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Sheppey. A short history of the Isle of Sheppey.

Sheppey Heritage Trail can be found on Queenborough and Sheerness Seafront. The information on the signs can be accessed using a QR/Barcode Reader on your mobile phone.


Other historical events associated with the Isle of Sheppey.
​Video's  from the Sheppey Heritage Trail.

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A Bad Day in December 1940.From a single Minelaying raid, over the Thames Estuary, by German Aircraft in December 1940, sixteen ships were sunk in sight of Sheerness.

Admiral Horatio Nelson had a long association with Sheppey from the time he was a young midshipman to when his body arrived back at Sheerness on HMS Victory.

Amy Johnson. Should you look out to sea from Sheerness, you’ll see the Red Sands Sea Forts. It was close the here that the World-renowned aviator, Amy Johnson and a hero from Sheerness, tragically lost their lives.

Baron John Cheyne. Sir John Cheyne really was a “knight in shining armour.” In 1442, Sir John was born at Shurland Hall, Eastchurch and grew up on the Isle of Sheppey.

Baron Richard Beeching. Richard Beeching produced his notorious report "The Reshaping of British Railways”. Known as the Beeching Report, it resulted in Railway closures.

Battle of the Medway. June 1667 the Dutch Fleet of more than 80 ships of the line arrived off Sheppey. They attacked the fort and burnt it to the ground.

Biber one-man submarine.

Bluetown. Vibrant, colourful and exciting, this was Blue Town at its heyday. A haphazard collection of crazy wooden buildings clustered around courtyards and ally’s, and along both sides of the High Street thronged with people and life.

Bombing of Sheerness. At Sheerness on 5 June 1917 at 5.25 in the evening, the sea was calm and the sky clear. Families promenaded along the Sea Front. Then they saw, high in the sky, twenty, giant, twin winged, Gotha bombers, heading straight towards them.

Bronze Age Sheppey. More than five thousand seven hundred years ago, a thousand years before the pyramids were built and 600 years before the commencement of Stonehenge, Neolithic man build complex earthworks on the Isle of Sheppey.

Captain Constantine John Phipps. In April 1773 Captain Phipps was ordered to find ‘a passage by, or near, the North Pole’ north of Russia. Departing from Sheerness, included in the list of Officers and men on the Carcuss were six midshipmen. One of these was a young Horatio Nelson.

Captain James Cook. Monday 22 June 1772, Captain James Cook on the Resolution sails from Sheerness on their round the world journey. The Resolution was the first ship to cross the Antarctic circle and put to rest the popular myth of the great Southern Continent.

Captain John Alcock together with Lieutenant Arthur Brown, made the first non-stop transatlantic flight on the 14th June 1919. During World War One, John Alcock was a Flight Instructor, at Eastchurch, on the Isle of Sheppey.

Captain William Bligh of Mutiny on the Bounty. Captain Bligh, often at Sheerness, was involved in not just one Mutiny, the Mutiny on the Bounty, but in four Mutinies.

Captains and Admirals. Along the streets of Queenborough, Blue Town and Sheerness walked all of England’s greatest seafarers, captains and admirals.

Channel Dash. The German Pocket Battle ships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, destroyers, Schnellbots, and every aircraft Germany could put in the air sail for over three hundred miles along the English Channel, towards the Straights of Dover, undetected.

Charles Dickins had a long association with Sheppey, from when he lived in Blue Town as child, to his frequent visits to Minster.

Charles Kingsford Smith. In 1928, Charles Kingsford Smith made the first trans-Pacific flight from the United States to Australia. During WW1, Charles Kingsford Smith was a Flight Instructor at Eastchurch, on the Isle of Sheppey.

Charles Rolls, motoring and aviation pioneer and co-founder of the Rolls-Royce car manufacturing company, had a strong connection with Sheppey. May of 1909, driven by Charles Rolls in his Silver Ghost and accompanied by Griffith Brewer, Orville and Wilbur Wright arrived on Sheppey visiting the Short Brothers aircraft factory.

Charles Rumney Samson was selected from 200 applicants to be one of the first four Navy Officers to train as pilots at Eastchurch. In January 1912, Samson became the first Royal Navy pilot to take off from a ship when he flew from a ramp installed on the deck of HMS Africa anchored off Sheerness. On the 9 May 1912 Samson flew from HMS Hibernia to become the first British pilot to take off from a moving ship.

Churchill. Sir Winston Churchill, the Prime minster who lead Great Britain to victory during World War Two, learnt to fly at Eastchurch, on the Isle of Sheppey.

Clearing the Scheldt. Clearing the Scheldt would be the most difficult and dangerous mine sweeping operation ever undertaken. Ten days later the Germans launched a massive offensive which was intended to capture the port of Antwerp. This attack came to be known as the Battle of the Bulge During those ten days 152 ships carrying cargos of fuel, ammunition, guns, tanks and troops had arrived at Antwerp, right on the front line.

D-day Minesweepers. They lead the fleet! Minesweepers from Wildfire III, Queenborough lead the Allied Invasion fleet to the D-day, Normandy beaches.

Dead Man’s Island. Across the Swale, at Queenborough, there is a small island which holds a grisly secret. With good reason, the Island is called Dead Man’s Island.

Duke of Clarence. The Duke of Clarence, who would later become King William IV, was much respected by the people of Sheerness. Known as the sailor King, he would spent considerable time in Blue Town and Sheerness.

Dunkirk a Legend is Born. Every available ship was sent from Queenborough and Sheerness to Dunkirk. The number was astonishing and included more than 100 motor boats, 10 lighters, 7 skoots, 6 paddle steamers, Destroyers, Mine Sweepers and Patrol Craft.

Dunkirk Roll of Honour. Sheerness and Queenborough Ships at Dunkirk. All were repeatedly bombed, strafed and shelled.

Edward McKenzie, Artic Explorer. Edward McKenzie lived in, Minster, opposite Minster Abbey. He accompanied Scott on his ship the Terra Nova to the ant-artic on Scott’s ill-fated expedition to the South Pole.

First chemical factory was built at Queenborough. In 1361, at the dawn of the Gunpowder age, years ahead of its time, the First Concentrically built castle was constructed at Queenborough. It would be another 171 years until the next was built.

First concentrically designed castle was built at Queenborough. In 1361, at the dawn of the Gunpowder age, years ahead of its time, the First Concentrically built castle was constructed at Queenborough. It would be another 171 years until the next was built.

First Guided Missile. In 1883 the World’s first Guided Missile was tested and used at Sheerness to defend the Thames Estuary.

First Gypsy Tart was made on the Isle of Sheppey. The Gypsy Tart is a Kentish classic, easy to make, rich, sweet and delicious.

First Light Ship. In 1732 the first light ship was anchored at the Nore, off Sheerness.

First place to be conquered in England since 1066 was Sheppey.

First purpose war-time built motor mine sweepers go to Wildfire III, Mine Sweeper Base at Queenborough. So vital was the work of the Wildfire III, Mine Sweeper base at Queenborough, in keeping open the Thames Estuary, that the first newly built MMS’s went to Queenborough.

First rocket anti-aircraft batteries were sent to sheerness.

First ship to complete a round trip during the evacuation of Dunkirk was the Sheerness ship HMS Mona’s isle. Royal Naval Base HMS Wildfire (Sheerness) and HMS Wildfire III (Queenborough) played a significant part at Dunkirk, rescuing 21,281 troops.

First ships to arrive at the D-day beaches were the Wildfire III, Queenborough Mine Sweepers.

First Steel Framed Building. In 1866 the first Steel Frame Building, the predecessor of the skyscraper, was built in Sheerness Dockyard. The Old Boathouse in Sheerness Docks is the World’s first multi-storey building with an all-metal frame. This same design would later be used to build skyscrapers.

First Tidal Recording Gauge. In 1832, the World’s first Tidal Recording Gauge was installed at Sheerness Royal Dockyard. Tide gauges are instruments used to measure the height and time of high and low tides.

First Trans-Atlantic cable. In 1865, Brunel's ship the Great Eastern, left Sheerness to lay the first trans-Atlantic cable.

Flinders. Mathew Flinders is one of Australian most famous explored. He was the first person to circumnavigate the continent and gave Australia its name was at Sheerness between November 1800 and May 1801 while his ship the Investigator was being refitted.

Fortress Sheppey. Throughout recorded history, with the sea protecting its front and the Swale protection its rear, Sheppey has been used as a natural fortress.

Fossils. Fifty million years ago, the fossils found on Sheppey beaches, tell us Sheppey was a tropical paradise. Fossils of tropical vegetation, straight tusked elephants, crocodiles, tiny horses known as the Dawn Horse and Giant Terror Birds have all been found in Minster cliffs.

Henry Russell. Born in Sheerness in 1812, Henry Russell, was a celebrated Composer, Singer and Pianist. Some of his songs will live on forever. In 1882, the Royal Marines adopted Henry Russell’s “A life on the Ocean Waves” as their official regimental march.

HMS Bulwark. Without warning, the Bulwark was ripped apart by an enormous explosion.

HMS Monarda, the story of just one of the many Sheerness and Queenborough vessels which rescued troops from Dunkirk.

HMS Wildfire III, Royal Navy Mine Sweeper Base, Queenborough. In May 1939, four months before the outbreak of World War Two, the Admiralty began to requisition vessels suitable to be converted into minesweepers. The HMS Wildfire III, Minesweeper Base was established at Queenborough.

Hulks. At Sheerness Hulks, ships at the end of their life were used as accommodation vessels and Prison Ships. The Captivity, was perhaps the saddest of all the prison hulks at Sheerness. Her prisoners were children. Of the first 350 boy who went on board, none was older than 14.

King Henry VIII accompanied by Anne Boleyn journeyed to the Isle of Sheppey and stayed at Shurland Hall.

King James II fled to Sheppey and hid at Neats Court and Kings farm. He was caught by the militia, taken to Faversham and then to London. In fear of his life, he again fled to Sheppey and escaped to France on a Queenborough fishing smack.

King Knut. 832 AD, Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, "In this year the Pagan devastated Sheppey".

Lady Emma Hamilton. Local people believe Admiral Nelson and Lady Emma Hamilton lived in a house close to Queenborough Church where they attended services.

Major James Thomas Byford McCudden V.C. was Britain’s most decorated and successful WW1 flying Ace with 57 victories.

Maunsell Forts. If you look out to sea from Sheerness you will see two of the Maunsell Sea Forts, the Red Sands and Shivering Sands forts. The Nore, which was the closest, has been demolished. Maunsell Forts protected shipping in the Thames Estuary from attack by German bombers during World War Two.

Michael Crawford, one of our best loved actors, comedians and singers, grew up on the Isle of Sheppey, living with his mum and Grandparents at Halfway.

Minesweepers. From September 1939 until May 1940 eighty ships were sunk by enemy mines, in the Thames Estuary and off the east coast of England, with the loss of some six hundred lives. In all, 317 ships were sunk in the Thames Estuary, during World War Two, mainly due to mines.

Minster Abbey. Built in 664AD by Queen Sexburga, the Abbey has been a place of worship for over 1350.

Motor Launch ML 916. ML 916 detonated a mine while sweeping the Scheldt. There were only two survivors.

Nore Munity. On the 12th May 1797, encouraged by the outcome at Spithead, mutiny broke out at the Nore off Sheerness.

Polish Pilots. On the 8 December 1939, the first of the Polish pilots began arriving at RAF Eastchurch where they underwent re-training. The Polish pilots were first-rate, tough, experienced and battle-hardened. 145 Polish Pilots fought in the Battle of Britain and shot down 203 enemy aircraft.

Princess Alice Disaster. On the 3rd of September 1878, the Princess Alice left Sheerness to return to London. Carrying more passengers than usual, she travelled slowly along the Thames against a strong Current. Nearing Woolwich Pier, unseen ahead of them in the gloom and moving faster with the current, was the 890-ton collier “Bywell Castle”. The two vessels collided.

Princess Irene. At twelve minutes past eleven in the morning of May 27th 1915 there was a catastrophe explosion. HMS Princess Irene blew up without warning.

Queen Elizabeth I. To whom Sheppey was a favourite. Stationed her ships at Queenborough. Walked down Queenborough High Street. Stayed at Queenborough Castle. Got stuck in the mud in Stickfast Lane. Owned property on the Island of Sheppey. Visited Shurland Hall. And took an interest in the Mayors trousers!

Queen Elizabeth’s Fleet. Queen Elizabeth I kept her fleet at Queenborough in case of war but would also leased out her ships to privateers who would raid Spanish ships. She would expect a large cut of the profits in return.

Queen Philippa. Queen Philippa was said to be “gentle, good, charming and sweet of nature.” The town of Queenborough was named after her.

Queenborough. When you walk along Queenborough High Street you walk in the footsteps of Kings, Queens and hero's.

Relief of Holland. Following the daring but unsuccessful attempt to seize the bridge across the Rhine at Arnhem, (Operation Market Garden,) during which Dutch railway workers were encouraged to strike by the Dutch Government in exile, the railways were taken over by the German occupiers and supplies of food and fuel were cut off to much of the Netherlands. The Dutch people were starving to death. 

Richard Montgomery. The wreck of the Richard Montgomery lies in the Thames Estuary off Sheerness. To this day, a massive 5,348 tons of bombs remain on the Richard Montgomery.

Rod Hull, writer, actor, comedian and star of television was adored by the British people and fondly remembered on the Isle of Sheppey. Rod is perhaps best known for his puppet “Emu” who attacked anyone and everyone, much to the delight of the audience.

Sergeant Frederick Peake lived in Sheerness and took part in the Charge of the Light Brigade. On 25 October 1854, 600 men of the Light Brigade charged the Russian guns during the Battle of Balaclava. Sergeant Frederick Peake was one of the six hundred.

Sheerness Co-op. At Sheerness, on the 21st November 1816, the very first, successful Co-op, in all of Great Britain and the World, was started. Prior to this there were several unsuccessful attempts to start co-ops, but these failed! Sheerness Co-op was, beyond doubt, the FIRST successful Co-op.

Sheerness Destroyers at D-day. At Omaha Beach the soldiers of the American 1st and 29th Divisions were trapped at the water’s edge being raked by machine gun, mortars, small arms fire and in desperate need of help. Without orders being given, the Sheerness Destroyers moved off station, going nearer to the beach, firing on the German fortifications at point-blank range to give close covering support to the assault troops.

Sheerness Fort was a “Star” or “Bastion” design Fort with a magnificent Baroque Gate and Tower and was built by Bernard de Gomme.

Sheerness Lines and Queenborough Lines, the moat and canal, were built to protect the Sheerness Royal Dockyard from attack from landward.

Sheerness Ships which are associated with Sheerness and Sheppey.

Sheppey Aviation Firsts. Sheppey is the Birthplace of British Aviation and has numerous and notable aviation firsts.

Sheppey Light Railway, running from Queenborough Mainline Railway Station to Leysdown, was opened on the 1 August 1901. Almost 50 years after it opened, on the 2 December 1950 Sheppey light railway was closed.

Short Brothers, Eustace, Oswald and Horace were aviation pioneers. Horace Short was one of the World’s greatest aviation engineers and a true genius.

Sir Humphrey Gilbert. Sir Humphry Gilbert was the founder of the British Empire. He lived at the Gatehouse of Minster Abbey, Sheppey.

Sir Robert De Shurland was created a Knight Baron and awarded the post of Warden of the Cinque Ports for his service to King Edward I. The Legend of Grey Dolphin.

Stanley Hooker, the man who won the Battle of Britain.

The Fighting Temeraire. Joseph Mallord William Turner is perhaps our best-known painter and is one of the greatest landscape artists of all time. He painted the Fighting Temeraire at Sheerness.

The Franklin Expedition. The ill-fated Franklin Expedition in search of the North-West Passage and it's connection with Sheerness.

The last earthworks to be built in Britain was Queenborough lines. (the Canal)

The Mayors Trousers. Queen Elizabeth arrived unannounced at Queenborough as was her practice. The mayor, a thatcher by trade, on hearing of the arrival of the Queen rushed down his ladder to meet her. In doing so he split is trousers.

Trams. In April 1903 the Sheerness and District Electric Power and Traction Company opened a tram service in Sheerness.

Truculent. 64 MEN DIED. 16 Dockyard Workers and 48 of her crew. 12 died in the collision. 52 men having escaped successfully from the submarine, were washed out to sea to succumb to hyperthermia and drown.

Uwe Johnson,most notable of all the German writers lived in Marine Parade, Sheerness.

William Hogarth. In 1732 William Hogarth and friends went on a walking holiday around the Isle of Sheppey. He wrote a book about his adventures called "The Five Days' Peregrination Around the Isle of Sheppey."

William Penny mathematician and physicist, played a major part in developing the American and British Atomic bombs, was educated at Sheerness Technical School and live at 78 Alexander Road, Sheerness. He married Adele, a Queenborough girl at Minster abbey.