St Clements in Old Romney

Romney Tourist Guide

Introduction

The first mention of Romney comes from AD791. Some people thought the name was a corruption of Roman-ney, but most now think it derives from the Saxon for marsh water -‘rumnea’.

By the mid-12th century it was a flourishing port extending along the north bank of the River Rother to form the ‘Longport’. But as the harbour silted up, activities centred at the seaward end. Until the 1100s, Old Romney and New Romney were linked with the port at New Romney moving further away from the old town as the coastline spread the English Channel. As the creeping away of the harbour went on, the distance between Romney and its harbour became too great and so the two villages separated. In 1287, a severe storm hit the Channel and together with other bad weather diverted the Rother to Rye. Shingles from Dungeness piled up and choked-up the outlet of the Rother at New Romney; the river changed its path to its present position to Rye and out into the sea. New Romney had its harbour devastated and shingles and mud flooded the town.

Today the sea is a mile away. After the storm, the prosperity of the village declined and in 1550 only one church of the original five was left standing.

 

New Romney was part of the Cinque Ports mentioned in a Royal Charter of 1155, which were the ‘Ports’ of Hastings, Hythe, Dover and Sandwich. This evidence suggests strongly that New Romney had become the major village at this time.

 

The smuggling of wool (‘owling’) was rife from the 1300s till 1724 when the French found they could obtain cheap wool from Ireland. Smuggling in the area continued till the 1840s when it was mostly stopped by the Excise men.

 

There is a local legend that in the late 1700s a young girl was found hanged in the New Inn and that her ghostly form can be seen walking the rooms and passageways.

 

On the 16th July 1927, the Romney Hythe&Dymchurch Railway was opened. It stretched for nearly 14 miles from Hythe to the fishermen cottage and lighthouses at Dungeness, through Dymchurch, St Mary’s Bay and its base at New Romney. The railway was built by Captain J.E.P Howey and Count Louis Zborowski to serve the local population and tourist trade.

 

The first church built in New Romney was St Nicholas which was started by Bishop Odo, half brother to William the Conqueror, in 1080 and completed 50 years later in 1130. This makes it one of the oldest churches on the Marsh. St Nicholas at New Romney is one of those churches supported by the Romney Marsh Historic Churches Trust. Its tower makes it a landmark on Romney Marsh.

 

Visitors to the church will be fascinated to see that the floor is about 4 ft below ground level. This is due to the brutal storm in 1287. Stains from the mud that filled the church in 1287 can still be seen on some of the pillars.

 

In former times the Jurats of Romney Marsh (the magistrates who used to administer the laws locally) used to hold court in the church, sitting around the altar tomb dedicated to Richard Stuppenye, who died in 1526. The church has a peal of eight bells which are rung on special occasions, and a large clock on the tower, dating from the early Nineteenth Century.

 

According to ancient custom, a ‘boy bishop’ lights the Advent candles in St Nicholas' Church in the weeks before Christmas. For security, the church is locked much of the time. However it is open on Saturdays from 1000-1600, and at other times.

 

The Town Sergeant's House was built in 1750. You can still see its old cells inside with their studded doors. Outside at street level you can see the grated window of the dungeon. The building was some time ago used as a private residence, and until 1998 housed a Tourist Information Centre. The Sergeant's House has now returned to residential use. There is a late 17th century cannon against the wall outside.  

 

One of the first primary schools in Kent was Old School in Church Lane. It was erected on land bequeathed by Mrs Sarah Children in February 1820 and was funded by public subscription. When first built there were four classrooms and a headmaster’s two-storey house.

 

The footpath through the Shrubs between Church Lane and Dunes Road traverses a stretch of the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway known as Half Mile Curve. In 1927 the line between Hythe and New Romney opened, and the Dungeness extension, of which this is part, in 1928. Initially there were two tracks here, but after the Second World War the line between New Romney and Dungeness was reduced to a single line. This is world's only main line in miniature with steam locomotives being only one-third normal size, carrying up to 200 passengers at 25 miles per hour on the 14 miles of 15in gauge across Romney Marsh. There is a model railway exhibition at New Romney as well as yards and engine shed and children's play areas. For more check here; www.rhdr.org.uk

 

If you go down to Littlestone Sea Front when the tide is low you can see a section of the Mulberry Harbour. Over two hundred of these large hollow concrete blocks were built and filled with compressed air during the Second World War. They were used to form a harbour off Normandy after the landings in 1944.

 

In Littlestone Road there is a cannon similar to those used on the Martello Towers which were built in case of a Napoleonic invasion in the earls 1800s. The Old Stone Cottage in West Street dates back from approximately the 13th century. Its odd angle to the opposing houses may suggest the street’s original line.

 

Blue Dolphins Hotel & Restaurant in Dymchurch Road was built in 1507 as a Water Bailiff's cottage, it has been occupied over the years by many various businesses. These include netmakers, tanners, cobblers, wine merchants, a coffee house and an academy of music.

 

Littlestone Golf Club in St Andrew's Road was established in 1888 on land bought by the entrepreneurs Henry Tubbs and J. Lewis. The original Links was laid out by the first captain, Laidlaw Purves, and since has been enhanced and changed. Littlestone has hosted many major golfing events, including the qualifying rounds when the Open Championship has been played at Sandwich. The course is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, with a great assortment of flora and fauna to be seen.

 

The original Town Hall in the High Street was built in 1702 and was borne on pillars above an arcade where a market was held. It was rebuilt around the end of the 19th century as a plain two-storey building. New Romney retains its mayor, and a town council continues to meet here, though with greatly reduced powers. Many records and artefacts from the Town Hall's small museum were transferred to Maidstone in 1974. Still here, however, is the original flag of the Cinque Ports.

 

A stone wall is all that remains of the Cistercian Priory of St John the Baptist in Ashford Road, the site of one of New Romney's lost churches. Of particular interest are the carved grotesques above the doorways. The priory, a religious foundation for men and women, was begun around the end of the 13th century. It was dissolved in 1415 and its property seized by Henry V. The land passed at some point into local ownership.

 

The Assembly Rooms in Church Approach were built in the 17th century to house the Courts of Brodhul (Brotherhood) and Guestling of the Cinque Ports, which until that time had met in St Nicholas' Church. At the north-west end is an old school room which is dated 1676.

 

The original Ship Hotel in the High Street probably dates from around 1492. The present building was constructed on earlier foundations. Below ground were tunnels used by smugglers to hide their contraband, but these are now blocked off.

 

The New Inn in the High Street dates from 1380, though the front of the building is Georgian. There is some fine panelling inside. Smugglers' contraband was most likely hidden in the now bricked up chimney breast.

 

Theatre

Southlands Theatre, Station Road 01797 369 200

 

Taxis

Direct Line Cars, 48 High St. 01797 361075

Dans Taxis, Priory Cl. 01797 361010

D J Taxis Ltd, 63 Roberts Rd, Greatstone, New Romney 01797 369000

 

Banks

Lloyds TSB Bank, 53 High St. 01797 362183

NatWest Bank, 60 High St. 01233 635553

Nationwide Building Society, 55 High St. 01797 249800

 

Doctors

Kanegaonkar & Partners, Church Lane 01797 363187

Oak Hall Surgery/41-43 High St. 01797 362106

Greengates Surgery, Flat 2 Greengates, Marine Parade, Littlestone, New Romney 01797 363331

 

Dentists

Dental Surgery, Mayden, George Lane 01797 364330

 

Chemists

Lloyds Pharmacy, 63 High Street 01797 362180

 

 

 

Disclaimer: The information in this Tourist Guide has been researched from a variety of sources including books, articles and online information. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information the reader should check any specific facts for themselves before making any decisions based upon the said information.

Last Updated: 28 Apr 2015