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Minnis Bay.jpg
Minnis Bay
Grid reference: TR298694
Location: 51°22’37"N, 1°18’18"E
Population: 9,961  (2011)
Post town: Birchington
Postcode: CT7
Dialling code: 01843
Local Government
Council: Thanet
North Thanet

Birchington-on-Sea is a village and parish in north-east Kent, with a population of around 10,000.

It lies on the coast facing the North Sea, east of the Thames Estuary, between the seaside resorts of Herne Bay and Margate. As a seaside resort, the village is a tourist and retirement destination. The village's Minnis Bay is a family beach with attractions such as sailing, windsurfing, a paddling pool and coastal walking routes. Its three smaller beaches are surrounded by chalk cliffs, cliff stacks and caves.

The village was first recorded in 1240. Its parish church, All Saints', dates to the 13th century and its churchyard is the burial place of the 19th-century Pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Quex Park, a local 19th-century manor house, is home to the Powell-Cotton Museum and a twelve-bell tower built for change ringing.

The museum contains a large collection of stuffed exotic animals collected by Major Percy Powell-Cotton on his travels in Africa, and also houses artefacts unearthed in and around Birchington by his daughter, Antoinette Powell-Cotton, a keen archaeologist.


Birchington was first recorded in 1240 as Birchenton, a name derived from the Old English words 'bircen tun', meaning a farm where birch trees grow.[1] Archaeological evidence has shown the area was inhabited before the existence of the village: Roman and prehistoric artefacts have been discovered in the area, and Minnis Bay was once the site of an Iron Age settlement.[2]

All Saints' Church dates to around 1350

Archives show the village's All Saints' Church dates to around 1350.[3] In the early 15th century, Quex Park manor house—named after the park's second owner, John Quek—was built just south of the village.[2] The ownership of the manor passed to various families until 1770 when it was acquired by the present owners, the Powell family.[4] In the late 17th century, the house was visited by King William III.[2]

In 1565, a report on the coast of Thanet by the commissioners of Queen Elizabeth I stated that Birchington had 42 houses and did not have an active port.[5] Before the 19th century, the village coastline was frequented by smugglers, leading to skirmishes between them and excise officers. Several of the older houses in the village contain cellars and bricked up tunnels, once used for storing contraband.[2]

The 1801 census recorded the village's population as 537.[6]

In the early 19th century, the Tudor Quex House had to be demolished and a replacement manor house was built in its place.[4] In 1818, the Waterloo Tower was built on the grounds of Quex Park. It is a bell tower built by the owner of Quex Park, John Powell Powell, who had an interest in change ringing. Waterloo Tower was the first twelve-bell tower in Kent.[7] The village was a farming community until the late 19th century, when it began to develop into a coastal resort.

Birchington railway station was opened in 1863 and the Railway Hotel, now the Sea View Hotel pub, was opened in 1865. Station Road was subsequently built to serve as Birchington's main shopping street. Coast Guard cottages were built at Minnis Bay in the 1870s and the first shops appeared by the bay in 1903.[2]


The village is nine miles to the east of Herne Bay and four miles to the west of Margate. The small town of Westgate-on-Sea lies between Birchington and Margate.

The village is built beside four partly sandy bays; Minnis Bay to the west, Grenham Bay and Beresford Gap towards the centre and Epple Bay to the east. The village is situated on the Isle of Thanet, which was a separate island from mainland Kent until around two hundred years ago, when the channel in between became silted up. The area to the west of the village, between Birchington and Herne Bay, was once part of the channel and is now low-lying marshland. In the east of the village the land rises, forming chalk cliffs and cliff stacks around the beaches at Grenham Bay, Beresford Gap and Epple Bay. A sea wall stretches along the foot of the cliffs to prevent further erosion. The geology of Thanet consists mainly of chalk, deposited when the area was below the sea. Isle of Thanet became exposed above sea-level once the English Channel broke through between Kent and France, causing the sea-level to fall.[8] The whole of the northeast Kent coast has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest.[9]


As a seaside resort, the village has an economy based around tourism, with several hotels, caravan parks and leisure attractions. The village shopping centre attracts walk-in trade from tourists.[10] One of the largest retailers is the Co-Op supermarket. The elderly population of the village has generated health and social care jobs at local care homes and at the Birchington Medical Centre. At the 2001 census, 1.4% of the village's population resided in a medical or care establishment, compared to the national average of only 0.8%.


Birchington-on-Sea's Epple Bay, with sea wall and promenade

Minnis Bay is a popular family beach with attractions such as sailing, windsurfing, cafes, beach huts, public houses, restaurants, a paddling pool and coastal walking/cycling routes. The beach has gained a Blue Flag Award for its cleanliness and safety.[11] The village has three other smaller beaches, which are surrounded by chalk cliffs and cliff stacks. Wildlife that can be observed in the Thames Estuary includes seals, velvet swimming crabs and the migrant turnstone.[12]

Paintings by local artists are displayed at the David Burley Gallery in Birchington Library.[13] Community activities take place at the Birchington Village Centre, including adult education classes, drama productions by the Birchington Guild of Players and concerts by the Birchington Silver Band. In 1989, Birchington-on-Sea was twinned with the town of La Chapelle d'Armentieres, near Lille in northern France;[14] Birchington Twinning Association arranges events between the two communities, such as school trips, concerts and war remembrance services.[15] Since 1932, Birchington has held a street carnival each summer.[16]


Westgate and Birchington Golf Course

Several teams compete in local leagues: the Birchington United Services Club runs a football team in the Thanet Sunday Football League Premier Division[17] and a netball team in the Thanet and District Netball League,[18] while Birchington Chess Club competes in the Thanet League. Westgate and Birchington Golf Club has an 18-hole 4,889-yard course on the cliff tops between Westgate and Birchington.[19] Birchington Bridge Club meets twice a week at the Our Lady and St Benedict's Church Hall.[20] A football pitch is provided at the council owned Birchington Recreation Ground.[21]

As a seaside resort, the village has several clubs for watersports.[22] Minnis Bay Sailing Club, founded in 1950, is a dinghy and catamaran club where members can sail for fun, but competitions are also held most weekends.[23] Speed boats, jet skis and water skis can be hired for use near the beach at Beresford Gap by members of Beresford Wakeboard and Water Ski Club, which was established in 2004 to help alleviate anti-social behaviour in the area.[24][25] Anglers are catered for by Birchington Sea Angling Society.

Quex House and Park

Main article: Quex Park

To the south of the village is Quex House, a 200‑year‑old manor house situated in 250 acres of parkland and gardens. Several rooms, decorated with oriental and English period furniture, are open to visitors, and guided tours are provided.[26] The Powell-Cotton Museum houses three galleries of stuffed animal displays, depicting more than 500 African and Asian animals against their natural habitats.[27]

Further galleries display a vast collection of African artefacts, European firearms, European and Asian cutting weapons, European and Chinese porcelain, and important archaeological finds from Thanet and East Kent.[28] The total number of artefacts has not been counted, though the ethnography items alone total approximately 18,000.[29]


Birchington-on-Sea's secondary school is the secondary modern King Ethelbert School. In 2006, it had around 750 pupils and was seeking government support to become a specialist visual arts school.[30] Many secondary students living in Birchington-on-Sea commute to schools in nearby towns, especially to the grammar schools in Ramsgate and Broadstairs. The village's primary school is Birchington Church of England Primary School,[31] which is a state school owned by the Church of England but run by Kent Council.[32]


A view of Birchington-on-Sea from the neighbouring town of Westgate-on-Sea

Birchington-on-Sea railway station is on the Chatham Main Line which runs between Ramsgate in East Kent and London Victoria. Birchington is around 1 hour and 40 minutes from London by train. A National Express coach service also runs between London Victoria Coach Station and Ramsgate via Birchington-on-Sea.[33] A selection of early morning and evening trains run on weekdays to London's Cannon Street station and high-speed services to St Pancras International, primarily for business commuting.

There are bus services running to Westgate-on-Sea, Margate, Broadstairs, Canterbury and Herne Bay. The A28 road runs between Hastings and Margate via Ashford, Canterbury, Birchington and Westgate-on-Sea. Three miles south-west of Birchington-on-Sea, the A28 crosses the A299 road which leads along North Kent towards London, becoming the M2 motorway at Faversham.[34]

Notable residents

Residents of Birchington-on-Sea have included the British screenwriter Tudor Gates, who wrote a number of stories about female vampires for Hammer Studios in the early 1970s. Gates died in the village in January 2007.[35] In early 1882, Pre-Raphaelite artist and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti rented a bungalow in the village, in an attempt to recuperate from ill-health. He died in April the same year and was buried in the churchyard of All Saints, under a tombstone designed by fellow artist, Ford Madox Brown.[36]


  1. Mills, David (2011). A Dictionary of British Place-Names. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press. p. 58. ISBN 978-0-19-960908-6. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Mirams, Michael (1984). Old Margate. Maresborough Books. ISBN 978-0-905270-90-6. 
  3. "Archival information". Retrieved 2007-05-29. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Powell-Cotton Manuscripts". Access to Archives. Retrieved 2015-08-12. 
  5. Scurrell, David (1982). The Book of Margate. Barracuda Books. 
  6. "Potted Histories" (PDF). The Birchington Roundabout. October 2003. Archived from the original on 1 October 2006. Retrieved 2007-06-23. 
  7. "Waterloo Tower". Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-05-28. 
  8. "Isle of Thanet". BBC. Retrieved 2007-03-29. 
  9. "Geological Sites Map".,limestoneordIndex,lnrPIndex,lnrIndex,moorIndex,nnrPIndex,nnrIndex,nnrscoPIndex,nnrscoIndex,nnrwalPIndex,nnrwalIndex,npkIndex,natparkLDIndex,ramPIndex,ramIndex,ramscoPIndex,ramscoIndex,ramwalPIndex,ramwalIndex,siteunitPIndex,siteunitIndex,sssiPIndex,sssiIndex,sssiirzIndex,sssiscoPIndex,sssiscoIndex,sssiwalPIndex,sssiwalIndex,sacPIndex,sacIndex,sacscoPIndex,sacscoIndex,sacwalPIndex,sacwalIndex,spaPIndex,spaIndex,spascoPIndex,spascoIndex,spawalPIndex,spawalIndex,biosphPIndex,biosphIndex,biospscoPhIndex,biospscohIndex,biosphwalPIndex,biosphwalIndex,lfaIndex,nvzIndex,moncPIndex,moncIndex,whsPIndex,whsIndex,lbuildIndex,batPIndex,batIndex,pagPIndex,pagIndex,comforIndex,gbeltIndex,herIndex,lmiIndex,natforIndex,rspbgbPIndex,rspbgbIndex,uplandIndex,obj1Index,obj2Index,backdropDIndex,backdropIndex,europeIndex,vmlBWIndex,25kBWIndex,50kBWIndex,250kBWIndex,miniscaleBWIndex,baseIndex&box=606367:157786:652260:179661&useDefaultbackgroundMapping=false. Retrieved 2007-04-24. 
  10. "Isle of Thanet Local Plan 1998" (PDF). Thanet Council. April 1998. Retrieved 2007-03-29. 
  11. "Minnis Bay". Retrieved 2015-10-24. 
  12. "Get close to Thanet's seals!". BBC. Retrieved 2012-01-27. 
  13. "Birchington Library". Kent County Council. Retrieved 2015-08-12. 
  14. "La Chapelle D'Armentieres" (in French). Archived from the original on 24 November 2006. Retrieved 2007-03-29. 
  15. "Village News". Birchington Parish Council. Archived from the original on 2007-02-02. Retrieved 2007-03-29. 
  16. "71 years of Carnival Fun" (PDF). The Birchington Roundabout. August 2003. Archived from the original on 1 October 2006. Retrieved 2007-06-23. 
  17. "Birchington United Services Club". Archived from the original on 2014-12-24. Retrieved 2007-04-23. 
  18. "Thanet and District Netball League". Thanet and District Netball League. Retrieved 2007-06-05. 
  19. "Westgate and Birchington Golf Club". 
  20. "The Island Guide" (PDF). Archived from the original on 10 March 2006. Retrieved 2007-05-29. 
  21. "Outdoor Sports Pitches". Thanet Leisure Force. Archived from the original on 2012-02-08. Retrieved 2007-06-21. 
  22. "Sport Directory" (PDF). Thanet District Council. November 2006. Retrieved 2007-04-24. 
  23. "Minnis Bay Sailing Club". Minnis Bay Sailing Club. Retrieved 2007-05-29. 
  24. "Water Based Recreation" (DOC). Retrieved 2007-06-05. 
  25. "Designated Launching facilities in Thanet". Thanet Council. Archived from the original on 2007-10-06. Retrieved 2007-04-23. 
  26. "Quex Museum". Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-05-28. 
  27. "BBC Inside Out – Quex House". 2005. Retrieved 18 March 2012. 
  28. "Quex Museum – Ceramics Gallery". 2012. Archived from the original on 2013-06-01. Retrieved 18 March 2012. 
  29. Crowhurst, Richard (2006). "Quex House and the Powell-Cotton Museum". Retrieved 18 March 2012. 
  30. "King Ethelbert School". King Ethelbert School. 2007-05-03. Retrieved 2007-04-15. 
  31. "UK Schools & Colleges Database". Retrieved 2007-03-29. 
  32. "Schools and the Church of England". Church of England. 2004. Retrieved 2007-03-29. 
  33. "Timetable". National Express. Retrieved 2007-03-29. 
  34. "Map".,1.3353&trf=0&lon=1.261196&lat=51.359241&mag=6. Retrieved 2007-03-29. 
  35. "Tudor Gates". The Stage. 2007-01-30. Archived from the original on 12 August 2015. Retrieved 2007-05-28. 
  36. "Rossetti Archive Textual Transcription". Retrieved 2007-05-28. 

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