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The Romney Marsh origin of being ‘scot free’….

Romney Marsh
from Daily Telegraph, photo Clara Molden

The following paragraph is extracted from the Rye Museum :-

“….The river (which we know as the Rother) made its way south east from Appledore across the marsh to an outfall into the sea at New Romney; by the 12th century this marsh river was converted into a canal 6 miles (9.7 km) long to Old Romney. The 13th century was remarkable for a series of storms accompanied possibly by a rise in sea level. The first was in 1236 followed in 1250 when the town and port of Old Winchelsea were overwhelmed; there was a temporary recovery until it finally succumbed in the storm of 1287 by which time the new town of Winchelsea on the hill of Iham was being colonised….”

And so Dymchurch Wall was built. Romney Marsh is generally below sea level, and has long been protected from inundation by the old wall, but today I learned that this ancient embankment was responsible for the expression ‘scot free’, which is so very widespread today.

Here is the explanation, which is from the Romney Marsh :-

“….During the 13th century storms, battered Dymchurch and the maintenance of the wall became the responsibility of The Corporation of Romney Marsh. In the 15th century, a “Scot* Tax” was levied on every landowner on Romney Marsh for continuing repair of the wall. If your property was above the sea level you got off “Scot Free”….”

*According to Merriam-Webster a scot is ‘an amount of money assessed or paid’.

We learn something new every day!

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