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Whenever I am asked about sea defences I seldom see beyond still vivid memories of storm breakers sweeping over the sea wall a couple of hundred yards from my home. In fact the problems go way beyond that and can be divided into headings such as the list on the left.

Storms provide the most dramatic images, but Cliff Erosion has destroyed much of the island over the centuries.

Shingle drifts towards the Medway. It builds up on one side of groynes and obstructions creating drops of several feet in places. Plants are getting a foothold on some of the higher shingle banks. Although most of the island is prone to sea flooding, the lowest areas are also at risk from other sources.

Sheerness Seawall

The following piece was copied from an article written in "The Sheerness Times" dated 1931. It was about life in Sheerness in the 1860's. "The sea wall of this period consisted solely of a mud bank. On the seaward side of this bank at Marine Parade was a water pump for the purpose of pumping sea water to fill the water carts for street watering - a method used to conserve the towns water supply. Records show that the original esplanade was built at a cost of between £6000 and £7000. the money was raised by loan the last instalment being paid in 1906." Where these records came from or are now I have no idea. I would think it safe to assume the wall was built to protect that part of Sheerness known as Mile Town which was being developed for the housing of dockyard maties families who under their terms of employment had to live within one mile of the yard, hence the name.

Much of Sheerness as well as Sheppey is below sea-level and so is prone to flooding. You can find references to this as far back as Samuel Pepys, when he was responsible for dockyards and was choosing sites to defend the Thames.

Parts of the current sea wall around Sheerness was built following the 1978 floods. I believe The sea wall along Marine Parade was built in the 30s following flooding in 1927. It was raised and strengthened after 1978. A shingle bank was created between Bartons Point and the Leas, I believe in the 60s.


The sea wall between Bartons point and the white house was build by Mowlem following the 1953 floods. There is an excellent book commissioned by the Essex County Council called "the Great Tide" which details the causes and effects of the '53 floods. The same floods caused the building of the sea wall from near the Dockyard to Queenborough. I believe this was one of the breached sections.

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Cliff Erosion

St. James Church erosion map So far as I can make out, the cliffs on the island formed a clay bed which stretched out in the general direction of the blue arc on my map (right). If the rate of erosion has been constant then over 10 miles of island has been lost since Roman times.

The site of St. James church now lies a few hundred yards out to sea though contractors were hired to remove the remains since they were hazardous to smallboats. There are records to indicate that St. James replaced an even earlier church built about a mile 'down the road' which disappeared in Tudor times. Before that I have no idea, though I can see why the Romans would have had a large garrison helping to defend the approaches to the River Swale and the Isle of Thanet.

Other communities have been lost but at least they leave behind ruins to excavate. All that could possibly be detected now is a ribbon of debris stretching towards the North Sea along the route of the roads which must have also existed.

Would anyone keep titles of land that no longer existed. Maybe the descendants of the Goodwins could answer that.

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