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The History of Kent

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History of Sheerness

Sheerness comes from the Old English ‘scir’ meaning ‘bright, gleaming’ and the Anglian word ‘næss’ as a ‘ness, promontory, headland, a projecting piece of high land’; therefore, a ‘bright headland’.  

To prevent enemy ships from entering the River Medway, King Henry VIII built a fort at a desolate area on the edge of the Isle of Sheppey. In 1666, work commenced on its replacement, a much stronger fort, although the Dutch destroyed it in their raid of 1667 before it could be completed. 

A shortage of labour resulted in a new naval dockyard - an extension to 
Chatham - not opening until 1708. Construction workers had permission to take materials from the yard provided they could be carried on one shoulder. The workers used these materials to build dwellings, which they painted using navy grey-blue paint, and became known as the Blue Houses and eventually Bluetown.

Following a fire at the yard on 5 September 1823, with the destruction of many buildings including the blue houses, they rebuilt the yard. As a defensive measure, they constructed a high brick wall surrounded by a moat. As the area outside the yard expanded, it became known as
Sheerness, and by the end of the 19th Century had achieved town status and formed a civil parish.

Sheerness parish church is dedicated to the Holy Trinity. It opened on 30 August 1836, with a day school opening in the following year. In 1851, it became a district church and enlarged, and 1933 saw further alterations.

In 1856, the Sittingbourne and
Sheerness Railway formed to construct a seven mile line from the East Kent Railway’s station at Sittingbourne to Sheerness, thus providing a rail connection to London. The railway station at Sheerness opened on 19 July 1860. Initially the line terminated half a mile from the town centre. In 1883, a more convenient site emerged. They named the new station ‘Sheerness-on-Sea’, with the older station, renamed ‘Sheerness Dockyard’…. more