Herne Bay

Discovering Herne Bay’s Rich History and Heritage

As you stroll along the charming streets of Herne Bay, it’s easy to become entranced by the town’s vibrant and welcoming atmosphere. However, beneath the surface, Herne Bay is a town steeped in history and heritage, with a rich and fascinating past that is waiting to be discovered. In this blog post, we’ll take a journey through time and explore some of the key moments that have shaped Herne Bay into the town it is today.

The first thing you may notice as you wander around Herne Bay is the stunning Victorian architecture that dominates the town. This is because, in the mid-19th century, Herne Bay became a fashionable seaside resort for London’s wealthy elite, who came to enjoy the town’s picturesque coastline and healthy sea air. The town soon became a hub of activity, with grand hotels, shops, and entertainment venues springing up to cater to the influx of visitors.

However, Herne Bay’s history stretches back much further than the Victorian era. The area has been inhabited for thousands of years, and evidence of Bronze Age settlements and Roman occupation have been discovered in and around the town. The Romans, in particular, had a significant influence on the area, and it’s believed that Herne Bay was once an important trading port for the region. A Roman fort was established at Reculver, just outside Herne Bay, it’s ruins still visible today. The Romans to built a small fort there at the time of their conquest of Britain in 43 AD, and, starting late in the 2nd century, they built a larger fort, or castrum, called Regulbium, which later became one of the chain of Saxon Shore forts.

Roman Wall, Reculver Roman Fort - geograph.org.uk - 1470820

Herne Bay’s coastline is part of the Saxon Shore Way, a footpath tracing the coastline (as closely as we can now) of the South East as it was about 1500 years ago.

The Saxon Shore (Latin: litus Saxonicum) was a military command of the late Roman Empire,  and formed a line of fortifications built along the coastline as it was in the 3rd century AD, towards the end of the Roman period.

Moving forward to the 17th century, Herne Bay became known for its thriving smuggling trade, with goods such as tea, tobacco, and alcohol being smuggled into the town under the cover of darkness. The town’s coastal location and secluded bays made it the perfect location for this illicit activity, and it’s said that many of the town’s buildings were used as storage facilities for smuggled goods.  It’s thought that the windmill at Herne was used as a signal to warn the smugglers and gang members that the local law men were near.

As the 19th century rolled around, Herne Bay’s fortunes once again began to change, this time with the advent of the railway. The town’s railway station opened in 1861, connecting Herne Bay to London and making it easier for visitors to reach the town. Travellers and visitors no longer had to ride a horse drawn coach from Canterbury. This led to another boom in the town’s popularity, with thousands of tourists flocking to the town every summer.

Herne Bay Victorian postcard showing sea front and the Clock Tower

Herne Bay Victorian postcard showing sea front and the Clock Tower


Despite the changes that have taken place in Herne Bay over the centuries, the town has managed to retain its unique character and charm. Today, visitors can still see evidence of the town’s rich history in the form of its architecture, museums, and monuments, and there are plenty of opportunities to delve deeper into the town’s fascinating past.

Herne Bay Pier In Kent

Kent, UK – February 21st 2019: A panoramic view of Herne Bay Pier in the coastal town of Herne Bay in Kent, England.

One of the best places to start your journey through Herne Bay’s history is at the Seaside Museum, which is located on the seafront and houses a wealth of exhibits and artifacts that tell the story of the town’s past. From Roman pottery to Victorian bathing costumes, the museum offers a fascinating glimpse into Herne Bay’s diverse history.

Another must-see attraction for history buffs is the nearby Reculver Towers and Roman Fort, which are located just a few miles outside of Herne Bay. These ancient ruins offer a fascinating insight into the area’s Roman and Anglo-Saxon history and provide a striking contrast to the town’s more modern architecture.

In conclusion, Herne Bay’s rich history and heritage make it a fascinating destination for visitors who are interested in delving deeper into the past. From Roman ruins to Victorian architecture and everything in between, the town offers a wealth of historical attractions and experiences that are waiting to be discovered. So why not take a trip back in time and discover the hidden history of this charming coastal town?