Isle of Sheppey

The Isle of Sheppey is an island off the northern coast of Kent , England in the Thames Estuary , some 46 miles (74 km) to the east of London . It has an area of ​​36 square miles (93 km 2 ). The island forms part of the local government district of Swale . Sheppey is derived from the ancient Saxon “Sceapige”, meaning isle of sheep, and even today the extensive marshes which make up a large proportion of the island.

Today’s island was historically known as “Isles of Sheppey” which were Sheppey itself, the Isle of Harty to the south east and the Isle of Elmley to the south west. Over time the channels between the islands are made to make one continuous island. Sheppey, like much of north Kent is Largely FORMED from London Clay and is a plentiful source of fossils. The Mount near Minster rises to 250 feet (76 meters) above sea level and is the highest point on the island. The rest of Sheppey is low-lying and the southern part of the island is marshy land crisscrossed by inlets and drains.

Some Sheppey inhabitants like to call themselves Swampies , an insult; for others it has become a term of endearment or a sentence for reinforcing identity.

The Swale

Sheppey is separated from the mainland by a channel called the Swale . In concert with the Wantsum Channel That ounce separated the Isle of Thanet from mainland Britain to the east (before it silted over in the late middle ages), and Yantlet Creek at the Isle of Grain to the west, It was occasionally used in ancient times by shipping to and from ports Such as Chatham and London to Reduce exposure to bad weather in the Thames Estuary or North Sea .


The Kingsferry Bridge was first built in 1860, thus eliminating the need for ferries. Over time, there have been four bridges built over the Swale at this point. All bridges had to allow sufficient clearance for shipping to Ridham:

  • 19 July 1860: The London, Chatham and Dover Railway built the first bridge to an Admiralty design. It had a central span between two towers. Trains and road traffic were able to use the two bridges.
  • 6 November 1906: The South Eastern and Chatham Railway replaced the first bridge with one having a “rolling lift” design. It was made by electricity, but later by electricity.
  • October 1959: Kingsferry Bridge , a lift bridge was installed, able to lift both the road and the railway line to allow ships to pass beneath. [1]
  • May 2006: The Sheppey Crossing was completed and opened on 3 July. This four-lane road bridge rises to a height of 95 feet (29m) at high water springsabove the Swale, and carries the A249 trunk road. Pedestrian, animal and bicycle traffic, are still in force, which still provides the most direct link between the island and the Iwade / Lower Halstow area. [2]

On 5 September 2013, fog caused a 130 vehicle pile-up on the Sheppey Crossing Bridge and its northern approach. With eight people seriously hurt, another 30 years of hospitalization and a further diagnosis of “walking wounded”, the incident was the county’s worst road accident in twenty years. [3]


There has been no ferry service of any kind in recent years.

Three ferries have operated between the mainland and the island: one to the west, called the King’s Ferry; one at Elmley ; and another, giving access from Faversham , the Harty Ferry. All had long histories: particularly the last (see external link below). None operate today: the Harty Ferry ceased operation at the start of the First World War , but the slipways at Harty and Elmley can still be seen today. That at Harty is below the Ferry House Inn, while seeing the one at Elmley requires a walk of a mile and a half from the RSPB car park. The South Eastern Railway operates in Sheerness fromPort Victoria railway terminus on the Peninsula Grain for some years. Several ferry services to Southend have also been tried but proved short-lived. An attempt to start a small hovercraft service between the Harty Ferry Inn and Oare Creek near Faversham in 1970 by the then landlord, Ben Fowler, failed after a few days.

A number of continental ferry services have operated from the Isle of Sheppey.

A large ferry terminal was built by the London, Chatham and Dover Railway at Queenborough Pier in 1876 and operated a nightly service to Flushing ( Vlissingen ) in the Netherlands , as well as a German mail service. These services ceased during the First World War but it was used for military traffic. The port there was closed and dismantled in the 1930s. A passenger car and lorry ferry (the Olau Line ) operated to Vlissingen from Sheerness through the 1980s and 1990s.

Sheppey history

The complex of causewayed enclosures at Kingsborough Manor attests to the importance of the island’s high ground During the neolithic while later prehistoric, Roman and medieval occupation has-been found by archaeologists in advance of development at Neat’s Court and St Clements Cofe Primary School in Leysdown. [4]


In 855, Sheppey as part of the kingdom of Wessex , became the winter camp of an occupying Viking force. [5]

Shurland Hall

Shurland Hall, near Eastchurch , is named after its first owners, the De Shurland family. In 1188 Adam of Shurland possessed a mill with more than 1,000 acres (405 ha) of mixed land, mostly marsh with a small meadow: he also has a number of cottages thereabouts.

A curious tale surrounds a 14th-century member of the family, Sir Robert of Shurland. According to legend, Sir Robert killed a monk and resolved to ask the king for forgiveness. In 1327 he rode to where the king’s ship was anchored, off the Isle of Sheppey, and gained forgiveness. Returning, he puts a witch who said that of Shurland’s horse, Gray Dolphin, which would be the death of him. Sir Robert immediately killed the horse and cut off its head. A year later Sir Robert was walking along the shore when his horse pierced his horse. Blood poisoning set and Sir Robert died.

Sir Robert de Shurland aussi possessed the Manor of Ufton in the parish of Tunstall, Kent, in the reign of Edward I . After he attended the prince in Scotland, to the seat of Carlaverock , where he was knighted, and in 1300, he then obtained a charter of free warren for his manor of Ufton. [6]

Shurland died in 1327 leaving behind his daughter Margery who married William the son of Alexander Cheyne of Patrixborne, Kent. To William passed the manor of Shurland. It remained in possession of the Cheyne family until the sixteenth century when it was sold by Sir Henry Cheyne. During the First World War, they were ticketed to the Great Hall, and it was a great result.

Shurland Hall is a Grade II listed building . In 2006 a grant of £ 300,000 was made by English Heritage to restore the lobby’s facade. The Spitalfields Historic Buildings Trust, which was completed in 2011. [7] The house was sold for 1.5 million, and was sold. [8] [9]

Dutch occupation of 1667

Sheppey enjoys the dubious distinction of being white one of FEW parts of what is now the United Kingdom to be (temporarily) lost to a foreign power since William the Conqueror ‘s invasion in 1066 . This was in June 1667, when a Dutch fleet sailing the Thames Estuary for the Medway captured the fort at Sheerness. The fort was under complete and unrequired, and so was Dutch Navy (which, according to Samuel Pepys ‘ diary, was also to a large extent by deserters from the Royal Navy English) was hardly enthusiastic . Pepys, then secretary of the Navy Board, described Sheerness as lost “after two or three hours” dispute. The Dutch quickly takes care of the whole island for several days before withdrawing. Prior to leaving, the Dutch took supplies, ammunition and guns, then burned everything that was combustible. [10] [11]

Capture of James II

Three miles (5 km) across the Swale lies Whitstable . The Swale was the subject of James II’s departure , when departing in some haste “from the Protestant deliverance of the nation” by William of Orange in December 1688.

A hoy having been chartered, the fugitive king landed at Elmley , only to be mobbed by local fishermen. They thought such a noble on such a humble vessel was the hated Jesuit Edward Petre and so took his money, watch and coronation ring. At length he was recognized by one of the assailants and the group took him to custody in Faversham , where he was detained.

Bluetown Heritage Center

Bluetown hosts the history and Heritage Center for the Isle of Sheppey. The Heritage Center contains memorabilia and artifacts relevant to the Sheppey’s history, including displays on aviation, maritime, war time activities, and island history and guided walks of Sheppey Isle and Bluetown. [12]

The present Heritage Center is on the site of two earlier establishments. Originally called the “New Inn”, in 1868 the site became “The Royal Oxford Music Hall”. The following year the building, which is located at the doors of the Bluetown court house, became the Criterion Public House, with a music hall called “palace of varieties” situated immediately at its rear. In 1879 the building was replaced by a brick structure. [13]

On June 5, the Criterion was badly damaged by a German air raid. Shrapnel marks from the attack can still be seen in the dockyard wall opposite the building. After the air raid, the building was re-built in its present form retaining some of its original features. After a variety of other uses, the site became the Heritage Center in January 2009. A special exhibition in 2014 commemorated the centenary of World War I. [14]

Maritime history

Sheerness is a commercial port and main town of the Isle of Sheppey and is one of its origins, a Royal Naval dockyard town. Samuel Pepys established the Royal Navy Dockyard in the 17th century. Henry VIII , requiring the River Medway as an anchorage for his navy, that the mouth of the river should be protected by a small fort. Garrison Fort was built in 1545.

Sheerness was the focus of an attack by the Dutch Navy in June 1667, when 72 hostile ships compelled the little “strong sandspit” there to surrender and landed a force which for a short while occupied the town. Samuel Pepys at Gravesend remarked In His diary “we do at this time plainly hear the guns play” in fear and departed to Brampton in Huntingdonshire .

The dockyard served the Royal Navy until 1960 and has since expanded into one of the largest and fastest expanding ports in the UK. The Port of Sheerness contains at least one Grade II listed building, the Old Boat House. Built in 1866, it is the first multi-storey iron framed industrial building recorded in the UK. Decorated with ornate ironwork, it features operating rails extending the length of the building, for the movement of stores, much like a modern crane.

The dockyard and port at Sheerness today are a significant feature of the Isle of Sheppey’s economy, which includes the extensive export / import of motor vehicles, and extensive steel works, with extensive railway fixtures. The island is, however, suffering from an economic recession and these industries are not extensive.

The area immediately outside the dockyard was occupied by dockyard workers, who built wooden houses and decorated them with Admiralty blue paint illegally acquired from the dockyard. This area is known as Blue Town , but it is now mostly occupied by the Sheerness Steel complex.

Beyond Blue Town, an outlying residential area overlooking the sea. This area is known as Mile Town because it is one mile (1.6 km) from Sheerness.

About 200 shipwrecks are recorded around the coast of Sheppey, the most famous being the SS Richard Montgomery , a liberty ship loaded with bombs and explosives that grounded on sandbanks during the Second World War . As of 2004 plans were discussed with the Montgomery . These include encasing the ship in concrete or removing the bombs; no firm decision has been made.

New research commissioned by the Government in 2005-06 has suggested that the threat has passed and that constant surveillance should ensure the safety of the immediate community.

Natural history

In 1629 the first recorded botanical visit Thomas Johnson and colleagues. They were thought to be foreigners and were arrested and imprisoned in Queenborough Castle before being released by the Mayor. [15]

Edward Jacob (1710-1788) purchased the little Manor of Nutts, Isle of Sheppey, in 1752. There, he pursued his hobby as a naturalist. He discovered much of interest in the antiquarian, naturalist, geologist and zoologist. In 1777, Jacob published a book about his various fossil finds, including what he called “the remains of an elephant”. [16]

The isle is noted as the northernmost place to have an established scorpion population. Euscorpius flavicaudis has been resident since the 1860s, believed to have been imported on a ship. [17] They have been found to be highly adaptable and hence have the ability to survive and to survive. [18]

The last known colony in England of the British endemic subspecies of the Essex Emerald moth, at Windmill Creek, died as late as 1991. [15]

In 2008 palaeontologists published details of the fossil skull, found on the island, of a large flying bird from the Eocene period called Dasornis in the deposits of the London Clay . [19]

Local government

From 1894 to 1968 Sheppey comprised the Municipal Borough of Queenborough , Sheerness Urban District and Sheppey Rural District (consistant of the civil parishes of Eastchurch , Elmley , Harty , Leysdown-on-Sea , Minster in Sheppey and Warden ). City of Queenborough-in-Sheppey , covering the entire island. [20] In 1974 the area was merged with districts on the mainland to form the Swale district.

In parliamentary terms, Sheppey has been in the constitution of Sittingbourne and Sheppey since 1997, a Conservative-Labor marginal seat; Faversham constituency, also a marginal but held by the Conservatives for the last 27 years of its existence.

Early aviation

The isle has a long history of aviation development in England. It was home to Lord Brabazon’s Royal Aero Club which formed in Leysdown in the early 1900s to popularize ballooning. The club Took to the airplane with relish, and in July 1909 the Short Brothers Established Shellbeach Aerodrome is nearby marshland to Accommodate six Wright Flyers , moving A Few kilometers the next year to Eastchurch WHERE a new more Appropriate aerodrome HAD-been built for the club.

The Eastchurch airfield played a significant role in the history of British aviation from 1909 when Frank McClean acquired Stonepits Farm, on the Marshes across from Leysdown, converting the land into an airfield for members of the Aero Club of Great Britain.

The Short brothers, Horace, Eustace and Oswald , built aircraft at Battersea to be tested at the site; Moore-Brabazon, Professor Huntington, Charles S. Rolls and Cecil Grace all visited and used the flying club’s services. Wilbur Wright and his brother Orville came to the Isle of Sheppey to visit the new flying grounds of the Aero Club. In 1909, Moore-Brabazon made the first live cargo by fixed-wing aircraft, by tying a waste-paper basket to a wing strut of his Shorts-built Wright aircraft. Then, using it as a “cargo hold”, he airlifted one small pig.

The Eastchurch airfield was also the site, in July 1911, of the competition for the Gordon Bennett Cup for powered air racing, attended by flyers from all over the world, and won that year by the American pilot CT Weymann .

A stained glass window in the south side of All Saints’ Church, Eastchurch (built in 1432), was dedicated to Rolls and Grace, who were killed in July and December 1910 respectively.

In July 2009, Eastchurch celebrated 100 years of aviation history associated with the island. SkySheppey brought together a number of associations and joined with many visitors to recognize the importance of British aviation history that began at Eastchurch.

From March 2015 to a new museum, The Aviation Museum Eastchurch, was set up at The Old Mill Green off Brabazon Way, HMP Standford Hill, to commemorate the pioneer aviators and the site as a long established RAF Station serving from WW1 through the end of WW2.

Sheppey today

The largest town on the island is Sheerness . Other villages include Minster , which has a pebble beach, and Leysdown-on-Sea , which has a coarse sandy one. The whole north coast is dotted with caravan parks and holiday homes; There is also a naturist beach beyond Leysdown , towards Shellness. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Elmley National Nature Reserve, Elmley Marshes up to 2013, Elmley Conservation Trust, owners of the site.

There are three prisons on the island, all Located to the south of the town of Eastchurch : HMP Elmley , HMP Standford Hill and HMP Swaleside . The total inmate population is in the region of 2,800.

In the 2001 census, the island had a resident population of 37,852, many of which commuted to the mainland via the Sheerness-Sittingbourne rail link and the new Sheppey Crossing Bridge.


Secondary education on the island is provided by Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey . [21] The school moved into new buildings in February 2013 and is split between two sites: East and West. The academy is split horizontally into five mini-schools.

There are several primary schools on the island.

Sport and leisure

The island has a non-league football club, Sheppey United FC , which plays at Holm Park.

The island’s largest cricket club is Minster Cricket Club , who lives in the Kent Cricket League.

Local radio

Three radio stations broadcast from the Isle of Sheppey. Bridge Radio ( BRFM 95.6 FM ) broadcasts 24 hours a day from studios on the Minster Cliffs. BRFM has been broadcasting since 2006 and is the UK’s longest running community radio station. [22] Sheppey 92.2 FM, a community radio station based in the Heritage Pavilion, Sheerness. [23] Hospital Radio Swale which broadcasts from the Sheppey Community Hospital in Minster. [24]


Main article: Thames estuary airport

On 21 September 2008, Mayor of London , Boris Johnson Said That an airport off the coast of the Isle of Sheppey Would Be a viable alternative to Creating a new third runway at Heathrow . [25]


  1. Jump up^ Information on the bridge fromRailways of the Southern RegionGeoffrey Body (PSL Field Guide 1884)
  2. Jump up^ Rohani, A (23 April 2008). “Critical analysis of the design and construction of the Sheppey Crossing” (pdf) . Proceedings of Bridge Engineering . University of Bath. p. 1 . Retrieved 19 August 2015 . at maximum clearance of 29 meters height at midspan
  3. Jump up^ “Sheppey Crossing reopens after massive stack-up in thick fog” ,KentOnline , KM Group, September 5, 2013, archived from the originalon September 8 , 2013 , retrieved September 11, 2013
  4. Jump up^ “Roman and Stone Age is still alive at Warden Bay on the Isle of Sheppey” , KentOnline , KM Group, 25 November 2009 , retrieved 15 March 2014
  5. Jump up^ Thorpe, Benjamin (1861). The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: According to the Several Original Authorities . Rolls Series . 2 . London: Longman . p. 57. Retrieved 20 September 2015 .
  6. Jump up^ Hasted, Edward (1798). “Parishes” . The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent . Institute of Historical Research. 6 : 80-98 . Retrieved 4 April 2014 .
  7. Jump up^ “Shurland Hall” . Isle of Sheppey Net . Retrieved 5 October 2015 .
  8. Jump up^ Dan Cruickshank (11 July 2011). “How we saved the Isle of Sheppey ‘s Hampton Court: Tudor Hall . Mail Online . Wayback Machine: Associated Newspapers Ltd. Archived from the original on 5 October 2015 . Retrieved 5 October 2015 .
  9. Jump up^ “House for sale Sheppey, Kent ME12 4BN” . Jackhom-Stops and Staff . Archived from the original on 25 August 2014.
  10. Jump up^ “Sheppey” . Wayback Machine . Swale Borough Council. Archived from the original on 20 February 2005 . Retrieved 14 August 2015 .
  11. Jump up^ “Sheerness” . Fortified Places . Retrieved 10 September 2012 .
  12. Jump up^ “Blue Town Heritage Center (Featuring The Criterion Music Hall and Cinema)” . Swale Borough Council . Retrieved 14 August 2015 .
  13. Jump up^ “The Criterion Blue Town” . Blue Town . Retrieved 14 August 2015 .
  14. Jump up^ “Blue Town Heritage Center” . .
  15. ^ Jump up to:b Badmin, John, ed. (2014), The Natural History of the Isle of Sheppey, The Kent Field Club
  16. Jump up^ Ian Ellis. “Today in Science History” . . Retrieved 10 September 2012 .
  17. Jump up^ Rein, Jan Ove (2000). ” Euscorpius flavicaudis ” . The Scorpion Files . Norwegian University of Science and Technology . Retrieved 13 June 2008.
  18. Jump up^ “Science: scorpions in a cold climate”(16 May 1992) New ScientistIssue. 1821, retrieved September 17, 2010
  19. Jump up^ “Mother Of A Goose! Giant Ocean-Going Geese With Bony-teeth Once Roamed Across SE England” . 27 September 2008.doi : 10.1111 / j.1475-4983.2008.00798.x . Retrieved 10 September 2012.
  20. Jump up^ “Queenborough in Sheppey MB through time | Census tables with data for the Local Government District” . Archived fromthe original on 19 December 2007 . Retrieved 10 September 2012 .
  21. Jump up^ “Kent Schools, Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey” . Kent County Council . Kent County Council . Retrieved 14 August 2015 .
  22. Jump up^ “BRFM” . BRFM . Retrieved 10 September 2012 .
  23. Jump up^ “Welcome to Sheppey FM” . Sheppey FM . Sheppey Matters . Retrieved 10 August 2015 .
  24. Jump up^ “Hospital Radio Swale” . Hospital Broadcasting Association . Hospital Broadcasting Association . Retrieved 10 August 2015 .
  25. Jump up^ “BBC News” . BBC News. September 21st, 2008 . Retrieved 10 September 2012 .

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