History Of Herne Bay, Kent
|HistoryOf Herne Bay|
The town of Herne Bay derived its name from the neighbouring village of Herne, two three kilometres inland from the bay. The word herne, meaning a place on a corner of land, evolved from the Old English hyrne, meaning corner. The village was first recorded in around 1100 as Hyrnan. The corner may relate to the sharp turn in the Roman Road between Canterbury and Reculver at Herne.
One of the oldest buildings in Herne Bay is the late 18th-century inn, The Ship, which served as the focal point for the small shipping and farming community which first inhabited the town. During this time, passenger and cargo boats regularly ran between Herne Bay and London, and boats carrying coal ran from Newcastle. From Herne there was easy access by road to the city of Canterbury, or to Dover, where further passage by boat could then be obtained across the English Channel to France.
Herne Bay clock tower
The 1801 census recorded Herne Bay, including Herne, as having a population of 1,232. During the early 1800s, a smugglers' gang operated from the town. The gang were regularly involved in a series of fights with the preventive services until finally being overpowered in the 1820s.In the 1830s, a group of London investors, who recognised Herne Bay's potential as a seaside resort, built a wooden pier and a promenade on the town's seafront. This and the subsequent building of a railway station led to the rapid expansion of the town; between 1831 and 1841 the town's population grew from 1,876 to 3,041.The London businessmen intended to rename the town St Augustine's, but the name was unpopular with residents and the name Herne Bay remained.In 1833, an Act of Parliament established Herne Bay and Herne as separate towns. Local landowner Sir Henry Oxenden donated a piece of ground for the site of the first church, Christ Church, which was opened in 1834. In 1837, Mrs Ann Thwaytes, a wealthy lady from London, donated around £4,000 to build a 75 ft clock tower on the town's seafront. It is believed to be the first freestanding purpose built clock tower in the world.
During the 1840s, steamboats began running between Herne Bay and London. There was a type of beach boat unique to Herne Bay and nearby Thanet, known as the Thanet wherry,a narrow pulling boat of about 18 ft long much used for fishing and with the advent of tourism, for pleasure trips. A document dated 1840 records the town as having the following schools, all of which are now defunct: Haddington boarding school, Oxenden House, British School, Prospect Place and Herne Street school. The village of Herne was often called Herne Street around this time. The same document also mentions the still-existing Rodney Head, The Ship and Upper Red Lion inns.
The original wooden pier had to dismantled in 1871 after its owners went into liquidation and sea worms had damaged the wood. A shorter 100 metres (328 ft) long iron pier with a theatre and shops at the entrance was built in 1873. However, it was too short for steamboats to land at. The pier proved to be unprofitable and a replacement longer iron pier with an electric tram began to be built in 1896. At 3,600 feet (1,097 m), this pier was the second longest in the country, behind only the pier at Southend-on-Sea.
The landward end of Herne Bay pier
The town's heyday as a seaside resort was during the late Victorian era; the population nearly doubled from 4,410 to 8,442 between 1881 and 1901. Much of the resulting late Victorian seafront architecture is still in existence today. In 1910, a pavilion was added to the landward end of the pier. In 1912, the first "Brides in the Bath" murder by George Joseph Smith was committed in Herne Bay. By 1931, the town's population had grown to 14,533. At the beginning of World War II, the army cut two gaps between the landward end of the pier and the seaward terminal as a counter-invasion measure. The pier was restored however after the war. During World War II, a sea-fort was built off the coast of Herne Bay and Whitstable, which is still in existence. The coastal village of Reculver, to the east of Herne Bay, was the site of the testing of the bouncing bomb used by the "Dam Busters" during the war.
1963 marked the end of steamboat services from the pier. In 1970, a fire destroyed the pier's pavilion and plans began to replace it with a sports centre, which was opened in 1976 by former Prime Minister Edward Heath. The centre section of the pier was torn down by a storm in 1978, leaving the end of the pier isolated out at sea. It has still not been rebuilt since due to the cost, although residents and businesses in the town are currently campaigning for its restoration.
Attractions and landmarks
The seafront has a 2 miles (3 km) shingle beach, which has been awarded a European Blue Flag and the yellow and blue Seaside Award for its safety and cleanliness. The seafront features a Victorian bandstand and gardens, amusement arcades, and children's play areas. Landmarks by the seafront include the clock tower, the sea defence jetty, the off-shore World War II sea fort and the off-shore wind farm. There are also seaside cafés, fresh seafood restaurants, guesthouses, beach huts and many water-sports facilities.
The Memorial Park, situated near the centre of the town, incorporates a children's play area, a large shallow duck pond often used for remote control boats, basketball and tennis courts and a large expanse of grass for field games. The park has a monument and an 'Avenue of Remembrance' as memorials to the town's residents killed during the two world wars.
Reculver Country Park is home to the cliff top Reculver Towers, the remains of the 12th century St Mary's Church and its distinctive twin towers. The park also contains the remains of a Roman fort, the remains of a Saxon church, a migrating-bird watching spot and an information centre on the geology, history and wildlife of this area of the coast. Located on the main road between Herne Bay and Canterbury, Wildwood Discovery Park is a woodland park featuring over fifty species of native British animals, such as deer, badgers, wild boar and wolves.
Herne Mill, a late-18th Century Kentish smock mill overlooking the village of Herne from a hilltop, is usually open to visitors on Sunday afternoons between April and September. Another noticeable landmark is a concrete funnel-shaped water tower overlooking Herne Bay from the top of Mickleburgh Hill, which is currently used as a base for radio transmitters.
Herne Bay is twinned with the towns of Wimereux in Nord Pas-de-Calais, France and Waltrop in Germany. Since 1994, the Herne Bay/Wimereux Twinning Association aims to promote friendship between the people of the two towns by organising activities, such as cycling trips and quiz evenings. Herne Bay and Waltrop have been twinned since 1976, although their twinning association is not currently in operation.
The actor and presenter Bob Holness lived in the town as a child and attended Herne Bay Primary School until moving to Ashford. Nicki Chapman, the judge on the UK television series Popstars and Pop Idol, was born and raised in the town. Originally from London, Daniel Tammet, the subject of the UK documentary The Boy With The Incredible Brain, has now moved to the town. He is an autistic savant with outstanding abilities in mathematics, sequence memorising and language learning.