Hastings, New Romney, Hythe, Dover, and Sandwich are the five historic towns that make up the Cinque Ports. These towns are located on the coast of Sussex and Kent at the point where the Channel is at its narrowest, which is the point at which England is most separated from France and mainland Europe.
The Cinque Ports were established under the reign of King Edward I of England. He was successful in reaching a compromise that would be of great benefit to both his aspirations and to each of the Cinque Ports. After all, these villages were accustomed to fishing and had a good understanding of the English Channel; as a result, they always had an average of 57 ships ready for the Crown.
Five of the original towns eventually merged with six of their surrounding communities to form a larger one that could accommodate more ships and crews.
In exchange, the towns were freed from having to pay taxes and tolls, given the ability to govern themselves, and given the ability to collect tolls.
As a result, Ai Cinque Ports was granted the privilege of importing goods into the country free of the obligation to pay taxes so long as the king was present. The lax approach taken toward paying taxes and tolls allowed for increased levels of product smuggling across the Channel.
A decline in the power of the Cinque Ports confederation can be traced back to the year 1200. Because of the strategic nature of their creation, they were able to withstand incursions from other countries, such as those made by the Danes and the French. But because these were smaller ports, they had a tendency to become less significant as ship sizes increased, and as a result, the Port of Southampton began to assume an increasingly more significant role.
They had already started their decline when Elizabeth I took the throne, and during his reign, efforts were already being made to save the five deteriorating ports from going bankrupt, even as larger shipbuilding cities such as Bristol and Liverpool were on the rise.
Even though the following centuries passed, the ports continued to supply transport ships. Although they do not have the same strategic importance as they once did, they continue to draw in tourists and others who are interested in the region’s history. Since that time, the ocean has undoubtedly had a significant impact on the topography of this region. For instance, parts of Hastings have been swept away by the water, and New Romney and Sandwich are both now located nearly two kilometres inland from the water’s edge.
Dover is the only one of the five cities to have maintained its status as an extremely active passenger port. Visitors should take advantage of their time in this area to explore Dover Castle, which features large grey walls that enclose a Saxon church as well as a Roman lighthouse that has been abandoned.
Travelers can reach the coast of Kent and the charming town of Sandwich in just a short drive to the north of Dover. Sandwich is home to four historic churches, and its Sand Street is renowned for having the longest stretch of timber-framed buildings in existence.
As you travel along the coast to Hastings’ southernmost five port, make a beeline for the Old Town, which features an abundance of half-timbered buildings and is packed with attractions.
You can begin your exploration of the amazing wrecks that have been preserved in the English Channel by visiting the Shipwreck Museum, where you will be able to view artefacts from many of the ships that have sunk in the channel over the course of the centuries.
The five smaller ports of Hythe and New Romney are located between the larger ports of Sandwich and Hastings. In the year 1026, when King Canute signed the documents that transferred the lands of Hythe to the Canterbury Cathedral, the former settlement was officially designated as a borough. During the Middle Ages, Hythe was deprived of its port, but the town is still well worth a visit.
Visit the charming town of Rye, which is located close to the coast of Sussex, while you are already in the neighbourhood. In spite of its location at the confluence of three rivers—the Rother, the Tillingham, and the Brede—it is a seaport and is only about three kilometres away from the ocean.
Even though each of these locations is reachable from London in a single day, you will need at least three full days in the region if you want to see all of these locations as well as the other interesting things that are located here.
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