The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 8. Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1799.
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IS a large level of marsh-land, part of that which is in general called Romney Marsh, lying on the other or western side of the high wall, called the Rhee-wall. It contains 16,489 acres; the adjoining small level of Dengemarsh, 2912 acres; and that of Guildford, the greatest part of it being in Sussex, 3265 acres; being bounded by the Rhee-wall on the east, the town of Lid and Dengemarsh on the south, Guildford marsh and Sussex on the west, and the Apledore channel and the uplands on the north.
This marsh was never included in any of the rules and ordinances passed for the safety and preservation of Romney Marsh, nor was it included within the limits and liberty of the corporation of it, but remained within the jurisdiction of the justices of Kent. As there was not any certain law used for the management and defence of it, great inconvenience was continually experienced on that account. To the end, therefore, that such perils might for the future be prevented, and the common benefit provided for, king Edward I. in his 16th year, appointed commissioners to view the same, who ordained, that within the limits in the Marsh, beyond the water course of the port of Romney, running from Snargate thither on the west part of it, till it came to Sussex, there should be jurats established by the commonaltie, to consider how much might be necessary for the repair and sustentation of the walls and banks, according to the proportion and value of the number of acres in them to be maintained, according to the ordinance of Henry de Bathe. And in future a common bailiff should be appointed for the purposes mentioned in that ordinance, provided that at his election, the lords of the towns in the Marsh within those limits, should be summoned, if they would be present at it, as also the jurats and whole commonalty of that marsh; and that in future the king's common bailiff in the marsh of Romenale should be supervisor of the before-mentioned bailiffs and jurats in this marsh, and that he should summon together, to fit places, all the jurats chosen on both sides the said course, for the preservation of these marshes; notwithstanding any custom whatsoever, saving always the king's charter granted to the commonaltie of Romney Marsh, and the ordinance of Henry de Bathe, ever to remain in power and force.
All these laws and ordinances, as well as the customs, from time to time, relating to Romney Marsh, were grown at length into such reputation, that king Henry VI. in his 6th year, at the special instance of the commons of the realm assembled in parliament, having considered the great damage and loss which had so often happened by the excessive rising of the waters in different parts of the realm, and that much greater was likely to ensue, if some remedy was not hastily provided, granted, that several commissions of sewers, to continue in force for the space of ten years, should be made to several persons of the nobility, gentry, and others, by the lord chancellor for the time to come, in all parts of the realm, when it should be needful, giving them power and direction to make necessary statutes and ordinances for the conservation of the sea-banks and marshes and parts adjoining, all of which throughout the realm, should be according to the laws and customs of Romney Marsh. One of these commissions of sewers was granted for the level of Walland Marsh, another for Dengemarsh, with Southbrooks adjoining, and a third for that of Guildford; (fn. 1) under which, renewed from time to time every ten years, the preservation of their walls and banks, and the sewing and drainage of them, still continue to be regulated and governed.
Walland Marsh extends about four miles in breadth from east to west, and upwards of five miles in length from north to south, and contains within its bounds the towns and parishes of Fairfield, Brookland, and Midley, and part of those of Apledore, Snargate, Ivechurch, Old and New Romney, and Lid, the churches of which are situated in other districts. Although it lies but little lower than Romney Marsh, yet the west and northern parts of it especially, are, through the mismanagement and defect of the drainage, much subject to inundations, and numbers of acres in it are covered with water for the greatest part of the year, by which the lands are rendered almost useles; notwithstanding which, it is in general very rich and fertile, full as much, if not more so, than any part of Romney Marsh. Though there are some very large beasts satted on it in summer, yet the generality of the cattle on it, especially in winter, are sheep, of the same sort and size as those in the other marsh. There is but little land ploughed in it, much less than formerly. It lies exceedingly open and unsheltered, excepting about Brookland and Old Romney, where it is tolerably well sheltered with trees. In other particulars it is much the same as Romney Marsh, already described before.
At the depth of three or four feet under the surface of the ground, in many places throughout the Marsh, there have been frequently dug up oak leaves, acorns, &c. and likewise large trees lying along in different directions, some across each other, some appearing with the roots to them, as if overturned by a storm or other convulsion of nature, and others as if cut down with an ax or sharp instrument, and not with a saw, being in colour as black and as hard as the wood of ebony.
In summer, when these levels are all covered with luxuriant verdure, and filled with the numerous herds of cattle, they afford the most pleasing and beautiful appearance to the eye, from the heights of the adjacent country, which our old poet Drayton very justly dresses out in his Polyalbion, where he describes the river Rother enamoured with the beauties of the Marsh.
Appearing to the flood, most bravely like a queen, Clad all, from head to foot, in gaudy Summer's green; Which loosely flowing down upon her lusty thighs, Most strongly seem to tempt the river's amorous eyes. Her mantle richly wrought with sundry flowers and weeds; Her moistfull temples bound with wreaths of quivering reeds, And on her loins a frock, with many a swelling pleat, Embossed with well spread horse, large sheep and full fed neat. Some wallowing in the grass, there lye a while to batten; Some sent away to kill; some thither brought to satten; With villages amongst, oft powdred here and there; And (that the same more like to landskip should appear) With lakes and lesser fords, to mitigate the heat (In summer, when the fly doth prick the gadding neat, Forced from the brakes, where late they brouzed the velvet buds) In which they lick their hides and chew their savoury cuds.