Oyster Walk - Whitstable Harbour

  • Whitstable Harbour was opened in May 1832. It was built as a result of the River Stour silting up and reducing navigation to the sea at Sandwich for the trades of Canterbury.
  • The main trade for nearly a century was the coal run to the north-eastern ports of Newcastle, Sunderland and Seaham. The coal landed at this Harbour lit the hearths of East-Kent and provided the impetus for Whitstable to evolve from the fishing village of its origins.
  • A railroad company was set up to build a Railway line from Canterbury to Whitstable Harbour and the line was completed in 1830. During the two years until the Harbour was finished the railway carried passengers, becoming the first ticketed regular steam powered passenger railway in the world. On the Harbour’s completion, it became the world’s first passenger railway connected port.
  • It also issued the first railway tickets and season tickets. Since the railway was also used to transport oysters, fish and shellfish to market in London, and the line soon became known as the Crab and Winkle Railway.
  • The East gate of the harbour is where this railway line crossed the road, then split up into multiple tracks along each of the quays enable access for cargo to be loaded or unloaded from ships in the harbour. At the junctions of the quays turntables were used to turn the trucks 90 degrees to move along the next quay.
  • The junction of the Harbour South and East Quays, near the Bretts’ Aggregate plant, is known locally as Deadman’s Corner because the eddy currents deposit everything here that is brought in with the tide. Aggregate is shipped in from France.
  • The South Quay not only provides for mooring of larger boats like the Sailing Barge “Greta”, based here in the summer for trips to the Sea Forts, Wind Farm and viewing seals on the mud flats in the Estuary, but forms an important part of the Sea Defences of the town.
  • If you look inland behind the Harbour you can see the level of most of central Whitstable. This Quay also houses the Huts that make up the Harbour Market, with an eclectic offering of food and art.
  • Stephenson’s “Invicta” steam engine, similar to the “Rocket”, was built to transport goods to and from the Harbour and Canterbury but was not powerful enough to cope with all the gradients on the line, so static steam powered engines were constructed to pull the engine by ropes at these points, including one on the East Quay.
  • The railway line was closed in 1952, but was used again briefly in 1953 to carry troops and supplies to Whitstable in the aftermath of the East Coast Flood, which resulted in a total flooding of the lower areas of Whitstable.
  • The Whitstable Marine shop by the West gate of the harbour was once the stables that housed the horses used for pulling trucks along the railway lines on the quays.