Romney - Encyclopedia

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ROMNEY (NEW ROMNEY), a municipal borough and one of the Cinque Ports in the Ashford parliamentary division of Kent, England, 75 m. S.E. by E. of London by the South-Eastern & Chatham railway. Pop. (1901) 1328. It lies in the open, flat and low tract of Romney Marsh, part of a level extending from Winchelsea in the south-west to Hythe in the north-east, which was within historic times in great part covered by an estuarine inlet of the sea. The river Rother, which now has its mouth at Rye Harbour, formerly entered the sea here, but had its course wholly changed during a great storm in 1287, and the gradual accretion of land led to the decay, not only of Romney, but of Winchelsea and Rye as seaports. Romney Marsh itself, which extends north of New Romney, is protected by a seawall of great thickness, and its guardianship and drainage is in the hands of a special ancient corporation. The level affords pasturage for vast flocks of sheep. New Romney, which is now over a mile from the sea, has large sheep fairs, but little other trade. Of the five churches mentioned here in the Domesday Survey only one remains, but this, dedicated to St Nicholas, is a rich Norman building with later additions. Its Norman west tower is among the finest in England, and it has a beautiful Decorated east window with reticulated tracery. New Romney, the name of which distinguishes it from the decayed village of Old Romney, 2 m. W., is governed by a mayor, 4 aldermen and twelve councillors. Area, 1351 acres. Littlestone-On-Sea, on the coast E. of New Romney, is in some favour as a seaside resort and has excellent golf-links.

Its fine harbour was the cause of the early importance of Romney (Romenal, Romenhall). The annual assembly of the Cinque Ports, called the Brodhull, was held here owing to its central position. At the time of Domesday the archbishop of Canterbury and the bishop of Bayeux were joint lords. Romney also owed maritime service to the king, which consisted of supplying five ships to serve for fifteen days in the year. A confirmation of liberties was granted by John in 1205. The town, which was a borough by prescription, was governed "from time immemorial" by twelve jurats; a bailiff was appointed by the archbishop, but the rights of the overlord seem to have been small, and in 1521 the inhabitants denied the bailiff the right of presiding with the jurats over their court. Elizabeth changed the style of incorporation to the mayor, jurats and commonalty, and another charter was granted by James II. in 1686, which remained the governing charter until 1835. The Cinque Ports were first summoned to parliament in 1265; the first returns for Romney are for 1266; it returned two members until it was disfranchised in 183 2.

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