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    Old Romney
(Sheep and Wool Smuggling)
Limb of the Cinque Ports

Name Derivation

General Details

Old Romney sat on a small island in the Rother estuary , which originally ran from Appledore through to the sea near nowadays Greatstone . It now lies just off the busy Brenzett to New Romney road. The village gave its name to the area of the Romney Marshes , probably because it was the major village in the area. The village was also known as Vetus Rumunellum, Veteri Rumenal, Old Romenal and Old Romney.

In 791 King Offa granted a court to Romney, possibly heralding in the start of the Cinque Ports , and at the time it was a prosperous fishing and trading port.

Old Romney and New Romney were linked, with the port at New Romney moving further away from the old town as the coastline spread into the English Channel. This creeping away of the harbour continued, until the 1100's when the distance between Romney and its harbour became too great, and the two villages separated. The Cinque Ports first mentioned in a Royal Charter of 1155 originally consisted of the 'Ports' of Hastings , New Romney , Hythe , Dover and Sandwich , so we know that Old Romney had been superceeded by this time.

The decline of Old Romney started at this point, but the natives continued to reclaim the land from the Rother Estuary and the marshland to provide rich and fertile farmland .

Old Romney reverted to a farming community , providing sheep and wool for the wool industry in Flanders . Around 1300 Edward I set up a customs duty on the export of english wool, which was in great demand in Europe. This was the first permanent customs system established in England, and until it was set up all trade in and out of England was free. Up to this point Old Romney was shipping most of its wool abroad from its harbour at New Romney . The trade continued after customs were set, and much wool was shipped out of the country with a return traffic of brandy and tobacco.

1614 the export of all wool was made illegal, so the smugglers became more violent and with the introduction of the death penalty in 1661 most became armed. In 1698 the government decided to take action. An Act was passed stopping people within 15 miles of the sea from buying any wool, unless they guaranteed that they wouldn't sell it to anyone within 15 miles of the sea.

Also any farmers within 10 miles of the sea had to account for their fleeces within 3 days of shearing, all of this effected Old Romney .

With the decline in smuggling in the 1730's the area continued to be a farming centre, the number of people declined until today when there is only the church and a handfull of houses to mark the village.

St Clement at Old Romney is one of those churches supported by the Romney Marsh Historic Churches Trust .


Old Romney has no services, and the nearest shops are in New Romney, about 2 miles south.

The nearest trains run from Appledore station about 4 miles to the north.


Old Romney nowadays consists of a church and a few houses in an area right in the centre of the Romney Marshes, it is very picturesque if you can take time to drive off the fast Brenzett to New Romney road.

The church is most unusual with the pews being painted pink, and here you get the feel for the times of the smugglers. The pink church decorations were made by the film crew of Dr Syn(the Scarecrow) in 1963.

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