Posted by: madkentdragon | March 27, 2011

Quirky Kent 2 Airplanes, invasion and a Queen’s Castle (Sheppey)

The New Sheppey Bridge
The Isle of Sheppey is a little island off the north Kent coast, islands, originally it was three separate but the channels silted up and so the Isle of Hartley and the Isle of Elmley became part of the main island. The main estuary that the island sits in is the Thames and it is off this coast
that Boris Johnson wants to build his new airport! The dividing channel is the River Swale.
To reach it you cross a posh new bridge called The Sheppey Crossing which was opened in 2006. The old Kings Ferry Bridge remains as it is a railway bridge as well as a road bridge and is still used if the wind is too strong or an accident blocks the new one. Kings Ferry Bridge was replaced because it was too low, and the middle section had to be raised whenever a ship needed to pass through the channel of the Swale.
Edward I built the first bridge but when it fell into ruin, ferries of some sort were used, the advent of the railway brought the first of the bridges to span the Swale, the first two were toll bridges, but now the modern bridge and the  older railway bridge are free. During both WWI and WWII, you had to produce  a passport to gain access to the island!

Kings Ferry Bridge

Turn left after the bridge and you enter the little town of Queenborough, it has a very interesting past! Edward III built a castle here, on top of an earlier fort, and was used to guard ships passing from the English Channel or North Sea on their way to London, this shows that the channel was much deeper and wider in earlier centuries. The castle, long gone was built for his Queen Philippa of Hainaut and was complete with turrets and fancy stonework and was probably the model for the later castles on the mainland.
Renamed as Queenborough in her honour, the town was given the status of a free borough with its own council and mayor, the charter granted in 1366 and was one of the only two ports allowed to export wool, the other being Sandwich. The castle/fort never had any troops garrisoned there and during Cromwell’s time it was demolished; but not long after this the Dutch captured the neighbouring Port of Sheerness in 1667 but withdrew a few days later, having captured the ship named The Royal Charles and burnt several others in the Thames and Medway estuaries. Now Queenborough is twinned with the Dutch town of Brielle, the twinning ceremony taking place in 1967.
In the years between 1815-1820 the Corporation was in financial difficulties and there were debts of £14,500 – but the Mayor and Corporation seemed very wealthy, there were riots when further taxes were raised to cover this fraud so Parliament vested the town’s business in the
hands of trustees and the parliamentary franchise for the island was lost in the Reform Act of 1832 – it seemed that the island’s two MPs had also benefitted from these frauds and other bribes. The borough charter was reinstated in 1885, but without most of the previous rights and the town still has its own Mayor but comes under the governance of Swale Borough Council. The pub, the Lady Hamilton is in memory of the house near the sea that she shared with Lord Nelson.
We’ll pop over to Eastchurch on the Island to finish this one, the small village has a claim to fame, apart from being home to three prisons on Elmley and a RSPB reserve, it is also the British home, with Leysdown to British aviation. The first recorded flight took place at Leysdown
but the works were soon moved to Eastchurch and this is where Winston Churchill took flying lessons. During the Battle of Britain some of the Polish Airforce were based here.
In 2009 a memorial was unveiled to commemorate 100 years of aviation  and there are examples of early airplanes in the old Shorts sheds at Eastchurch.
Aviation Memorial
Next time we’ll still be on the Island

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