Beachfields Park

Beachfields Park’s original boundary started at the defensive moat at the western end and finished at the Catholic Church on The Broadway, it now starts at Hollands Amusements due to Tesco buying a portion of the land for a new store in 1993.

In the 1840’s steamboats became a popular way to travel along the Thames and Medway. Due to this, and Mile Town becoming built up, this part of Sheerness became a tourist attraction with people travelling from London by boat to Sheerness pier. In 1860 the railway was constructed to Sheerness (Blue Town) bringing even more visitors to the town and further improving the route into Sheerness with a new station being constructed (Sheerness East) opposite the park in 1883. The beach, bathing machines (there were 11 in 1861), amusements, bandstands, and other entertainment helped Sheerness become a hugely popular beach resort. The first bandstand to be built was to commemorate Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee in 1897, coinciding with a new entrance to the park via Jubilee Stairs near Royal Road.

Beachfields Park was left as a recreational area due to its frequent flooding, even after flood protection was improved along the beach this area has stayed as one of the main recreational areas in Sheerness. However, it wasn’t always such a pleasant place to be as parts have been used as a household rubbish dump as well as clinker being dumped here from the gas works at Westminster. Local children in the 1920’s were sent here with a bucket to collect small pieces of coke to keep their fires burning at home, the area was nicknamed Clinker Park due to this. The level of ground in some places is higher than it initially was, this may be due to the parks use as a dump, and evidence of this can be found at the Bowling Pavilion where only three of the seven steps can be seen.

Due to the popularity of the site it was decided that the war memorial dedicated to the casualties of WWI, Princess Irene and HMS Bulwark disasters should placed in the area in 1922. A boating lake was constructed in 1925 with the first peddaloes being named after local councillors, the boating lake remained until the 1980's and it is now a children’s sandpit. The fair ground that opened on the 19th May 1945 was owned by Butlins, it had been the site of low-key amusements with swings, slides and roundabouts since the early 20th Century. Butlins added other rides including a Ferris wheel, ghost train, miniature railway, bumper cars and other rides - it now only consists of an indoor amusement arcade, small bowling alley and nightclub owned by Hollands with the 2 foot gauge, 450 feet long railway being removed in 1960 and all other rides being removed by 1993 in preparation for the new Tesco store.

In the late 1800’s the Victorian Royal Navy swimming pool was constructed within Beachfields Park. It was a tidal pool with each tide filling the pool with water but it eventually became redundant, leading to the local council constructing the second pool on the site in 1906. Being filled by Spring Tides, it became the first municipal pool in Sheerness. The third swimming pool built in 1980 is now in operation within the park and still in the general area as the original pools.

With the declaration of war the defence of the dockyard became paramount, the approaches to the beach were mined, guarded by machine gun emplacements stretching along to Minster and the sea wall was capped with barbed wire entanglements. The beach became a protected area with limited access. Other changes to the area included the metal railings that surrounded the war memorial and Beachfields Park, these were removed for scrap metal and have never been replaced. During this period a prefabricated building was installed to serve as Civil Defence Headquarters, the building was taken over and used as Sheerness Magistrates. It was demolished in 2000 along with the Probation Office that stood nearby, and Sheppey College now stands on the site.

Designed & built by - Kevin Ali