a modest town,Whitstable boasts many innovations. The first scheduled
Passenger railway ran between Whitstable and Canterbury. The first steam-ship
to sail between Britain and Australia left from Whitstable in 1837.
helmet was invented here. The first sea cadet unit was formed here. And
the country's first council houses were constructed here.
The oysters have been around for
much longer than man of course, and it's known that the Romans, probably
enjoyed them. They have been cultivated since medieval times and the "Whitstable
Native" has long been the favourite of gourmets.
Victorian times the industry supported 100 sailing smacks which dredged
60 million molluscs in one year. The remains of one of these sturdy craft,
can still be seen in a garden along the shore. Wheelers
oyster-bar is a survivor of those days.
When the Romans left Britain, others
moved in most notably the Saxons. They gave the town the name of Witanstaple,
which means "an assembly of wise men in the market". Over the
years this became Whitstable.
In Norman times the tower of All Saints Church
was built, an important navigational aid for medieval sailors.
Ownership of the Whitstable Manor during the 1300s was a kiss of death.
was executed for murder.
de Badlesmere was
hanged at nearby Blean for rebellion against
II. Robert deVere was
also convicted of treason. During these times the town was hit by the
black death and a major earthquake.
who was given the manor by HenryVlll,fared
nobetter. He was executed by "bloody"Mary
for supporting Lady
Jane Grey's claim
to the throne.
has a curious industrial history.
was carried out 700 years ago by immersingV shaped wooded structures,
called weirs or kedles,in the sea bed off Seasalter.
As the tide went out, fish became trapped. Later, more conventional methods
took over, and fish were taken to markets at Canterbury and Billingsgate.
times, salt was reclaimed from the sea by evaporation in vast shallow
pans, a process which gave Seasalter its name. The industry continued
Iron pyrites deposits in the Whitstable area gave rise to the manufacture
of copperas. These green crystals were used for fixing dyes, making ink,
tanning and early medicines.
Whitstable has supported a boat building and repairing industry from its
earliest days. In 1850 there were 18 slipways. Ship repair work was undertaken
during the First World War, and ships' lifeboats and other small vessels
were built during the second. Nowadays the industry is concentrated on
The harbour was the first in Britain
to have a railway link. Coal and timber were unloaded here from the 1830s
until early this century. Timber is imported, from the Baltic States.
Stone is imported from around the UK and northern France.
There were also unofficial trades, most notably that of smuggling
which was carried out on a large scale in the 1700s. It led to many battles
with revenue officers. In 1780 there was a pitched battle on Borstal hill
between smugglers and a troop of Dragoons who had seized a consignment
of gin. Two soldiers were killed, and controversy still surrounds the
execution of a young man, executed and later hung in chains for their
An interesting twist to the smuggling
trade came at the time of the Napoleonic War. French
prisoners of war, kept in appalling conditions in hulks offshore, were
helped to escape and found passages back to France. So knowledgeable were
the Whitstable sailors of the French shoreline, that they were consulted
by Nelson, in the planningof his campaigns.