Midley church ruin
Romney Marsh ruins
We investigate the history of church ruins on the Marsh and uncover tales of smuggling, storms and super sheep!
We wanted to find out more about four church ruins on the Romney Marsh - Midley, Hope, Broomhill and Eastbridge- but there was no record of them on our maps.
The name Romney or Rumenea derives from Old English for a wide river, originally referring to the Romney Marsh in general, not just the port towns of Old and New Romney.
During the 13th century violent storms swept along the coastline and New Romney was devastated by ferocious storms in 1287 and 1288. The River Rother had altered its course by this time and was flowing through Rye. The harbour was lost as shingle and mud swept into New Romney and severed its links with the sea.
"The World, according to the best geographers, is divided into Europe, Asia, Africa, America, and Romney Marsh", wrote the Reverend Richard Harris Barham, writing as Thomas Ingoldsby, in The Ingoldsby Legends, his gothic tales of superstition and folklore, in the 1840s.
It's not hard to see why he described the area on the Kent/Sussex border as being an altogether separate part of the world. Even today, where caravan sites dot the coast and the nuclear power stations stand bleakly on the shingle shore of the English Channel at nearby Dungeness, it is still possible to see exactly what Barham meant.
At its heart, the 100-square-mile marsh is almost as mysterious and lonely as it was in the 17th century. A thousand years ago it would have been a vast area of reeds and water and some of the church ruins were once on an island. This was all drained away in the 1960's.
Due to the isolation of the area, its low lying marshland, and being close to France, the marsh churches are unusual, leading to the suspicion that one of their primary uses was smuggling. The marshes and the small villages were dominated by smugglers or 'owlers' where smugglers swapped local wool for brandy from France. There were pitched battles between smugglers and the revenue officers in most towns. Some reports speak of 200 smugglers regularly using an inn when the revenue men had a day off!
Romney Marsh sheep or 'Kents'
Romney Marsh sheep are seen in the open fields which are often swept with harsh winds and heavy rainfall. Their hooves are resistant to foot rot and their fleeces remain healthy in the harsh weather. They are exported all over the world.
last updated: 16/05/2008 at 16:03