Isle of Grain

Isle of Grain

:"For the peninsula sometimes mistakenly called the Isle of Grain, see the Hoo Peninsula".infobox UK place
country = England
latitude= 51.46
longitude= 0.73

static_image_caption=Grain church
official_name= Isle of Grain
civil_parish = Isle of Grain
population = 1731
unitary_england= Medway
lieutenancy_england = Kent
region= South East England
constituency_westminster= Medway to be replaced 2007 by Rochester and Strood
post_town= ROCHESTER
postcode_district = ME3
postcode_area= ME
dial_code= 01634
os_grid_reference= TQ885765

The Isle of Grain, (OE "Greon" meaning gravel) is in north Kent, England at the eastern end of the Hoo peninsula. The Isle, even today in the northern part, is almost all marshland. The Grain Marshes are an important habitat for birdlife. The Isle constitutes a civil parish, which according to the 2001 census had a population of 1,731.


The Isle of Grain is the easternmost end of the Hoo Peninsula.


The following extract is taken from the "Topographical Dictionary of Great Britain and Ireland" by John Gorton, 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 convert|3.5|mi|km long and convert|2.5|mi|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.

The closure of the road caused considerable anger among the residents of the Island and it was later reopened. The problem of reaching London by a less circuitous route was later to be addressed by the Thames and Medway Canal, which 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) was extremely high. 1918 saw Britain's last recorded outbreak of the disease.

Yantlet Creek was the downstream limit of the City of London's ownership of the bed of the River Thames. It is marked by a London Stone 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. Construction of this facility for BP took from 1948 to 1952, and it suffered flooding almost immediately when the North Sea flood of 1953 breached the sea wall. The site is now part-occupied by Thamesport, the UK's third largest container port. The remainder is allocated for industrial and warehousing use under the Thames Gateway project.

Next to the BP site is Grain Power Station, 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 build a new, gas-fired power station alongside to replace Grain power station when it reaches the end of its design life.

Another major instillation is a new Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) import facility. Segments of the Channel Tunnel 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. It is still not completely written off.

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 (unusually) almost completely demolished about 1960, leaving only the original earth rampart, complete with some tunnels running underground. People are not permitted to enter these tunnels as they are dangerous. They were rumoured to go into the centre of the village and out to the Grain Tower, but both are highly unlikely.

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


The ancient village of Grain, at one time, as shown on an 1801 map, called Grain, or St James in the Isle of Grain. Like others in the Hundred of Hoo, the village was called after the dedication of its parish church - "cp" Allhallows (= All Saints), St Mary Hoo, Hoo St Werburgh.

Wallend is the other settlement, and is almost entirely industrial.

Port Victoria

Local historian Alan Bignell gives this description of the new port and accompanying railway:

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, formerly an almost unchallenged stronghold of the London, Chatham and Dover Railway. For some years past a steamer had been running from Sheerness to Strood, 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 ... 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 September 11 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 convert|1.75|mi|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 coord|51.433253|0.703179|type:landmark|name=Port Victoria, Kent.

From about 1912 a seaplane station was positioned at Grain by the Admiralty. From the beginning of World War I regular patrols were made along the Thames estuary from this station, as part of English channel defences. In 1914 Port Victoria became an Royal Navy 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: 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 sit in brown clusters upon the water with an effect of birds floating upon a pond. —Joseph Conrad,

ee also

*Islands in the River Thames


* "Government decision holds key to Grain's £350m future" (15 Jan 2006) "Kent on Sunday" p15
* [ Medway local government] Plans for site of former BP oil refinery
* [ Historic Kent] More about Grain
* [ Disused Stations: Port Victoria station] . Catford, Nick - 4 March 2007, accessed 7 April 2007
* Bignell, Alan (1999). "The Kent Village Book"

External links

* [ EON press release] On future plans for the Grain and Kingsnorth powerstations.
* Isle of Grain is at coordinates coord|51.46|0.73|type:isle

River item line|upstream=Two Tree Island
downstream= Isle of Sheppey

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