3 June 2011

The History of Whitstable Part 1

Seasalter is a village (and civil parish and district council ward) in the Canterbury District of Kent, England. The parish is located by the sea on the north coast of Kent, between the towns of Whitstable and Faversham, facing the Isle of Sheppey across the estuary of the River Swale. It is approximately five miles (8 km) north of Canterbury.SEASALTER.—This is first mentioned in two charters of 785 (B.C.S. 247, 248), both being original charters. Firstly it is described as "silvam afundantur ad coquendam sal"—wood sufficient for evaporating salt.

Historically, Seasalter came to prominence as a centre for salt production in the Iron Age, and the resulting prosperity resulted in Viking raids on the area. Later, the Domesday Book recorded that Seasalter "properly belongs to the kitchen of the Archbishop" [of Canterbury]. In the 18th century, the marshes were drained to create the Seasalter Levels.

Seasalter Beach

Seasalter today is primarily a residential satellite of Whitstable, and further housing development is unlikely as it is constrained by the sea, the Seasalter Flats protected marshland, and the A299 road. The beach at Seasalter is largely pebble-stone based, and therefore unpopular compared with the more sandy bays at, for example, Westgate-on-Sea.

Seasalter Sailing Club, which has a clubhouse on Faversham Road, primarily hosts Catamaran boats which race on the Swale River estuary. There is also a private Water Ski Club with launch ramp.

The Sportsman pub, at the western end of the village by the marshes, on a site which has hosted an inn since 1642, earned its first Michelin star in January 2008.

Despite the Chatham Main Line Railway passing through Seasalter, there is no station. It has long been proposed to build one, with railway maps noting a possible site; this is unlikely given the proximity of Whitstable Station. Currently the village is served by Stagecoach buses from Canterbury, Whitstable and Faversham.

Famous residents with holiday houses in Seasalter include Harry Hill and Janet Street-Porter. The late Peter Cushing used to live in Joy Lane.

Seasalter's population swells during the summer months from holiday visitors. The main holiday park in the village is Alberta Holiday Park which was once a Haven Holiday Park, but in 2001 became part of Park Holidays UK.

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seasalter

The name of Seasalter and the site of the salt pans is not specified. The wood, of course, would be in the Blean adjacent to Seasalter. The second description is rather more precise—"sealterna steallas thaer bi uban et in Blean uuidiung thaer to", i.e. the salt place stalls there to the north (lit. above) and in the Blean wooding for them.

In those far-off days salt was a very important commodity. It was the only available preservative for meat. The Saxons killed off much of their stock on the approach of winter because they had no winter feed for it, and the preservation of this winter meat supply was essential. Seasalter was a borough and a place of no small importance. The original church and the salt pans have long since vanished beneath the sea but the borough extended as far east as the High Street through Whitstaple, which must then have been a road over waste ground on which the white staple or post, stood out as a landmark. The existing Salts to the west of this road are the last reminder of what was once a famous industry; their site was probably far inland when Seasalter was flourishing in the days of King Offa.

THE WHITE STAPLE —We first hear of this in Domesday Book when it gives name to a Hundred, that is, to the local government and police district of those days. The men of the Hundred met fairly frequently and they met in the open air because public halls were unknown other than the churches, and these were not big enough, to judge from those which have survived. Naturally enough they met on waste ground for no one would want a large assembly walking about over his enclosures. The precise meeting place was often a tree or other landmark.

I see no reason to suppose that the white staple of the Whitstaple Hundred was other than a boundary post where the waste of three manors joined, but I cannot prove this point. An ingenious suggestion that "whit staple" really means "huitre staple" or oyster market is quoted by Mr. Goodsall but, although our Saxon ancestors may have inherited the Roman taste for oysters, I feel sure that they did not call them by a Norman-French name.

The meeting place of the Hundred was naturally apt to become also a market place, especially where there was no other market conveniently placed, as was apparently the case in the Hundred of Whitstaple. There were also special reasons for a market place by the white staple.

It must have stood very near, or actually upon, the road from the port to Canterbury. As we shall see presently, this port dealt in herrings—an important article of diet for the monks and people of Canterbury to whom Fridays were fish days. There was also the salt, equally needed at Canterbury and elsewhere in the neighbourhood. Herrings could, no doubt, be dealt with in the open, but salt would seem to call for some cover from the weather. In this way a small town would soon be formed, for temporary cover would quickly become a permanent shed, and regular occupation of particular market sites by individual salesmen would develop into fenced-in holdings, in which the salesmen could park their pack horses and store their goods.
It is likely that a town had already developed by the time of Domesday Book.

We must not be surprised that it is not mentioned therein because towns are not usually specified unless they were more or less independent units with special rights. The average town was merely a collection of houses in some manor. These houses paid rent to the manor and their value—from the Conqueror's point of view—was merely a part of the total sum for which the manor could be made responsible. But the absence of Harwich and Northwood from Domesday Book is not so easy to explain, since Seasalter is duly described.

We may say at once that Harwich had, so far as our records can tell, already been absorbed by the manor of Northwood. It is the apparent absence of this Northwood manor which needs explanation. It is not really absent but is entered under its old name of Doddanham—Dodda's home, corrupted in D.B. to Dodeham. This statement has not hitherto been put forward (except by the writer in the Whitstable Times of April 27th, 1940) and must therefore be supported by such proof as is possible.

From - Archaeologia Cantiana Vol. 57 - 1944 page 51 - THE ORIGINS OF WHITSTABLE. - By Gordon Ward, M.D., F.S.A.