Northfleet Harbour in Kent is steeped in history, much of which dates back to the Roman era with a complex of villas, temples, graveyards and dwellings being excavated upstream on the River Fleet (Ebbsfleet River). Saxon dwellings and an intact water turbine have also been found, together with three Viking anchors in Fleet.
Downstream in the harbour entrance there is a tidal water mill dating back to Victorian times with mill pond, millrace and sluices still intact. In the area, there was a wealth of industry from foundries creating armaments for the Crimean War, boat building and the world's earliest cement exports. Sadly, the historic harbour declined with the cement industry and was totally forgotten, being hidden from view behind the factory.
Currently the harbour has been blocked off by a flood defence wall with just a sluice to let the river Fleet out, but the aim is to reopen this wall and link the harbour back to the Thames to bring this vital marine asset back into use.
The Northfleet Harbour Restoration Trust hopes the harbour will see a renaissance, with the area being ear-marked for mixed use regeneration to help plug the gap in facilities in the Thames Estuary region. As well as providing a multifaceted facility with safe moorings for historic ships, boat repairs, a base for community organisations such as sea scouts and other voluntary bodies, the Trust also aims to offer sail training, heritage interpretation, victualling, marina facilities etc.
The Trust's key objectives include:
- creating a base for historic vessels, traditional ship builders and repairers, thereby alleviating problems caused by lack of space for their activities on the Thames
- providing an operational base for organisations such as The Marine Volunteer Service and Sea Scouts, thus promoting educational resources for both heritage marine and boat building skills
- building a marina the size of Gillingham Marina with almost full tidal access 24hrs a day (to give an idea of scale, Northfleet Harbour is five times the size of Gravesend Canal Basin).
Northfleet Harbour is an ideal location for what could be a very attractive and popular boating destination on the Thames, helping to reduce the current shortage of sheltered berths and moorings for historic ships and traditional boat repairers.
Northfleet Harbour of the future could be a vibrant destination to visit. The mixed use development to the East of the harbour could offer an attractive marina; the harbour could host a marina and become a centre for maritime heritage, boat repairs, sail training.
Here are the examples that the Trust believe the harbour should be used for:
Ebbsfleet International Marina
Attractive walks and seaing areas
A home for historic ships - the harbour could offer dozens of affordable places for ships to be displayed and repaired
Public boat launching facilities
Boat repairs and storage
Access for Migratory fish and other wildlife
Reopened River Fleet