expected appropriate retaliation), the long-standing enmity between the Portsmen and the fishermen of Yarmouth which resulted from quarrels over the herring fishery would frequently also lead to bloodshed if not open warfare such as the "The Yarmouth Fair" of 1302. It was finally adjudged that each town should appoint a "bayliffe" to ensure that the rules and respective rights of the parties were obeyed.

It is not only to France that the ships of the cinque Ports were required to sail; they conveyed troops to Ireland from Holyhead and Skynburnesse near Cadisle when King Edward I was at war with Scotland. On other occassions they were required to sail to Chester and Dublin.

In 1217, led by Hubert de Burgh, the Cinque Ports fleet defeated the French fleet at the Battle of Dover. It was bringing reinforcements to Prince Louis of France in his bid for the throne of England.

Perhaps the most remarkable naval battle in which the Cinque Ports fleet was engaged was in 1217, when Hubert de Burgh, Constable of Dover Castle, collected forty of their ships and went out to meet a French fleet of fifty sail bringing reinforcernents to Prince Louis of France, who was endeavouring to gain the crown of England. Before Hubert embarked he said to the officer he left in charge of Dover Castle, "If I be taken, I beseech you, in God's name, let them hang me before your eyes, rather than give up this key of England to any Frenchman born."

In the ensuing engagement the Cinque Ports fleet maneouvered so as to get to windward of the French, and thus the quicklime they threw in quantities was blown into the eyes of their enernres. This was followed up by a shower of arrows, and then the Kentish men boarded the French vessels, and after a desperate hand-to-hand fight gained a complete victory. When the Cinque Ports men landed on their return they were met by five Bishops at the head of a joyfull crowd, and a solemn thanksgiving service was held for the deliverance of England. As soon as Pnnce Louis heard of the destruction of his fleet, he renounced the English crown at "The Peace of Lambeth" and returned to France.

The vessels and men of the Cinque Ports also had a large share in gaining the great naval victory of Sluys in 1340; at first, no one dared to tell Philippe VI the French King, that his fleet had been anahilated and it was left to the court jester to lament "Oh, those English cowards . . . they had not the courage to jump into the sea, and be drowned fighting as our noble Frenchmen did."

Richard was born in 1959, he is interested in building model ships.

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The individual Members of the Confederation hold their own copies of original charters and records. From the fisteenth century onwards, a central record of the Confederation was kept in New Romney as the central port and the accustomed place of assembly for annual meetings of the Cinque Ports Courts.

In 1726 a schedule of the records was made and ordered to be kept in a chest in New Romney. During the Second World War (1939-1945), the records were moved to The Public Records Office for safe-keeping.

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1052Godwin's fleet recruits men from the Cinque Ports of Hastings, Hythe, Dover and Sandwich, sails up the Thames gaining the support of London and forces Edward the Confessor to send his Norman advisers back to France
1155Cinque Ports first mentioned in a Royal Charter
1217Cinque Ports fleet under Hubert de Burgh defeats French fleet off Dover by sailing upwind of them and thowing quicklime in their faces
1220Rye and Winchelsea join the Cinque Ports Federation
1270Great storm hits the South Coast destroying the ancient Cinque Port of Old Winchelsea in Sussex
1340.Jun.24Naval victory at Sluys secures command of the English channel for the English
Ships and men from the Cinque Ports taking part
1496Henry VII creates the Royal Navy
1726Schedule of the records of the Cinque Ports ordered to be made and kept in a chest at New Romney

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