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History of New Romney

New Romney comes from the Old English 'ea', meaning 'river' combined with a priest’s name – a priest named Romanus (anglicised to ‘Ruman’) owned land in this region in the 7th century – therefore, ‘Ruman’s river’. The prefix 'new' distinguishes New Romney from Old Romney. Romney first appears in 791AD as Rumnea.

By the beginning of the 12th century, Romney’s flourishing port extended along the north bank of the River Rother to form the 'Longport'. However, as the harbour started to silt up, activities centred at the seaward end. During the 1100’s the harbour gradually moved further away from the old village until the distance became too great and the villages split into the old and new.

As one of the Cinque Ports mentioned in a Royal Charter of 1155, New Romney had become the foremost village at this time. In 1287, a severe storm hit the Channel. Shingles from Dungeness piled up and blocked the outlet of the Rother at New Romney; the river changed its course to Rye and out into the sea. New Romney had its harbour devastated and shingles and mud flooded the streets. After this, the prosperity of the village declined. 

New Romney parish church is a Grade: I listed building, dedicated to Saint Nicholas. Bishop Odo, half-brother to William the Conqueror first started to build it in 1080, although it took 50 years to complete. In the 13th century, St Nicolas’ church came into the possession of Potigny Abbey, who invested heavily in rebuilding the east end, with fine octagonal pillars, piscina and sedilia in each of the three eastern chapels.

The great storms of 1287 and 1288 stranded New Romney leading to the loss of the second harbour. With more than three feet of sand and gravel left behind, the church found itself below ground level and required steps to get to the door. The east end of the church also needed rebuilding. In 1665, there is a record of five bells in the tower, when John Hodson augmented them to six. In November 1748, Robert Catlin cast a new ring of eight bells. In 1798, Edward Hasted described the New Romney church as being a ‘very large and handsome, consisting of three isles and three chancels, having a square tower, with four pinnacles on it, at the west end, in which hang eight bells. The church is antient, the pillars between the isles being very large, with circular arches and Saxon ornaments. The tower at the west end seems still more so, having several ranges of small circular arches on the sides, and at the bottom is a circular arch, over a door-way, with zig-zag ornaments. The stone pinnacles on the top are of unequal sizes. On the roof is a stone work, of an octagon form, carried up a few feet only, seemingly for the purpose of continuing a spire of the same form on it. The inside of the church is fitted up exceedingly handsome and elegant’. In 1880, the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, which William Morris, founded in 1878 prevented the Victorians from carrying out a heavy rebuilding of the church. In 1968, the church used a bell cast by an unknown founder for Hope, All Saints in 1450, as a Sanctus bell.

New Romney railway station opened, at the extreme south of the town, on the Romney Hythe and Dymchurch Railway, on 16 July 1927.