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Bid to rebuild Whitstable Harbour 'lighthouse' sparked by £50,000 bequest

Ambitious plans to restore an historic harbour lighthouse have been revealed.

It has emerged that Brian Porter, co-founder of Canterbury Commemoration Society (CCS), gifted £50,000 towards the Whitstable project in his will.

The old "lighthouse" can be seen in the top right of this picture Pic: Mike Mycetes
The old "lighthouse" can be seen in the top right of this picture Pic: Mike Mycetes

The plan is to build a replica structure of the brick chimney - which was known as a lighthouse but demolished 52 years ago - to attract tourists to the end of the East Quay.

The idea has not been costed nor yet adopted formally by CCS trustees - but campaign leaders are determined to “make Brian’s dream a reality”.

It would be built near The Lobster Shack - owned by the Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company (WOFC) - around a lift with a viewing platform.

Michael Steed, a friend of Mr Porter and co-founder of the CCS, said: “This is an exciting idea, using Brian’s deep love of Whitstable’s maritime history to give both townsfolk and visitors a great view.

“With a lift, disabled people like me would have the same access as those who love climbing up the steps of a church steeple to get a wonderful view of their countryside.

This picture was taken in the 1940s of the lighthouse Pic: Canterbury City Council (16116907)
This picture was taken in the 1940s of the lighthouse Pic: Canterbury City Council (16116907)

“We need to know what people in Whitstable think of the idea, and what the responsible authorities such as the Harbour Board make of it. I hope they like it, and will want to help us to turn Brian’s dream into reality.”

Mr Porter, who died in 2015, left the CCS a legacy of £50,000 to be spent on restoring the lighthouse.

Upon the recommendation of his executors in 2018, the CCS trustees agreed to release £5,000 of the legacy to the Whitstable Community Museum Group. The cash was used for moving the beam engine parts of the Crab & Winkle from storage in Canterbury into the museum courtyard for public display, along with the Invicta.

This leaves £45,000 available for the lighthouse project.

Mr Steed says he has spoken to the Green family, who own the WOFC, and that they responded positively to the idea and said it was “well worth exploring”.

'I hope people will help us turn Brian's dream into reality.' - Michael Steed

Chris Cornell, Labour city councillor for Gorrell ward, said: “Brian’s generous bequeath presents an opportunity to see £50,000 invested in protecting the heritage of Whitstable and its harbour.

“I urge the Harbour Board to work with the CCS, which has a good track record of delivering high profile projects, in exploring the viability of returning the lighthouse or an equally fitting tribute to the shoreline.”

The white-painted 50ft chimney was on the engine house which housed the the old winding engine for the Crab and Winkle railway - which opened in 1830.

Following the closure of the railway in 1952, the chimney was demolished in 1967 by Whitstable Urban District Council to make way for a new road but it was never built.

It was white painted and gradually narrowed towards the neck, reaching a height of 50ft.

The late Brian Porter who gifted £50k to restoring the structure
The late Brian Porter who gifted £50k to restoring the structure

A small iron balcony was attached and a copper lantern was placed on it which beamed a red light visible for five miles.

A fixed white light was also shown on metal legs on top of the chimney - visible for nine miles.

Whitstable Community Museum saved the original lights and visitors can see them on display there.

The lighthouse was replaced with a metal pole with two lights.

CCS have completed two projects in the Canterbury district – including statues of King Ethelbert and Saint Bertha in Lady Woottons Green and Chaucer which were both gifted to the council.

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