Fordwich                                                              From the Fordwich Custumal.      

Of pleas of the Crown                                         Translation by Mr. Sandys 1834.


All pleas of the Crown of life or limb are accustomed to be determined within

the said liberty before the Mayor, bailiff and jurats.


The goods of the guilty party to be forfeited to the Lord Abbot of St. Augustines.


“And when the appellant and appellee shall come before the Mayor and jurats and the steward of the Lord Abbot … the sergeant of the bailiff who shall so have the custody of the appellee shall stand with an axe holding him bound only he is to be unbound when he ought to answer … and if the appellee shall wish to acquit himself according to the customs of the liberties of the cinque ports it shall be adjudged him that he have at a certain day … thirty and six good and lawful men and true who shall swear with him that he is not guilty … and it is to be known that when the aforesaid thirty and six are to acquit any man their names ought to be written and all called by name and if they shall answer twelve of them ought to be dismissed by the steward of the Lord Abbot and twelve others be dismissed by the Mayor and jurats so that the Mayor and steward may choose twelve of the thirty six aforesaid whom the shall wish to swear with the appellee that he is not guilty so help him all Holy Saints, kissing the Book, etc … after shall be called the said twelve who are chosen to swear and they shall swear as they are called by name to wit everyone by himself and the said Oath made by the appellee is good and true and that he is not guilty of such things imputed to him so help them all Holy Saints etc, which if they shall do the appellee is acquited and the appellant attachable and all his goods being within the liberty of the will of the Lord Abbot. But if any of the aforesaid twelve shall withdraw himself from the book being unwilling to swear the appellee shall lose his life. And all who are condemned in that case or in any other case to death ought to be taken from the aforesaid court of the Lord Abbot by the Stour unto a certain place called the “theifs’ well” and there their hands ought to be tied under their legs to wit, ’kneebent’ and they shall be instantly thrust down alive and drowned there. And this shall be done by him who prosecutes. And the water is the property of the commonalty howsoever it may have been appropriated by others”             


The mode of inflicting punishment (capital) in most of the Cinque ports was peculiar. At Dover the felon was thrown over Sharpness cliff. At Sandwich they were buried alive on Thief’s Down. It is said that there was a special wharf reserved for the purpose of’ drowning criminals, but the word used in the Fordwich Custumal is ‘Thfeswell’, the tradition amongst the inhabitants identifying it with the well at the bottom of the lane leading to Eldbridge a few yards from Mr. Raffety’s house now called Fordwich House. This seems to point to the well having been used in later times for the immersion of  “scolds”. Thew being the name given to a “cucking stool”. In later days the corporation had a gallows near the quay. Persons drawing a knife (or any arms having a point) for the purpose of using it on any man or woman were fined 10/—. If the knife were actually used he must pay 60/— to the Mayor and commonalty, or remain in prison for a year and a day, or his hand “Shall be thrust through with that which he did smite”. A woman convicted of scolding, quarrelling. or slandering was compelled to carry a certain “mortar” (mortarium) through the town, a minstrel or piper going before her thus making a laughing stock of  her, for this he was paid a penny, this mode of punishment was exchanged in the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries for the “cucking stool” which still remains in the Town Hall.


S. Gilling 6.4.66<