“The World, according to the best geographers, is divided into Europe, Asia, Africa, America, and Romney Marsh.”

Major M Teichman Derville

Littlestone resident Major Max Teichman Derville was High Sheriff of Kent, mayor of New Romney, a County Councillor and an acknowledged authority on the history of the Cinque Ports and Speaker of the Ports. His book The Level and Liberty of Romney Marsh is regarded as the definitive source on the subject.

Max Teichman Derville was born at Eltham in 1876. He was educated at Repton and Trinity, Oxford, where he rowed and played football for the first XI, and was a member of Vincents and the Gridiron. He took a second class in Mods and Greats and his M.A. in 1903. Meanwhile in 1900, he had been offered a scholarship at the British School of Archfeology at Athens, but he chose instead to spend a year with an Oxford friend doing 'The Grand Tour.'

In the First World War, he served from 1914 to 1919, was mentioned in despatches, and awarded the O.B.E. (Military Division). He was given the rank of Major in the Royal Army Reserve of Officers. From 1911 he had a house near the Embankment, where he moored his boat on the Thames, and he had a holiday home at Littlestone.

The sea was a great attraction and in 1919 he came to live at Littlestone permanently, and kept one boat there, and another on the Rother. He was a member of the Royal Cinque Port Yacht Club and the Royal Corinthian.

In 1926, after serving as a Councillor for the Cinque Port Borough of New Romney, he was elected Mayor and held that office for 12 years consecutively. During this time, he exercised a great influence on the development of the town, and New Romney was the first Borough in Kent to adopt a Town Planning Scheme. He was equally tireless in safeguarding its ancient rights and privileges, in scheduling its ancient buildings, and in taking steps to get its remarkable series of records catalogued and repaired, and the catalogue printed all at his own expense.

In 1938 New Romney honoured him by conferring on him the Freedom of the Borough.

The Red House, Littlestone
Derville's Home The Red House in Littlestone

In 1936 he was elected a County Councillor for the Hythe and Romney Marsh Division, and 13 years later an Alderman, a position he held until his retirement in 1957 at the age of 81, when glowing tribute was paid to his invaluable service, his balanced counsel, and his wide judgement in County affairs. To his public duties, and to his wide interests, he brought a breadth of scholarship, a zeal for justice and a refreshing sense of humour which endeared him to all with whom he worked. He sat on many educational bodies and was able to contribute much to the cause of education in the County. For over 30 years he was the indefatigable Chairman of the Governors of Southlands Grammar School, where the new Derville Hall will long be a memorial to his untiring interest, his inspiring leadership and his generosity to the school.

Major Teichman Derville was an acknowledged authority on the history of the Cinque Ports and was Speaker of the Ports in 1931 and again in 1937, when he became a Coronation Baron of the Ports for New Romney. His valuable collection of Cinque Port books and documents are deposited with the Cinque Port records. He was equally devoted to the affairs of the 'Fifth Quarter', Romney Marsh, and was its familiar and much-loved Bailiff for over 20 years until his death.

He was Lord of the Manors of Snave and Eastbridge and did much to uphold the ancient traditions of the Corporation, and not least by his painstaking labour in publishing The Level and Liberty of Romney Marsh and putting on record the laws and customs upon which the Corporation's survival relies. At New Hall, Dymchurch, the many maps, historic documents, and museum exhibits are a reminder of his countless generous gifts.

When the Land Drainage Act came into force in 1930, he was invited to be the first Chairman of the newly constituted Romney Marsh Catchment Board, and later, with the establishment of the centralized Kent Rivers Board, he was appointed Vice-Chairman.


The Level and Liberty of Romney Marsh
'The Level and Liberty of Romney Marsh'

 With his love of Romney Marsh, and his knowledge of the medieval problems of Land Drainage and Sea Defence, he was singularly equipped to deal with early Catchment Board schemes and the subsequent development of the River Boards. As an enthusiastic fisherman, he was appointed to the Pollution and Fisheries Committee.

From 1938-1939 he was High Sheriff of Kent, a year that was to be the last of his lavish, carefree pre-war Shrievalties of prodigal hospitality. He was later appointed a Deputy Lieutenant for Kent. But above all and through all his various offices, there shone the simplicity and warmth of his character, a kindliness and thoughtfulness for others, for he was never happier than in malting other people happy. He was equally well-known as a pillar of English Figure Skating for half a century, and won the Holland Bowl at St. Moritz in 1911, and took second place in the Championship on several occasions between 1912 and 1924. He was long recognized as one of the best Figure Skating judges. He played a good game of golf and was a lifelong member of St. Georges, Sandwich, Eye and Littlestone.

Perhaps he was happiest of all in the evening of his life when he had 'discarded the tinsel trappings of a busy life' and was able to enjoy quietly his books and his garden and his favourite pastime, writing verses to the delight of his many friends. Poems to Archbishops were often in Greek, to his classical friends in Latin, to those in authority, a slight prod in whimsical verse produced the desired effect far better than an angry letter. To many, his death seems the end of an era in Romney Marsh, but he died, convinced, as he wrote at the age of 81 in a poem,
   'Ave atque Vale',
   'The last—the best of life lies further on,
   Hid from our eyes beyond the hills of time.' 

Major Teichman Derville died in 1963 age 87, at his home, The Red House, Littlestone

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