Category Archives: Medway, Swale and the Kent coast

Medway, Swale and the Kent coast

Photo project to reveal how people feel about Faversham Creek

Picture the Creek

Picture the Creek is a project that’s about the photos folks take of Faversham Creek and what it means to them. It’s not supposed to be about how good the pictures are, but the stories they tell, so an expensive camera is not required.

You can take a photograph or send one you’ve already got – maybe one from long ago. Or you can draw or paint a picture and scan it or photograph it.

The images will be shared on the Picture the Creek website, on social media platforms and at an exhibition in Faversham in the autumn.

There will be prizes for the most interesting and original images however. These will be in two categories: adult and junior (16 and under), and will be awarded at the autumn exhibition.

The most important point, say the organisers, is to say something about what the photo shows: is it something you like or something you don’t, something that made you curious, something that brings back memories, makes you angry, makes you laugh, or makes you sad?

Faversham Creek has all of those for me. In general, I dislike photo competitions (how can anyone make iron judgements about something as subjective about how you respond to a photo?) but I might just go and see what I can dig out myself…

EW Cooke painting and drawing in North Kent

Holly Shore Boats on Shore BM E W Cooke 1832

Following the recent post about EW Cooke, Faversham historian Arthur Percival has alerted me to the existence of this Cooke drawing of the scene at Holly Shore on Oare Creek – this is the spot we now know as Hollowshore.

This low-resolution image is all I’ve been able to get hold of up to now – the original is held by the British Museum but I have not been able to find a record of it on the museum website.

The entrance to Oare Creek and the Shipwright’s Arms will be familiar to anyone who has visited. The barge itself is of the old swim-headed type from long before the Henry Dodd established sailing barge races in the 1860s.

A long-standing fan of EW Cooke’s work, Mr Percival says the artist visited the area on the 9th July 1832.

Another find from searching the Internet is the image below of a sailing barge loaded with hay with a retired man of war in the background. I think this is very likely to depict a scene on the Medway, and is therefore of particular interest to those of us who sail in the area.

The man of war with its masts cut down is clearly not a prison hulk, because they were closed down a few years before EW’s visit.

The image of the hay barge is a thumbnail from the Magnolia Box prints and pictures website, which offers the image in various sizes – the title given is ‘Hay Barge and Men of War on the Medway, 1833′.

EW Cooke prison hull and sailing barge

Cooke clearly had a particular interest in hay barges – there’s another similar scene of a hay barge in still weather being handled under sweeps off Greenwich here.


Photos of the Swale, summer 2014

Photos from this summer taken off Isle of Harty and the Isle of Sheppey, and at Queenborough.

The smack yacht is the lovely Bird of Dawning, which lives at Oare. Read about her here.

The public talk about the options for Faversham Creek

Hundreds at the weekend attended the exhibition outlining the Faversham Creek Alliance’s alternative vision for the creek-side area. Here’s a short film revealing what some of them had to say about it, and the overwhelming feeling is that the proposal to build lots of housing, some shops and just a few workshops isn’t popular.

Meanwhile, things are clearly becoming difficult and shouty in the council chambers.

Margate’s time ball is working again

Margate time ball

Margate’s time ball on the town’s clock tower is working again, thanks to the efforts of Margate Civic Society and others including the Hollywood director and graphic designer Arnold Schwartzman.

Click on the thumbnail above to see a FaceBook video clip of it operating. I hope the chap who made it won’t mind…

Originally designed to enable seafarers to set their chronometers, the Margate Time Ball operated for the first time in over 90 years on Saturday 24th May at 1pm, and from now on will drop at 1pm each day.

There’s a nice article by Mr Schwartzman in this copy of the Civic Society’s newsletter from which we learn that the director grew up in the town, and that for many years he has for many years treasured a set of crested china Margate Clock Towersfor many years

Originally designed to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887, the Margate Clock Tower at the junction
of Marine Drive and Marine Terrace was not in fact  completed and brought into action .

Built by public subscription at the cost of £1,300, the 80ft Portland Stone tower is in the elaborate ‘French Renaissance’ style. The ball mechanism has not operated since the mid-1890s, when local residents complained about the noise it made.

The idea of the time ball was first proposed by Captain Robert Wauchope of the Royal Navy- a Royal Navy and were first introduced in 1829, when the Admiralty set up the world’s first time-ball at Portsmouth Harbour. In 1833 it was followed by another at the Royal Observatory at Greenwich.

Ramsgate’s Clock Tower was an obvious site for a time ball, not least because it would have been visible to many of the ships passing from the Channel to the Thames Estuary on their way to the great ports of London.

In his article, Mr Schwartzman reports that of the 150 public time balls installed around the world, notably those in Mauritius, St Helena, Cape of Good Hope, Madras, Western Australia, New Zealand, Poland, Bombay and Washington DC, more than 60 survive, including one at Deal, Kent that was first set up in 1855.

The Deal ball was the first to be operated by a direct signal via the South Eastern Railway: atAt 12:57 GMT, the ball was lifted to the top were it was held, then at 13:00 GMT an electrical impulse, sent down the railway’s wires from Greenwich released the catches so that the ball dropped.

Radio time-signals introduced in the 1920s made the time-balls obsolete.

PS There’s some smile-inducing British Pathé-style shenanigans involving young sailorsand young women on Margate beach here.

Dunkirk Little Ships gather at Chatham and around the Thames Estuary

Medway Bradwell Brightlingsea Pyefleet trip 5

The Dunkirk Little Ships were gathering this weekend for their rally at Chatham, and their planned trip to Ostende voor Anker in a day or two’s time.

They made a fine sight this weekend in the River Medway, at Chatham and off Brightlingsea.

Read about the Little Ships and the amazing Operation Dynamo here.

PS – The Manston campaigners are asking everyone interested in World War II to sign their petition calling for the airport to be compulsorily purchased rather than turned into a large housing estate.

Great Uncle Floaty, born with a caul

Great Uncle Floaty at the foot of the lookout steps Broadstairs

This photo taken at the foot of the steps of the lookout at Broadstairs belongs to my old pal Pete Stockwell, and shows his Great Uncle Floaty with what look like a lifeboat crew.

Floaty was himself a lifeboatman.

His nick-name ‘Floaty’ came from having been born with a caul – a remnant of the amniotic sac that is present in one in 80,000 births, and which by legend is supposed to mean the baby will never drown.

Perhaps he was photographed in his suit in honour of his being un-drownable. True to the superstition, poor Floaty didn’t drown but came to a sad end when he was crushed between two barges on the famous ‘starvation moorings’ near Deptford, some time in the 1920s. (During the Depression, many barges were kept on the moorings during periods when there was no work for them.)

That lifeboat crew at Broadstairs were hugely important and the lookout lists ships whose crews and passengers that they aided; the small town and harbour is opposite the famous Goodwin Sands, which have swallowed hundreds of ships over the centuries. There’s some material about the lifeboat on the Wikipedia page about Broadstairs, which remarkably includes a reference to Great Uncle Floaty himself!

It also references a ballad written in the 1850s about a then-famous rescue: Song of the Mary White. So who knows the tune folks used – or a really grand one to match the song’s theme?

Thanks Petie!