Spotlight on Sittingbourne
Located 45 miles from London and found by the edge of the old Roman road, Watling Street, Sittingbourne is really a town in the middle of the countryside, although it never feels isolated. Instead, Sittingbourne has its own personality and its own style. With activities that suit all ages and backgrounds, enough shops and facilities to enable everyone to have a happy, healthy and enriched lifestyle, and an enviable transport system that links the town to both the capital and the rest of Kent and beyond, Sittingbourne is a burgeoning and exciting place to be.
History in Brief
The suffix ‘bourne’ means small stream, and although the stream in question here (or Sedingbourne as the Saxons would have it, meaning ‘the hamlet by the small stream’) is now far underground, the name has stayed. The first settlers appear to have chosen the area around Sittingbourne in about 2000 BC – farming tribes lived there rather than on the coast as it meant they could create communities without the constant fear of attack. It was still close to the sea, however (at Milton Creek), meaning traders could easily visit.
When the Romans invaded in AD 43, they immediately got to work on Watling Street in order to create a straight route from London to Dover. The road passed right through Sittingbourne, essentially taking a tiny farming hamlet and catapulting it to stardom – at least in terms of trading and commerce. Despite this, there was no entry for Sittingbourne in the 1086 Domesday Book, as it was still considered to be just an annexe of Milton Regis at that time. It was of course much more than that, especially after the murder of Thomas Becket in 1170, when it became an important stop for pilgrims on the route to Canterbury. The town is even mentioned in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales during the Wife of Bath’s prologue.
There was nothing but growth for Sittingbourne from then on, and with the arrival of the railway in 1858, the town was on its way to becoming one of Kent’s booming success stories.
Things to Do
- Sittingbourne & Kemsley Light Railway Ltd
The Sittingbourne & Kemsley Light Railway is a unique and lovely attraction. It was originally built in 1905 to be used to transport paper products (and the raw materials used to make them). This practice continued until 1969. Today, volunteers have overseen the refurbishment and renovation of this fascinating piece of Sittingbourne history that offers visitors the chance to enjoy a ride on a steam train. The engines are the ones that were first used way back at the beginning on the 20th century.
- Sittingbourne Heritage Museum
Set over two floors with several rooms on each level, the Sittingbourne Heritage Museum is full of objects from Sittingbourne’s past. The displays within the museum’s temporary exhibits change on a regular basis, so no two visits are the same, and the permanent displays depict the town’s history from the late medieval times to the present day.
Volunteers at the museum have researched Sittingbourne deeply, and have produced a number of books on the town and the surrounding villages, which are available in the museum shop.
- The Avenue Theatre
The Avenue Theatre offers a wide range of events and services from full-scale musicals to the most heartwarming tales and fun children’s productions. Or perhaps you’d prefer an evening of live music or a film? They have it all and whatever your taste there will be something for you. The theatre is also available to hire from just £5 per hour, per room. The Auditorium, the West End Room, or the Broadway Room are all suitable for meetings, rehearsals, or family gatherings and a private cinema is also available for hire.
- Central Park Stadium: Sittingbourne Greyhounds
If you have never experienced greyhound racing, the Central Park Stadium in Sittingbourne is the place to go. In fact, even if you’re a regular at ‘the dogs’ you’ll enjoy the ambience and facilities that this excellent stadium offers. With sumptuous three-course meals available in the Eurosuite restaurant (overlooking the racetrack) to three licensed bars, a covered outside terrace and a licenced track bookmakers, this is a really fun day out.
- Bredgar & Wormshill Light Railway
Sittingbourne’s fondness for small gauge railways extends to the village of Bredgar, where the Bredgar and Wormshill Light Railway can be found. Set amidst the beautiful North Downs countryside, you can enjoy unlimited trips in the vintage-style carriages pulled along by beautifully restored engines. There is a museum on site, which includes not only locomotives but also vintage cars, vintage tractors and more. And of course, the lovely tea room is the perfect place to treat yourself and the family to a delicious snack.
- Tudor Rose
Family friendly and easy to get to, the Tudor Rose in Borden is a carvery restaurant and pub that offers a warm welcome for all and plenty of delicious food. It was once two cottages and the period features that remain make this place one to remember. But, it’s the food that really impresses. Dishes include fresh sea bass and crispy pork belly.
- Maharani Indian Restaurant
Well known for very reasonably priced, authentic Indian cuisine, Maharani Indian Restaurant has a wide range of traditional dishes that can either be eaten in the friendly restaurant itself, or taken away to enjoy at home. Either way, Maharani caters for everyone.
- The Three Tuns
If you want a traditional British foodie pub, the Three Tuns is the answer. Located in Lower Halstow, just outside of Sittingbourne, the pub was originally built in 1468 – and it has captivated the locals and those further afield ever since. Today, the pub has won awards (including ‘chip week’ winner in 2014) and has its own microbrewery. Food includes pan-seared curried scallops, lemon and lime butterfly chicken burger in a sourdough roll, and orange and almond cake. There is also a fantastic children’s menu.
- Marino Fish Bar & Restaurant
With seating for 54 people and a good old-fashioned fish and chip takeaway service, this is traditional food with a twist. Who can resist proper fish and chips? There is nothing quite like it, and at Marino’s you can have the usual orders along with something a bit different such as salmon served with parsley butter and lemon, or whole trout and black tiger prawns served in a white wine sauce with rice.
- Sausage & Cider Festival // Jun
All in the name of charity, the Alpaca Farm in Hartlip, near Sittingbourne, celebrates the best of British (and Kentish in particular) sausages and cider. Come along to the tastings, the barbecue and the music, and enjoy the fun atmosphere.
- Art In The Park // Aug
This free event held each summer in Milton Creek Country Park is a way to show off what the artists of the area are able to create. It’s a great way to spend a sunny summer’s day, wandering from one piece to the next, and every year you’ll find something different on display.
Milton Creek Country Park is one of Kent’s most lovely green spaces and also one of the newest. Once a landfill site, this 128-acre park has been completely revitalised and is now a wonderful spot for the entire family to visit.
Did You Know?
During WWI, Sittingbourne was subjected to almost constant attacks by German planes and Zeppelins. This was because the town was used as a reference point for the German pilots to find London.