Isle of Grain

From Academic Kids

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 - and is an important habitat for birdlife. In earlier times the incidence of marsh fever (Malaria) was extremely high. 1918 saw Britain's last recorded outbreak of the disease.


The Isle in historical times

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 3.5 miles long and 2.5 miles 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 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.

The Isle today

The south of the Isle is an important industrial area, with a large container port and a power station, and was until 1982 home to a major oil refinery. During the building of the Channel Tunnel the segments for the tunnel were manufactured here.

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 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), Hoo St Mary, Hoo St Werburgh.

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

Port Victoria

  • " In the late 1870's 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 indeed Queen Victoria was a passenger: she "... took a rather curious fancy to Grain as a chosen departure point for trips to Germany" and that Port Victoria "was built essentially as a railway station at the end of a line from Windsor"
    • (Extracts taken from The Kent Village Book (Alan Bignell, 1999))

The project was not a success and the ferry service was withdrawn in 1901, and the pier fell into disuse. It was closed in 1951, and the 1.75 miles of line taken up. The site is now occupied by the industrial sprawl.


The Isle of Grain is sometimes confused with the larger Hoo Peninsula, containing villages including Allhallows and Stoke.


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