Music and Dance
Libraries and Museums
The Isle of Sheppey does have some culture, with many associations and societies that are strongly supported by the local community, there are local history and artistic groups that have found national appeal. This section of the site aims to give you some details of both the variety and background information on what can be found.
There are books in the local bookshops, heritage centres and libraries that have been written by local authors, mostly about local history. The following are not the whole selection but those that have been recommended. If you know of others let us know.
"Around and about the Isle of Sheppey" published by the Freedom Centre (Working with people with physical disabilities aged 16 - 64. Registered Charity).
Published By Freedom Centre Publishing
St George’s Avenue
The cost is £5.95 and it is available from the Freedom Centre and local bookshops.
The book was written,researched and compiled by Beryl Kingsnorth, Dennis J Smith and Henry Bowey and is a tour round the island that is steeped in history,based largely upon the reminiscences of the people who live here. The book covers a broad sweep of time and will delight both residents and visitors alike.
"The History of Sheppey" by Lisa Tyler
Published by B A Fitch
48 High Street
Tel 01795 660273
One of the best books that has been written by a local historian who has had articles published in newspapers and contributed to the Shell Book on Islands of Great Britain, The Author has lectured on Sheppey for television and broadcast several times on local radio. She covers each part of the island in separate chapters as well as the major historical sites, perhaps the defining book on the history of the island.
"Sheerness Dockyard and The Rennie Model". Written by Jonathan Coad of English Heritage with an introduction by local man and former Town Centre Manager Alan Ogilvie
This is a 24 page guide to the Rennie model of Sheerness Dockyard - parts of which were exhibited in Sheerness library in December 1999.
A Sheerness TCM publication in conjunction with Publicity Matters
Available at the Sheerness Times-Guardian
44 High Street Sheerness
Price £ 1.99.
"Early Birds" A short history of how flight came to Sheppey, written by Air Commodore Bill Cotton, CBE RAF(retired). A 34 pages of illustrated text with a delightful colour cover. Price £ 3.99 and is a Sheerness TCM publication in conjunction with Publicity Matters. Available at the Sheerness Times-Guardian. 44 High Street, Sheerness. www.kentonline.co.uk
"London Clay Fossil of the Isle of Sheppey" by Fred Clouter, Tony Mitchell, David Rayner and Martin Rayner,(SBN 0-9538243-0-6) £15.00. Published by the Medway Lapidary and Mineral Society. Fred, a local man Who has many interests including art , photography and collecting fossils has prepared this book with both interesting and incredibly beautiful photographs of fossils found on the shores of Sheppey.
"Sheerness and the Mutiny at the Nore",By David T Hughes, (ISBN 0-9530665-0-9) Published by the local History Society, available at the Minster Abbey Gate House Museum.
"The Wreck of the USS Richard Montgomery. - The Thames Estuary Timebomb". By F R Turner Price £1.50. Published by F R Turner, Glendale House, Marling Cross, Gravesend, Kent. DA 12 5UE. ISBN 0-9524303-6-3.
In August 1944 the USS Richard Montgomery ran aground off Sheerness,This book details the background and events from the day,bringing it up to date with the current situation.
"Sheppey 2000" A 24 page full colour aerial photographs of the Island taken at the millennium,, photographed by Alan Fuller with text and additional information by Alan Ogilvie, A Sheerness TCM publication in conjunction with Publicity Matters, Available at the Sheerness Times-Guardian, 44 High Street, Sheerness. Price £9 99. www.kentonline.co.uk
"A Picture Book of Sheppey" by Michael Thomas. Published by Meresborough Books, price £2.99. Another historical book but this time through the eye of the camera. Interesting to see what has changed and what has gone over the years.
"Wide Open" by Nicola Barker. Last years winner of the International Impac Dublin Literary Award 2000. (ISBN 0-571-19566-0). Published by Faber and Faber Ltd.
This novel, when published did cause some indignation from the local's, judging by the letters sent into the local papers. Personally it is worth reading as there are not many novels that have been published based on the island. Fifty miles to the south and east of London, poking out into the estuary of the river Thames, the Isle of Sheppey is a forgotten misty backwater. There’s a prison some wading birds and a small nudist beach. In front of this salty, blasted backdrop, Nicola Barker conjures up an imaginative landscape of breathtaking scope and audacity.
"The brilliance of Barker’s style is beyond question… Wide Open is unmistakably grand. It is , I am very much afraid too good for the Booker Prize" The Spectator
"Wide Open establishes (Nicola Barker) as one of the most interesting writers in Britain, at once funny and moving, irreverent and profound. It proves she is like no one but herself", ..Independent on Sunday
"Blown to Eternity! The Princess Irene Story" by John Hendy. 36 pages, telling the story of the disaster of Thursday 27th May 1915. Published by Ferry Publications of PO Box 33, Ramsey, Isle of Man IM99 4LP. Price £4.50. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for copies.
Radio Caroline - If you are one of those who say that the 60's is when it all happened especially with pop music, then you will certainly remember pirate radio. In the sixties pop music was rocking, we had the Mods and Rockers, "Ready Steady Go" Beatles and the Stones and of course pirate radio,Full of household names like Johnny Walker, Emperor Rosko, Tony Blackburn, Don Allen , just to name a few.
Simon Dee and Chris Moore announced " This is Radio Caroline on 199 your station" followed by a Rolling Stone record and the rest is history, on Radio 2 "Johnny Walker" is still working, he was one of the last of the orginal DJ's and is often quoted and his voice is found on many of the recordings of the broadcasts.
In the beginning and in the end it was always Radio Caroline, there cannot be many who have not heard of the good ship " Mi Amigo ", and the "Ross Revenge" alias Radio Caroline, the radio station was named after President John F Kennedy’s daughter.
Radio Caroline was the first pirate radio station to come on the air in 1964, and had a chequered life with many of today’s "disc-jockeys" making their start in the radio business.
There is much more information available on the Internet, so if you are interested visit their website, there are quite a few but the following is quite interesting: http://geocities.com/offshoreradio1960s.
There where other pirate radio stations broadcasting at this time, some were based on the forts found in the estuary, these are still visible from the sea front. Names like City Radio, Radio 390 and Radio London were broadcasting from these forts. One other famous personality that has links with the Island is Screaming Lord Sutch, he was later to enter into politics with the "Monster Raving Looney Party". Sadly he recently died but the garden in the centre of the round-about on the main road opposite the Queenborough Corner has been dedicated to his memory by his friends and supporters.
Line dancing - Yes! we have a school where you can receive instruction and practice. Hopefully this will teach you all the methods, called "North and South". They meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays most weeks at the Borough Hall, Main road. in Queenborough and at the Minster Working Men’s Club in Minster,on Monday evenings, for more details visit North and South
Dancing schools - The more traditional type of dancing is carried at the Sheppey Yacht Club hall in Marine Parade, Sheerness. The "Helen" School of Dancing will teach you to dance in classical ballet, modern "tap" dancing and line dancing on Thursday evenings.
Yvonne West School of Dancing has for over 20 years taught both classical ballet and tap dancing to all ages, the dance school prastices every Saturday morning at the Minster Methodist Church Hall found opposite the old Minster Hospital in Ward's Hill, in the Village of Minster, telephone 01795 875111 for details.
Abbey church of St Mary’s and St Sexburga, Minster
The Abbey stands on a slightly elevated position above the village, the road plan suggest that the village and church were at one time fortified, probably in Saxon times or maybe earlier in Roman times when it is thought that a pagan temple dedicated to the God Apollo whose function was that of a shepherd-god, protector of the flocks.
The church is of unusual design having a double chancel and nave, that is to say two distinct churches in one, one built in the 12th century with the southern church added in the 13th century. To the rear of the church was housed the village school.
All Saints Church at Eastchurch is both an old and new church in that the old church dates from the medieval period and new in that it replaces a much older church. Mentioned in Domesday under the name of Eastcyre, it is of Saxon origin and is one of the oldest churches in the area. There is written evidence of the church existing in 1300 when the glebe mentioned that the land was 11.5 acres, with a yearly rent of 8d and it was leased for rent from the vicar to the abbey.
In modern times Eachchurch's major claim to be the home of aviation began in 1909 when Frank McClean acquired Stonepits Farm to provide a flying ground for his fellow members of the Aero Club of Great Britain. Soon others arrived; the Short Brothers, Horace, Eustace and Oswald, later Moore, Brabazon, Charles Rolls and Cecil Grace all practiced their skills at the Flying Club.
A Stained glass window in the south side of the church is dedicated to Rolls and Grace who were killed in July and December of 1910 respectively.
Another feature of special interest is the white tomb of Gabriel Livesay and his wife, it was their son Michael Livesay who signed the death warrant of King Charles 1 in the year 1648
St Thomas' Church at Harty is an idyllic church set in the most atmospheric surroundings, it was here that the film of Charles Dickens Great Expectations was made some years ago and it is not difficult to picture the story with the bleak marsh and lonely views on the estuary.
There were known to be smugglers living and trading in this area. It was reported in the ""Maidstone Gazette", 16 September 1823 "that last week 65 tubs of foreign spirits were picked up on the Columbine sands and near Faversham, by Custom's men, the same men took a ten oared galley to the river near Harty Ferry, with 130 tubs of spirits and bales of paper, three men were taken, one of them has since made his escape by getting overboard, unperceived by the watch on deck and swam ashore, a distance of one mile.
There is a chest belonging to the church dated circa 1876, carved on the front of the oak chest are two jousting knights, it is thought to be of German or Flemish origin. The story that is not known is how did the chest come to be found in the church at Harty? No one has really explained the mystery, some say that it was found floating in the Swale,it may have fallen overboard from one of the merchant ships that traded in the busy Swale and Medway ports, but it has been recorded in the inventory taken at the time of the dissolution I536.
Sheppey was shocked in August 1987 when the chest was stolen from the Church. But, fortunately it was recognised by a sharp eyed employee from the Phillips auction room in London. It had suffered slight damage but was expertly refurbished and returned to the church.
In the summer, usually in July, the church has its much acclaimed Flowers in a Country Church Festival. For details phone 01795 875146.
Close by is the now defunct ferry to Oare, the old winding machine for the cable-hauled ferry still exists and the nearby landlord of the pub still holds the rights to operate the ferry.
The Holy Trinity Church at Queenborough was built around 1367 by Edward 111. The tower, is of Norman origin, contains a peal of six bells which are regularly rung and there is a fine view of the rivers and the sea from the top. There are paintings thought to be Dutch, that date to the 1600’s at the west end of the church that you may find interesting. One refers to "two gentlemen unknown who got ashore at this place after a shipwreck".
The Catholic Church, SS Henry and Elizabeth in Sheerness was built in the Broadway and opened on 14th September 1864. For much of the time it remained the tallest building in the town, and was clearly visible way out to sea. It is claimed that the Sheerness Mission is one of the oldest in the Southwark Diocese.
It is without doubt a handsome church built in the Transitional style, 57 feet high,112 feet long and 48 feet wide, big enough to seat 400 people it has a beautiful rose widow and magnificent Caen stone altar.
In the church there is a tablet to three Sheerness brothers who lost their lives in the 1914-1918 war, known as the "Flying McCuddens" Also there is a tablet commemorating the life of Arthur Scott Spears who was killed in the explosion aboard HMS Irene in 1915.
Town Clock - The foundations of the clock tower were laid on June 26th 1902, the cost of which was estimated at £360, the clock, which was for many years over the Council Offices, was to be utilised in the new tower, thus saving further expense. But, it was discovered that the clock would not fit the tower, so it was later placed on top of the now empty Victoria Hall instead and a new one made for the tower.
The Kingsferry Bridge is typical of 1960's design. It is constructed in concrete and steel and has featured in the news over the years due to the massive traffic back-ups caused by its being raised to allow ships or boats through. A new fixed link is planned and will be welcomed by motorists, when it eventually appears.
The current bridge replaced the orginal draw bridge that was constructed in 1904. It was and still is Sheppey’s only link with the mainland, prior to this there was, according to Charles Igglesden in the time of Edward 1 (1239-1307), another bridge connecting Sheppey to the main land found at the now deserted village of Elmley, this was called the Tremsethg Bridge. It was apparently lost in a freak tidal wave.
Shurland Hall is sadly now neglected but once boasted that Henry VIII dined there in splendour. Today the only diners here are the sheep. The original owners were the De Shurland’s. In 1188 Adam De Shurland lived rather well as he boasted one mill, 410 acres of land, 10 acres of meadow, 700 acres of marsh, that gave him a good return with rent from the cottages that he owned
During the First World War troops were billeted at Shurland Hall, but after the war it was found that it had suffered considerable damage. There has been no record of anyone living in the Hall since, although "listed" it is looking in a very sorry state.
It has been rumoured that there was a system of tunnels that linked Shurland Hall with Warden Manor, Borstal Hall and Minster Abbey providing escape routes for the nuns in times of trouble, or more likely for another reason. Warden Manor was built in the 15th Century and was used by smugglers during the 18th Century. On the arrival of a ship off Warden Point a homing pigeon would warn the smugglers at the manor that a cargo was to be off-loaded into the sea . The cargo was floated in and beached at Barrow Brook Gap then taken to Warden Manor. Opposite Warden Manor a narrow lane leads to the coastguard station. Just beyond here at the bottom of the valley is Burrows Brook Gap where the smugglers landed their booty. Perhaps the tunnels were used by the smugglers!
Inside the Port of Sheerness is a Grade 2 listed building called the old Boat House. Over 140 years old it was the first of its type of industrial building being a prototype of the multi-storey iron framed building, Eschewing the heavily ornate decoratIVE ironwork and elaborate features of the Victorian period. Constructed in 1866 it had operating rails so that they could be moved up and down the length of the building as would a travelling crane. There are plans for this building to be replaced outside the docks as a permanent historical centre for the Island.
There are some 200 known shipwrecks recorded around the coast of Sheppey, the most famous being the USS Montgomery, a Liberty-ship that grounded on sand banks loaded with bombs and exposives for use in the Second World War. Today it still contains much of its cargo. Experts carry out routine inspections to ensure that the cargo, covered by mud and sand, is safe. The wreck can be seen on most low tides from the Sheerness coast.
But at least some shipwrecked cargo has been put to good use. At the Ship on Shore public house a cargo of spoiled cement has been used to build a grotto. Here, also, are some interesting pictures of old Sheppey naval war history.
Garrison Fort - Henry the VII, having begun to use the River Medway as an anchorage for his ships, ordered that the mouth of the river should be protected by a small fort. This was done in 1545. Much later in 1665, after the defeat of the Spanish Armada there was no longer a perceived threat so the fort was allowed to decay.
However, the Dutch had other idea’s and attacked and occupied the island. In 1672 another fort was constructed with major rebuilding in 1823 and final completion in 1877.
During 1890 things were changing, with artillery from contemporary ships the fort was deemed to be exposed, so earthworks were constructed outside the lower tier. The bank of the earthworks was about 25 feet thick with 14 feet high apertures through which guns could be fired, in addition another 8 feet of concrete was embedded. This building, not surprisingly, is still standing at the mouth of the Swale and more recently it housed the Medway Port Authority control room.
If you park your car in the Tesco’s car park you can walk down the sea wall and view the fort as it is today.
Queenborough Guildhall, High Street, Queenborough. Telephone: 668509.
Visitors would do well to visit the ancient Guildhall. This museum of the history of Queenborough as a small settlement to a wealthy borough, with a royal castle built by Edward III and latterly a Victorian industrial heritage.
The town played a major part in recent Royal Naval history, as a major base for Second World War minesweepers. With this in mind the museum has opened a section called "HMS Wildfire", dedicated to the distinguished actions of the small ship navy in our recent history. Normal opening times are April to October Saturdays 2 to 5 pm, although special access can be arranged though Mrs Linda Vine on 01795 667295.
The Royal Borough of Queenborough, named as the Royal Borough of Queen Phillipa, once boasted the greatest number of listed buildings on Sheppey and reputedly has many secret tunnels, built by smugglers connecting the local hostelries.
Most towns that have links to any famous people tend to have a number of old public houses that are either named after them or have a relationship with them, none are to be found in Queenborough, although on the corner of the Main Road there is a public house named after Lady Hamilton.
Queenborough Pier is only a load of wooden stumps in the mud, but here the rich and famous would once embark on the ferry to Holland. The famous include the Former US President Theodore Roosevelt with his wife and son who arrived on the steamer to Mecklenburg. King George had deputed Lord Vice Admiral Sir G Neville to meet the former president and a special train was made available to take them all to London. This was reported in The Sheerness Times Saturday 21 May 1910.
Sheerness Heritage Centre, 10 Rose Street Sheerness. Telephone: 01795 663317
Sheppey Art Society
The extensive views make for some fabulous lighting effects, from sunrise to sunset and it was once said that J Turner painted some of his best works around Sheppey,as did William Wyllie.
The artist Hogarth stayed in the town of Queenborough during his famous peregrination through Kent.
One of the most popular sites for a painter to visit is the "Bunny Bank ",; in the Glen area of Minster, as one of the high spots on the Island one can paint or draw the views covering the north of the island the mouth of the Swale and The River Medway. It has been said that Turner painted many of his sun setting works from here, and should you visit this site on the right evening it's not surprising.
Another site that has special qualities is found on the marshes of Harty and Shellness,from the estuary of the Swale across to the Church at Harty. The time to capture the best views is in the morning especially on misty September and October mornings. If you are lucky sometimes a "Dutch" barge will be in full sail proceeding from Conyer into the Channel.
The Arts and Craft Centre have regular meeting with classes at the Friendship House in Union Road / Love Lane Minster. Starting at 7pm until 9pm visitors will be charge a small fee, this covers for the life models.
Miniature Hats through the Ages - Sue Mason is a person whose unique skills are now celebrated world wide. She produces small 1/12 scale miniature hats. These hats are made of the finest silks and materials, her catalogue of hats covers many styles and time periods a uniq. She has a unique skill and product. Should you wish to view her catalogue you can see it at www.suvanhats.co.uk or e-mail email@example.com
The heart of most performing arts can be found in theatres and pubs that have small halls attached to them. The Crown Hotel in the High Street, Sheerness has live music in the bar in the rear of the pub as does the Royal Hotel in The Broadway, opposite the Trinity Church in Sheerness, in both cases it is worth 'phoning for details.
In the case of live theatre there is a noticable example of excellence in the Sheppey Little Theatre, Meyrick Road, Sheerness. Telephone: 01795 665700.
Since refurbishment of the auditorium successful shows have been presented at the theatre. Audiences have been large and from their comments the new look meets with general approval. Currently there is a live Music Show presented by a local singing group called the Sheppey Singers, again to a full house.
Details of productions are available from the theatre and the office of Times-Guardian office, 44 High Street, Sheerness; telephone 01795 665700.
There are six celebrated groups of singers that sing and present shows in the little theatre and halls around the island.
Meyrick Minstrels sing all sorts of show music to a recognisably high standard, they practice every Wednesday evening at the Sheerness Methodist Hall in the Broadway.
Brimar Singers are another group of singers that have been singing for years, they have entertained with many classic shows and modern music. They practice at the Sheerness Methodist Hall on Monday evening.
Sheppey Singers have performed on the island and in various theatres in Kent and even in a London theatre. They sing a wide variety of styles but mostly modern show music. Practices are every Wednesday evenings at 8pm at the Sheppey Little Theatre, Meyrick Road, Sheerness. Should you wish to join them or find out more about the group, contact them on their web-site www.swale-community.org/sheppeysingers.htm
Phoenix Choir will perform for you a large selection of music particular from many famous classical composers including Gilbert and Sullivan, Mozart and others.
Granville Entertainers are another local group that sing and act, and finally...
Memory Lane is a local sheerness based and well established singing group that is entertaining and fun to watch. They sing everything from Gospel to Jazz and ballads. They meet every Wednesday afternoon at 2.00pm, Vincent Gardens, and put on small shows throughout the year and one main show to raise money for various charities annually. New members welcome. For more information please contact Marie Gordon tel sheerness 668565
Abbey Gate house Museum, Minster Abbey, Minster.
Telephone: 01795 872303 or 01795 661119
With the Gatehouse now restored to its original three storeys and the roof-line now open you can see for miles. Under the great arch one can enter into a time-warp surrounded with oil paintings by local artist Harold Batzer. Based on 18th and 19th century drawings of local views. The second floor covers local history, fossils, coins and small artefacts.
There is a surprising selection of old telephones, early radios and wartime memories from when the island hosted all three military services. In the area are many reminders of life during the First and Second World Wars, with original copies of local newspapers and post cards, life-size models of uniforms and gas masks, all this will bring back the memories and stories of yesterday.
Good Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holidays
May Bank Holiday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday
Spring Bank Holiday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday
Mid July - mid September, daily except Thursday.
Muswell Manor, Muswell Manor, Shellness Road, Leysdown, Telephone: 01795 510245
Sheppey could make the claim that it was once the birthplace of flight in this country with it's early aviators. Many will know that Wilbur Wright and his brother Orville came to Sheppey to visit the new flying grounds of the Aero Club, situated in the marshes across from Leysdown. The brothers where accompanied by C S Rolls and Professor Huntington.
On arrival they inspected the grounds and spent a couple of hours in the Short Brothers aeroplane factory who where constructing six machines. There was much discussion regarding the suitability of establishing a flying school in Sheppey. The party then enjoyed a hearty lunch at the Aero Club house at Shellbeach, Muswell Manor which was reported in the "Times" Wednesday 5 May 1909. This place, although remote, is well worth a visit, if not only for the historic content that is found the bar area. A public house with a well stocked bar with historical content and a pleasant view of this part of the island.
If possible a visit to Eastchurch Village is well worth the time. Apart from the pleasant walk there is a choice of places to eat and drink. In the centre of the village, opposite the church is a memorial that covers local aeronautic history.
Sheerness Heritage Centre, 10 Rose Street, Sheerness, Kent. Telephone: 01795 66331
Open Monday to Saturday mornings inc 10.30 - 3.00pm.
The Sheerness Heritage Centre is housed in a weather boarded cottage that was built in the early 19th century as a dwelling for a dockyard worker. Despite being constructed of seemingly temporary building materials the house, as with its two neighbours, has lasted well and, over the years, it has also been a bakers shop and a fish and chip shop. Now cared for, the rooms here have been restored and they now reflect authentic 19th century rooms and are furnished with genuine pieces from that period. The Royal Dockyard here closed in the 1960's - it has now become a flourishing port - and, in the heritage centre, there is also an exhibition describing the development of the dockyard along with a display of tools used by its workers.
One can obtain information and buy all the little things that will remind you of your visit to the Island.
Minster Library, Worcester Close, Minster. Telephone: 01795 872363
Opening times are:
Monday - 09.30 to 13.00 and 14.00 to 17.30
Tuesday - 09.30 to 13.00 and 14.00 to 17.30
Wednesday - 09.30 to 13.00 and 14.00 to 17.30
Thursday - closed all day
Friday 09.30 to 13.00 and 14.00 to 19.00
Saturdays - 09.30 to 13.00
Sheerness Library and Gallery, Russell Street, Sheerness.
Telephone: 01795 662618 and fax: 583035 and Minicom: 01795 581238
Opening times are as follows:
Monday - 9.30 to 18.00
Tuesday - 9.30 to 18.00
Wednesday - closed all day
Thursday - 9.30 to 19.00
Friday - 9.30 to 18.00
Saturday - 9.30 to 16.00
Of historical interest the library has:
Various local area directories and guides dated from 1891 onwards. A selection of The Post Office Directory are on a microfiche for selected years between 1792 to 1938.
The local newspaper has been collected from 1858 to 1897 and 1899 to 1915 and finally 1922 to 1939 and finally from 1955 to date so any story that you wish to read is here.
Electoral Registers of electors for Sheppey is filed from 1970. There are photocopies of early poll books and lists.
Copies of the Island's Parish Registers are available on microfilm.
Census material is available at the library from 1841 to 1891.
Maps and Plans from the Elizabethan and Georgian periods exist for the Isle of Sheppey. There are large scale maps (25" to 1 mile) covering parts of Sheppey from 1862 onwards.
Illustrations including several thousand postcards and other art work dating from 1890.
Ephemera of local studies collected from a variety of press and other cuttings.
Catalogues, indexes and guides.
Queenborough Library, Main Road, (Well Road) Telephone: 01795 663695
Opening times are as follows:
Monday - 9.30 to 18.00
Tuesday - 9.30 to 18.00
Wednesday - closed all day
Thursday - 9.30 to 19.00
Friday - 9.30 to 18.00
Saturday - 9.30 to 16.00
Have you anything to add? Email Brian Knell at firstname.lastname@example.org with details.