The right to wreck in the decline of the Cinque Ports: Admiralty Court and the enforcement of royal privilege on the coast of Kent and Sussex in the early to mid-19th century

    Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


    This paper analyses the retention of coastal rights and privileges by the Lord Warden and Officers of the Cinque Ports during the confederations decline in the 19th century. Local government reforms during this period eroded large parts of the administrative and judicial powers of the Ports; however, it still retained and actively pursued claims to wreck and salvage through its own Admiralty Court under ‘ancient’ privileges to coastal territory and the collection of droits. This research discusses how and why these powers were retained. Case studies from coastal Kent and Sussex are used to demonstrate how royal privilege over the coast was enforced and disputes over claims of wreck salvage were managed by the authority. This enables insight into the unique relationship between coastal populations and the legislative system of the Cinque Ports, as reforms brought the confederation closer to a ceremonial function. It exposes challenges to historic royal concessions, established social status and economic hierarchy as well as the ownership and commodity of the coast within its jurisdiction. Offering insight into a cultural landscape of ‘wrecking’, removed from Cornish particularism, this research also enters new literature of discussion and reaction to illicit cultural practice within unique boundaries on the edge of one of the world busiest shipping passages in the last years of the ‘age of sail’.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2023
    EventNew Researchers in Maritime History Conference 2023, University of Portsmouth - University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, United Kingdom
    Duration: 31 Mar 20231 Apr 2023


    ConferenceNew Researchers in Maritime History Conference 2023, University of Portsmouth
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
    Internet address


    • maritime
    • maritime history
    • port cities
    • shipwreck

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