Exploring the history of Whitstable with The Quiz Trail

Whitstable has an illustrious history and thanks to The Quiz Trail team of Liz, Becky and Laura, we are able to delve into a few ripples in the history of Whitstable’s timeline.


On the right is Whitstable’s first fire engine on display in Whitstable Museum. It was a manually operated, horse-drawn fire pump and was presented to the town in 1867 by the Norwich Union Fire Insurance Society Ltd. It was manned by 26 volunteers.


Two years later, on 16th November 1869 a devastating fire hit Whitstable which, whipped up by strong winds, caused a huge amount of damage to the town. At that time the population was about 2,000. Seventy-one buildings were destroyed, 25 of them being houses. Storage and workshops along the sea wall and Marine Street made up for the remainder of the severe damage – livelihoods were badly affected.


At 10:45pm the local coastguard noticed flames coming out of the roof of a shop and raised the alarm. Telegrams and horse riders were sent to Canterbury and Faversham to ask for extra help. The Whitstable fire engine arrived but time was lost in obtaining water and getting the hose into use – there were further delays when the engine was blocked by sand and seaweed drawn up with seawater.


The fire spread and it wasn’t until 8am the next morning that the flames were all finally extinguished – although the firemen stayed for some hours until the embers had gone out too. The fire drew a crowd of 10,000 spectators to the area.


How about some royalty in Whitstable?

Royal visitors to The Whitstable Oyster Festival on 29th July 2013 were Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall. Arriving at Whitstable Harbour, they were greeted by crowds of well-wishers.


Prince Charles tried one of the famous Whitstable oysters, however Camilla declined the offer. Famous satirist, poet and author Jonathon Swift (author of Gulliver’s Travels) once said “He was a bold man that first ate an oyster.”


Speaking on the Quiz Trails and inspiration behind them Liz said: “Quiz Trails were developed from a love of local history and wanting to share what we discover. When I moved to Rochester, I went and found out lots about it and with so much interesting stuff to know, I thought I can’t be the only one who would find it interesting! Once I’d started, I couldn’t stop as Kent history is so fascinating and we now have sixteen Quiz Trails!

“When the girls were young, we did what most of us do – have a day trip somewhere, walk around the middle popular bit, and have something to eat and drink, get an ice cream and go home all having had a lovely day out.

“But we went home not knowing very much about the place we’d just visited. Who were the people of the past? What were the town stories? What went on there? Who was misbehaving?!

“History can be known for being boring and so the challenge I set myself was to find an exciting way to get it all across and that’s when we came up with the circular route, quiz and booklet combo.

“With everything being so expensive, our Quiz Trails provide an inexpensive but wonderful day out, giving people a reason to go out, get some fresh air, exercising their bodies and brains at the same time! Just add a picnic for a great day out!

“The self-guided quiz trail can be a quick whizz about or a slow meander; you could even do it a bit at a time – useful in the UK where a downpour is never far away!

“People who live in the town might learn something new, families can have a fairly cheap and fun day out together and visitors can learn some really interesting things about the buildings they walk past on their travels.”


For more information on the Whitstable Quiz Trail, contact: [email protected]. They are also available to buy online at www.quiztrail.co.uk (free p&p over £10).

*Photos supplied by The Quiz Trail Team

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