Shipbuilding and Ship Owners
along the Whitstable beaches it is difficult to find evidence of
the substantial shipping industry that started in 1662 or even before.
Wallace Harvey, in his book “The Merchant Ships of Whitstable”
lists 73 ships built between 1775 and 1913, the largest being the
Nellie S at 282 tons. These ships would have towered over the
houses and provided work for many skilled shipwrights, smiths and
people were also ship owners, 28 ships in the 17th century, 31 in
the 18th, over 400 in the 19th, reducing to a handful in the 20th
century. This world-wide trade involved the West Indies for sugar
and tobacco, Africa for dates, Norway for ice and of course vast
quantities of coal from Sunderland. Early imports to Whitstable
included large quantities of copperas, used to make sulphuric acid
which made Whitstable part of the early chemical industry.
Fascinating also was the building
of ships in Prince Edward Island, sometimes constructed
cheaply just to transport Canadian softwood to Europe.
Over a hundred of these ships were purchased by
Whitstable people, the wooden fastenings being replaced
by iron and the bottoms coppered in Whitstable shipyards
to comply with English regulations.
Ships require captains and crew. In 1870,
the records show 100 master mariners in Whitstable, the surnames
include Camburn, Gann, Gaskin, Greenfinch, Kemp, Rigden and Stroud.
The harbour was built in 1832 and was the first in the world to
serve a railway, taking coal and passengers to Canterbury.