Speakership of the Confederation of the Cinque Ports comes to New Romney

Published: 13 September 2021

Speakership of the Confederation of the Cinque Ports comes to New Romney

The Confederation is a unique association of maritime towns and villages in Kent and East Sussex, dating back 1000 years.

In the centuries before the Tudor Kings of England first developed a standing navy, the men and ships of the Cinque Ports provided a fleet to meet the military and transportation needs of their Royal masters. With good reason, these small ports have been dubbed the Cradle of the Royal Navy.

The Cinque Ports first came together in order to render Ship Service to the English Crown in return for valuable privileges, during late Saxon or early Norman times; reaching the peak of their power and prestige some 200 to 300 years later. Their naval service was last called upon in 1596, to meet the threat of the Spanish Armada.

Few of their ancient rights and privileges survive, but the Confederation continues to promote public awareness of the proud history and seafaring traditions of communities which played a key role in the early development of Great Britain as a naval and economic superpower.

Today, the quiet charm of many of the Cinque Port towns belies their important and sometimes violent role in the development of the nation’s seafaring and naval traditions.

Some survive as working ports. Indeed, Dover is a major international transport hub, handling some 5 million vehicles and 13 million passengers per year. Others, like Hastings, maintain their historic role as centres of inshore fishing. New Romney, Winchelsea and Tenterden, in particular, have been stranded well inland by the retreating sea. It is sometimes hard to believe that all were once amongst the most significant ports in England.

Ship service was a heavy burden for relatively small fishing communities and so the five head ports of Hastings, Romney, Hythe, Dover and Sandwich turned to their neighbouring towns and villages for help in providing ships, equipment and men. These limbs or members, as they were known, did not at first share in the privileges granted to the head ports.

Today, The Confederation of Cinque Ports is comprised of the Ports of Dover, Hastings, Hythe, New Romney, and Sandwich, and the Ancient Towns of Rye and Winchelsea. The Limbs are Deal, Faversham, Folkestone, Lydd, Margate, Ramsgate, and Tenterden.

Speaker of the Cinque Ports

The Speaker acts as chairman and principal representative of the Confederation. The office is held (ex officio) by the mayor of each of the head ports and two ancient towns, in turn. It passes from one town to the next, on 21 May each year, by a process quaintly described as ‘septennial revolution’.

This year, 2021 – 2022, the honour has come to New Romney, and The Right Worshipful The Mayor of New Romney Cllr Paul Thomas, has now taken up this role.

The major event of the year will be Speakers Day, to be held on Saturday 2nd October 2021, when all the Cinque Ports Mayors, and various dignitaries, including Admiral of the Fleet the Lord Boyce KG GCB OBE DL, Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports and Constable of Dover Castle, and Mr Jon Bartholomew, Sergeant of the Admiralty of the Cinque Ports, will join together for a Civic Procession New Romney, and attend a church service in St Nicholas Church.

For further information on The Cinque Ports go to https://cinqueports.org/