THE COURTS OF THE CINQUE PORTS
|The affairs of the Confederation were regulated by several courts. The oldest, the
of Shepway, was already well established by 1150. It was presided over by the Lord
Warden who sat, with freemen of the Ports themselves at Shepway Cross, Lympne near
In addition to judicial business, the Court served as a means for conveying the commands
of the King to the Portsmen and for submitting their representations to the Crown. These
functions passed, progressively, to the Lord Wardens courts at Dover. Since the 16th
century, the primary function of the Court of Shepway has been the installation of the new
|Monument to the Cinque Ports, erected in 1923 by Earl Beauchamp, Lord Warden, on the site of Shepway Cross, original venue of the Court of Shepway|
For regulating their internal affairs, including the appointment of bailiffs to Yarmouth, the Ports established the Brodhull (comprising representatives of each of the five head ports and two antient towns) which became increasingly important from the 14th century, when it met at Romney. Originally meeting at a place called Brodhull, on the coast near present-day Dymchurch, it later became known as the Brothereld, the Brotherweld or the Brotherheld and, by the 16th century, as the Brotherhood.
The Guestling was, originally, a meeting of the western ports of Hastings, Rye and Winchelsea in Sussex and their limbs, perhaps named after the village of Guestling, a few miles east of Hastings. By the 15th century, the Kentish ports had established similar meetings, which were also called Guestlings. From the early 17th century, the Courts of Brotherhood and Guestling met on the same day; the larger meeting including the limbs following the meeting of the head ports. Eventually the two meetings were combined as a single Court of Brotherhood and Guestling which today meets, occasionally, for ceremonial purposes.
The surviving minutes of the Court of Brodhull from 1433 to 1571 are recorded in the White Book and those of the Brotherhood and Guestling from 1572 to the present day are contained in the Black Book.
The routine business of the Confederation, today, is conducted by a Standing Committee
ŠThe Confederation of the Cinque Ports (2001)