Isle of Grain
Overview
 
The Isle of Grain, in the north of Kent
Kent
Kent is a county in southeast England, and is one of the home counties. It borders East Sussex, Surrey and Greater London and has a defined boundary with Essex in the middle of the Thames Estuary. The ceremonial county boundaries of Kent include the shire county of Kent and the unitary borough of...

, England, is the easternmost point of the Hoo Peninsula
Hoo Peninsula
The Hoo Peninsula is a peninsula in England separating the estuaries of the rivers Thames and Medway. It is dominated by a line of sand and clay hills, surrounded by an extensive area of marshland composed of alluvial silt. The name Hoo is the Old English word for spur of land.-History:The Romans...

. No longer an island, the Isle is almost all marshland and the Grain Marshes are an important habitat for birdlife. The Isle constitutes a civil parish, which at the 2001 census had a population of 1,731.
The following extract is taken from the Topographical Dictionary of Great Britain and Ireland by John Gorton
John Gorton (writer)
John Gorton was an English writer, known as a compiler of reference works.His works include:* a translation of Voltaire's Dictionnaire Philosophique, 1824;...

, 1833:
Graine, Isle of

A parish in the Hundred of Hoo, lathe of Aylesford, opposite to Sheppey at the mouth of the Thames; it is about 3.5 miles (5.6 km) long and 2.5 miles (4 km) broad and is formed by Yantlet Creek running from the Medway to the Thames.
Encyclopedia
The Isle of Grain, in the north of Kent
Kent
Kent is a county in southeast England, and is one of the home counties. It borders East Sussex, Surrey and Greater London and has a defined boundary with Essex in the middle of the Thames Estuary. The ceremonial county boundaries of Kent include the shire county of Kent and the unitary borough of...

, England, is the easternmost point of the Hoo Peninsula
Hoo Peninsula
The Hoo Peninsula is a peninsula in England separating the estuaries of the rivers Thames and Medway. It is dominated by a line of sand and clay hills, surrounded by an extensive area of marshland composed of alluvial silt. The name Hoo is the Old English word for spur of land.-History:The Romans...

. No longer an island, the Isle is almost all marshland and the Grain Marshes are an important habitat for birdlife. The Isle constitutes a civil parish, which at the 2001 census had a population of 1,731.

History

The following extract is taken from the Topographical Dictionary of Great Britain and Ireland by John Gorton
John Gorton (writer)
John Gorton was an English writer, known as a compiler of reference works.His works include:* a translation of Voltaire's Dictionnaire Philosophique, 1824;...

, 1833:
Graine, Isle of

A parish in the Hundred of Hoo, lathe of Aylesford, opposite to Sheppey at the mouth of the Thames; it is about 3.5 miles (5.6 km) long and 2.5 miles (4 km) broad and is formed by Yantlet Creek running from the Medway to the Thames. The Creek was filled up, and had a road across it for 40 years until 1823, when the Lord Mayor ordered it to be again reopened, so as to give about eight feet navigation for barges at spring tide; thus saving a distance of fourteen miles (21 km) into the Medway, and avoiding the danger of going round by the Nore
Nore
The Nore is a sandbank at the mouth of the Thames Estuary, England. It marks the point where the River Thames meets the North Sea, roughly halfway between Havengore Creek in Essex and Warden Point in Kent....

.


The closure of the road caused considerable anger among the residents of the Island and it was later reopened. The need to reach London by a less circuitous route was later to be addressed by the Thames and Medway Canal
Thames and Medway Canal
The Thames and Medway Canal is a disused canal in Kent, south east England, also known as the Gravesend and Rochester Canal. It was originally some long and cut across the neck of the Hoo peninsula, linking the River Thames at Gravesend with the River Medway at Strood...

, although this plan, too, was not a success.

In 1855, as part of military defences guarding the Thames, Grain Tower, a fort, was built. It remained in use until 1946, having been used during both World Wars.
In earlier times the incidence of marsh fever (Malaria
Malaria
Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease of humans and other animals caused by eukaryotic protists of the genus Plasmodium. The disease results from the multiplication of Plasmodium parasites within red blood cells, causing symptoms that typically include fever and headache, in severe cases...

) was extremely high. 1918 saw Britain's last recorded outbreak of the disease.

Yantlet Creek was the downstream limit of the City of London
City of London
The City of London is a small area within Greater London, England. It is the historic core of London around which the modern conurbation grew and has held city status since time immemorial. The City’s boundaries have remained almost unchanged since the Middle Ages, and it is now only a tiny part of...

's ownership of the bed of the River Thames. It is marked by a London Stone
London Stone (riparian)
London Stone is the name given to a number of boundary stones which stand beside rivers in south east England.-History:Until 1350, the English Crown held the right to fish the rivers of England and charged duties on those people it licenced to fish...

 beside the mouth of the creek.

The Isle today

The south of the Isle is an important industrial area. Until 1982 it was home to a major oil refinery
Oil refinery
An oil refinery or petroleum refinery is an industrial process plant where crude oil is processed and refined into more useful petroleum products, such as gasoline, diesel fuel, asphalt base, heating oil, kerosene, and liquefied petroleum gas...

. Construction of this facility for BP took from 1948 to 1952, and it suffered flooding almost immediately when the North Sea flood of 1953
North Sea flood of 1953
The 1953 North Sea flood was a major flood caused by a heavy storm, that occurred on the night of Saturday 31 January 1953 and morning of 1 February 1953. The floods struck the Netherlands, Belgium, England and Scotland.A combination of a high spring tide and a severe European windstorm caused a...

 breached the sea wall. The site is now part-occupied by Thamesport
Thamesport
London Thamesport is a container seaport on the River Medway, serving the North Sea. It is on the Isle of Grain, in the Medway unitary authority, Kent, England in the United Kingdom. It is sited on the former Port Victoria.-History:...

, the UK's third largest container port
Containerization
Containerization is a system of freight transport based on a range of steel intermodal containers...

. The remainder is allocated for industrial and warehousing use under the Thames Gateway
Thames Gateway
The Thames Gateway is an area of land stretching east from inner east London on both sides of the River Thames and the Thames Estuary. The area, which includes much brownfield land, has been designated a national priority for urban regeneration, taking advantage of the development opportunities...

 project.

Next to the BP site is Grain Power Station
Grain Power Station
Grain Power Station is an oil-fired and CCGT power station in Kent, England with operational capacity of 1,320MW owned by E.ON UK.-History:Grain was built on a site for the nationalised Central Electricity Generating Board. It was built by the Cleveland Bridge Company beginning in 1975. It opened...

, built in the 1970s, which burns oil. It was mothballed in 2003, but reopened in 2006 and as of 2006 provides up to three percent of the National Grid supply. There are plans to replace Grain power station when it reaches the end of its design life, by building a new, gas-fired power station alongside it.

Another major installation is a new Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) import facility. Segments of the Channel Tunnel
Channel Tunnel
The Channel Tunnel is a undersea rail tunnel linking Folkestone, Kent in the United Kingdom with Coquelles, Pas-de-Calais near Calais in northern France beneath the English Channel at the Strait of Dover. At its lowest point, it is deep...

 were also manufactured in the area.

A suggestion to site a new London international airport to lie west of the Isle on the Cliffe Marshes aroused a lot of local opposition, as well as from environmental groups such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
Bird Notes and News was first published in April 1903.The title changed to 'Bird Notes' in 1947. In the 1950s, there were four copies per year . Each volume covered two years, spread over three calendar years...

. It is still not completely written off, and in August 2010 Foster + Partners announced they were working on plans for a new 'Thames Hub' scheme that would combine Airport, Flood Protection and Energy Generation.

The Isle of Grain was the site of Grain Fort, built in the 1860s and used for coastal defence until the 1950s. The fort was almost completely demolished about 1960, leaving only the original earth rampart, complete with some tunnels running underground.

Grain Tower, about a quarter of a mile off-shore and accessible at low tide, originated about the same time as the main fort. Later additions, consisting of concrete emplacements and shelters, were added during the World Wars, and the tower was used as a boom control point. The boom was a chain with a huge net fitted to it. This went straight across the two rivers, preventing any German U-boats getting through.

The Isle of Grain is the landing point for the Britned undersea power cable
BritNed
BritNed is a high-voltage direct-current submarine power cable between the Isle of Grain in Kent, the United Kingdom, and Maasvlakte in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.-History:...

 between Holland and the UK.

Settlements

An 1801 map shows that the ancient village of Grain was at one time called St James in the Isle of Grain. Like others in the Hundred of Hoo, the village was named after the dedication of its parish church - cp Allhallows
Allhallows, Kent
Allhallows is a village and civil parish on the Hoo Peninsula in Kent, England. Situated in the northernmost part of Kent, and covering an area of 23.99 km², the parish is bounded on the north side by the River Thames, and in the east by the course of Yantlet creek, now silted up...

 (= All Saints), St Mary Hoo
St Mary Hoo
St Mary Hoo is a village and civil parish in Kent, England. It is on the Hoo Peninsula in the borough of Medway. According to the 2001 census it had a population of 244.The first appearance of the name is in 1240...

, Hoo St Werburgh
Hoo St Werburgh
Hoo St Werburgh is one of several villages on the Hoo Peninsula in Kent, England, to bear the name Hoo. It constitutes a civil parish in the borough of Medway, with a population of 7,356 at the 2001 census.- History :...

.

Wallend is the other settlement, now uninhabited and contained within a fenced-off industrial site. The Medway Power Station
Medway Power Station
Medway Power Station is a 688 megawatts gas-fired power station on the Isle of Grain in Medway next to the River Medway.- History :It is run by Scottish & Southern Energy under the name Medway Power Ltd. It was built by Marubeni , Tarmac and Kansas City-based Black & Veatch...

 now occupies the site.

Port Victoria

Local historian Alan Bignell gives this description of the new port and accompanying railway
Port Victoria railway station
Port Victoria railway station is a disused station in Kent, United Kingdom which opened on 11 September 1882 and closed in 1951. It was located at the head of a long timber pier reaching in the River Medway estuary....

:
In the late 1870s the South Eastern Railway decided to promote a line through the (Hoo) district, with a view to competing for the traffic from London to Sheerness
Sheerness
Sheerness is a town located beside the mouth of the River Medway on the northwest corner of the Isle of Sheppey in north Kent, England. With a population of 12,000 it is the largest town on the island....

, formerly an almost unchallenged stronghold of the London, Chatham and Dover Railway
London, Chatham and Dover Railway
The London, Chatham and Dover Railway was a railway company in south-eastern England from 1859 until the 1923 grouping which united it with other companies to form the Southern Railway. Its lines ran through London and northern and eastern Kent to form a significant part of the Greater London...

. For some years past a steamer had been running from Sheerness to Strood
Strood
Strood is a town in the unitary authority of Medway in South East England. It is part of the ceremonial county of Kent. It lies on the north west bank of the River Medway at its lowest bridging point, and is part of the Rochester post town....

, whence South Eastern trains gave a connection to London. ... the journey was of some length, along the rather tortuous course of the Medway. In 1879 the South Eastern obtained an act for a branch leaving their North Kent line at a point about (3.5 miles) from Gravesend
Gravesend, Kent
Gravesend is a town in northwest Kent, England, on the south bank of the Thames, opposite Tilbury in Essex. It is the administrative town of the Borough of Gravesham and, because of its geographical position, has always had an important role to play in the history and communications of this part of...

 ... to Stoke ... In the following year powers were obtained for an extension, (3.5 miles) long, to St James, in the Isle of Grain, where a deep-water pier was to be built on the Medway. A ferry was to connect the new pier with Sheerness ...


The railway was opened throughout on 11 September 1882. The pier was built for passenger traffic and Queen Victoria was indeed a passenger. Bignell records that: she "... took a rather curious fancy to Grain as a chosen departure point for trips to Germany" and there are claims that Port Victoria "was built essentially as a railway station at the end of a line from Windsor".

The project was not a success and the ferry service was withdrawn in 1901, and the pier upon which the station was located fell into disuse by 1931, with the station moving to a new site just inland. It was closed completely in 1951, and the 1.75 miles (2.8 km) of line taken up. The site is now occupied by the industrial sprawl, though the foundations of the pier are still visible at low tide to this day and are clearly visible on aerial photographs of the area at coordinates 51.433253°N 0.703179°W.

From about 1912 a seaplane station was positioned at Grain by the Admiralty. From the beginning of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 regular patrols were made along the Thames estuary from this station, as part of English Channel
English Channel
The English Channel , often referred to simply as the Channel, is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France, and joins the North Sea to the Atlantic. It is about long and varies in width from at its widest to in the Strait of Dover...

 defences. In 1914 Port Victoria became an Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 air plane repair depot, adjacent to the station. Activities at these bases declined after 1918, until in 1924 defence cuts saw their closure. See also under Stoke, Kent
Stoke, Kent
Stoke is a civil parish on the Hoo Peninsula in Kent, England, to the south of Allhallows, on the north of the Medway Estuary. According to the 2001 census it had a population of 1,063....

: large airship base.

But soon the course of the ship opens the entrance of the Medway, with its men-of-war moored in line, and the long wooden jetty of Port Victoria, with its few low buildings like the beginning of a hasty settlement upon a wild and unexplored shore. The famous Thames barges
Thames sailing barge
A Thames sailing barge was a type of commercial sailing boat common on the River Thames in London in the 19th century. The flat-bottomed barges were perfectly adapted to the Thames Estuary, with its shallow waters and narrow rivers....

 sit in brown clusters upon the water with an effect of birds floating upon a pond. —Joseph Conrad
Joseph Conrad
Joseph Conrad was a Polish-born English novelist.Conrad is regarded as one of the great novelists in English, although he did not speak the language fluently until he was in his twenties...

, The Mirror of the Sea

Future proposals

In November 2011, Lord Foster published proposals to improve the transport system of South East England. Under these proposals, called the Thames Hub
Thames Hub
The Thames Hub is a proposal for a new approach to integrated infrastructure development that combines rail, freight logistics, aviation, renewable energy and its transmission, flood protection and regional development in the Thames Estuary and connects this infrastructure to a trade and utilities...

, new high-speed rail
High-speed rail
High-speed rail is a type of passenger rail transport that operates significantly faster than the normal speed of rail traffic. Specific definitions by the European Union include for upgraded track and or faster for new track, whilst in the United States, the U.S...

 lines would be built connecting Kent and Europe with North London, and the North East and North West of England. The scheme would also involve the remodelling of the Thames Estuary, by the construction of a four-runway airport
Airport
An airport is a location where aircraft such as fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, and blimps take off and land. Aircraft may be stored or maintained at an airport...

 on the Isle of Grain, partially on land reclaimed from the estuary. This plan is controversial.
Residents highlight the hazards presented by the presence of the wreck of the SS Richard Montgomery
SS Richard Montgomery
SS Richard Montgomery was an American Liberty ship built during World War II, one of the 2,710 used to carry cargo during the war. The ship was wrecked off the Nore in the Thames Estuary in 1944 with around 1,400 tons of explosives on board, which continue to be a hazard to the area.-History:The...

 with its 1400 tonnes of explosives, just off the Nore
Nore
The Nore is a sandbank at the mouth of the Thames Estuary, England. It marks the point where the River Thames meets the North Sea, roughly halfway between Havengore Creek in Essex and Warden Point in Kent....

, and the natural gas terminals that import and temporarily store 20% of the UK's natural gas. In addition there are 300,000 birds that breed along the flight path. Aviation specialists point to the difficulty of fitting another airport in this crowded airspace.

External links

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