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Dymchurch History

New Hall
Martello Towers and Redoubt
Edith Nesbit

Russell Thorndike
Dr Syn
Burial Records

Looker Hut
Inns of Dymchurch
Dymchurch Wall
Romney Marsh


Dymchurch was once the headquarters for law and order on the Marsh and its name derives from Deme, mediaeval English for judge or arbiter. It was here where the governors of the Marsh resided (known as The Lord of the Level), and where swift justice was administered to anyone endangering the wellbeing of the Marsh

The governors met in a court room called the  New Hall, located in what is now New Hall Close opposite the church. It was originally a wooden structure, but was rebuilt in 1575 after the earlier wooden structure was destroyed in a storm. It was used as a court room for the Romney Marsh area.

The head magistrate was known as Leveller of the Marsh Scotts. It was here that the so-called scot tax was introduced, levied on residents to fund maintenance of the sea wall. Those directly outside the boundaries and thus not eligible for the tax were said to have got away " Scott Free" .

Residents with land were required to grow thorn bushes for building of the wall, as thorn twigs were believed impervious to sea water. Failure resulted in an ear being cut off.

New Hall Today
The New Hall today, where it is now a
museum about Romney Marsh

During the 17th and 18th centuries, smuggling was rife all along the south east coast of England. Due to its remote location Romney Marsh and the surrounding areas were amongst the busiest locations for illicit trade. Inspiration from this gave rise to Dymchurch being the setting of the " Doctor Syn" novels, based on smuggling, by Russell Thorndike.

Map showing Dymchurch
and the surrounding area
in 1816,
with  New and Old Romney and Romney Bay.
Also shown is the 
Little Stone shingle headland
that was to become
Littlestone when
Romney Bay silted up


Map  of Dymchurch 1816


Three Martello towers and Dymchurch Redoubt are located in Dymchurch, all built during the Napoleonic Wars. See
Martello Towers and Redoubt.

The more modern history of Dymchurch  begins in the early 20th century. In 1908 Walter Jerrold described the village as a quiet scattered village and a delightful place far from the madding crowd. It is typical of this part of the coast, having originally been a very small village which during the 1930s became a much larger settlement. When people were wanting to own their own property. Land was sold to them and buildings erected - often derelict railway carriages.

Many of the houses were converted railway carriages, yet they are sadly no longer seen, however a flavour for them can be found just along the coast at Dungeness. Dymchurch is now a popular seaside resort complete with holiday camp, caravan parks, light railway station and amusement park.

Today the village is a relatively large one, and much of it is dedicated to the holiday maker. Restaurants, cafes and takeaways are there, as are the four public houses and amusement parkand arcade.
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The New Hall

The New Hall in Dymchurch is of special interest, a building which, like New Romney, was only new a long time ago. Dating from 1575 the New Hall replaced an earlier half timbered building which was destroyed by fire. Dymchurch was the seat of government on the Romney Marsh. In the new hall the Lords of the Level, jurats, and bailiffs met to discuss and rule the Marshland which was their domain. Their primary concern was the effective maintenance of the walls and drainage throughout the Marsh. The group still meets annually today although legislation has removed their former ruling powers.

In the New Hall there is a perfect 18th century court room which is now a museum displaying many interesting relics and antiques. The last court was held in 1951.


New Hall
The New Hall


Looker Hut

Romney Marsh is world famous for its rich pastures and fine sheep so perhaps it is not surprising to find that a specialized and unusual form of building evolved there to serve the needs of the shepherding community. The buildings are referred to as Sheephouses in historical documents but were subsequently described and became known as Lookers' Huts.

The Lookers' Hut, the domain of the Looker who used the hut as temporary accommodation while tending the flocks, a store for his tools and medicines,and an operational base for his shepherding work. The buildings were plain, small and of simple design and construction, with very little in the way of domestic comforts, yet they were an important part of working life on the Marsh. At their peak the huts probably numbered in the hundreds. Today only 12 buildings remain standing, with a further three in ruinous condition.

Looker Hut in Dymchurch
One of the remaining Looker Huts 
in Dymchurch

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