Although the origin of the name Whitstable is a matter of debate, the area was recorded in the Domesday Book (1086) as Witenestaple which meant a meeting place by a white post. Later it became known as Whitstaple and later Whitstable.
The first inhabitants were the Bronze and Iron Age people. Much later, in Roman times, oysters were harvested and even taken back to Italy, packed in snow and ice.
Salt production can be traced back to the 14th century and copperas (used for dyeing and the production of ink) was being obtained on the coast in the middle of the 16th century. That industry lasted for nearly two hundred years.
In the middle of the 18th century improvements in transport led to the town becoming a seaside resort, with bathing machines introduced in 1768. A little later the rights to harvest oysters were bought by the Oyster Company of Free Fishers and Dredgers (later to become the Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company).
In 1830 the world’s first steam passenger and freight railway service was opened between Whitstable and Canterbury. The line passed over the first railway bridge built for a passenger service. The locomotive was the Invicta, built by Robert Stephenson, son of George. Two years later the harbour was opened.
Major changes in the town started in 1860 when a train service linked it with London. In the meantime Whitstable’s sea front had become a series of ship-building yards.
Oyster fishing has always been threatened by disease, pollution and severe weather (not least the Great Storm of l953 which saw a large part of the town and surrounding area flooded), but today the industry remains comparatively strong and is one of the main reasons why the town has become a tourist attraction for people from all over the world. Amongst other claims to fame, Whitstable has recently been acknowledged by the Guiness Book of Records as having the oldest Regatta in the world. It has also been commended for having the most 'diverse' range of independent shops of any high street in the UK.