Birchington on Sea Tourist Guide
Birchington-on-Sea is a village in northeast Kent with a population of around 14,000. Birchington is often said to be Kent`s largest village. It is situated on the coast of the Thames Estuary, between the seaside resorts of Herne Bay and Margate.
As a seaside resort, the village is a notable tourist and retirement destination. The village's Minnis Bay is a family beach with attractions such as sailing, windsurfing, a paddling pool and coastal walking routes. Its three smaller beaches are surrounded by chalk cliffs, cliff stacks and caves: Grenham Bay and Beresford Gap towards the centre and Epple Bay to the east. The village is situated on the Isle of Thanet, which was a separate island from mainland Kent until approximately two hundred years ago, when the channel in between silted up. The region to the west of the village, between Birchington and Herne Bay, was once part of the channel and is nowadays low-lying marshland. In the east of the village the land rises, creating chalk cliffs and cliff stacks around the beaches at Grenham Bay, Beresford Gap and Epple Bay. A sea wall stretches along the base of the cliffs to thwart additional erosion.
The village was first recorded in 1240. Its parish church, All Saints, dates to the 13th century and its churchyard is the burial place of the 19th-century Pre-Raphaelite artist, Dante Gabriel Rossetti. His memorials are a stained glass window and a cross in the churchyard. Quex Park, a local 19th century manor house, is home to the Powell Cotton Museum of stuffed exotic animals and a twelve-bell tower built for change ringing.
Birchington was first recorded in 1240 as Birchenton, the name probably coming from the Old English words 'bircen tun', meaning a farm where birch trees grow. Archaeological evidence has shown the area was occupied before the existence of the village. Roman and prehistoric artefacts have been revealed in the area, and Minnis Bay was once the site of an Iron Age settlement.
In the early 15th century, Quex Park manor house—named after the park's second owner, John Quek—was built just south of the village. The ownership of the manor passed to a variety of families until 1770 when it was bought by the present owners, the Powell family. In the late 17th century, the house was visited by King William III. Before the 19th century, the village coastline was favoured by smugglers, leading to skirmishes between them and excise officers. A number of of the older houses in the village contain cellars and bricked up tunnels, once used for concealing contraband.
In the early 19th century, the Tudor Quex House had to be demolished and a replacement manor house was built in its place. In 1818, the Waterloo Tower was built on the grounds of Quex Park. It is a bell tower built by the owner of Quex Park, John Powell Powell, who had an interest in change ringing. Waterloo Tower was the first twelve-bell tower in Kent. The Waterloo Tower is a bell tower containing 12 bells (tenor 15 cwt) hung for change ringing. The tower is built of red brick and is c. 66 ft high. On top of the tower is a white painted cast iron spire which rises a further 65 ft.
The village was a farming community until the late 19th century, when it started to expand into a coastal resort. Birchington railway station started services in 1863 and the Railway Hotel, now the Sea View Hotel pub, was opened in 1865. Station Road was later built to serve as Birchington's main shopping street. Coast Guard cottages were built at Minnis Bay in the 1870s and the first shops appeared by the bay in 1903. As a seaside resort, the village's economy is based around tourism, with several hotels, caravan parks and leisure attractions. The village shopping centre attracts walk-in trade from tourists.
Birchington-on-Sea 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, Herne Bay, Faversham, Gillingham, Rochester and Bromley South. Birchington is around 1 hour and 45 minutes from London by fast-service train. A National Express coach service also runs between London Victoria and Ramsgate via Birchington-on-Sea. A selection of trains run to London's Cannon Street station, primarily for business commuting.
There are Stagecoach bus service running to Westgate-on-Sea, Margate, Broadstairs, Canterbury and Herne Bay. The A28 road, runs between Hastings and Margate via Ashford, Canterbury, Birchington and Westgate-on-Sea. 3 miles (5 km) southwest of Birchington-on-Sea, the A28 crosses the A299 road which leads along North Kent towards London, becoming the M2 motorway at Faversham.
To the south of the village is Quex House, a 200 year-old manor house situated in 250 acres of parkland and gardens. Several rooms, decorated with oriental and English period furniture, are open to visitors, and guided tours are provided. The Powell Cotton Museum is to be found in the house. This museum is one of the best outside of London and was founded by the late Major Powell Cotton, explorer, naturalist and big game hunter. It houses three galleries of stuffed animal displays, depicting more than 500 African and Asian animals against their natural habitats. Additional galleries present a vast collection of African artefacts, European firearms, European and Asian cutting weapons, European and Chinese porcelain, and significant archaeological finds from Thanet and East Kent.
The Birchington Heritage Trust aims are to research, discover and record Birchington's interesting 3,500 years of history. They now have opened a small local museum in the Centre (behind the library) where they display some of their collected items and do research for members of the public and local schools.
Sarre Mill in Ramsgate Road, Sarre, Birchington is a typical Kent Smock Mill and was built in 1820 by the Canterbury millwright John Holman. Visitors can see how a Kentish Smock Mill works, and visit the shop and tearooms.
Disclaimer: The information in this Tourist Guide has been researched from a variety of sources including books, articles and online information. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information the reader should check any specific facts for themselves before making any decisions based upon the said information.
Last Updated: 28 Apr 2015