Five towns originally comprised the Cinque Ports
on the Kent
coast. These were Sandwich
. A Royal Charter of 1155
established the ports to maintain ships ready for the Crown in case of need. In return the towns received:
- "Exemption from tax and tallage, Right of soc and sac,
- tol and team, blodwit and fledwit, pillory and tumbril,
- infrangentheof and outfrangentheof, mundbryce,
- waives and strays, flotsam and jetsam and ligan"
- (Exemption from tax and tolls; self-government;
- permission to levy tolls, punish those who shed blood or flee justice, punish minor offences,
- detain and execute criminals both inside and outside the port's jurisdiction, and punish breaches of the peace;
- and possession of lost goods that remain unclaimed after a year, goods thrown overboard, and floating wreckage.)
In other words, the authorities would turn a blind eye to ships and sailors from these ports. This led to smuggling
becoming a major local industry.
The towns also had their own system of courts, and the right to send barons to hold the canopy above a new Monarch in the Coronation Ceremony. While this custom no longer continues, the barons still have the right to attend the ceremony.
As time went by and some ports declined or silted up, others were added. Rye and Winchelsea were attached to Hastings as "Ancient Towns" in the 12th century
Lydd, Faversham, Folkestone, Deal, Tenterden, Margate and Ramsgate were all added as "limbs" in the 15th century
Recent Lord Wardens of the Cinque Ports
Cinque Ports 1155-1500