Speaker of the Cinque Ports
The Speaker acts as chairman and principal representative of the Confederation.
The office is held (ex officio) by the mayor of each of the head ports and two ancient towns, in turn. It passes from one town to the next, on 21 May each year, by a process quaintly described as ‘septennial revolution’.
The Earliest Speakership
It is not known exactly when the office was first created, but it has certainly existed continuously since 1357.
Thus, it is older than the Speakership of the House of Commons, which dates from 1376. For centuries, these were the only two offices with that title but, in more recent times, it has been adopted for the chairperson of a number of legislatures based on the Westminster model and, since 2006, for the presiding officer of the UK House of Lords who replaced the Lord Chancellor in that role.
The Speaker’s Badge
As a symbol of his or her office, the Speaker of the Cinque Ports wears a badge depicting the Ports’ coat of arms, encircled by an anchor and cable and surmounted by a coronet. The badge was made by Leslie Durbin of London, from 18ct white and yellow gold, with 14 diamonds around the perimeter symbolising the member towns of the Confederation.
It was commissioned in 1971, at the instigation of Captain Herbert Lovegrove CBE RN, Mayor of Winchelsea and Speaker of the Cinque Ports for that year. At a time when the impending reorganisation of local government would deprive most of the member towns of their ancient status as boroughs and possibly jeopardise the continued existence of the Confederation, the aim was to provide tangible recognition of, and to honour the historic office of Speaker. The badge was first worn by the Mayor of Rye, Speaker 1971-72.