In 1887, John Bartholomew's Gazetteer of the British Isles described Cinque Ports like this:
Cinque Ports, or Five Ports, the name of an ancient jurisdiction extending along the coast of Sussex, Kent, and Essex, 70,353 ac. land, 5916 ac. foreshore, and 531 ac. tidal water, pop. 174,279. The original members of the body were Hastings, New Romney, Hythe, Dover, and Sandwich; to these were afterwards added the "Ancient Towns," of Winchelsea and Rye, and a great many other places, which, with the title of Link or Member, held a subordinate position. The C. P. were constituted to form a defence along the SE. ...
seaboard of England. In the lack of any regular navy they furnished, until the reign of Henry VII., nearly all the ships and seamen requisite for the service of the State. In return for their services they enjoyed many important privileges. Their old charter, the oldest on record, being 99 years older than the first charter of the city of London, refers to previous documents of the time of Edward the Confessor and William the Conqueror. They are under the jurisdiction of a Lord Warden, who is admiral of the ports and also governor of Dover Castle. Their old organisation, however, has been broken up by the Municipal Reform Act, and the jurisdiction of the Lord Warden has been much modified and diminished.
A Vision of Britain through Time includes a large library of local statistics for administrative units. For the best overall sense of how the area containing Cinque Ports has changed, please see our redistricted information for the modern district of Shepway. More detailed statistical data are available under Units and statistics, which includes both administrative units covering Cinque Ports and units named after it.
GB Historical GIS / University of Portsmouth, History of Cinque Ports, in Shepway and England | Map and description, A Vision of Britain through Time.
Date accessed: 24th May 2013
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