A selection of what you will find
The Invicta steam locomotive was built by George and Robert Stephenson for the World’s first steam locomotive passenger railway. The line ran from Whitstable to Canterbury and opened on the 3rd May 1830, four months before the Liverpool to Manchester line.
You will also see one of the stationary Winding Engines used pull the wagons up the steep inclines, which has recently been rescued. Why should Whitstable be the location for such an early railway?
Between 1825 and 1830 brothers Charles and John Dean developed the world’s first diving helmet. By 1836 they had dived on the Mary Rose and raised several cannon and baulks of timber. Some Whitstable divers became rich salvaging silver dollars from a wreck off the Irish coast, others died when equipment failed or from the ‘bends’.
After a huge fire in 1866 the Norwich Union insurance company, striving to protect its policy holders and its own financial position, presented Whitstable with its own Horse Drawn Fire Pump. This pump was used to fight the Great Fire of Whitstable of 1869 which destroyed 70 buildings. The bright-red restored manual pump is an impressive exhibit.
Shrimps, Oysters, Cockles, Muscles, Whelks and Winkles together with crabs and whitefish are all part of Whitstable’s story. Oyster beds have been cultivated off Whitstable’s coast since ancient times, but in 1793 local men bought the rights to the beds and an Act of Parliament established the Company of Free Fishers and Dredgers of Whitstable. Today all kinds of seafood can be sampled in restaurants and on Whitstable Harbour.
Wood and 5000 years of experience is required to build sound wooden ships. Whitstable shipwrights worked in oak, pitch-pine and elm to build fishing boats and ships up to 450 tons. No working shipyards, sailmakers or rope makers remain in Whitstable, but if you know where to look you will see their footprints. Over four centuries, around 283 ships were built or repaired in the many yards which stretched along the waterfront between the harbour and the end of the golf course.
Acquaint yourself with Peter Cushing OBE (1913 -1994), film actor, television star and artist. He lived in the town for 35 years whilst making many of the 91 films in which he starred. His stoic portrayals in Hammer horror films and Star Wars is legendary, but did you know that he also played Dr Who in two films?
Publications for sale at reception
by Geoffrey Pike and John Cann
Roman pots, a church tower, a fishing smack – these are some of the features used as points of discovery in ‘Places and People’. Text and line drawings are used to recreate changes in the Whitstable area from prehistoric to modern times.Read More...
A selection of what you can do
Recognising that not all children relish going around a Museum we aim to make your visit interesting and fun for all the whole family. Whilst parents and grandparents can indulge in the towns rich heritage the children can get hands-on with a variety of activities and hopefully learn new stuff at the same time.
You are welcome to play at being a Victorian by dressing up in clothes of the period. You can look for prehistoric shark’s teeth, complete a Museum Trail, play with a 100-year-old dolls house or pretend you are a shop keeper.
Plans are in place to improve the experience for children, so just ask at the reception and one of our volunteers will be glad to help. And if you have any ideas for things we can do to inspire and keep the children interested please let us know.
Throughout the year special events for children are arranged, for details see our Facebook page.
Although there is a lot of information about Whitstable and the surrounding area in the museum you may need help finding it, so please ask one of the Front of House Volunteers or Guides for help.
Should you want to research deeper into a particular subject and cannot find the information you want readily available or within one of the publications on sale at reception, you can make an application to our Research Team Leader.
If you would like to support the Museum by becoming a member or volunteer click here for details of the benefits and opportunities.
The Museum Gallery is separate building alongside the Museum with display windows fronting the main street. It provides an open space of approximately 30 square meters for special displays and offers retail opportunities to artisans on short term hire. If you are interested in hiring this space please contact the museum.