Sort file:- Whitstable, June, 2022.

Page Updated:- Wednesday, 15 June, 2022.


Earliest 1836

Steam Packet Inn

Latest 1962

Tankerton Road / Harbour Street / 33 Sea Wall


Steam Packet Inn

Above photo, pre 1913, by Douglas West.

Steam Packet 1913

Above photo, 1913, by Douglass West.

Steam Packet 1913

Above photo, 1913.

Steam Packet 1913

Above photo, 1913, kindly sent by Rory Kehoe.

Steam Packet

Above photo showing "Steam Packet" on the right at the end of Marmion Terrace, date unknown. Probably the original pre 1913.

Steam Packet 1931

Above photo, circa 1931, kindly sent by Rory Kehoe.


Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald, 16 July 1870.


On Tuesday last a sad accident occurred at Whitstable to a youth belonging to this town, named William Sole. He was one of the members of the Band of Hope who went on an excursion to Tankerton, and it appears that whilst the committee and friends were at tea he and three other boys went to bathe in the sea. The deceased got out of his depth, and, not being a good swimmer, was drowned. An immediate search for the body was made, but some time elapsed before it was recovered. It was then taken to the "Steam Packet Inn" to await a coroner’s inquest. Deceased was fifteen years of age, and the son of a poor widow living in West-street. His father was killed in an explosion at the Powder Works (where deceased himself had been employed) about two years since. The spot selected by the deceased and his companions for bathing was the very dangerous one a short distance above the "street," where until recently there has been a board warning persons of the danger of bathing there; but this board has, however, by some means been removed, and should certainly be replaced without delay.

The inquest on the body of the unfortunate youth was held at the "Steam Packet Inn" on Wednesday evening, before the Coroner, T. T. Delasaux, Esq., and a respectable jury, when the following evidence was adduced:—

George Mann, fifteen years of age, deposed: I live at Faversham. I have looked upon the body of the deceased and I identify it as that of William Sole. Yesterday afternoon, about half-past five o’clock, the deceased, myself, and two others bathed in the sea together. The deceased went farther from the shore than I did, and after a little time we missed him. We called some men to whom we told what had occurred. Some men then came in a boat, and after searching for some time they found the deceased and took him from the water. They brought the body to the shore. Deceased was then quite dead. I believe he was accidentally drowned. He could only swim a little, and the spot where he was found was out of his depth.
Peter Kemp, of Whitstable, mariner, deposed: Last evening in consequence of what I heard I went in search of the deceased, and after some little time I found him in the sea. The body was dragged ashore in a net. Where I picked the body up the water was seven feet deep.

The jury returned a verdict of "accidentally drowned."

We understand that the committee of the Band of Hope will defray the expenses attending the funeral of the deceased, so that they may not fall upon his bereaved mother.


Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald, 25 October, 1913.



Efforts of Local Fire Brigade Unavailing.


The highest and most destructive fire that has occurred in Whitstable for many years broke out early on Sunday morning, the "Steam Packet" public house in Tankerton Road being raised to the ground. Fortunately the conflagration was not attended by loss of life, but the tenant. Mr. L. F. Janes, and his wife, baby, and maid (Ethel Olive) had a very narrow escape.

Mr. and Mrs. Janes retired to rest at about a quarter past eleven on Saturday night, leaving everything safe as they believed. At a quarter past four on Sunday morning Mr. Janes was aroused by the falling of glass and the cracking of bottles. He at once got up and went downstairs and found the bar a mass of flames. He promptly shut the bar door and rushed upstairs and woke his wife and the maid. Mr. and Mrs. Janes' bedroom was directly above the burning bar. The flames were quickly gaining a hold of the premises and there was no time for the occupants to dress properly. They came down quickly, bringing the baby who is only sixteen months old, and made their escape by way of the side door near what was the jug and bottle department. It was most fortunate that Mr. Janes awoke when he did for there was only just time for the occupants to get away, the flames spreading with such rapidity that a part of the building collapsed just after they had made their escape. Mr. R. B. Reeves and family, who reside directly opposite the "Steam Packet" opened their residence to their unfortunate neighbours and did everything possible for them. Directly the maid got away from the burning building she, dressed only in her night attire, ran with all haste to the police station and called Sergeant Thomas, who promptly rang up the maroon firer at the fire station. It was about twenty minutes to five when the maroon was fired. A second maroon was also sent up. The firemen quickly responded to the call and within eight minutes after the maroon was fired they had the hose pipes fixed to the hydrants and water was being played on to the building.


Sergeant Thomas, in the meantime, had proceeded to the scene of the fire and rendered valuable assistance and Mr. Janes gave his attention to getting out his pony which was stabled just across the yard. It was with considerable difficulty that the pony was got out. Mr. Janes also managed to rescue the pony trap, but as it turned out the stable did not catch alight, which was rather miraculous considering the nearness of it to the destroyed building. Although the firemen under Captain Ward worked most energetically their services were of little avail except of course in confining the outbreak to the one building. A very large portion of the house being of wood it burned with remarkable quickness and in about an hour and a half was completely gutted. When the flames were subdued practically the only parts of the house remaining were a portion of the rear of the premises which was brick built and what portions of the two end walls that were of brick. These two pieces of wall which carried the chimneys on either side were propped up, but owing to their dangerous character were pulled down on Sunday evening.


Although the day was young the sending up of the maroon brought an enormous crowd of persons from all parts of the town to the scene of the fire. "The heat in front of the premises was intense," says an eye witness, "and it was impossible to pass the house when the flames had got a complete hold of the structure," while another person informs us that the flames were so gigantic that the reflection of the fire could be plainly seen on the side of Mr. Mitchell’s drapery establishment in High Street, which is, of course, a very considerable distance from the "Steam Packet." The firemen on arrival, and everyone present praises them for the promptitude with which they turned out after the firing the maroon, soon got three branches at work from the two hydrants at Marmion Road and outside Lawson’s sail loft. Captain Ward and his twelve firemen had a plentiful supply of water, but the wood construction of the building and the inflammable nature of its contents, made their task an almost hopeless one from the start. "Bottles, popped off like guns," says one person who was present, "and the noise of the raging furnace could be heard a long distance away."


Fortunately there was practically no wind or the consequences might have been much more disastrous. If there had been an easterly wind the long row of coal stores and other buildings on the harbour would undoubtedly have caught fire. Several railway trucks at the rear of the house were moved away for safety because it was feared that sparks might fall on the tarpaulin coverings and other most inflammable materials. The heat from the fire was so great that windows of Mr Reeves’ house opposite were cracked and the paint of the front of the house badly scorched. A Venetian blind inside one of the rooms was also scorched notwithstanding that the window in front of it was closed.

Interviewed by our representative at the bar that has been improvised in the stable at the side of the rains Mr. Janes said he retired for night at about a quarter past eleven. It was about ten minutes past four on Sunday morning when he heard a noise downstairs. Thinking someone was knocking he went down and on going into the bar he was confronted with a mass of flames. He shut the door and rushed upstairs and woke his wife and the girl. "With the baby," he said, "we only just managed to get out in time. It was a narrow squeak and we had to come out in our night attire. The girl went to the police station to give the alarm and we went over to Mr. Reeves’ house. Mr. Reeves was very kind to us. The firemen arrived with their hose cart very soon after the maroon was fired and worked hard, but within about an hour and a half the place was down."


Mr. Janes informed our representative that he took some cash, cheques and postal orders and put under his pillow on retiring for the night, but there was no time to take them after he discovered the fire. In the ruins, however, about 15 in silver, 3 in coppers and a cheque for 2, which was in the copper bag, were found by the firemen and returned to him. They also recovered two necktie pins. The finding of the cheque for 2 was quite a surprise and although burnt it was sufficiently intact to be presentable.

Mr. Janes was loud in his praise of the way the firemen worked and also of the kindness shown to him, by Mr. R. B. Reeves and family who so readily succoured the occupiers of the unfortunate building.

Mr. and Mrs. Janes afterwards went to the "Duke of Cumberland Hotel," but are now residing with Mr. Janes’ mother at Bondi, Tankerton.

The contents of the building is valued at 800, Mr. and Mrs. Janes losing everything with the exception of the money already referred to, but we understand Mr. Janes was only insured for 650.

There is no definite information available as to the cause of the outbreak, but it is surmised that it was the result of a faulty stove and that some soot fell down the back of the above and after smouldering for some hours ignited the wood work at the rear.

The building was insured for 1,000 in the Phoenix Fire Insurance Office, while the tenant's property was insured in the Royal Insurance Office.


The destruction of the "Steam Packet" removes another of Whitstables old land marks. The building belongs to the S.E. and C. Railway Company and Messrs. George Beer and Co., of Canterbury, have a lease of the premises.

The "Steam Packet" has an interesting history, dating back to early in the nineteenth century. The site of the present harbour was formerly the property of the Commissioners of Sewers and was a part of the shore. The harbour as it is now known was made after the Whitstable—Canterbury railway, which, as our readers are aware, was the second line in England opened to public traffic, came into being. The south quay was made first and steam boats from London, which were run by a local company for a few years, landed at the stairs, which were situated at the end of the high shore - where the eastern quay was afterwards erected. From the calling of the steam boats at the stairs the inn nearest to the spot appropriately became known as the "Steam Packet." Ben Harnett was the tenant in those early days and the front of the inn was facing the sea. The back of the premises was the wall that was seen standing after Sunday's fire. The wooden front of the house as known to the present generation was evidently the site of the back yard in those days. As the business at the harbour increased so the business of the public-house increased and with the advancement of the town (although very slow at that time) a new front was put to the house (this was about forty-seven years ago), only the front was made to face Tankerton Road. When the S. E. Railway Company purchased the branch railway line to Canterbury they also re-constructed the harbour and built the two quays. It was just after this that the "Steam Packet" premises were altered. The history of the Whitstable and Canterbury railway and the old "Steam Packet" can, therefore, be said to be contemporaneous.

Mr. Janes took the house from Mr. Reman about two years ago. The greatest sympathy is felt for him in his loss, for he had proved himself a very popular licensed victualler and is highly respected by a large circle of friends and customers.


Mr. R. B. Reeves. who is the secretary of the local gas company and resides at Douglas House, directly opposite the "Steam Packet," said, in reply to our representative's enquiries, that it was about ten minutes past four on Sunday morning when he heard someone knocking at the door of his house. On being aroused he saw a tremendous blaze across the road, the doors of the "Steam Packet," then being well alight. He went downstairs and let in Mrs. Janes, who was carrying her baby, and the maid, who had just returned from giving the alarm at the police station. Mrs. Reeves being away at time he called his daughters, who came down and provided Mrs. Janes and the maid with clothes. Mr. Janes after getting the pony out, went across to Douglas House and Mr. Reeves got some clothes for him. In a few moments, said Mr. Reeves, the flames came through the windows of the "Steam Packet," first on the west side and then on the east side. For more than twenty minutes there was scarcely a person about, added Mr. Reeves, but when the maroon was fired crowds of people soon arrived. The maroon was fired just under half past four and well under ten minutes the firemen were at work on the building. When they arrived there was a big body flame and the firemen could do little but, said Mr. Reeves, they managed to dull the flames at the west end and thus prevent the fire from reaching the coal sheds belonging to Messrs. Gann and Brown and others. It was fortunate there was very little wind, added our informant.

"The heat was tremendous," he said, "and I could not stand at my front door without holding a handkerchief to my face. The plate glass window of my house cracked like a miniature pistol going off and the Venetian blinds behind the glass were blistered with the heat." The roof of the "Steam Packet" collapsed in parts, explained Mr. Reeves. There was a tremendous flame from the burning building, he said.

Steam Packet fire 1913

Above photo, among the ruins.


Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald, Saturday 13 December 1913.

The Steam Packet Site.

A letter was received from Mr. Alfred Lewis suggested that a much needed improvement would be effected if the "Steam Packet" public house was rebuilt elsewhere as the present site, in his opinion was unsuitable for the owners surrender the licence.

The Clerk:- It is a matter for the magistrates, not for this Council.


The building was built in 1836 and was popular with passengers from the nearby Whitstable Harbour Railway Station. The original weatherboard building burned down in on the 19th Oct 1913 but was re-built later on raised sea wall, in conventional brick by the George Beer brewery, this then became a George Beer and Rigden tied house, before becoming Fremlin's and eventually Whitbread's. The latter day pub closed in 1962 and after becoming the Harbour Office the Dockers Union it is now (2017) the Head Quarters for the Whitstable and District Angling Society.


Steam Packet rear 1960

Above photo, showing the rear of the pub taken from Whitstable Harbour in 1962, kindly sent by Garth Wyver.

Steam Packet location 2000

Above photo, circa 2000, kindly sent by Rory Kehoe.


I am informed by Richard Watling that his great grandfather was the license there in the 1880s. He said he was drowned in a yacht race in the river Medway in August of 1888.

Richard Watling tells me the following:- "From notes I made: he drowned on 4/8/1888 near Hoo fort. He was identified by his brother Charles Taylor. Four Whitstable yachts were racing from Chatham. J H Taylor was 'of amiable and charitable disposition' ... 'furthering the cause of poor children desirous of gaining admission to homes or schools'. He had collecting boxes for the Merchant Seaman's Orphan Asylum in the Steam Packet.

A large number of people attended the funeral."

His wife Agnes was the daughter of George Barnes and was a master mariner.

After Agnes's death in 1897, her brother-in-law Alfred C Child took over running the pub.



HARNETT Benjamin 1851-62+ (age 60 in 1861Census)

BARNES George 1871-78 dec'd (age 45 in 1871Census)

TAYLOR James H 1881-Aug/88 dec'd (also master marine age 40 in 1881Census)

TAYLOR Agnes Mrs Aug/1888-97 dec'd

CHILD Alfred C 1901-03+ (age 42 in 1901Census) Kelly's 1903

KERNAN William John 1911+ (age 60 in 1911Census)

JANES Leonard F 1913+

MACRAE Elizabeth Mrs 1918+

PETER Fred H 1922+

STEPHENS Richard 1924-39+ (retired Royal Navy Captain age 52 in 1939) Kelly's 1924



Kelly's 1903From the Kelly's Directory 1903

Kelly's 1924From the Kelly's Directory 1924


If anyone should have any further information, or indeed any pictures or photographs of the above licensed premises, please email:-