Spotlight on: Sandwich
- Credit: Archant
Medieval Sandwich is already bursting with history and character and now it’s also home to its own newly discovered copy of the Magna Carta
Recently in the news due to the discovery of its own long-forgotten copy of the Magna Carta, the medieval walled town of Sandwich is picturesque, well preserved and bursting with character.
One of the earliest settlements in Kent, set near the coast between Ramsgate and Deal, the River Stour runs through the heart of this historic gem.
Once a busy port, before the sea retreated, the town has kept much of its character and period architecture.
Now a designated conservation area and a popular place for weekend visitors from the city, its cobbled streets boast continental-style cafés, boutique shops and independent traders, as well as some of the popular high street brands.
The area is also a haven for wildlife, attracting artists, photographers, walkers and beachcombers. There are a number of nature reserves nearby and long stretches of unspoilt beach and coastal walks. It’s also a popular destination for golfers with several courses locally, including the world-famous Royal St George’s.
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A spot of golf: Sandwich has two world-class golf clubs. Prince’s Golf Club, steeped in history, is now a modern 27-hole course with practice facilities and a grand central clubhouse. Along with nearby Royal St George’s Golf Club, it will be co-hosting the 2017 Amateur Championship.
The Royal St George’s is one of England’s finest links courses and has played host to The Open Championship no less than 14 times. Visit www.princesgolfclub.co.uk and www.royalstgeorges.com
Cruise the river: The Harbour Master at Sandwich has been running river tours since 1999. Offering regular trips on the peaceful River Stour from Sandwich to the Roman fort at Richborough and cruises up river to Fordwich, he also offers wildlife tours to see the seals where the river meets the sea. Visit www.sandwichriverbus.co.uk
Watch the birdie: Sandwich is a haven for birdlife. Recognised by birdwatchers all over the country as one of the best places to see waders and wildfowl, the area boasts a national nature reserve (Sandwich and Pegwell Bay, CT12 5JB) as well as the fascinating Sandwich Bay Observatory and Field Centre (CT13 9PF). The observatory is run by a Trust and has a number of smaller reserves, including lakes and ponds for birds and dragonflies. Offering guided tours and plenty of events and talks, as well as photographic exhibitions and information displays, it’s a great day out for wildlife fans. Visit www.sbbot.org.uk
Take a stroll in the gardens: The Secret Gardens of Sandwich (CT13 9EW) is a stunning attraction, set within the town walls. The three-and-a-half acre ornamental gardens are in the grounds surrounding the luxurious Salutation inn. They have been fully restored and are now open to paying visitors. There’s even a quaint tea room on site should you need to rest your feet. Visit www.the-secretgardens.co.uk
Step back in time: The Guildhall museum (CT13 9AH) in the town’s Cattle Market tells the story of Sandwich from early medieval times via illustrative panels and artefacts dating back to the 13th century. You can also walk around the old town wall, which comprises The Butts, the Ropewalk, Millwall, The Bulwarks and Town Wall. Download a walk route from www.open-sandwich.co.uk which points out all the places of interest and historic buildings along the way. And if you plan to venture a little further afield, Richborough Roman Fort (CT13 9JW) is set in the marshes and is one of the most important Roman sites in the country.
Magna Carta: The town’s mayor has recently stated that he hopes the newly discovered Sandwich Magna Carta, worth around £10m and one of only 24 known editions in the world, will be displayed as a tourist attraction.
The 715-year-old document, torn and with approximately a third missing, was found stuck between the pages of a Victorian scrapbook in a Kent County Council archive in December.
The exciting discovery comes in the run up to the county’s Magna Carta 800 celebrations and it is hoped Sandwich can become involved in the summer’s events. Visit www.magnacarta800th.com and see also coverage in Kent Life.
Giles Illsley, artist
Your Sandwich connection?
I was born and raised in the neighbouring village of Worth and went to secondary school in Sandwich, moving to the town permanently when I met my wife. We have lived here for the last 16 years. Sandwich has a real identity which I like; the townsfolk take pride in the heritage of the area, while not getting stuck in the past. It has everything my family and I need, and I feel part of the local community.
Tell us about yourself
I have drawn ever since I can remember, inspired by my father’s creative genes (he is a master model maker).
I started pursuing my artwork seriously in 2005 and spent the next few years establishing my business, Giles Illsley Fine Art, both locally and online.
I specialise in wildlife art using pencil and pastels, producing originals, giclée prints and greeting cards. I also accept commissions on a range of subjects and offer tuition on drawing technique.
Why does the area attract creatives?
I think the peace and open space of the area is a draw for creative types. I know I couldn’t produce my work in a bustling, congested city setting. It’s also only a short walk to the sea, which is an inspiration for many artists I know.
Your favourite places to visit?
Wingham Wildlife Park is only down the road and is a fantastic family day out (as well as inspiration for me), Dover Castle and Canterbury Cathedral are must-see historical behemoths either side of Sandwich. I can also recommend the many great walking and running routes along the coastline to Deal.
Your favourite place to eat out?
For eating out of an evening, I recommend Thai Time in Market Street, The George & Dragon in Fisher Street and The Hop & Huffkin in New Street. For lunch, try No Name Shop in No Name Street – and don’t forget to fit in going to Papa’s Fish ‘n’ Chips on the quay!
And your favourite shops?
Well, for starters there’s our fantastic butcher’s, The Sandwich Sausage Co, and The Fruit Bowl for quality fruit and veg. Carpenter’s is the kind of hardware store you could lose yourself in for days, and I can’t resist dropping into Lawford’s, a proper old-fashioned sweet shop.
I had also better mention my Mum’s womenswear shop Collection, she does exhibit my work in her window after all!
Four-bedroom town houses can be found priced at around £650,000, three-bed homes for around £325,000 and one-bed apartments for £150,000. Colebrook Sturrock (01304 278043) and GW Finn & Sons (01304 278045) have branches in Sandwich
How to get there
Sandwich is on the coast, between Ramsgate and Deal, off the A256. It can be accessed from Canterbury via the A2. Hourly trains run to London Charing Cross and take approximately two hours.
Satnav postcode: CT13 9AH
Eating and shopping
One of the most popular places is No Name Shop (01304 612626, CT13 9AJ) in the wonderfully named No Name Street. Focusing its attention on the other side of the Channel, it sells French food including cheeses, charcuterie, freshly baked bread and exquisite pastries - and its little daytime bistro upstairs is just as popular.
Other great places to eat include Luigi’s Italian (01304 615297, CT13 9EN) on the quay, the Brasserie on the Bay (01304 611118, CT13 9QB) at Prince’s Golf Club and Greek restaurant Elizavet (01304 619899, CT13 9EN).
Good pubs include The Crispin Inn (01304 621967, CT13 9EA), the Hop and Huffkin (01304 448560, CT13 9AB) and The George and Dragon (01304 613106, CT13 9EJ), while The Bell Hotel right on the quay (01304 613388, CT13 9EF) is both unmissable and consistently excellent.
Also worth a visit is Haiku on the Strand (07913 603739, CT13 9DZ), a studio shop selling decorative furniture, vintage and art, and Collection (01304 612057, CT13 9BZ) women’s clothes boutique.
For antiques lovers there are Aladdin’s caves of treasures at The Little Curiosity Box (01304 617717, CT13 9AB) and Vintage Curiosities (01304 613365, CT13 9AE).