Herne Bay is a seaside town in Kent, South East England, with a population of 35,000. On the south coast of the Thames Estuary, it is north of Canterbury and east of Whitstable. It neighbours the ancient villages of Herne and Reculver and is part of the City of Canterbury local government district. Herne Bay's seafront is home to the world's first freestanding purpose-built clock tower, built in 1837; until 1978, the town had the second-longest pier in the United Kingdom.
The town began as a small shipping community, receiving goods and passengers from London en route to Canterbury and Dover. The town rose to prominence as a seaside resort during the early 19th century after the building of a pleasure pier and promenade by a group of London investors, and reached its heyday in the late Victorian era. Its popularity as a holiday destination has declined over the past decades, due to the increase in foreign travel and regular flooding that has prevented the town's redevelopment. However, the recent renovation of the sea defences and seafront is expected to re-establish the town as a popular seaside resort.
One of the oldest buildings in Herne Bay is the late 18th-century inn, The Ship, which served as the focal point for the small shipping and farming community which first inhabited the town. During this time, passenger and cargo boats regularly ran between Herne Bay and London, and boats carrying coal ran from Newcastle. From Herne there was easy access by road to the city of Canterbury, or to Dover, where further passage by boat could then be obtained across the English Channel to France.
The 1801 census recorded Herne Bay, including Herne, as having a population of 1,232. During the early 1800s, a smugglers' gang operated from the town. The gang were regularly involved in a series of fights with the preventive services until finally being overpowered in the 1820s. In the 1830s, a group of London investors, who recognised Herne Bay's potential as a seaside resort, built a wooden pier and a promenade on the town's seafront. This and the subsequent building of a railway station led to the rapid expansion of the town; between 1831 and 1841 the town's population grew from 1,876 to 3,041. The London businessmen intended to rename the town St Augustine's, but the name was unpopular with residents and the "Herne Bay" remained. In 1833, an Act of Parliament established Herne Bay and Herne as separate towns. Local landowner Sir Henry Oxenden donated a piece of ground for the site of the town's first church, Christ Church, which was opened in 1834. In 1837, Mrs Ann Thwaytes, a wealthy lady from London, donated around £4,000 to build a clock tower on the town's seafront. It is believed to be the first freestanding purpose built clock tower in the world.
During the 1840s, steamboats began running between Herne Bay and London. There was a type of beach boat unique to Herne Bay and nearby Thanet, known as the Thanet wherry, a narrow pulling boat about long. These boats were mainly used for fishing; however, with the advent of tourism and the decline of fishing, they became mainly used for pleasure trips. A document dated 1840 records the town as having the following schools, all of which are now defunct: Haddington boarding school, Oxenden House, British School, Prospect Place and Herne Street school. The village of Herne was often called Herne Street around this time. The same document also mentions the still-existing Rodney Head, The Ship and Upper Red Lion inns.
The original wooden pier had to be dismantled in 1871 after its owners went into liquidation and sea worms had damaged the wood. A shorter long iron pier with a theatre and shops at the entrance was built in 1873. However, it was too short for steamboats to land at. The pier proved to be unprofitable and a replacement longer iron pier with an electric tram began to be built in 1896. At , this pier was the second longest in the country, behind only the pier at Southend-on-Sea.
The town's heyday as a seaside resort was during the late Victorian era; the population nearly doubled from 4,410 to 8,442 between 1881 and 1901. Much of the resulting late Victorian seafront architecture is still in existence today. In 1910, a pavilion was added to the landward end of the pier. In 1912, the first "Brides in the Bath" murder by George Joseph Smith was committed in Herne Bay. By 1931, the town's population had grown to 14,533. At the beginning of World War II, the army cut two gaps between the landward end of the pier and the seaward terminal as a counter-invasion measure. The pier was restored however after the war. During World War II, a sea-fort was built off the coast of Herne Bay and Whitstable, which is still in existence. The coastal village of Reculver, to the east of Herne Bay, was the site of the testing of the bouncing bomb used by the "Dam Busters" during the war.
1963 marked the end of steamboat services from the pier. In 1970, a fire destroyed the pier's pavilion and plans began to replace it with a sports centre, which was opened in 1976 by former Prime Minister Edward Heath. The centre section of the pier was torn down by a storm in 1978, leaving the end of the pier isolated out at sea. It has not been rebuilt due to the cost; however, residents and businesses in the town have campaigned for its restoration.
Herne Bay, along with Whitstable and Canterbury, is in the City of Canterbury local government district. The town contains the five electoral wards of Heron, Herne and Broomfield, Greenhill and Eddington, West Bay and Reculver. These wards have thirteen of the fifty seats on the Canterbury City Council. As at the 2007 local elections, eight of those seats were held by the Conservatives and five by the Liberal Democrats.
The landscape of the town has been largely influenced by the Plenty Brook, which flows northward through the centre of the town and into the sea. It is thought to have been a much larger stream in ancient times. The coastline has two distinct bays, separated by a jut of land created by silt from the outflow of the brook into the sea. The first buildings in the town were built along the east bay, a short distance from the brook outflow, where the road from Canterbury met the sea. The town has since spread across both bays, across the Plenty Brook valley and onto the relatively high land flanking both sides of the valley. The land to the east of the valley reaches a height of above sea level and to the west reaches . Cliffs are formed where this high land meets the sea.
The rising land beside the coast, between the valley and the eastern cliffs, is known as 'The Downs' (no relation to the North or South Downs). This area has been named a Site of Scientific Interest and a Special Protection Area for Birds. The whole of the north east Kent coast has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The geology of the town consists mainly of London Clay, overlaid with brickearth in the west. The sand and clay of The Downs are subject to landslips.
The Plenty Brook now passes through the town's drainage system, allowing buildings to be built over the top. The brook has been prone to flooding during heavy rain, especially in inland areas, which regularly causes problems for people living in the Eddington area in southern Herne Bay.
Stormy weather can cause the sea level by the coast to rise by up to two metres. In the past, this has caused disastrous flooding in the town, the worst in the town's history being in 1953. Coastal defences were subsequently constructed including groynes, sea walls and shingle beach. In the 1990s, these defences were deemed to be inadequate and an offshore breakwater, now known as Neptune's Arm, was built to protect the most vulnerable areas of the town.
In east Kent, the warmest time of the year is July and August, when maximum temperatures average around 21 °C (70 °F); the coolest months are January and February, when minimum temperatures average around 1 °C (34 °F). East Kent's average maximum and minimum temperatures are around 1/2 °C higher than the national average. Herne Bay is sometimes warmer than other parts of Kent as it is backed by the North Downs to the south. Between 1999 and 2005, Herne Bay recorded the highest daily temperature in the United Kingdom nine times. East Kent's average annual rainfall is about 728 mm (29 inches), the wettest months being October to January. This was lower than the national average annual rainfall of 838 mm (33 inches), and recent droughts have led to hosepipe bans by Mid Kent Water.
For average temperature and rainfall figures, see Wye Weather Station, which is around southwest of Herne Bay.
|Herne Bay Compared|
|2001 UK census||Herne Bay||Canterbury District||England|
|Over 65 years old||22%||19%||16%|
Of the town's 14,732 households, 48.7% were married couples living together, 8.4% were cohabiting couples and 8.3% were lone parents. 30.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 20.5% had someone living alone at pensionable age. 27.7% of households included children aged under 16 or a person aged 16 to 18 who was in full-time education. The average household size was 2.74.
The ethnicity of the town was 98.5% white, 0.6% mixed race, 0.4% Asian, 0.2% black and 0.3% Chinese or other. The place of birth of residents was 96.3% United Kingdom, 0.6% Republic of Ireland, 0.3% Germany, 0.6% other Western Europe countries, 0.2% Eastern Europe, 0.6% Africa, 0.3% Far East, 0.3% South Asia, 0.2% Middle East, 0.2% North America and 0.2% Oceania. Religion was recorded as 77.3% Christian, 0.3% Muslim, 0.2% Hindu, 0.2% Buddhist, 0.1% Jewish and 0.1% Sikh. 14.2% were recorded as having no religion, 0.3% had an alternative religion and 7.4% didn't state their religion.
For every 100 females, there were 89.9 males. The age distribution was 6% aged 0–4 years, 14% aged 5–15 years, 4% aged 16–19 years, 29% aged 20–44 years, 25% aged 45–64 years and 22% aged 65 years and over. The town had a high percentage of residents over 65, compared with the national average of 16%. As a seaside town, Herne Bay is a popular retirement destination; many modern retirement complexes are located near the seafront.
The economic activity of residents aged 16–74 was 36% in full-time employment, 13% in part-time employment, 9% self-employed, 3% unemployed, 2% students with jobs, 3% students without jobs, 18% retired, 7% looking after home or family, 6% permanently sick or disabled and 2% economically inactive for other reasons. This was roughly in line with the national figures, except for the number of people in retirement. This figure nationally was significantly lower at 14%. Of the town's residents aged 16–74, 12% had a higher education qualification or the equivalent, compared with 20% nationwide. According to Office for National Statistics estimates, during the period of April 2001 to March 2002 the average gross weekly income of households in the Herne Bay area was £516 (£26,906 per year).
The advent of overseas travel and changes to holiday trends eventually caused the town's economy to decline after the 1960s; regular flooding of the Plenty Brook prevented redevelopment of the town centre. However, extensive seafront regeneration in the 1990s followed the creation of the Neptune's Arm sea defence jetty. The jetty has created a small harbour used by leisure boats and from where tourists can take sailing yacht trips to a seal-watching site in the Thames estuary. The Victorian gardens on the seafront were then able to be fully restored. The Central Bandstand, built in 1924, was refurbished after years of disrepair and closure to the public. A swimming pool and cinema were added to the town centre in the early 1990s. In 2005, a wind-farm with thirty 2.75 MW wind turbines was built off the coast of Herne Bay and Whitstable, generating a total of 82.5 MW of electricity. The recent upgrades by the Council have helped improve the image of the town and raise its profile. It is hoped this will attract new investment in tourism and business by the private sector, and lead to the regeneration of the town's economy.
In 2006, Canterbury City Council began a public consultation to discuss the regeneration. A concern raised by the council is that the shopping centre is incoherent and fails to attract the tourists that come for the seafront. Other issues raised are the lack of holiday accommodation, car parks and clear pedestrian routes between the three main attractions in the town: the seafront, Memorial park and shopping centre. The council is considering relocating the sports centre from the pier and replacing it with other tourist attractions.
As of the 2001 census, the industry of employment of residents of Herne Bay was 19% retail, 14% health and social work, 11% manufacturing, 10% construction, 9% real estate, 8% education, 8% transport and communications, 5% public administration, 5% hotels and restaurants, 4% finance, 1% agriculture and 5% other community, social or personal services. Compared to national figures, the town had a relatively high number of workers in the construction and health/social care industries and a relatively low number in manufacturing and real estate. Many residents commute to work outside the town. As of the 2001 UK census, 14,711 of the town's residents were in employment, whereas there were only 8,104 jobs within the town.
One of the largest employers is the centrally located supermarket, which as of January 2006 was considering further expansion. It is one of the major attractions to the town's shopping centre, however there are fears that its expansion could lead it to become too dominant, at the cost of smaller shops in the town. Apart from tourism and retail, many jobs are also provided in the manufacturing industry, mainly located in industrial estates on the outskirts of the town, which produce goods such as kitchen furniture and factory machinery. A high number of construction jobs have been created by redevelopment of the seafront, which is expected to continue with the proposed regeneration of the town centre. The elderly population of the town has led to many health and social care jobs at local care homes and at the town's Queen Victoria Memorial Hospital. As of the 2001 census, 1.9% of the town's population resided in a medical or care establishment, compared with the national average of only 0.8%.
The Memorial Park, situated near the centre of the town, incorporates a children's play area, a large shallow duck pond often used for remote control boats, basketball and tennis courts and a large expanse of grass for field games. The park has a monument and an 'Avenue of Remembrance' as memorials to the town's residents killed during the two world wars.
Reculver Country Park is home to the cliff top Reculver Towers, the remains of the 12th century St Mary's Church and its distinctive twin towers. The park also contains the remains of a Roman fort, the remains of a Saxon church, a migrating-bird watching spot and an information centre on the geology, history and wildlife of this area of the coast. Located on the main road between Herne Bay and Canterbury, Wildwood Discovery Park features over fifty species of native British animals, such as deer, badgers, wild boar and wolves.
Herne Mill, a late-18th century Kentish smock mill overlooking the village of Herne from a hilltop, is usually open to visitors on Sunday afternoons between April and September. A concrete funnel-shaped water tower overlooks Herne Bay from the top of Mickleburgh Hill. This water tower is now used as a base for radio transmitters.
Herne Bay railway station is on the Chatham Main Line, which runs between Ramsgate in East Kent and London Victoria. Other stations on this line include Broadstairs, Margate, Whitstable, Faversham, Gillingham, Rochester and Bromley South. Herne Bay is around 1 hour and 30 minutes from London by fast-service train. A National Express coach service also runs between London Victoria and Ramsgate, around every two to three hours during daytime. A selection of trains run to London's Cannon Street station, primarily for business commuting.
There is the Stagecoach bus services 4/4A/4B/6/6A/6B (branded as 'The Triangle') running every 10 minutes to neighbouring Whitstable and to Canterbury, where many Herne Bay residents go to work and shop. An hourly bus service 36 runs to the seaside resort of Margate, to the east of Herne Bay. The A299 road, also known as the Thanet Way, runs between Ramsgate and Faversham via Herne Bay and Whitstable. The road merges with the M2 motorway at Faversham. In the late 1990s, the road was converted into a dual carriageway and redirected to avoid passing through urban areas of Herne Bay and Whitstable.
Herne Bay's secondary school is the modern Herne Bay High. It is a mixed ability foundation school with about 1,500 students. In 2002, Herne Bay High was designated a specialist school and sports college. In 2005, 14% of the school's pupils gained at least five GCSEs at grades A*–C including English and maths, ranking it 107th out of Kent's 120 secondary schools. Many students commute to schools in other nearby towns, especially to the grammar schools in Faversham, Ramsgate and Canterbury.
Herne Bay Junior School, situated in the town centre, has about 500 students. It was originally established in the late Victorian era and was formerly joined with the neighbouring Herne Bay Infant School. In 2006, Herne Bay Junior School's Key Stage 2 results ranked 139th out of Kent's 386 state primary schools. There are two smaller primary schools in the town centre: St Philip Howard Catholic School and Grosvenor House. The latter is a school for pupils permanently excluded from mainstream schooling.
The village schools are Herne Primary School, Herne Church Of England Junior School, Herne Church Of England Infant and Nursery School, Briary Primary School in Greenhill, Hampton Primary School and Reculver Church Of England Primary School. The voluntary controlled Church of England schools are owned by the church but like the other schools, are run by Kent County Council. In 2006, Reculver Church Of England Primary School achieved the best Key Stage 2 performances of the schools in the Herne Bay area, ranking 133rd out of Kent's 386 state primary schools.
Canterbury College @ Herne Bay is a branch of Canterbury College in Herne Bay town centre, which provides a range of short information technology courses to adults. Whitstable Adult Education Centre runs adult learning courses at various Herne Bay locations.
Herne Bay Festival happens every August with ten days of free events including live music, performance, creative commissions, cultural treats, family fun, workshops, competitions, walks, talks, exhibitions and family entertainment.
Other summer events include Happy Days - a programme of bandstand concerts and family entertainment, Herne Bay Carnival through the town centre, a travelling funfair at the Memorial Park and Herne Bay Bus Rally.
Each summer, the council runs a gardening competition, "Herne Bay in Bloom", which encourages residents and businesses to keep the town looking well presented.
There are several community drama groups, such as "Theatrecraft", which produces three shows a year, including an annual pantomime at the Kings Hall theatre. Other groups regularly hold productions at the "Little Theatre", and the open-air "Theatre In The Park" on the grounds of Strode Park House in Herne. The town's only cinema, the "Kavanagh", is part of a Greco-inspired building that incorporates the Heron's swimming pool and the council offices. There are a number of drinking venues, especially in the town centre and on the seafront. There are nightclubs, social clubs and many pubs, including one in the recently renovated seafront bandstand.
Herne Bay Hockey Club, Greenhill Gymnastics Club, Herne Bay Cricket Club and Herne Bay Youth Football Club are located at Herne Bay High School, a specialist sports college. The hockey club runs a ladies' team and five men's team, the highest of which plays in the Kent Sussex Regional 1st XI League. Herne Bay Cricket Club runs two junior teams, a men's Sunday team and two men's Saturday teams; the Saturday teams play in the Kent Cricket Feeder League East.
Herne Bay Youth Football Club has 22 teams, and over 320 players aged 6 to 18. Four teams play in the Kent Youth League and the remainder in the East Kent Youth Mini Soccer & 11 a Side Leagues.
Herne Bay Tennis Club is situated on the outskirts of town and runs multiple teams in the Kent League, East Kent League and Dover & District League. Their facilities include four all-weather courts (two floodlit), up to six astroturf courts and a purpose built clubhouse. The club offers junior coaching and runs regular club nights for players of all ages and abilities.
Herne Bay Basketball Club runs teams for men, women and juniors in the East Kent Basketball League. But hasn't had many tournaments for the juniors since few come Herne Bay Golf Club has an eighteen-hole course on the outskirts of the town. The Memorial Park contains a sports field, eight tennis courts and a basketball court which can be used free of charge. Herne Bay Bowling Club is situated next to the Memorial Park and hosts several lawn bowls Open Tournaments each year.
There is a council owned sports centre on the pier, with a rink used for roller-skating and roller hockey. The centre has table tennis, badminton and squash courts, a solarium, a gymnasium and a crèche. There is another privately owned gymnasium in the town centre. Herne Bay Judo Club is located near the railway station and the same venue also holds clubs for table tennis and badminton. There are also two other table-tennis clubs in the town. Bujinkai karate classes are held at Herne Bay Junior School.
The town is the founder of the Roller Hockey sport with the "Herne Bay Roller Hockey club" being the first to exist in the world.
Since 1994, the Herne Bay/Wimereux Twinning Association has aimed to promote friendship between the people of the two towns by organising activities, such as cycling trips and quiz evenings. Herne Bay and Waltrop have been twinned since 1976, although as at February 2007, their twinning association was not in operation. However, Herne Bay Rowing Club promote friendship with the Waltrop rowing club by organising rowing events and visiting in each other's towns.
During the late 1960s, many successful rock and jazz bands were formed around the city of Canterbury, creating a subgenre of music known as the Canterbury sound. Some of these musicians were residents of Herne Bay, including Dave Sinclair and Richard Coughlan of Caravan, and Kevin Ayers of Soft Machine. George W. M. Reynolds, one of the most popular British authors of the early Victorian era, moved to Herne Bay in 1854 and became one of the town's Improvement Commissioners. Héctor García Ribeyro, the Mayor of Lima in Peru during the 1950s, had part of his schooling at the now defunct Herne Bay International School. Colin Dixon, the depot manager held hostage with his family during the £53 million Securitas depot robbery of February 2006, lived in Herne Bay at the time.