History Of Whitstable
|History Of Whitstable|
Whitstable is a town in Kent, England with a population of 30,000. It is a seaside resort, on the North Sea coast, facing Essex across the Thames Estuary and the Isle of Sheppey across The Swale. It is technically within the city limits of Canterbury six miles inland.
The town was recorded in the Domesday Book (1086) as Witenestaple and held three manors. The one at Seasalter included eight fisheries, Northwood supplied seven saltworks, and at Swalecliffe pigs were kept using pannage. The ancient town continues to support an agricultural and fishing community.
The name Witenestaple evolved into Witstapel according to 1184 sources, and Whitstapl by 1226. Records from 1610 make reference to the modern name, Whitstable. The name comes from "the meeting place of the white post", a commonly used landmark at the time of its inception. One of its suburbs is Tankerton
Whitstable Oyster Fisheries
The town is best known for its oysters, formerly harvested offshore and still served in restaurants in the town. The Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company is one of Europe's oldest commercial ventures, and its oysters were exported across the Roman Empire during the Roman occupation of Britain.
In 1480 Whitstable acquired a fish market in St Margaret's Street, a tradition that lasted until the mid-19th century. The town's connection with the sea extends to watersports, and the annual waterskiing championships take place during the summer.
The world's first steam-hauled passenger railway
On 3 May 1830 The Canterbury and Whitstable Railway, locally known as the Crab and Winkle Line (after the initial letters of the railway), was opened, linking Whitstable with the cathedral city of Canterbury. It was the world's first steam-hauled passenger railway (the first true passenger railway was opened on Swansea Bay, South Wales on 25 March 1807). William James produced the plans for the railway, which was six miles long and was built at a cost of £83,000.
At first, trains were operated by stationary winding engines up the inclined planes and by a locomotive for the rest of the journey. The locomotive used was the Invicta, an 0-4-0 inclined cylinder tender locomotive built by Robert Stephenson of Newcastle for £635, which pulled three carriages. After 10 years, Invicta was retired and survived as scrap until restoration began in 1898 and continued intermittently until 1977. The painstaking restoration work was finally completed by the volunteers of the National Railway Museum in York, and the locomotive was returned to Canterbury in time for the 150th anniversary celebrations of the line on May 3, 1980.
Whitstable was once home to the world's oldest railway bridge, but this was demolished in 1970, leaving only Old Bridge Road, which used to pass under it, in commemoration.
The world's first season tickets were issued for this line: they were sold to Canterbury passengers travelling to the beach at Whitstable for the summer season.
About 40% of the line has now been reopened as a footpath and cycleway under the stewardship of a local charity, the Crab and Winkle Line Trust. Plans exist to extend the path along the old line into the centre of Whitstable to the harbour.
Whitstable Harbour was built in 1832. An extension of the railway service ran to it until 1953, connecting it to Canterbury and London. There were also small sailing boat ("hoy") and steam ship services from the harbour direct to London for many years into the 20th century. It is still in use today.
A notable feature of Whitstable is The Street, a natural shingle bar to the east of the harbour, that runs out to sea, at right-angles to the coast, for a distance of about half a mile. It is revealed only at low tide - walkers regularly ignore the warning notices on the beach and get cut off by rising tides.
The Great Fire of Whitstable
On the evening of Wednesday, November 16, 1869, Whitstable was devastasted by a huge fire that swept through the closely built area along The Wall, west of the harbour.
Given that the population of the town was a little under 2,000, the disaster that befell the little fishing harbour must have been big news across the region, as the fire drew a crowd of 10,000 spectators.
It was the local coastguard who on November 16 at about 10.45pm spotted flames coming from the roof of a shop. He raised the alarm and a large crowd gathered. Little could be done to prevent the progress of the fire, which burst through the roof and spread to other parts of the building, fanned by a brisk north-easterly wind.
Telegrams and mounted messengers were sent to nearby Canterbury and Faversham calling for such fire engines as were available. Although the Whitstable fire engine had arrived, time was lost in obtaining water and getting the hose into use. The engine was then fouled by sand and seaweed drawn up with seawater from the beach.
Despite the combined efforts of the four fire engines the blaze continued unabated as far as the premises of one Josiah Reeves, mast and block maker, where its further progress was abated by a break between the buildings.
However, winds caused the inferno to be carried into Marine Street, and Harbour Street beyond, causing great damage in the intervening space where almost all the buildings were destroyed.
It was not until nearly eight o'clock the following morning that the fire was extinguished, although firemen stayed for several hours to put out the smouldering embers.
71 buildings were destroyed, of which 25 were houses, the remainder being stores and workshops along the seawall and in Marine Street. Damage is estimated to have been not less than £10,000 and perhaps as much as £13,000.
Source: Robert Goodsall, Whitstable, Seasalter and Swalecliffe, 1938.
Offshore, the Maunsell Forts stand visible from the shoreline. They were constructed during World War II to defend the south coast from Nazi invasion. The forts were made redundant in the late 1950s and used in the 1960s by a pirate radio station. Some now house webservers.
The sea off Whitstable is the site for an offshore windfarm, consisting of 30 wind turbines, each 140 metres high, providing electricity for half the homes in the Canterbury district.