Monthly Archives: February 2019
It’s clearly a Gravesend week. Two days ago we highlighted the coming auction of West Street Pier in the town. Some barge people have since suggested it would make a good base for Thames Sailing Barges – lot of money, lot of work needed, as ever with barges.
Now today there is an article in The Times about that whale which came for an autumn holiday in the Thames at Lower Hope Reach, and liked it so much it stayed around the area for several months, even being seen off Gravesend Promenade. Although nobody knows whether it is male or female, it was christened Benny by local people and seems to have contributed considerably to the town’s economy. Postcards, mugs, fridge magnets and cuddly toy whales appeared in the shops, and there was even “Bennie’s Ale” at one of the pubs.
When we went over on the ferry for the SSBR Committee meeting at the marvellous Three Daws last autumn we all had our eyes peeled but didn’t have the luck to see Benny.
The last sighting was January 6th and even that is just a maybe. Has Benny gone? Did it decide the Thames in December was not the place to be? Gravesend businesses hope not. They hope Benny may be in the outer estuary, or if it has gone that it will come back again. They say Benny had adapted well to life in the river and was happy.
For the sake of all those Benny fridge magnets, they hope to see the whale again.
Read the story here.
Many thanks to Gravesend resident and SSBR Vice Chairman, Roger Newlyn, for bringing to my attention an advertisement for the sale of West Street Pier.
The pier has been the Kent terminal of the Tilbury – Gravesend Ferry for as long as I can remember. In my young days the foot ferry was surpassed by the vehicle ferry used by Essex people on their way to the south coast holiday resorts. This involved many hours queued on the Tilbury side to drive down on to the pontoon and then on to the boat, or on the return journey lined up along West Street which seemed in those long lost days much narrower, much darker, and, dare I say, rather seedy. Somehow though it all added to the excitement of the holiday.
When the car ferry was no more – after the opening of the first Purfleet – Dartford tunnel – the passenger ferry had the use of the pier with just a narrow exit on to West Street. But it was shared with the Princess Pocahontas as the base for her pleasure trips up and down the river. Then the construction of the pontoon at the Town Pier meant the ferry transferred to that, and the West Street Pier stood empty and deteriorating.
The advertisement is from Network Auctions and is headlined “Rare River Thames pier to be sold at auction”. It appears the sale is on behalf of the receivers and is to take place in London on 28th February. Stuart Elliott, the auctioneer, says it is a rare and unusual opportunity for buyers, “How often can you purchase a pier on the Thames!” The guide price is £55,000 plus. The freehold pier is being sold with a separate adjacent vacant office building. According to the auctioneer the pier offers redevelopment opportunities ,subject to planning.
There is an historical plaque at the site recording it as one of the South East’s oldest transport routes. Originally there were two routes, the “Long Ferry” between Gravesend and London, and the “Cross Ferry” over to Essex.
In 1401 King Henry IV granted the Gravesend townspeople sole rights to operate the Long Ferry. At first sailing “Tilt” boats were used, with paddle steamers being introduced in 1815, but the growth of the railways meant the Long Ferry went into decline around the middle of the nineteenth century.
The Cross Ferry is even older, being recorded in the Domesday Book of 1083. Wherry rowing boats were used until they were replaced by a small steam tug in the 1840s, and by paddle steamers in 1856.
Roger feels West Street Pier is not the bargain that it seems as there have been expensive problems with the structure in the last few years.
Here’s the link to the advertisement.