There is a long history of fishing off the coast of Romney Marsh, particularly from Dungeness, but also off of Dymchurch, Littlestone and Lydd-on-Sea.

Up to the 1960s, boats on Dungeness were spaced out and opposite dwellings between the Pilot and the Cabin/Spion Cop. Bait digging, shrimping and fishing with nets for herring, mackerel and sprats were all practised. Pre-war, catches were dragged across the shingle in wooden boxes on runners made from wooden barrel staves.

For some time pre-war, miniature guage rail tracks were installed on the beach from each boat to join a common track running between Spion Cop and the Pilot along the line of the present road. These were removed when the road was completed in 1938. 

Other activities carried out on the open shingle included tanning of nets, a Springtime activity. Once the nets had been treated in tanning coppers they were spread on the beach or hung on poles to dry. This activity stopped just post-war. Also pre-war, four other boats were situated down the end of the Denge Marsh road, together with associated winch houses, a shed, lifeboat capstans and coastguard houses.

Mackerel  Fishing at Dungeness
Mackerel Fishing at Dungeness c1912

Catches from these were conveyed directly to Lydd via the road. Lydd-based fishermen, operating beyond Galloways used the Galloways road. The sites were abandoned during the war, and only briefly re-used post-war.

The boats at Dungeness, now more in number, had moved to their present positions nearer the Ness by the 1960s. This move was, in part, a response to a pro-grading shoreline. Some people remember when the shore was much closer to the dwellings, and are therefore aware of pro-gradation.

Kettle Fishing

The Kettle, Kiddle or Keddle net as it was known around the Romney Marsh area, was a very large trap style of net used around the coasts of Britain up until the early 1950s. It was used in many places where the tide went out and left enough sand or mud to work one.

At Dymchurch, the Henley, Smith and Paine families fished and in the Dungeness area, the Southerden, Tart, Gillett, Blacklock, Smithers and Paine families used this technique.

Why 'Kettlenet'? As the tide dropped, the panicking fish caught in the trap created a water surface like a kettle on the boil.


Kettle fishing at Dymchurch
Kettle Fishing at Dymchurch