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827 - 1154 - Saxon England

King Alfred [r. 871-899] was as wise in peace as he was brave in war. He took care to ward off future invasions of the Danes by setting up a new and a better army than England had had before. Moreover, did for the he was not content to wait until the Danes Engiisharmy landed. He built ships that might go out and attack the Danes on the sea, and thus save England the miseries of invasion. This is the first English navy of which history speaks, and some therefore look upon Alfred as the founder of England's greatness on the sea.

Edward the Confessor (1042-1066) first set about replacing the Saxon mercenary fleet with one drawn from the Five Ports, assisted by nearby coastal and creek-side towns and villages. In return for the grant of privileges, Edward was able to muster a fleet to maintain the important transportation links to Normandy and to protect his kingdom from attack. By the reign of Henry II (1154-1189), the towns were already known collectively as the "Cinque Ports".

The Confederation of the Cinque Ports is a unique association of English towns dating back some 1000 years. The Portsmen first came together informally, during the 11th Century, to regulate the important herring-fair held each year at Yarmouth, on the Norfolk coast, and that this common, economic interest was reinforced by the strategic position of the Ports, on a coast constantly open to attack and controlling the important sea routes across the English Channel.

As the name Cinque Ports ( from the Norman French for five and pronounced "sink" not "sank") suggests, the Confederation originally comprised the five ports of Hastings, Romney, Hythe, Dover and Sandwich. Under the system of ship service, the Ports were required to supply 57 ships, each with a crew of 21 men and a boy, for 15 days every year. These ships were used not only in warfare, but also to transport the King, members of his entourage and his armies to and from Normandy and other parts of the Continent.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:08:36 ZULU