When, a couple of years ago, the Seaside Museum was left a maritime painting from the 1830s of a paddle steamer called the Red Rover no one realised the enormous significance it had for the development of Herne Bay. Before the 1830s, Herne Bay was a very small seaside hamlet where coastal sailing vessels unloaded goods primarily intended for Canterbury. In 1830, a group of entrepreneurs began to buy up land to develop one of the very first new towns in the UK and their plan depended on building a pier that would enable paddle-steamers to dock at any state of the tide. Herne Bay was conceived, designed and promoted to cash in the growth of the paddle-steamer trade between London and the North Kent coast and the Red Rover played a crucial role in their plans. The story of the Red Rover is the story of the foundation of Herne Bay.
Our exhibition tells a fascinating tale of ambition, disaster and disappointment. Disaster because the Red Rover was sunk in a collision when she was barely a year old. She was raised by revolutionary techniques for the time and went back into service but eventually lost out to the coming of the railways to North Kent. The original investors fared no better and their concept of a high-class development for the wealthy did not work out well and most of them lost their money. If the railway spelled the end of the coastal paddle steamers it was the saviour of Herne Bay which took off after the line was opened in 1861.
Come to the Seaside Museum until July 22nd to find out more about the founding of our town.