From Academic Kids

Region:South East England
Country:United Kingdom
Ceremonial County:Kent
Traditional County:Kent
Postal County:Kent

Template:GBdot Whitstable is a town in Kent, England with a population of 30,000. It is a seaside resort, situated 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.


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 Fisheries 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 takes place during the summer.

The world's first steam-hauled passenger railway

In 1830 the world's first steam-hauled passenger railway opened (the first true passenger railway was opened on Swansea Bay, South Wales on 25 March 1807), linking the town with the cathedral city of Canterbury. It was William James who produced the plans for a railway from Canterbury to Whitstable, six miles long, and it was built at a cost of 83,000 and opened on May 3, 1830. Trains were first operated by stationary winding engines up the inclined planes and by a locomotive for the rest of the journey.

The Canterbury and Whitstable line was operated on by 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 during the 1970s. Whitstable harbour was built in 1832 and incorporated in Kent's first passenger railway service, locally known as the Crab and Winkle line, which ran from Canterbury to London by means of a steam ship passage from the harbour.

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 developments

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.

More recently, the Whitstable coast is set to be the site for an offshore windfarm, consisting of thirty 140-metre-high wind turbines, providing electricity for half of the homes in the Canterbury district.

Additional Information

Details about Invicta: Arthur Nicklin: Kentish Yesterdays no.3 1980.

The town's first official football match took place in 1885, and under the name Whitstable United the club played against the Whitstable College. Regular matches were held on a Friday at "Mr Saddleton's field", near the railway station, until the club obtained a home, named the Belmont ground from 1888. A century on, and the club now known as Whitstable Town (http://www.whitstabletownfc.co.uk/) is still competing against its local rivals on the North Kent coast.

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