Court of Survey Cruise

Under a Charter of Queen Elizabeth I, dated 4 December 1559, the Queen’s Town of Maidstone was granted liberties in the River Medway extending from East Farleigh to Hawkwood in Burham. A Court was held annually to inspect the condition of the River Medway, to redress any disorders and remove any nuisances. The Corporation used to attend in their barges what was then called The Mayor’s Fishing Court.

These liberties were augmented in a Charter of King James I, dated 12 July 1619, which granted the privilege of keeping swans and cygnets on this stretch of the Medway and marking them. From time to time, since 1559, the Mayor has traversed the River between these limits and held a Court of Survey.

The duties are listed in Burghmote Book 3, under the date 2 May 1629, amongst “addicions to our liberties”:

“To have liberty to keepe Swans from East Farleigh Bridge to Hawkewood, and a Swan marke, and to alter and change the same at our pleasure, And to seise and marke all white Swans as our owne not lawfully marked, And to preserve them straying, And retake and rehave them.”

The practice was revived in 1975 and the Mayor of Maidstone’s Court of Survey Cruise has largely been held annually since. A Swan Master was appointed and the swans are now marked by means of a numbered ring put on their leg. Since 1981 Bob Tuthill and the Hampstead and Yalding Cruising Club have organised the event.

To view photographs of the Court Of Survey Cruises from 2014 onwards please go to the Gallery page.