Sheerness Tourist Guide
Sheerness is positioned beside the mouth of the River Medway on the northwest corner of the Isle of Sheppey in north Kent.
With a population of around 12,000, it is the largest town on the island. Sheerness started as a fort constructed in the 16th century to shield the River Medway from naval invaders. After a Dutch attack in 1692, Samuel Pepys, the Secretary to the Admiralty, established a Royal Navy dockyard in the town, where warships were built and repaired until its closure in 1960. Using materials they were allowed to take from the yard, dockyard construction workers built the first houses in Sheerness. The grey-blue naval paint they used on the outsides led to their homes becoming known as the Blue Houses. This was eventually corrupted to BlueTown, the modern name of northwest Sheerness. Slowly over the years first BlueTown then MarineTown and MileTown were developed into what is now known as Sheerness. It is separated from mainland Kent by the Swale which is crossed by means of a lifting bridge that carries both road and rail links. The bridge lifts on average twelve times a day.
In the early 1820s, a fire destroyed many buildings at the dockyard, including all the Blue Houses. New houses and a major rebuilding of the dockyard then began. On 5 September 1823, the rebuilt dockyard was opened by the Duke of Clarence (later William IV). A high brick wall and a moat were put up around the yard to act as a defence measure and remained in place until the end of the 19th century. As the settlement spread eastwards, away from the dockyard and the Blue Houses, the whole area became known as Sheerness, getting its new name from the brightness or clearness of the water at the mouth of the River Medway.
In the 19th century Sheerness also became a seaside resort when a pier and promenade were erected. Industry remains a significant part of the town, and the port of Sheerness is still one of the United Kingdom's foremost car and fresh produce importers. The town is the site of one of the UK's first co-operative societies and the world's first multi-storey building with a rigid metal frame.
The town's low rainfall and ample sunshine made it popular as a seaside resort, with tourists arriving by steamboat and train. The Sheppey Light Railway opened in 1901, linking the new Sheerness East station with the rest of the island. Unfortunately, by 1950, lack of demand led to the railway being closed down. The Sheerness tramway, which opened in 1903, only lasted until 1917. As of 2007, Bluetown is an industrial area, and Sheerness has become the largest port in the UK for motor imports. The Port of Sheerness covers over 1.5 million square metres and is a leading importation point for cars, fresh produce and wood products into the UK.
In the north, sandy beaches extend along the coast of the Thames Estuary. In the west, the channel of the River Medway runs into the Estuary. An area of wetlands known as The Lappel lies between the river and the south western section of the town. Marshland is to the south and the east. The main rock type of the Isle of Sheppey is London Clay, which covers most of North Kent. Along with most of the Kent coast, the empty coastal areas of the island have been designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest because of their wildlife and geological features. The main business and leisure areas of the town are located around the north coast, where there is easy access to the pleasure beach.
Sheerness' sand and shingle beach was awarded a European Blue Flag for cleanliness and safety. Flower gardens bedeck the seafront, and a sea wall forms a promenade along the coast. The Sheppey Leisure Complex positioned near the beach has a swimming pool and badminton, squash and tennis courts. Other sports clubs include Sheerness Town Bowls Club, Sheerness East Cricket Club, Isle Of Sheppey Sailing Club, Beachfields Skatepark, Sheerness East Table Tennis Club, Catamaran Yacht Club, and Sheerness Swimming Club and Lifeguard Corps. Sheerness Golf Club was founded in 1906 and has an 18-hole course to the southeast of town. Sheerness' town centre has the largest self-supporting cast iron clock tower in
Kent. It is 36 feet (11 m) tall and was built in 1902 at a cost of around £360 to celebrate the coronation of King Edward VII. In 2002, the clock tower was restored to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.
Sheerness-on-Sea railway station is on the Sheerness Line, run by the Southeastern rail company. The line connects Sheerness with the town of Sittingbourne, 6 miles (10 km) south on the mainland of Kent. Sittingbourne is on the Chatham Main Line, which connects London with Ramsgate and Dover in East Kent. Train journeys from Sheerness-on-Sea to LondonVictoria take 1 hour 45 minutes.
The Arriva transport company operates bus routes reaching most of the island, as well as Sittingbourne, Maidstone and Chatham.The A249 road ends at Sheerness, running from Maidstone via Sittingbourne. The road crosses the M2 motorway near Sittingbourne, and the M20 motorway near Maidstone.
Sheerness Heritage Centre at 10 Rose Street is housed in a weather boarded cottage that was constructed in the early 19th century as a house for a dockyard worker. Although it was built of apparently temporary building materials the house, as with its two neighbours, has lasted well and, over the years, it has also been a baker’s shop and a fish and chip shop. Now the rooms here have been restored and they now replicate authentic 19th century rooms and are furnished with authentic pieces from that time. The Royal Dockyard here closed in the 1960s and, in the Heritage Centre, there is also an exhibition describing the development of the dockyard along with a display of tools used by its workers. Tel: 01795 66331 or check out www.sheernessheritagecentre.com.
The Sheppey Leisure Complex is a split site whereby it has the Sheerness Swimming Pool and the Healthy Living Centre both have an excellent range of facilities including:- 25 Station ISOSPA Fitness Suite; Workout Studio; 25 Metre Swimming Pool; 15 Metre Learner Poo;l Adventure World; Health Suite Sports Hall; 4 Badminton Courts; 2 Squash Courts; Table Tennis; 3 Flood Light Tennis Courts; Café at both sites and 2 Solariums.
An ideal place for a picnic is Beach Street with its wide stretch of green, open space leading to the promenade and beach. This fashionable family beach has all the attractions needed for a great day out with the children. With its winning mix of time-honoured seaside amenities such as amusement arcades and children's play area combined with more up to date attractions such as sports pitches, climbing wall, skateboard ramps and a leisure complex, Sheerness has something to keep everyone entertained. For you want to get away from the hustle and bustle the nearby serene gardens offer a peaceful haven in which to relax. Tel: 01795 667 7015
Minster Leas Beach is characterised by recent improvements to the sea defences, which has created a long wide concrete promenade and a gently sloping area of green, open space leading down to the promenade and beach. The area is ideal for picnics. Wooden groynes separate the beach into sections, ideal for zoning water sports and providing areas of shade. The mainly shingle beach is 675m long with cliff walks at the eastern end and a sandy spit at the western end which is popular with swimmers. The nearest town is Sheerness. The Leas beach adjoins the extended village of Minster.
In UnionRoad Minster Abbey Gatehouse Museum depicts Sheppey's absorbing history with a wide range of exhibits including fossils, costumes, paintings and photographs, all set within the distinctive gatehouse building. There are also Roman coins and fossilised sharks, cannon balls and Victorian dresses, radios, wartime relics and local paintings. Outstanding views can be experienced from the battlements that are 200 feet above sea level and a visit can be linked with a walk along Minster's eye-catching promenade. The museum is open Good Friday, Easter, May and Spring bank holiday weekends. There are regular openings during the main holiday period, normally Tuesday, Friday and Saturday afternoons between 2pm and 5pm. For other openings and for group visits, please check before travelling. Regrettably the museum is not suitable for disabled persons. For further details, contact either the museum on (01795) 872303 or the secretary on (01795) 661119.
The Queenborough Guildhall Museum tells the enthralling story of this historic town. From a small Saxon settlement to a prosperous Borough and RoyalCastle built by Edward III. Queenborough is full of Victorian industrial heritage still developing to this day. You may need more than one visit as, with industrial and maritime heritage (the town was the base to hundreds of minesweeping vessels during WWII), there are changing exhibitions. Open on Saturdays from April to October; 2-5pm (last admission 4.30pm) and by prior appointment for other times. For further information contact 01795 667295.
Sheppey Little Theatre, Meyrick Road, Sheerness, Isle of Sheppey 01795-664625 or www.sheppeylittletheatre.co.uk.
Vals Cars, 133 High St. 01795 661515
A 2 B Taxis, 33 Fleet Av. 01795 666644
Royal Taxis, Unit 17/Duke of Clarence Trading Est./High St, Blue Town01795 661111
AAA Taxis Of Sheerness, Hauliers Block/Sheerness Docks 01795 666524
Sheppey Taxis, Old Pilot Station/Sheerness Docks 01795 664444
Sheppey CommunityHospital, Plover Road, Minster On Sea, Sheerness 01795 879100
Sheerness Dental Centre, 50A High St. 01795 660553
EasySmile, 19 Broadway 01795 580789
Hillton Dental Surgery, 6 Broadway, Minster on Sea 01795 874914
HSBC Bank plc, 3 Bank Ho/Broadway. 0845-740 4404
Halifax, 71 High St. 01795 563501
NatWest, 27-29 High St. 0845-600 2803
Sheerness Market General Retail in Rose Street car park off the High Street. Market days: Tues, Sat 9am - 4pm
The nearest Tourist Information Centre to check any details above is at Swale House/East St, Sittingbourne, ME10 3HT 01795 417478
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