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Feb 13

Herne Bay Culture Trail

The Herne Bay culture trail is an opportunity to find the historical and general places of interest in the town. Points of interest include the statue of Sir Barnes Neville Wallis, designer of the bouncing bomb, a large mural depicting famous people who have lived or been associated with the town and the notorious Ship Inn. Start at the historical mural in William Street and finish at Herne Bay Railway Station.

1)  Historic Mural

This shows the how the Bronze-age site at Long Rock, Hampton may have looked. Reculver Towers, a traditional Victorian seaside scene, the bouncing bomb trials held by Barnes Wallis and Guy Gibson all depicted the history of Herne Bay.

Penny Bearman a professional mural artist was commissioned to produce the mural.

2)  Herne Bay Museum

This bright and modern museum highlights the history of the Victorian seaside resort of Herne Bay and its surrounding area. Themes include seaside holidays and attractions, the town’s piers and the development of the resort.

Find out about the town’s famous clock tower (once the tallest in the country) and have your photo taken through a traditional seaside Aunt Sally! Exciting finds from the nearby Roman fort and Saxon church of Reculver are also on display, as are important fossils from the local area, including mammoth tusks. Fossilised sharks teeth can be discovered by searching through a hands-on sorting tray, a very popular activity with children.

Also on display is a prototype of the famous Barnes Wallis bouncing bomb from the Second World War. These weapons used in the historic Dambuster raids were tested off Reculver.

3)  The Ship Inn

The Ship Inn, with its history traceable from the eighteenth century, stands where the road from Canterbury reaches the shore. It was here that wagons loaded with farm produce went down to the beach at low tide and their produce would be loaded onto “Hoys” – a type of barge, for transport to the Medway towns and London. These boats would then return with cinders and other waste such as small pieces of coal, cinders and ash, left from the production of bricks, as well as the dung from the thousands of London stables for fertilizing the surrounding farms.

The Ship was an essential watering place for the men employed in the trade because water was generally unsafe to drink. A few yards to the east were the seawater baths and bathing machines, which were coming into fashion.

By 1800, when the whole country was under the threat of a Napoleonic invasion, a battery of guns and a squadron of mounted troops were stationed on the Downs, and to provide a place of entertainment for these men, a weather boarded assembly room was added to the inn.

In those days it was common practice to smuggle brandy, gin, lace, tea and tobacco, and it was here that on April 21st 1881, midshipman Sydenham Snow, who was in charge of the Coastal Blockade Service in Herne Bay, chanced upon a group of men running a cargo. With consummate bravery he challenged them with his pistol, which subsequently misfired and he, himself, shot down. He died three days later from his wounds and is buried at the foot of the tower at St Martin’s church, Herne. Nobody was ever found guilty of the crime.

4)  Statue of Sir Barnes Wallis

Sir Barnes Neville Wallis was born the son of a doctor on 26 September 1887 in Ripley, Derbyshire. Sir Barnes Wallis worked first at a marine engineering firm and in 1913 he moved to Vickers, where he designed airships, including the R100.

In 1930 Wallis transferred to working on aircraft. His achievements included the first use of geodesic design in engineering, which was used in his development of the Wellesley and Wellington bombers. When World War Two began in 1939, Wallis was Assistant Chief Designer at Vickers Aviation section. Sir Barnes Wallis went onto design the bouncing bomb, where he held the trials off of the shores of Herne Bay.

Tom White, the world renowned sculpture from Maine in the USA has created the life-size statue of Sir Barnes Wallis in bronze.

5)  The Kings Hall

The Kings Hall is an architectural gem, captivating visitors with its original Edwardian features and idyllic seafront views.


It was originally named the King Edward VII Memorial Hall, and was opened on 10 July 1913 by Her Royal Highness, Princess Henry of Batternberg, on behalf of Queen Alexandra.

6)  A Postcard from Herne Bay mural

The mural shows the style in which postcards and British Rail posters we designed to promote Herne Bay in the 1950’s. Examples of these can be found in the Herne Bay Museum.

7)  History of Smugglers and Barges

The development of Herne Bay as a town didn’t start until 1814, but coastal trade in the form of barge traffic and fishing flourished long before. This was thanks to the ease in which heavy goods could be transferred from horse-drawn vehicles to sailing craft on the flat sands at low tide. Moreover, owing to the lack of habitation, smuggling, proved to be an even better business.
Because of the embargo on the export of the finest wool in the world (English Wool) for the duration of the wars with France, and the increasing taxation of spirits, lace, tobacco and tea, it became a lucrative pastime to bypass the revenue men.
There was, of course, a two-way trade in the business; wool was one, and a strange export – escaped French prisoners of war. It was recorded that the same Frenchmen passed through the area no less than three times.

In 1809, seven French prisoners escaped from Chatham, two of whom stole a boat at Herne Bay and made their way to Reculver, where they stole a larger boat to take them to Margate – where customs officers apprehended them.
In March of 1821, a band of between fifty and sixty smugglers bound and gagged the sentry at the coastal blockade station (at the seaward end of Albany Drive) then proceeded to land the cargo of a French galley before their captives’ eyes

8)   Victorian Clock Tower

Herne Bay’s Clock tower is surely the most striking piece of architecture in the town. It was the gift of a widow, and great benefactor to the town, Mrs Ann Thwaytes.

The foundation stone was laid on the 3rd October 1836, and the tower, with a brick interior and Portland stone cladding was completed by October 5th 1837.
It stands some 82 feet high to the weather vane, and cost some £4000.

9)  Central Bandstand

The Central Bandstand was original built in 1924 and refurbished in the 1990’s.

The Bandstand has been the home of traditional seaside entertainment, Brass Bands, Tea dances and children’s entertainers such as Punch and Judy.

10)  Waltrop Gardens

Facing Telford Terrace is a quaisi Victorian sunken garden, erected to celebrate the twinning of Waltrop and Herne Bay.

The sundial on the seaward side is a gift from Waltrop, designed by the burgermeister Herr Jochen Mungner. In the centre of the garden is a Portland stone fountain given to the town in 1888 by London Alderman Col. Horatio Davies, who became Lord Mayor of London.

(This fountain was originally located near the clock tower).

11)  World Air Speed Record

On 7 November 1945 Group Captain H.J Wilson set a world air speed record of 606.25 miles per hour in a Gloster Meteor F 4. The record was completed between East Cliffs and Reculver Towers.

12) Herne Bay Pier

George Burge, a well known contractor, had been working with Thomas Telford on St Katharine’s dock in London, so when the idea of a pier or a landing stage was suggested for Herne Bay, he asked Telford to design such a structure. A survey, dated November 1830, bears the signature of Thomas Rhodes, as well as Telford.


Most significant is that Rhodes had trained at first as a carpenter; therefore the structure was destined to be made of wood. A subcontractors’ list which still survives shows a total of £47,000 out of their estimated cost of £50,000 being promised . The first pile was driven on July 4th 1831 and the construction proceeded at a rate of some 200ft a month until it reached its conclusion at 3613 feet. The pier lasted around thirty years, but the ravages of the teredo worm and weather caused it to be torn down.

A new short pier, measuring just 320 feet long, replaced it in 1873.

This quickly proved unsatisfactory because steamers could no longer use it.

A third pier, 3787 feet long, was opened on 14th September 1899 complete with a rail track that enabled trams to travel from the pavilion to the head. It prospered up to the outbreak of the Second World War when soldiers posted to Herne Bay to construct defences against possible invasion took out two sections of the pier, one about a third of its length from the shore, and the second at about two thirds along.

By the time it was resurrected for use in peace time, it had suffered so much damage that it was deemed beyond repair. In 1968 insurance was withdrawn and the pier closed. Two days of easterly winds in 1978 completed its demise when high seas smashed so much of the centre section that it had to be demolished.

13)  Mural – Famous faces of Herne Bay

This mural by artist Penny Bearman, celebrates the famous faces of Herne Bay who have either lived or had an association with the town. Some of the faces are of local people past and present.

Can you spot the well-known faces including: John Altman, Dave Lee, Bob Holness, Peter Noone, Nicki Chapman, Ken Russell and Bob Hope?

14)  Herne Bay Memorial Park

The memorial park came into being because the town wanted a suitable memorial to the fallen of the First World War. At the same time, as the town was rapidly expanding in size, a problem arose over the area of marshy rubbish-strewn land bounded by King’s Road, Gordon Road, Station Road and Spenser Road.

As it was not suitable for building, it was decided to turn the whole area into a “Memorial” Park. It would have a lake on its southern side, bowling greens, large grass areas to the north and space for football cricket and tennis, the whole quartered by pedestrian walks and a cycle path. At the crossroads there would stand a granite Memorial Obelisk and opposite a café and public toilets.

From King’s Road an avenue of trees leading through ornate iron gates to the obelisk completed the transformation from salty boggy waste ground to an attractive public park.

15)  Victorian Train Station

Constructed by the Herne Bay and Faversham Railway Company, the station originally opened as “Herne Bay and Hampton-on-Sea” as the terminus of a line from Faversham which was eventually extended to Ramsgate on 5 October 1865.

The line was worked by the London, Chatham and Dover Railway which acquired the Herne Bay Company in 1871.

Goods facilities at the station were limited, consisting of two sidings on the Down side, a goods shed and two loading docks. In 1902 coal sidings were added to the Up side, followed by a private siding to the local gasworks.

The buildings on the Down platform are all that remain of the original station building, as the Up side was reconstructed by the Southern Railway in 1926 as part of its plan to modernise the Thanet Lines.

Electrification took place on 15 June 1959 and the old semaphore signals were replaced by coloured lights. General goods traffic ceased on 16 October 1965, with coal deliveries continuing until 1968.

16)  Brides in the Bath Murders

In 1912, George Joseph Smith, alias Henry Williams, brought his new bride Bessie Mundy to live in Herne Bay for the express purpose of obtaining her monetary legacy, whether by fair means or foul. As history shows, it was the latter. They set up house in the first instance in Kingsbury Villas, Kings Road, but as part of his plan to obtain her money he took a better residence at No 80 the High Street.

The subsequent renumbering of the High Street makes it now No 159. The property was without a bathroom so he had a temporary bath installed in a spare room upstairs, which he purchased from Adolphus Hill, an iron mongers in the High Street, for 37 shillings and six pence (187 and a halfpence)., which was never paid.
He next convinced both his wife and Dr French that his wife suffered from fits that rendered her unconscious, before pulling her under the bath water by her ankles – and saying her death was caused by a fit.
Having obtained the £2,500 of her legacy, he then headed off north, marrying Alice Burnham, then Margaret Lofty. He insured them, put around the “fits” story, then “bath” murdered both of them. It wasn’t until the father of Alice Burnham saw an article in the News of the World about Margaret Lofty’s death that he put two and two together and informed the police of his suspicions. Smith (Williams) was arrested and tried at the Old Bailey for the murder of Bessie Mundy. He was hanged at Maidstone prison on in August 1915.

17)  In Memory of a Young Pilot Blacksole Bridge

Pilot Officer Albert Hugo Friday of 611 Squadron, Royal Air force lost his life on 30th August 1942 close to the bridge, when his Spitfire had catastrophic engine failure and crashed close to Blacksole Bridge