Newchurch Village > History > The Law and the Land > Charters, Corporation, Control and Constitution of Romney Marsh

The Charters, The Corporation, The Control and The Constitution of Romney Marsh

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Once Romney Marsh was drained it began to flourish. There was no central control for the strengthening of the sea walls or the maintenance of the dykes and it was left to the mutual co-operation between owners who could have been badly affected by neglect.

In 1252, a royal charter granted by Henry III gave 24 elected Jurats of the Marsh, known as The Corporation of the Marsh, full powers to collect a water rate, or scots, for the maintenance of the sea wall and drainage.

The resultant ‘Laws and Constitution of Romney Marsh’ then became the basis of sea defence and land drainage throughout the realm.

The dykes keep the land drained

The dykes keep the land drained. © D Chiverrell

 
The dykes provide an ideal habitat

The dykes provide ideal habitats for  a wide variety of wildlife. © D. Chiverrell

In 1462, a royal charter gave owners of the 23 marsh manors, known as The Lords of The Level, together with the Jurats and an elected Bailiff, the additional responsibility for the law and order and for local government. They had the power to try and punish felons and had its own police force. This charter also exempted marsh dwellers from paying tax to the crown or government. 

Newchurch was part of their jurisdiction, and was close to the headquarters at Dymchurch which was rebuilt in the 16th century after a fire, and is now known as New Hall.

New Hall at Dymchurch, HQ of The Corporation,who presided over Newchurch. 
© D. Chiverrell

The Importance of Blackthorn

Bundles of blackthorn were cut from the trees and bushes on the marsh, which were sealed with mud and turf and driven into the sea wall. When dry this was as hard as concrete and was the mainstay of maintaining the sea wall. When The Corporation were given their powers, they introduced laws to ensure landowners grew blackthorn, and provide this material for the sea defences. It was not allowed to be cut without permission and anyone who did so was liable to have an ear cut off. Such was its importance.

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Blackthorn, which was grown for use in the sea wall. © D. Chiverrell
 

In 1883, The Municipal Corporation Act transferred all the Corporation’s administrative powers to The Rural Sanitary District and then in 1896 this became The Rural District Council.

In 1930, The Land Drainage Act transferred all The Corporation’s remaining functions to catchment and internal drainage boards, and The Corporation had no further responsibilities.

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Forming the Sea Wall

In 2002, The Corporation of Lords, Baliff and Jurats of Romney Marsh commissioned this video, which shows the rich, ancient history of Romney Marsh