The Charters of the Cinque Ports – Are They Still Needed?

Graham S McBain


The Cinque Ports were a collection of ports on the east coast of England which - from early times - were granted, by charter, a number of Crown prerogatives in return for providing a ship service to the Crown. The earliest charter still extant dates from 1278. However, there may have existed charters granted by sovereigns to some - or all - of the Cinque Ports going back to the time of Edward the Confessor (1042-66). The original Cinque Ports were the ports of Hastings, Dover, Sandwich, New Romney and Hythe. To these five ports were added - probably prior to 1210 - the towns of Winchelsea and Rye. And to these were later added corporate and non-corporate members (or limbs), being other smaller ports. The heyday of the Cinque Ports was in medieval times when they provided a vital navy for the protection of the realm. Today, the Cinque Ports, and their charters, still exist. However, the purpose of this article is to review the terms and meaning of these charters, in order to determine whether they are now obsolete and should be cancelled. That is the conclusion.

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Review of European Studies   ISSN 1918-7173 (Print)   ISSN 1918-7181 (Online)

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