Gravesend Pier, Kent
Gravesend Town Pier is the oldest surviving cast iron pier in the world. It was built in 1834 on the site of the original pier mentioned in the Domesday Book.
For many years Gravesend was on the front line of the defence of London and therefore the realm. In 1381 a combined force of French and Spanish ships attacked, burning down the town and carrying off many of its inhabitants into slavery, leaving those remaining destitute. To help and support the town, Richard ll granted the watermen of Gravesend the sole rights to transfer passengers to London, this was significant in establishing the town as a maritime centre and port and it slowly grew in favour.
By the 17th century, regular coach services were running to Gravesend from London to meet boats from Dover. Inns and hotels in the town and along the route sprung up to cater for the new trade.
On her way back to Virginia, Pocahontas, the first Native American to visit England, died on board a ship at Gravesend in March 1617. She was buried in the parish churchyard of St George’s. There is a statue of her in the church gardens, although the location of her grave is unknown.
Steamboat services had begun from London in 1815, bringing with them day-trippers and all the predictable developments of coffee houses, dining rooms and tea rooms in the area.
When the railways came in 1845, the day trippers were able to travel further afield in search of their fun and fresher air.
The flip side of the railway expansion was the development and expansion of the docks, with the new Tilbury Docks opening in 1886.