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The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland 1868

"MINSTER-IN-SHEPPEY, a parish in the Isle of Sheppey, lathe of Scray, county Kent, 3 miles E. of Queensborough, and 3 S.E. of Sheerness, which township it includes, though the port of Sheerness enjoys an independent jurisdiction. The ruins of the old abbey, from which this parish derives its name, are still to be seen. The nunnery was founded by Queen Sexburga in 673, but was afterwards burnt by the Danes, and rebuilt for Benedictine nuns by Archbishop Corboyl of Canterbury, in 1130. It continued to flourish till the Dissolution, when its revenue was returned at £122 14s. 6d., and the site given to the Cheneys, Hobys, &c. The coast is bounded by numerous lofty cliffs, and guarded by several coastguard stations. Cheney Rock, or oyster ground, is situate opposite the coast. The village is situated on high land, commanding extensive views. Market gardening is carried on extensively, but the lands are chiefly in pasture and meadow, with a small proportion of arable and woodland. The ground is marshy, and the soil principally clay. The navigable river Hoale intersects the parish. The King's Ferry affords communications with the main land, and at Sheerness is a modern pier, with wharfs attached, affording facilities for the conveyance of produce by water. The impropriate tithes have been commuted for a rent-charge of £1,602 11s. The living is a perpetual curacy in the diocese of Canterbury, value £169. The church, dedicated to St. Mary, formerly belonged to the nunnery, and has a large, square, massive tower, crowned with a turret, which has been diminished in height. The interior of the church contains several old monuments and brasses, among which is one to Sir R. Shurland, a Templar, with a carved horse's head and inscription, and a brass of Sir Roger de Northwood, bearing date 1330; also effigies of a Cheney, and Senor Cerinemo, who was made prisoner by Drake in the Armada. There is also the district church of the Holy Trinity at Sheerness, the living of which is a perpetual curacy, value £300. It was erected by a grant from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in 1836. There are places of worship for Baptists, Independents, Wesleyans, and Primitive Methodists, and a Roman Catholic chapel. The parochial charities produce about £19 per annum, which goes to Hobson's school. The poorhouse of Sheppey Union is in this parish. There are National schools both at Minster and Sheerness."

"SHEERNESS, a parochial chapelry, market town, seaport, and naval arsenal of the second rank, having separate jurisdiction, but locally in the parish of Minster in Sheppey and liberty of the Isle of Sheppey, upper division of the lathe of Scray, county Kent, 17 miles N.E. of Maidstone, and 46 S.E. of London, or 514 by the Sheerness branch of the London, Chatham, and Dover railway. It has also steamboat communication with London, Chatham, and other places, by means of the Medway Company's steamers. It is situated on the N.W. point of the Isle of Sheppey, at the conflux of the Medway, or West Swale, with the Thames, and nearly opposite the Nore light.

It is a rapidly-rising town, comprising the four districts of Bluetown, Mile-town, Banks-town, and Marine-town, and of late years has been much enlarged. In 1797, the mutiny of the Nore broke out at this port. There are hot and cold baths on the beach, and adjoining is the Royal Hotel, situated in Bankstown, facing the sea. The town is a place of modern growth, having been a swamp prior to the reign of Charles II., who, in 1667, directed the construction of a strong fort, but before it was completed the Dutch Admiral De Ruyter entered the Thames, and made his attack on the shipping in the Medway, having in his passage destroyed that portion of the works which was then completed. In consequence of this attack, a regular fortification, with a line of heavy artillery and smaller forts, higher up on both sides of the Medway, was formed, to which other works have since been added, and which now extend for a mile and a half, and mount above 100 guns, many of which are of the largest calibre. A garrison is kept up, under the command of a governor, or port-admiral, captain superintendent, fort-major, and inferior officers, who have residences within the government lines, and adjoining the barracks, which, with new ones recently built, will accommodate 2,000 men.

The dockyards alone, within the last quarter of a century, have cost, in their extension and improvement, upwards of £3,000,000, and give constant employment to about 3,000 artisans, mechanics, and shipwrights. The wharf fronts the Medway, and the harbour is now rendered safe and commodious. The dockyard, which covers an area of about 60 acres, is formed upon mud-land reclaimed from the sea with great labour and ingenuity. It is nearly triangular in form, and is surrounded by a massive wall which cost £40,000, and is 24 feet high, except at the side which abuts on the water. It contains three basins, one of which, the largest, has 26 feet depth of water. This basin is 620 feet long and 300 feet broad, with an entrance of 60 feet wide. The middle basin is 250 feet by 200, and the northern basin 282 feet by 200. There are also three dry docks and a frigate dock, or more correctly speaking, a fitting dock, near which is the storehouse, six stories high, and capable of holding 30,000 tons of naval stores. There are besides victualling storehouses, mast house, sail-loft, rigging-house, navy pay-office, military guard-house, police station, workshops, and numerous sheds. Much of the space now covered by the government works was occupied by houses previous to 1815, so that Blue-town was formerly much larger than it now is.

Mile-town is the next most ancient portion of the town, and consists chiefly of one long, irregularly-built street. The other divisions, called Banks-town and Marine-town, are regularly built, and contain some of the best houses in Sheerness. The streets are paved and lighted with gas, and the drainage and water supply have recently been much improved under the supervision of the local board of health. The inhabitants suffered much from want of water in the last century, previously to the sinking of the wells, of which one is situated in Ordnance Marsh; another, 360 feet deep, in Blue-town; a third in the dockyard; and others in Mile-town.

The principal public institutions unconnected with the government works are the new County Court house, at which sessions are held monthly, a mechanics' institute, with library and reading-rooms, where lectures are delivered during the winter months, a savings-bank, branch office of the London and County Bank, union poorhouse, railway terminus, police and coastguard stations, and a cemetery company. Besides the dockyard business, a considerable trade is done in corn and seeds, and in supplying shipping. One weekly newspaper is published in the town.

The population of the town in 1861 was 12,015, but of the ecclesiastical district 13,186. A pier and causeway extend from the town to low-water mark, a distance of about a quarter of a mile, and forms a promenade. The view from the cliffs leading to Minster, embracing the North Sea on the E.; the rivers Thames and Medway, bearing innumerable vessels of all sizes, on the W.; the Nore and the harbour of Sheerness on the N.; and the fertile valleys of Kent, with the Medway winding through them, on the S.

The living is a perpetual curacy in the diocese of Canterbury, value £200, in the patronage of the Incumbent of Minster. The church, dedicated to the Holy Trinity, was erected in 1836, and situated between Banks-town and Mile-town. There is also a government chapel situated at the upper end of Blue-town, abutting on the north-eastern point of the dockyard, but without the walls. There are also places of worship belonging to the Roman Catholics, Wesleyans, Independents, Baptists, Primitive Methodists, Bible Christians, and a Jews' synagogue. The places of education include two National schools for boys and girls, a British and Foreign school, five Sunday-schools, one infant school, besides several private educational establishments. Market day is on Saturday, but there is no regular market place."

[Transcribed from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland 1868 by Colin Hinson ©2010]