Evolution of the Sailing Ship Through Seals

The Common seals of the Cinque Ports and a number of other ports are of interest and value in understanding the evolution of European sailing ships in the Middle Ages.

We show the seven head ports of the Confederation and two other ports Ipswich and Yarmouth, both of great importance in the Middle Ages.Cinqport Empire

There are of course the Cinque Ports “Limbs” and other early ports all with the interesting and important seals also showing various aspects of the development of sailing vessels.Met3

Winchelsea. Early 14th Century. Quarter rudder slung on starboard side. Very early representation of a windlass.Met2


Third seal c1390. Shows bolt hands, fenders and gudgeon plates of the stern post rudder also reef points on the sail.

Romney. Late 13th Century. No castles (Embattled fighting platforms for archers etc.). Forecastle still used for the space reserved for the crew.

Hythe. Late 13th Century. Two men working upon the yardarm another blowing a trumpet. An impression of this seal is found on a document in the Public Record Office dated 1298.met


The Cinque Ports The Lord Warden’s Flag

Dover. 1305. The quarter-rudder is unusual in being slung on the port-side. Large castles and short planking. Flying the banner of the Cinque Ports Confederation.

Sandwich. Late 13th Century. Very early illustration of a ships boat carried on deck. Two prongs projecting from stern post called a “mike” used to carry ropes, anchors etc.

Ipswich. 1200. The earliest representation of a rudder with the blade wholly aft of the rudder post.

Yarmouth. Late 13th Century. One of the earliest illustrations of a bowline led from sail to bowsprit.

Ref. Catalogue of Seals National Maritime Museum. H.H.Brindley Heraldry of the Cinque Ports. G.Williams.

The Shape of ships. W. McDowell. Rye Winchelsea Met4


  First Published in “Cinque Ports” November 2015

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