Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
See also Herne Bay, New Zealand.
|Region:||South East England|
The name is sometimes said to be derived from the herons that frequented the salt-water shallows between the town and neighbouring Whitstable, known as Swalecliffe. However, Herne Bay is etymologically a place on a "corner of land". It comes from the Old English hyrne ("angle, corner") and was first recorded in about 1100 as Hyrnan. This may relate to the sharp turn in the Roman Road from Canterbury to Reculver at Herne. The village,which gave its name to the parish, is two miles inland and in 1831 the parish (including Herne Bay) contained 1876 inhabitants. The tower of Herne Church was maintained as a lighthouse for three centuries and the firebasket remains stored in the top chamber of the tower.
From Herne Bay operated a smugglers' gang, who in 1820 were to become involved with a series of fights, before finally being overpowered by the prevention service.
Herne Bay came into prominence during the late Victorian era as a seaside resort. Thus much of the seafront architecture is late Victorian. Its shingle beach and "easy" tides have always been popular and until the main iron pier of the town was destroyed by the great storm of 1982-3, Herne Bay was popular with beach-pier fishermen.
Long before tourism Herne was a beach landing point for local commerce, but the coast of Herne bay is noticeably straight and the romantic definition 'bay' seems to have been added during the Victorian development of the town to give holidaymakers coming by railway from London the impression of a desirable location, and indicating Kent's convenient position as a route to the continent. From 1747 a passenger service by boat regularly landed on Herne beach from London. From Herne there was easy access across Kent by stagecoach to Dover or Thanet where further passage by boat could then be obtained across the Channel.
The Incorporated Herne Bay Pier Company built the pier and promenade, extending three-quarters of a mile over the sands and sea; where steam packets and other vessels once embarked with land passengers and goods, at all times of the tide. An esplanade extending for a mile along the seafront of the town was added in 1837 by the same company. In That year, at a cost of about £4,000 donated Mrs Ann Thwaites of London, a 75ft clock tower was added to the seafront. Sir Henry Oxenden also gave a piece of ground for the site of a new church.
During the 1840s regular transport between Herne Bay and Canterbury left the seafront every morning at nine, summer and winter; coaches and omnibuses ran daily, and on the arrival of the steam packets, these would take passingers as far afield as Deal, Dover, Sandgate and Hythe. Conveyance by water was provided from London Margate and Ramsgate with several steam vessels calling off Herne Bay daily.
The landward end of the pier and the seaward terminal are now separated by a half-mile stretch of water, the middle section having been demolished by the Army as a counter-invasion measure at the beginning of World War 2.
Thanet and Herne Bay both had a type of beach boat unique to the area, known as the Thanet Wherry, a narrow pulling boat of about 18ft long much used for fishing and with the advent of tourism for pleasure trips.
Extensive seafront regeneration in the 1990s followed the creation of a sea defence jetty to protect low-lying areas of the town which were subject to flooding. Neptune's Arm, as it is called, lies a short way out to sea in the central area and has created a small harbour used by working and leisure boats. The Victorian gardens on the seafront were then able to be fully restored and local businesses are campaigning for the full restoration of the pier.
The town museum contains many historic photographs on the effects of storms and flooding on the area. The Victorian bandstand is now home to the Herne Bay Information Centre.
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