Clock tower

I love this walk from Hampton. Hampton is one of my favourite coastal walks. It has a wide promenade and the bay is just stunning, particularly at sunrise or sunset. It is also packed with historical interest.

This walk from Hampton to Herne Bay and back is a shorter walk but with some great views of the Thames Estuary. This walk is about 2.5 miles from Hampton to Herne Bay Pier and back again. 

Hampton pebble beach

We started off at the top end of Hampton Bay and walked right through to Herne Bay. There’s plenty of free parking in Hampton right by the seafront so it’s a good place to start.

I love the view from the top of Hampton Bay as you look out onto the little cluster of houses and the Inn at the corner of the Bay.

There are some lovely painted beach huts along the way and when you get to Herne Bay you can stop and have hot chips or an ice cream on the pier before you head back again.

Hampton Sunset

Where is Hampton?

Hampton is a small coastal village which is just west of Herne Bay. It was re named “Hampton on Sea” in the 1800s when attempts were made to build the area into a seaside resort but most of this old tourist area is now under the water due to coastal erosion.

The only remaining building from Hampton on Sea is the Hampton Inn opposite the pier, which is thought to have been built in the 1860s. 

Hampton Coast view

Hampton is mainly a pebbled beach with mudflats visible at low tide. It’s a really pretty bay to walk along and great for crabbing and fishing from the end of the pier.

There aren’t any places to stop and have snacks along the seafront but there is a lovely pub, the Hampton Inn, who serve hot and cold meals right by the pier, with prime views of the coast.

There is also a small shop just off the seafront if you need a drink along the way. 

Shark Beachhut

Hampton History

Hampton used to be the home of a small oyster fishing hamlet in the 1860s. The oyster company was called the Herne Bay, Hampton and Reculver Oyster Fishery Company.

They built a 300 metre long pier there for their company boats and 12 terraced houses for the workforce. They also created four freshwater ponds for breeding the Oysters.

Sadly the company folded in the early 1870s due to bad weather, effecting the breeding of the Oysters, competition from the Whitstable Oyster Company and the cost of the pier, which was higher than they have bargained for. 

Hampton was then bought up for development in 1879 with plans to make it into a new seaside resort with housing by Thomas Freeman, the owner of the local newspaper the Herne Bay Argus.

A bandstand was built and plans were made for a tennis court, reading rooms and golf course and it was renamed “Hampton-on-Sea”. Sadly Mr Freeman died of a stroke in 1880 and the development was taken over by Frederick Francis Ramuz, the mayor of Southend.

He had grand designs for the area and wanted to build lots of houses, a hotel, church, tavern, croquet lawns, tennis courts and some shops. He held 4 auctions for the plots of land and sold quite a few but after 3 years hardly any development had taken place and the tide was slowly creeping inland.

In the census of 1901 the population of Hampton on Sea was put at just 42.

Hampton is better known for its resident Edmund Reid who was a retired head of the CID, Metropolitan Policeman who was involved with the high profile Jack the Ripper case.

He apparently constantly complained to the council about the erosion in Hampton and campaigned for the residents there but as nothing was done, the sea got closer and closer to his home and in 1916  he was finally forced to move to Herne Bay. He was the last remaining resident of Eddington Gardens and Hampton on sea. 

The town was sadly abandoned in 1916 and then disappeared due to coastal erosion by 1921. All that is left now of the old Hampton on Sea is a play park and the Hampton Inn.

The play park was built on the original oyster pools which had been drained.

beach view of Hampton and the sea

Hampton Pier

Hampton pier was built in 1865 by the Herne Bay, Hampton and Reculver Oyster Fishery Company and was originally made out of wood and concrete. It was apparently 320 metres long and slightly curved so that the fishing boats could safely moor at the end of it and not be affected by the tidal current.

It was designed for three purposes, to allow the smacks (traditional fishing boats) to moor and for them to shelter from the elements and a breakwater for fishing. It was opened by the Lord Mayor of London, Thomas Gabriel, on the 15th September in 1866.

When the oyster company went out of business the pier became neglected and was badly damaged in the great storm of 1897. They demolished part of it in 1898 and then in 1901, when Hampton on Sea had around 42 residents, it was bought by the council and partially rebuilt.

Sadly by 1916 the sea has eroded not only the pier but the houses on the seafront and Eddington Gardens. The only remaining building was The Hampton Inn which still stands today as a reminder of the old hamlet and the old pier remains can still be seen at low tide. 

sea view from Hampton

The new small pier at Hampton is now a great place for fishing. In summer you can catch big bass, eels and flounders and in the winter whiting and flounders. It’s also a great place for crabbing.

We walked along Hampton Bay and past the Hampton Inn and round the corner and headed into Herne Bay. We thought we would walk along the coast and then along to the end of the pier to get some fresh chips to eat before we headed back. 

beach huts

When you walk into Herne Bay you feel like you’ve stepped back in time to a typical Victorian seaside resort. There’s arcades, ice cream parlours, crazy golf, a bandstand and a pier with a funfair at the end of it.

It’s so vibrant and full of life. It’s clean and tidy and has some beautiful gardens on the seafront to wander through leading you to the magnificent clock tower which dominates the bay.

You get the smell of hot dogs, chips and suncream. It’s the perfect place to bring the family for a fun day out and to treat yourself to freshly made ice cream at the bandstand or just a stroll along the pier to browse in the many retail huts which line the sides. 

Herne Bay History

Herne Bay is a lovely seaside town in the south east of Kent just along the coast from Whitstable. It is home to the world’s first freestanding purpose built clock tower and until 1978 had the second longest pier in the UK. The town gets it’s name from the neighbouring village of Herne, which means corner of land. 

Herne Bay is primarily a seaside resort which was expanded in the 19th Century by some London Investors and came into its own in the Victorian Era.

It’s a traditional seaside town with arcades lining the seafront and crazy golf. There’s bouncy castles and play areas for the children. It’s got a real fun and traditional feel to it.

There’s so much to see and do and plenty of places to stop and eat and take in the views and it’s a definite must to go up to the end of the pier where there is a funfair, including a traditional carousel, and lots of huts where you can buy hand crafted local goods and freshly cooked bites to eat. 

The Clock Tower

Herne Bay’s most prominent feature is the clock tower. It towers above the seafront and can be seen from miles around. 

The clock tower was built in 1837 and is thought to be one of the first free standing clock towers in the uk. It was funded primarily by Mrs Ann Thwaytes who was the wife of a wealthy grocer who inherited his fortune after his death.

Legend has it that she used to come to Herne Bay on a steamer which used to dock at the end of the pier and she requested the building of the clock so that she knew what time it was on her arrival in Herne Bay.

Day time clock tower

The clock tower was designed by Edwin James Dangerfield who was asked by Mrs Thwaytes to design it in the style of a Grecian temple with a clock at the top.

The clock is now a grade ll listed landmark and serves as a memorial to the fallen in the second Boer War. 

In 2014 the clock was refurbished and fitted with a state of the art tidal linked colour changing light system which is used to celebrate and commemorate events in the town. For example the clock was lit up with the colour blue to hail the NHS’s 73rd birthday in July 2021. 

Herne Bay Pier and Bandstand

Pier entrance

The first pier to be built in Herne Bay was a wooden one but this was eaten away by sea worms so was taken down in 1871. Another shorter pier was built in 1873 with a theatre and shops at the entrance.

This new pier was too short for the steam boats that were bringing in tourists to the town, so in 1896 a longer iron pier was built with a steam ferry terminal at the end that had a tram line from one end to the other which cost just 1p per ride.

The pier was 1,097 metres long and was the second longest pier in the UK, just shorter than the pier in Southend-on-sea. 

pier and end of pier

The pier was used during the second world war as an army base. Local women worked in the pavilion making camouflage netting for the army.

In 1940 the army blew up two sections of the pier to prevent the enemy from landing there. Temporary bridges were put in instead. This was thought to have weakened the middle of the pier and this may have caused this section of the pier to fall down in the storm of 1978.

The end platform is still standing and can still be seen today, although it has been left to the elements standing far out at sea. 

Now the pier has a lovely beach shop at the entrance, selling inflatables, beach shoes and buckets and spades. The pier has retail huts down the side and at the end, selling all sorts of locally made goods and freshly cooked food.

There’s even a micro pub called Beer on the Pier where you can sit and have a beer while looking out onto the bay. 

Beer hut on the pier

You can also get married on the end of the pier too which can be arranged by Beach Hut Weddings “We are a unique Beach Hut Ceremony Venue that has been purpose built to help create the perfect setting for you and your loved ones on your special day.

Situated on Herne Bay Pier, exchange your vows with the sea as your backdrop, surrounded by all the charm and beauty that Herne Bay’s seaside has to offer.”

Helter Skelter

There’s a traditional carousel, dodgems and a helter skelter ride to enjoy too while taking in the stunning views. There’s free fishing and crabbing to be had at the end of the pier. In the spring you can catch flounders and silver eels and in the summer bass.

You can catch dogfish from the beaches during the summer months and smooth-hound and ray. In the winter you can catch whiting and cod. 

Ginger Beer

We bought some freshly cooked chips on the pier which were absolutely delicious, made with cut potatoes fried with their skins still on. They may possibly be the best chips we’ve ever had !! You can also wash it all down with a shandy or ginger beer, which took me back to my youth !!

chips by the sea

Just past the pier you will find the magnificent art deco style Central Bandstand. 

The Herne Bay Bandstand was built in 1924 and was extended in 1932. It is one of the focal points on the seafront. Apparently military bands and tea dances were held there when it was first built and now it is home to Makcaris who have been there since 2009.

They serve the most delicious Gelato, made by specially trained Gelato Chefs. You can still enjoy live entertainment here throughout the week, during weekends and in the summer months.

It’s a fantastic place to just sit and watch the world go by and join in that lovely community feel that is so very prevalent in Herne Bay. 

Bandstand

The Waltrop Gardens

Between the bandstand and the clocktower you will find the Victorian sunken Waltrop Gardens.They were built to celebrate the twinning of Waltrop and Herne Bay.

The gardens are simply stunning and are a lovely place to sit and relax. 

Waltrop Gardens

At the end of the gardens there is a fully equipped children’s play area and plenty of benches to sit and admire the stunning array of flowers. 

The sundial at the centre of one of the garden areas, was a gift from Waltrop and the stone fountain was given to Herne Bay in 1888 by the Lord Mayor of London.

It’s a beautiful garden and a lovely space to just sit and admire the flowers and take in the sea view.

Amy Johnson

Walking along Herne Bay Seafront you will find statues and plaques with information on about Amy Johnson. There’s even a hand made plane bench, built in her honour by the entrance to the pier. 

Plane bench amy johnson

Amy Johnson was the first women to fly solo from England to Australia in 1930. She disappeared on the 5th January in 1941. It is said that she had run out of fuel on a flight from Prestwick to Oxford and after hitting bad weather she lost her course and had to abandon her aircraft over the Thames Estuary near Herne Bay.

Amy Johnson statue

A wartime vessel allegedly saw her plane come down and tried to reach her but due to bad weather conditions and the icy water they were sadly unable to find her. 

Amy Johnson

What else is Herne Bay famous for? 

Smuggling

The town also had links to smuggling, as did a lot of the coastal shores around Kent. Gangs of smugglers used to apparently come ashore at Herne Bay around the early 1800s.

It is said that in the 20th Century excavations under one particular street, uncovered a network of connected cellars that was thought to have been used by smugglers.

Windmills in Herne were said to have been used by smugglers for signalling. There is a family run pub in the town of Herne called the Smugglers Inn where you can play bat and trap whilst having a cask ale pint at the award winning Inn. 

The Brides in the Bath Murders

Herne Bay hit the headlines when over 100 years ago it became the scene of one of the notorious Edwardian “Brides in the Bath” murders which made the national papers and the trail was famously held at the Old Bailey. 

The serial killer and bigamist George Joesph Smith was convicted and hanged in 1915 for the murders of three women. Bessie Williams was found deceased in her bath at number 80 the High Street in Herne Bay on the 13th July 1912.

It was discovered that Bessie had changed her will five days before her death leaving everything to her husband Henry Williams. The examining doctor had originally said that she had drowned due to an epileptic fit. Henry was later found to be one George Joseph Smith. 

He went on to kill another two women. After the death of Bessie Williams, George married Alice Burnham in November 1913. Again she was found deceased in the bath and had changed her will before her death to leave everything to George.

The third victim was Margaret Lifty who he married in December 1914. She was also found in the bath. He managed to get away with the murders by changing his name each time and was only caught when a detective put the cases together through newspaper clippings.

George was arrested in March 1915 and tried and hanged for the three murders. 

The case became well known in history as it was heralded as an important step forward in forensic pathology and detection. It was one of the first cases in which similar techniques were connected to prove deliberation. A technique that has been used in trials ever since.

There was even a film made based on his life and trial which was shown in 2003 staring Martin Kemp as George Smith.

TV Shows and famous residents

Herne Bay has been used as a location for many TV series including Little Britain, Kate and Koji, Cockleshell Heroes, Upstairs Downstairs, Z Cars and Some Mothers do have ’em.

General Info

Herne Bay is also great for finding fossils especially sharks teeth and the first world air speed record was recorded in Herne Bay on 7th November 1945 when Group Captain Huggh Joseph Wilson flew from Herne Bay Pier to Reculver Point in excess of 600 miles an hour. 

Conclusion

The walk from Hampton to Herne Bay is a lovely one. From the peace and serenity of Hampton to the bustling Victorian seaside town of Herne Bay. Herne Bay really is like stepping back into time to Victorian England and it’s got everything you would need for a good fun family day out.

It’s got amusement arcades, crazy golf, a funfair at the end of the pier, freshly cooked chips and hand made ice cream. What more could you want?

It’s great if you just want to have a stroll along the promenade and get some sea air or sit peacefully in the lovely sunken gardens or to do a spot of fishing. There’s plenty of parking along the seafront and the town is just up from the sea front with loads of independent shops to have a browse around.

It’s a thriving up and coming town that you will definitely want to visit again. It’s clean and tidy with a wide promade and so much to see and do for all the family. A great day out for all and a lovely walk to get some fresh air and blow away the cobwebs.

Me Herne Bay

With Thanks to :

Herne Bay Residents Group members who helped me with the history of the town:

Kathy fox, Daisy Doo Cupcakes, Jill Angier, Jay Knock, Louisa Brook, Haydon Rouse, Nikki Hill, Paul Martin, Chris Feder, Barrie Kebbell, Andrea Firth, Chris Attenborough, Lisa Blundell, Kerry Hutton, David Richardson, Hazel Stokes, Sue Halfpenny, Steven Rees, Adrian Bartlett, Cheryl Manser, Dave Smith, Theresa Charlesworth, Sarah Bryce, Vic Godden, Brigid Meehan, Hannah Jones, Fiona Cunningham, Jeff Justine Thurgood, Alex Attenborough, Lauren Smith-Hudson, Cliff Sullivan, Herne Bay Pier, Janet Groom, Catherine Francis-Yeats, Michelle Judge and Phil Keating.

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2 Comments

  1. Very informative. And you took a photo of our family beach hut! My husband painted it.

    1. Sally Laker says:

      Hi Claire- thank you for your comments- your husband is very talented- it’s a fantastic painting on your beach hut – I hope you didn’t mind me putting a picture up of it- it was by far our favourite beach hut 🙂 x

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