Fordwich Town SealFordwich Mayors Seal 


The Ancient Port

Of Canterbury

Fordwich Town Seal                                                                                        



In Roman times and up until the Middle Ages, Thanet was an Island, separated from Kent by a channel some miles wide called the Wantsum. An arm of the sea came as far as Canterbury and was navigable as far as Fordwich. Thus Fordwich became the port of Canterbury, very important as water was the only practical means of transport for goods at the time.


Fordwich was described in the Domesday Book as a “Small Burgh”, one of only seven boroughs in Kent. It became self-governing from the eleventh century and received a Merchant Gild Charter from Henry II in 1184.


The Mayor was elected in the Church together with twelve Jurats and other officers, on the first Monday after the Feast of St. Andrew. Should he refuse the office when elected the Mayor was fined or else had his house pulled down to the ground by the populace. The first known Mayor was John Maynard in 1292 and the Town remained incorporated until 1886, when the Town property was passed into the hands of a body of Trustees.


Fordwich became a corporate limb of the Cinque Port of Sandwich in about 1050, before the Norman conquest, and as such helped to provide ships and men to fight for the Crown as required. In return the Town was allowed self government and freed from many national taxes. Later the provision of ships was changed to the payment of money, and Fordwich still to this day pays its Ship money of forty old pence to its Head Port of Sandwich at a ceremony held annually in the Guildhall.


The Town owned the Quay and the Crane and derived income from duty on imported goods and the hire of the crane. The stone for Canterbury Cathedral, from Caen in France, was unloaded here as well as all the goods required by the thriving monastic City of Canterbury. The port lost its importance due to the River Stour becoming silted up and thus preventing the passage of cargo boats. When a railway was built in 1830 linking Canterbury with Whitstable Harbour, Fordwich finally ceased to be a port. When the River became narrower the Town built a bridge and derived income from tolls. The charge was 1d for a cart and 2d for a wagon. The toll notice board may be seen in the Town Hall.


Fordwich possesses two maces, one of silver made in 1665 and the other of silver gilt dated 1720. It also has a Custumal, in common with other Cinque Ports setting out the laws for local government in the Town.


Fordwich is now but a small picturesque village on the river, but for one day in the year, it relives its past glory when dignitaries from neighbouring towns process to the Church for the Civic Service and afterwards partake of some Fordwich hospitality.