Poole’s Harbour Bounds and The Winchelsea Certificate

A ‘certificate’ issued in the year 1364 by the mayor and barons of Winchelsea.

The first recorded mention of the Poole harbour bounds occurs in an Inquisition dated 1341. The document to which Poole folk have ever attached most value, is a ‘certificate’ issued in the year 1364 by the mayor and barons of Winchelsea to ‘our most dear friends and allies the mayor and burgesses of the town of Poole’.

During the Middle Ages, Winchelsea, one of the famous Cinque Ports, was a place of great maritime importance. This document affords striking testimony to the enormous influence of these ports in the 13th and 14th centuries. The certificate is written in French, and a translation of the material passages reads thus:

‘Whereas our very dear friends and allies, the mayor and burgesses of the town of Poole, have given us to understand that some people do suppose that the water between Redeclive atte Welle and Northaven Orde should be long to another place than the said town of Poole. And whereas it is charitable to witness the truth, We by these our letters do testify, and to all people do truly make known, that we and our ancestors, from time to which memory doth not extend, have called and do call the said water the haven of Poole, and such we hold it to be.’

This unique document is illustrated above. The attached sheet parchment to the left bears a translation which was made in the reign of Charles II, and the more modern writing at the foot of the certificate itself records that the ‘parchment writing’ was produced at a law-suit in 1742.

For the benefit of the curiously minded, a transcription of the fifth and sixth lines is given: ‘(Nous) tesmoignomz & as toutez gentz v’tablement fassomz assavoir q’ nos & nos Auncestres du temps dont niemorie ne court la dite eawe avomz appelle et appellomz la Havene de la Pole and issint le tenomz.’