Old Images of Birchington-on-Sea, Kent

Old photo postcard of the cliffs at Birchington on Sea Kent

Glimpse history through old images of Birchington-on-sea, Kent, England.

Seaside Bungalows

An early 20th century postcard of the building team at Fright & Austin shows a large bungalow with a dormer roof under construction.

1935 Carnival

The creation of the NHS was still more than a decade away when this Carnival took place, with participants collecting money for the Margate and District General Hospital.

If you keep an eye on the background, you’ll see some of the local shops, and a woman looking out over the sash window of her bay window.

Birchington Carnival (1935) – British Pathé on YouTube

Sea Wall 1954

In February 1953, a number of Kent’s coastal communities had suffered terrible floods when the sea defences were breached, leaving damaging salt deposits on local farmland.

This newsreel from 1954 shows men working on a new three mile sea wall between Birchington and Reculver, which was costing more than a million pounds.

Sea Wall (1954) – British Pathé on YouTube

Historic Book

Extract from “Archaeologia Cantiana -Volume 12

Published in 1878

Pages 402-409

Birchington is the only parish in Thanet , that could be

supposed to derive its name from a Saxon family which

settled there ; and even with respect to this name it may be

doubted whether there was a family of Birchingas , or

descendants of Birch . Undoubtedly , however , this place was

occupied at a very early period .

One relic of its early inhabitants , found here , many

years ago , was a Saxon coin called a scatta , of the reign of

EPA , King of Mercia , who was slain in A.D. 612. An

engraving of this ancient coin is given by Mr. Roach Smith

in the first volume of his Collectanea Antiqua .

Upon many maps of Thanet we see Epalds Bay marked ,

in Birchington . This is clearly a Saxon name , and , if the

maps are correctly marked , it should have some claim , I think ,

to be identified with the Ippelesfleot mentioned in Gotselinus ‘

Life of St. Mildred , as the port into which her ship , on one

occasion , came .

   For several centuries Birchington has been a limb of

Dover , one of the Cinque Ports . Consequently it was under

the jurisdiction of a deputy appointed by the Mayor and

Jurats of Dover .

In the year 1526 , the Corporation of

Dover received , from the various ” limbs ” of that Port , con

tributions towards the cost of its suit for the discharge of a

subsidy . Amongst them it enumerates ” The Deputy of

Birchington and Goresend 16s . 8d . ”

The mention of two

names suggests the existence of two distinct quays , or land

ing places , one in Birchington village , the other at the out

lying hamlet of Goresend . When both are mentioned , some

times one is named first , sometimes the other , but in many

cases Goresend is not mentioned at all , it being evidently

a mere outlying hamlet of Birchington . For instance , in

June , 1523 , we find mention of one list of Jurors in the

five ports , including ” Mergate and St. Johns , St. Peters and

Byrchyngton , ” while another list names Mergate and St.

Peters , Goresende and Byrchington .

The ancient map of

Thanet , drawn circa A.D. 1414 , does not mention Goresend ,

although it names both Berchingtone and Wodecherche , and

marks a church at each of them , as well as at ” All Saints . “

On the 18th of March , 1565 , certain special commissioners

made a return of the number of boats , population , houses

and officials in the members and limbs of the Cinque Ports .

They do not mention Goresend , but they state that Birching

ton was under the government of the Mayor and Jurats of

Dover , that it contained forty – two inhabited houses , and had

neither ship , nor boat .

In or about the year 1584 Vincent

Underdown , deputy of Birchington , certified that there were

but three fishermen at that place , all of whom were in the

habit of sailing from Margate . They were Henry Brabsonne ,

Ralphe Linche , and Stephen Knighte .

   The number of men composing the select and general

bands in the Cinque Ports was returned to the Secretary of

State about A.D. 1572. The totals shew from St. John’s , St.

Peter’s , and Birchington , together , 170 men in the select

band ; and 204 in the general band .

   In 1620 the deputy of Birchington incurred the displeasure

and wrath of the Lord Warden . He had allowed

passengers from the continent to land at Birchington with

out taking the oath of allegiance to James I. Sir Henry

Mainwaring , Lieutenant of Dover Castle , sent for him on the

12th of December , and he was committed to prison . How

ever , fourteen days after , Sir Henry wrote to the Lord

Warden asking for the deputy’s release because he had erred

from ignorance .

   Great precautions and vigilance were required in those

days , and the inhabitants were called to furnish men and

arms , as the annexed muster roll will shew :

In the unsettled state of relations with neighbouring nations

precautions of many kinds were necessary . The following

list of soldiers billeted in Birchington shews who the in

habitants were , while it affords an illustration of the state

of affairs :

BIRCHINGTON . A tru List of the names of all such Soldiers as

       were lately billetted in Birchington in the Isle of Thanett

       & also the names of such persons vpon whom they were

       billetted & the tyme of theire Continuance there , viz . from

       Jan. 22 1627 untill Mar. 3 , An . eodem 6 weekes full :

The whole number of Soldiers billetted there are 15 Soldiers &

one Lieutenant , of whch 12 Soldiers were billetted there 6 weekes &

the Leiuetant & 3 Soldiers but one weeke : :

  The 12 Soldiers billetts for 6 weekes at iijs vid a piece per

    weeke is xiili xij .

There was continual contention respecting the rights to

wreck of the sea . The Warden of the Cinque Ports claimed

all wrecks within the limbs and members of those Ports ;

while the Lords of manors asserted their claims to wrecks

within their manors . Thus , in the reign of Queen Elizabeth

the Dean and Chapter , of Christ Church , claimed all wrecks

from Pope head gate , alias Pope gate , to Westgate Bay in

Birchington , in right of their manor of Monkton . Henry

Crispe Esquire , in like manner , claimed wrecks from the

mainland to low water mark , within certain of his land , in

Birchington , called Brockmans .

In 1602 the Judge of the

Lord Warden’s Admiralty Court investigated these various

claims , and , amongst other items of information , we learn

that the Lord Warden’s advocate would not bring forward ,

as a witness , John Underdown of Birchington , because he

answered wholly on Mr. Wotton’s part. Mr. Wotton

claimed wrecks at the Hope at Cliffs End by Stonor and

Pegwell , from Tarryes way to the liberties of Sandwich .

The Parish Accounts for Birchington , and those for the

Ville of Wood , during the past 250 years , are still in existence.

The ” cess , ” or rate , levied upon the parishioners was

of a comprehensive kind . It touched both land and income ;

realty and personalty . The land , in 1620 , was assessed at

1d . per acre ; how much in the pound was charged for

” ability ” rate I cannot discover .

The effect however was ,

for example , that in 1620 Sir Henry Crispe knight , paid

£ 1 0s . 6d . for 246 acres , and likewise £ 1 5s . Od . for ” ability

rate . ” Henry Crispe , Esq . , paid nothing for land , but was

charged 6s . for ability rate . Thirty – six years later , in

January , 1656 , Henry Crispe , Esq . , paid 13s . 4d . for ” ability , “

while he likewise paid on 274 acres of land . At the same

time Sir Nicholas Crispe , his son , paid 11d . for ability rate ,

and also paid for eleven acres of land .

   In 1631 , when a dearth of corn caused much distress , the

parish officers of the Ville of Wood bought about twenty

four bushels of wheat , at prices varying from 6s . 3d . to

7s . 6d . per bushel , and sold them to the poor at 4s . per

bushel . They likewise bought barley which was much cheaper .

   What pestilence happened during 1644 we do not know ,

but in the parish account book we read , ” This yeare the

Parishe beeing visited with Godes heauye hande , there weare

3 assessments made and confirmed for the use of the sicke

and poore of Birchington ; the first was made July 6 , 1644 ;

the second was made August 31st , 1644 ; the third was made

October 6th , 1644 ; whereof the third and last is heere

onlye registered . “

  Many of the entries in the parish accounts are of interest ,

but we can only notice very few .

When the Hearth or Chimney Tax * was collected in A.D.

1673-4 , George Ruck was the deputy of Birchington , and

230 hearths were paid for , by the occupants of seventy – nine

houses . Poor persons , who inhabited twenty – seven other

houses , were excused from payment , because they received

parochial relief . Thomas Crispe , Esq . , of Quex , paid the tax

for seventeen chimneys in that house , and also for six others

in his farm house . The largest number of hearths paid for

by any other inhabitant was that of seven in the house of

Richard Davidge .

The family of Kentis , or Cantis , or Canteys , of which

two or more branches were living in Monkton when the

Hearth Tax was assessed , had , in the middle ages , property

in Birchington . For instance , at Martinmas , 1309 , Amisius

Kentis , and Agnes his wife , obtained from Richard de

de Subury , for £ 20 , a messuage , in ” Bircheton and Thanet , “

consisting of thirteen acres of land , and three acres of marsh

with appurtenances .

                 BIRCHINGTON CHURCH .

   Birchington was , until recently , a chapelry appendant to

Monkton Church ; and , like a neighbouring chapel , which

was appendant to St. Nicholas Church , it was dedicated to

All Saints , or All Hallows . It is a singular circumstance

that two chapels , situated so near to each other , should have

had the same dedication . Both buildings are marked upon

the old map of Thanet , which was made about A.D. 1414 .

The three conterminous chancels , and the tower , of

Birchington Church seem to have been built during the

reign , either of King John , or of his son Henry III . Like

many others , erected at that period , its tower stands at the

west end of the south chancel . Crowned with a shingled

spire , this unpretending tower though low , and without

buttresses , is graceful in its proportions , notwithstanding

its simplicity . Divided into four stages , it has in its second

stage a small Perpendicular square – headed window with

label , on the south side ; in its third stage there are lancets ,

and in its fourth stage are four windows , each of a single

light . On the interior the tower is open on three sides ,

having three plain Early English arches rising from im

posts .

The chancel has , on each side , a plain arcade of two

Early English pointed arches , springing from simple im

posts , resting on wall – like piers . The north , or Quex

Chancel , has , above its western arch , a western lancet

window ; which is a very unusual feature . Of the same age as

the chancels and tower , is the Font . It is a plain octagon ,

supported upon one large central, and four smaller, round

shafts .

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