The tiny abandoned village 1 hour from London that was swallowed up by the sea

Without wishing to be flippant, we’re going to have to get used to the fact that almost anywhere with the words “on-sea” in its name may very well be in the sea at some point in the uncomfortably-near future.

Yes, it’s climate change on the way, the emergency we’re just watching, with the occasional whisper of, “Should we maybe… do… something? No? Nah. ”

But humans blithely ruining their own homes – defecating on their own doorstops, if you will – is nothing new. In fact, at 90-minute train journey will take you from London to Herne Bay, where you can see the remains of Hampton-on-Sea – the village that was swallowed up by the sea due to the behavior of its human inhabitants.

READ MORE:The insanely beautiful village 75 minutes from London that’s right by one of the best beaches in Britain

It all started in 1860 when an oyster fishing company was founded at Herne Bay. It’s odd to think of oysters as anything other than a posh delicacy, but in the 19th century they were cheap and abundant – the peasant fast food of the day.

The company built a 320m pier at a cost of £ 28,000 – worth over £ 3m today – to allow its boats to moor up and to attract oysters to shelter.



Postcard showing Hampton-on-Sea in the last throes of coastal erosion.
Postcard showing Hampton-on-Sea in the last throes of coastal erosion.

Twelve terraced houses were also built for staff.

The company didn’t last – in 1884 it ceased operations and the available land was spied by investors for a seaside residential estate called Hampston-on-Sea. Sadly, that ship had sailed simply by the building of the pier.



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Here’s the thing about the north Kent coast: it’s soft. It’s made up of permeable clay, and the lapping of the sea is enough to erode it – or it would be if it weren’t for the restorative effect of shingle which gets brought in from the west. Herod, replenish. A great natural system.

But the pier acted as a buffer to the shingle. Without that protection, the coast began to erode. The sea edged nearer and nearer.



Postcard from 15 February 1914 showing the Hampton Pier Inn (which is still standing and now called the Hampton Inn).
Postcard from 15 February 1914 showing the Hampton Pier Inn (which is still standing and now called the Hampton Inn).

Eventually, it swallowed the hamlet whole.

It wasn’t a shock to the residents; the sea had been playing grandmother’s footsteps with them for 40 years by the early 1900s – and some even made light of the situation.

Edmund Reid, the detective inspector who had worked on the Jack the Ripper murders, moved to Hampton-on-Sea and became something of a champion of the village’s 40 or so residents.



Site of abandoned and drowned village Hampton-on-Sea.
Site of abandoned and drowned village Hampton-on-Sea.

He painted battlements on the side of his house that faced the sea, set up a ‘hotel’ in his shed from which he would sell postcards depicting what would in fact come to pass: the entire settlement getting swallowed up by the waves.

Today, if they go at low tide, visitors can still see the remains of the pier, covered in algae, completely reclaimed by the sea.

How to get there

Trains go to Herne Bay from London St Pancras International and take 1 hour 20 minutes.



Erica Buist, London Stories Writer

Erica is a London Stories Writer, and is particularly interested in London history – the stranger the better. She lectures on features writing at various UK universities, has written for the Guardian, BBC and Medium, and is the author of the book This Party’s Dead.

Check out some of her favorite pieces here:

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