What we now know as New Romney is said to have been in existence by 741 as a small fishing settlement. A charter dated c914 referred to a channel known as Rumensea which reached the sea at Romney, and not long afterwards that name was adapted for the settlement itself.
New Romney is not significantly different in age from the nearby village of Old Romney. However New Romney, now about a mile and a half from the seafront, was originally a harbour town at the mouth of the River Rother.
The Rother estuary was always difficult to navigate, with many shallow channels and sandbanks. To make navigation easier two large rocks, one bigger than the other, were said to have been placed at the entrance to the main channel.
The High Street
In the latter part of the thirteenth century a series of severe storms weakened the coastal defences of Romney Marsh, and the Great Storm of 1287 almost destroyed the town. The harbour and town were filled with sand, silt, mud and debris, and the River Rother changed course to run out into the sea near Rye, Sussex. The mud, silt and sand were never entirely removed from the town, which is why many old buildings, especially the church, have steps leading down into them from the present pavement level.
Like many towns on the marsh New Romney has an impressive Norman church in the centre of town. St Nicholas Church originally stood at the harbourside, and its entrances are several feet below ground level. The church is also notable for the boat hooks still evident on the side walls. Until the 16th century, up to the end of the reign of King Hentry VIII in 1543, there were five parish churches in New Romney, St Laurence, St Martin, St John, St Michael and St Nicholas. Today St Nicholas is the only one remaining.
St Nicholas Church
New Romney's historic high street has several small and interesting shops. A few businesses have closed but the town retains much of its character. The former almshouses in West Street are noted historic buildings of Kent; they were founded in 1610 by John Southland, an important local magnate, and rebuilt in 1734.
Just off the high street are the ruins of St John's Priory, a mediaeval Cistercian Priory founded in the 13th Century. The main part of these ruins consists of a small building of stone rubble with a tiled roof.
Also just off the high street are 3 and 4 West Street. Originally one property which has been divided into two. An early 14th Century domestic building of high social status which may have been a merchant's house when New Romney was a busy port.
St John's Priory in New Romney
New Romney is one of the original Cinque Ports of England, although its importance declined rapidly during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries after the loss of the harbour. Archaeological investigations in 2007 during replacement of the town's main drainage have cast new light on the medieval origins and development of the town
The Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway has a station at the extreme south of New Romney, which as well as being a major tourist attraction is used by pupils commuting to school. The station is about three quarters of a mile south of the historic town centre.
New Romney is twinned with Ardres in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France.
Cinque Ports Speaker's Parade in 2014
Murals in New Romney
Walk around New Romney and you will soon notice the contemporary murals brightening up some of the walls. The murals depict jobs including those of a fisherman, a train driver, a butcher and an estate agent, and portraits which feature many people who have lived on the Marsh for their whole lives.
Local scenes including the Martello Towers and the Littlestone Water Tower are also displayed. Artists from across Romney Marsh created the pieces and installed the pieces at the Sainsbury's store, at New Romney station and in the High Street. The scheme is being run by Briony Kapoor of the IMOS Foundation and has been supported with a £2,000 grant from Shepway District Council.
Murals in New Romney