New Romney

New Romney

New Romney, town (1991 pop. 4,500), Kent, SE England, in Romney Marsh. Until the sea receded, New Romney lay on the coast and was one of the Cinque Ports. Numerous documents concerning the Cinque Ports are kept in the town guildhall. A famous sheep fair is held annually in August. Of several ancient churches, only the partly Norman Church of St. Nicholas remains. Old Romney is a village farther inland.
New Romney is a small town in Kent, England, on the edge of Romney Marsh, an area of flat, rich agricultural land reclaimed from the sea. New Romney was once a sea port, with the harbour adjacent to the church, but is now over a mile from the sea (see below). It is the headquarters of the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway.

It is interesting to note that New Romney is not significantly different in age from the nearby village of Old Romney. However New Romney, now about a mile and a half from the seafront was originally a harbour town at the mouth of the River Rother. The Rother estuary was always difficult to navigate, with many shallow channels and sandbanks. To make navigation easier, two large rocks, one bigger than the other, were placed at the entrance to the main channel. The names of two local settlements, Littlestone and Greatstone are a reminder of these aids. There is another likely explanation for these place names which is a result of the effects of Longshore Drift. This has had the long-term impact of dispersing shingle and sand deposites, from West to East, with heavier stones accumulating in the area known as Greatstone, whilst far smaller shingle is to be found in great quantities at Littlestone. Very fine sand is found further eastwards at neighbouring St Marys Bay.

In the latter part of the thirteenth century a series of severe storms weakened the coastal defences of Romney Marsh, and the Great Storm of 1287 almost destroyed the town. The harbour and town were filled with sand, silt, mud and debris, and the River Rother changed course, now running out into the sea near Rye, Sussex. The mud, silt and sand was never entirely removed from the town, which is why many old buildings, especially the church, have steps leading down into them from the present pavement level.

Two major studies have been undertaken on the medieval origins and development of the town. One was done by Canterbury Archaeological Trust,during the mains drainage excavations which finished in 2007, and their findings are available on their website. The other is an assessment of documentary and past archaeological findings, by Dr Gillian Draper and Dr Frank Meddens. This excellent document is awaiting publication.

New Romney is one of the original Cinque Ports of England, although its importance declined rapidly during the fourteenth and fifthteenth centuries after the loss of the harbour.

During World War II a fleet of floating concrete harbour pieces (called Mulberry Harbours) were sailed across the English Channel to France to aid Allied landings there. One of these harbour pieces remains, embedded in a sandbank just off the coast by Littlestone-on-Sea and is clearly visible at low tide. Further up the coast oil was pumped under the English Channel for use by allied troops by the Pipe Line Under The Ocean or Pluto for short.

New Romney is the main centre of population on the Romney Marsh. John Southland's Community Comprehensive School, the only secondary school in the area, was renamed The Marsh Academy in August, 2007.

Like many towns on the marsh there is an impressive Norman church in the centre of town. Originally this church stood on the harbourside, and the church entrances are several feet below ground level. The church is also notable for the boat hooks still evident on the side walls of the church.

New Romney's historic high street has several small and interesting shops. A few businesses closed after the opening of a branch of the supermarket chain Sainsbury's, but the town retains much of its character. The former almshouses in West Street are noted historic buildings of Kent. These were founded by John Southland, an important local magnate, in 1610 and rebuilt in 1734. Adjacent to these is Plantagenet House and No 3 Old Stone Cottage, which originated as a single house constructed c1300-1350, (Archaeology South East,UCL, report by David Martin, 2004). It is speculated that it was originally the home of the Master of The Hospital of St John the Baptist, which was a large secular establishment and was certainly in existence by c1260 and flourished until the close of the c15th,(Victoria History and a report by Dr Gillian Draper in the possession of the writer).

The Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway has a station at the extreme south of New Romney which is used by pupils to get them to school and back. The station is about three quarters of a mile south of the historic town centre and to the same distance north of the excellent links golf course at Littlestone-on-Sea. The golf course was a favourite of Denis Thatcher, late husband of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher and has been used several times for the qualifying rounds of The Open Championship.

New Romney is easily accessible by road, sitting astride the A259 (which runs from Dover to Portsmouth). Several bus services run to and through New Romney from Hastings, Folkestone and Ashford.

The town of Romney, West Virginia in the United States was named by Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron for the town of New Romney in 1762.


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