The history of the Harbour is closely linked to the Canterbury and Whitstable Railway.The notice to apply for Parliamentary Powers to construct the railway and also ‘for making and forming sufficient piers, wharfs, quays and other works, in or near, the Bay of Whitstable’ was published in the Kentish Gazette in November 1824. The Royal Assent for the Canterbury and Whitstable Railway Bill was recovered in June 1825. The railway line was constructed between 1826 and 1830 but funds did not permit theHarbour to be built during this period.

From 1830 -1831 the railway appears to have worked reasonably well, but the poor facilities for shipping at the ‘harbour’ were a problem. The Harbour at Whitstable in 1830 was a simple quay. Flat-bottomed boats would arrive on an ebb tide, wait to settle on the beach and then be unloaded by horse and cart. The railway directors were aware of the limitations of this arrangement and commissioned an engineer, Mr EP Fordham to draw up plans for a Harbour. Thomas Telford as consulting engineer agreed the plans and the contract for constructing the Harbour was awarded in April 1831. Some £10,000 was spent on the works and the harbour opened on 19 March 1832. The South Quay dates from this time and is the oldest part of the Harbour. Almost immediately after opening the Harbour began to silt up and an Act ofParliament was applied for to allow the construction of a backwater or reservoir that could be used to flush out the silt at low tide. The construction of the reservoir (the Gorrell Tank) finally began in 1845, and was commissioned by the South Eastern Railway (SER). The SER developed Whitstable as a port for shipping coal and a cokeworks were erected in 1848. In the 1880s the average tonnage of coal landed at the Harbour is reckoned to be in excess of 100,000 tons.