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History of Sandwich Kent: Medieval Cinque port

Sandwich History: Introduction

Sandwich Quay over a 100 years ago

Sandwich Quay over 100 years ago

Sandwich town seal

Sandwich Town Seal

Sandwich Quay today

Sandwich Quay early morning

Sandwich is now about two miles from the sea, but the River Stour used to be large enough for big trading and war ships to sail to and from the quay. This large harbour was called Sandwich Haven.

It was also large enough for invading ships, and the town was invaded many times in the past. For example, in 1457, the town was attacked by 4,000 Frenchmen (mainly from Honfleur) under Marshal Pierre de Breze or as English accounts call him, Peter Brassey. The Mayor of Sandwich, John Drury, was killed along with many citizens. In memory of this event, the Mayor of Sandwich still wears a black robe.

All is forgiven today however, and the town of Honfleur is now a twin town of Sandwich.

Sandwich was and still is a principle Cinque port. Originally, the Cinque Ports were a confederation of five harbours, Sandwich, Romney, Dover, Hythe, and Hastings. They supplied the Crown with ships and men for over 300 years. In return they received freedom from tolls and customs duties, freedom to trade and to hold their own judicial courts plus many other privileges.

Today, these towns are still known as the Cinque Ports, but the coastline has changed considerably over the centuries and only Dover retains its major port status.

Sandwich still retains the tradition of collecting 'Ship Money' from its associate towns, the ceremony is held in the ancient Courtroom in the Guildhall every year.

To find out more about the Cinque Ports and other history, including ancient traditions, history timeline, famous people, who invented the sandwich and even pubs in the past - please see the links on the right.

Aerial Photographs of Sandwich in the 1920s through to the 1940s from
The Aerofilms Collection - Britain From Above - Click for their website