New Romney: a thriving medieval port devastated by a storm

It’s easy to look at a map of the British Isles and assume that the outline of land that’s so familiar to us has been that way for millennia.  However, the coastline – particularly in the east – has changed dramatically over the centuries, partly due to human intervention (such as the draining of marshy areas) and partly due to the forces of nature.  Often, these changes are quite gradual and happen over many years (for example, towns on the Norfolk coast that have been gradually disappearing into the sea over many decades and centuries), but sometimes, a storm or other natural disaster could change the fortunes of coastal towns overnight.  New Romney in Kent is one of these places.  Once a thriving and important port, a terrible storm in 1287 cut off the town’s lifeline.

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The extraordinary ossuary at St Leonard’s Church, Hythe

The church of St Leonard sits on a hillside in the pretty coastal town of Hythe in Kent, overlooking the English Channel.  Its history goes back at least 900 years, perhaps even further – a lot of the churches in the area have pre-Norman origins.  It’s a beautiful and imposing building – but if you visit the church’s crypt you will find yourself coming face to face with some unexpected people.

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