Eastchurch, Isle of Sheppey.
Eastchurch shown within Kent
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Postcode district||ME12 4|
|Ambulance||South East Coast|
|EU Parliament||South East England|
|UK Parliament||Sittingbourne and Sheppey|
Eastchurch is styled the 'home of British aviation' as Eastchurch airfield saw the first controlled flight by a British pilot on British soil.
The Eastchurch airfield played a significant role in the history of British aviation from 1909 when Frank McClean acquired Stonepits Farm, on the marshes across from Leysdown, converting the land into an airfield for members of the Aero Club of Great Britain.
The Short brothers, Horace, Eustace and Oswald, built aircraft at Battersea to be tested at the site; later Moore-Brabazon, Professor A. K. Huntington, Charles S. Rolls and Cecil Grace all visited and used the flying club's services. Wilbur Wright and his brother Orville came to the Isle of Sheppey to visit the new flying grounds of the Aero Club. In 1909, Moore-Brabazon made the first live cargo flight by fixed-wing aircraft, by tying a waste-paper basket to a wing strut of his Shorts-built Wright aircraft. Then, using it as a "cargo hold", he airlifted one small pig.
The Eastchurch airfield was also the site, in July 1911, of the competition for the Gordon Bennett Trophy for powered air racing, attended by flyers from all over the world, and won that year by the American pilot C. T. Weymann. During the Battle of Britain, it was one of notable bases of the Polish Air Force.
A stained glass window in the south side of All Saints' Church, Eastchurch (built in 1432), was dedicated to Rolls and Grace, who were killed in July and December 1910 respectively. An aviation memorial is located in the centre of the village, opposite the village church.
In July 2009, Eastchurch celebrated 100 years of aviation history associated with the Island. SkySheppey brought together a number of Associations and joined with many visitors to recognise the importance of British aviation history that started at Eastchurch. Organisers, Eastchurch Parish Council, planned the event for 25 and 26 July 2009. Eastchurch is also home to many, many forms of aircraft and where they were originally developed in the early 1900s, notably Short Brothers.
The gatehouse is now all that remains of Shurland Hall, connected with many families including the Cheneys who were here in 1274; and Sir John Stanley, who was Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports in the 15th century. It was also rumoured to have housed Henry VIII and his wife, Anne Boleyn for a few nights. For a short period before the National Trust acquired it, it was owned by Violet Searle, a business lady who developed an early house within the village in Warden Road. The gatehouse is now in the care of the National Trust, and is now in the process of being renovated and restored, this is also being documented by a TV station.
In Hidden Kent by Alan Major (Countryside Books, 1994), there is a note from the 1847 gazetteer commenting on the scarcity of fresh water which "makes the inhabitants very careful to preserve such falls from the clouds...." and tells of spouts from the church designed to fill large tubs around it in the churchyard.
Royal Navy Shore Station HMS Pembroke II was RNAS Eastchurch, Sheppey, Kent. An Accounting Base it was operational June 1913 to 1 April 1918 when it was turned over to the RAF. Also known as HMS Pembroke 2, it moved to Chatham as an Accounting Base 1940-57. The Shore Station was named after the nearby main base, HMS Pembroke I at the royal Dockyard in Chatham.
At the centre of the village is the large and extravagant church, All Saints (1437). Currently, the parish priest is the Reverend Father Barry Birch SSC, who has been here since October 2008. His predecessor Father Francis Searle was parish priest from September 2000 until his untimely death in 2007. Father Searle was the grandson of Violet Searle, mentioned above. The church had recently gone under a project, known as the 'Jubilee Project', also known as the 'Tower Appeal'. This involved bringing down the bells and restoring them (for the first time in 100 years). And the tower itself being modernised and a new floor/room being added. This is now known as the 'Jubilee Room', funded by such sponsors as the Shurland Hotel.
Range Rovers Football Club
Eastchurch is also home to the Range Rovers Football Club. The club was established in September 1997 through the enthusiasm of local boys and the club has steadily grown and now operates 25 teams ranging from little hurricanes soccer school, U7s up to adults, with over 250 players registered as club members now with players from all over the Island. The first letter with the Range Rovers name header to gain permission for use of the Range Road pitch was written on 15 September 1997. Permission was granted, Range Rovers FC was formed and affiliated to the Kent County Football Association on 28 September 1997. In November 1997 the club badge was designed and the Spitfire plane was incorporated to depict the fact that the site at Range Road was an RAF airfield during the Second World War. The first formal club meeting was held on Wednesday 3 December 1997 and during the meeting the first committee was formed. The club gained the prestigious FA Charter Mark in February 2005, still the only football club on the Isle of Sheppey to do so. Also in March 2007 their U13s reached the Kent County Cup Final, a remarkable feat for a small village side. The club now play at three sites in Eastchurch - Range Road, Shurland Meadow, and Dicksons Field. They also have pitches at Seager Road, Sheerness and Halfway Houses Primary School. The club continues to grow and season 2012-13 sees an Academy (Little Hurricanes), and boys teams from U7s through to U18s and two men's teams. A membership of over 250 players. In 2010 the club ran its third annual tournament a huge event that sees nearly 200 teams from all over the South East taking part. This is currently stopped due to major refurbishment work at the IOSA. The club now has the tenancy at Seager Road in Sheerness as its new home ground. Some of Range Rovers players have gone on to be very successful in their football careers.
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