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Whitstable Memories - Breakwaters

Some years ago, someone told me that viewing Simply Whitstable had changed the way that they now looked at photographs and it was a direct result of all the analysis and comment that we receive from our visitors. 

Well, here we have another example of a photo containing more than it seems at first glance... and we need to thank Diana Suard (Paris), John Harman (British Columbia, Canada) and Brian Smith for drawing it to our attention.

You may recall that Diana forwarded this elegant family shot from her home in Paris.....




It was taken at West Beach in 1917 and we featured it in several articles (including items on West Beach and Beach Fashions). Along the way, we discussed many general aspects drawn from it. Then, John Harman started examining the detail... and came up with some interesting points. I'll leave you with John's explanation....


Origins of a Breakwater


The breakwater posts in Diana's photo appear to be made of salvaged timber from old ships. 



Close observation of the left hand one, though decayed, reveals some carved numbers at the top and what appears to be a capital "R" at the bottom. It was not uncommon for the tonnage to be carved in the 'head deck' beam of the cargo hold of a ship. 

The other post shows a long scarf joint. This was used to join long timbers -  particularly in a keel or keelson.  There are also some 'long through fastenings'. These have nothing to do with the breakwater construction itself.

 John Harman
British Columbia


So, it seems that recycling was practiced on our waterfront at the beginning of the 20th century... even if our sea defences may have been a bit 'makeshift' by comparison with the current day! Mind you, I reckon that there may have been a touch of "made to measure" about those posts.... just the right width for an outdoor sofa. However, a cushion or two wouldn't have been a bad idea.

The practice of recycling timber has also arisen in other comments sent the visitors book.... with regard to a large timber pier that occupied part of the beach in front of what is now Cushing's View. Some time ago, John Harman mentioned that the timbers contained carved letters - confirming that they had also originated from an old ship.

Brian Smith (Hoppers Crossing, Victoria, Australia) elaborated on this as follows....


    Origins of the 
Horsebridge Pier


Colloquially known as The Horsebridge jetty or pier, it belonged to the Whitstable Hoy & Trading Company and it is well illustrated in Wallace Harvey's 'Merchant Ships of Whitstable" page 118. 

Wallace Harvey wrote that the pier was constructed of timbers from the 'Herbert' in 1913 & demolished in 1956. There was a crane on the pier, hand operated I think. My father used to climb up that with 2-year-old me on his back & dive in.

Brian Smith
Hoppers Crossing


As a kid, I recall that the pier had concrete blocks at its base. These blocks remained for a few years after the pier timbers had been removed. John tells me that they were actually dismantled remains from some of the World War II anti-invasion defences.    


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