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History of Herne Bay

Herne comes from the Anglian word 'Hyrne' meaning an 'Angle, a corner'; therefore, an ‘angle or corner of land’. The suffix ‘bay’ distinguishes the coastal area from the village.

Originally, Herne Bay belonged to the village of Herne as an important outlet for trade to and from Canterbury and its surrounding area; Herne village acted as the control for goods passing through the bay to the city.

Until early in the 19th century, Herne Bay existed as a small fishing community with an inn and a few fishermen’s cottages. Then in the 1830’s a group of developers built a pleasure pier and promenade to attract tourists from the paddle steamers that past back and forth between London and Margate. They wanted to call the resort St Augustines, however, public opinion insisted the name remained unchanged as confirmed in 1833, when an Act of Parliament separated Herne Bay from Herne.

The original wooden pier suffered from sea worms, resulting in a replacement with a shorter iron construction. Unfortunately, at only 328feet the steamboats could not land. A third pier, at 3600 feet, carried an electric tram running its length, theatre and shops. The army cut two gaps in it at the start of WWII to prevent its use by an invasion force. Steamboat services ceased in 1963, and the final blow came in 1978 when a storm destroyed the centre section.  

Mrs Ann Thwaites donated £4,000 in 1837 for the construction of 75 feet, clock tower on the seafront - the first freestanding, purpose built, clock tower in the world.

John Bough built a church in Herne Bay, which opened in 1834/5. In 1837, he sold it to Thomas Wilson who attempted to unite all worshippers. With the experiment not succeeding, he sold the building to the Church of England in 1839. The Archbishop of Canterbury subsequently dedicated it to Christ Church on 13 October 1840. A small bell purchased from the Herne Bay old pier hung in the church at that time. In 1895, Samuel B Goslin cast a new larger replacement bell.

Herne Bay railway station opened on the London, Chatham and Dover Railway’s route from London to Dover - built in sections, and not arriving in Dover until 1 November 1861 – on 13 July 1861…. more