Town Spotlight: Sandwich
Sandwich is an idyllic town on the magnificent Kent coast that harks back to traditional ways and times, and yet has a distinct aura of modern about it; it may be small, but it has a huge amount of variety packed into it. A haven for bird watchers, a magnet for historians and definitely a draw for families, Sandwich is much bigger than it seems at first bite.
History in Brief
There has always been some sort of settlement, village or town in the environs of Sandwich – it’s in an important place; being located where it is on the coast, it allowed for invading forces to find an opportune place to land. That’s why it was always well fortified too; those invading forces were usually defeated, especially when Henry VIII created his ‘cinque ports’, of which Sandwich is one.
Henry VIII wasn’t the first king to realise just how important Sandwich was. This is where Richard the Lionheart landed when he returned from the Third Crusade in 1194. The same landing place was chosen by Prince Louis of France in 1216 when he came to do battle with King John and the ensuing fight became known as the Battle of Sandwich, which took place in 1217.
In fact, anyone coming to Britain seemed keen on Sandwich. By the 16th century, it was regarded as the only place in the whole of England that had more immigrants than Englishmen and women, which was a great thing for the economy. These newcomers brought with them exciting new food, drinks and other products that simply couldn’t be bought anywhere else.
Today Sandwich is just as exciting, just as beautiful, and just as highly regarded. It is still where many visitors choose to go to and rightly so – it has everything that might be needed…no matter how long you intend on staying.
Things to Do
- Salutation Gardens
The stunning Salutation Gardens were designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1912. He took the 3.7 acres that existed and turned them into a series of symmetrical ‘rooms’. Each one is unique and each one is beautiful. Coming to the Salutation Gardens offers tranquillity and peace to anyone who enters. As well as the gardens, there is a hotel and restaurant which is the first 20th-century building ever to be granted Grade I status.
- Sandwich Guildhall Museum and Archives
The Sandwich Guildhall Museum and Archives can be found right in the heart of the town and is full of the most intriguing, fascinating local interest exhibitions and displays. Sandwich has its own copy of the famous Magna Carta, a copy from 1300, as well as the sister document, the Charter of the Forest, which can both be seen at this museum.
- Richborough Roman Fort
Richborough Roman Fort is one of the most important Roman sites in the entire country. This was where the Romans first landed and where many settled in AD 43. It is also where they departed from after almost four centuries in AD 410. Part of English Heritage’s network of historical sites, at Richborough you can explore the ancient stone walls and also enjoy the museum. You can even catch a boat from Sandwich itself and arrive in the same style as the Romans did.
- The Sandwich Medieval Trust
The recently completed Sandwich Medieval Centre opened its doors to the public this July. The iconic oak-framed building by the River Stour has been modified to include a working forge and medieval baking oven to sit alongside replica medieval boat making. The centre is being run by the recently formed registered charity, the Sandwich Medieval Trust, as a visitor centre and an activity centre for trust reenactors to practice and teach medieval crafts such as boat building, metal working, baking, calligraphy, mead making and corn weaving, with a special focus on engaging with the local population including younger people. The trust will focus on the 150-year period from the 1330s to the 1480s when Sandwich was a major seaport and the leading Cinque Port. The centre will be fully open to the public as part of the Sandwich Festival on 23rd and 24th August.
- Gazen Salts Nature Reserve
Gazen Salts is open throughout the year for those who enjoy a peaceful, beautiful walk in nature. There are over one and a half miles of paths in 15 acres of woodland and wetland to choose from, taking you through wildlife habitats and close to a central lake. Animals that you can spot here include turtle doves, water voles and woodpeckers.
- The Bell At Sandwich
Dine, drink and stay in style at The Bell Hotel, overlooking the River Stour in the heart of the beautiful medieval town of Sandwich. From the moment you walk through the Edwardian revolving doors at The Bell Hotel, you can be sure of a friendly welcome in elegant, relaxing surroundings. The Bell Hotel has been welcoming guests to Kent since Tudor times, and despite having undergone extensive refurbishment in recent years, it still retains many of its charming period features. A passion for food is evident in the hotel’s delicious bar and restaurant menus, using the finest Kentish produce. Enjoy dining in the warm, welcoming bar and brasserie area, or the more intimate environment of the Old Dining Room. If the weather is fine, why not enjoy an al fresco meal on the terrace overlooking the river?
Experience true indulgence in one of The Bell’s 37 stylish en-suite bedrooms, each decorated individually in a timeless, classic style, with several boasting extra special touches such as roll-top baths and four-poster beds. Flat screen televisions, tea and coffee making facilities and free WiFi are also provided as standard. The Bell Hotel also boasts a great location in the heart of East Kent, an ideal point from which to explore the Garden of England, and is a magnet for golfers with Royal St George’s and Prince’s golf clubs on its doorstep.
When you go to an Italian restaurant you want authentic, delicious and fairly priced Italian food. When you go to Luigi’s, that’s exactly what you get. Not only that, but it is located right on Sandwich’s quayside allowing for great food and amazing views at any time of the year. The menu consists of great dishes such as bresaola e recola – thin cured beef served on a bed of rocket with cherry tomatoes, parmesan shavings and balsamic glaze; nizzarda – tuna, anchovies, boiled egg, black olives, capers, mixed leaves, vine tomatoes and cucumber served with dough sticks; and saltimbocca di pollo – chicken breast, Parma ham and mozzarella in a buttery sage sauce served with sautéed potatoes.
- The Crispin Inn
Something that the owners of the Crispin Inn are proud to have done is keep the traditional charm that inns should be famous for. With wooden beam, hops on the ceiling, a friendly welcoming atmosphere and a menu full of favourites, this is tradition at its best. Food includes a variety of different burgers, ham, egg, chips and peas and homemade lasagne. Alongside these pub classics there is an added twist – a special Caribbean menu. If you like your food spicy, try the fantastic array of Caribbean stews and curries.
- George & Dragon
Built in 1446, the George & Dragon is still going strong today thanks to brothers Mark and Matthew Philpott who bought the pub and licence in 2008. The George & Dragon has a Cask Marque, showing that it serves excellent cask ale, and the food here is great too with a menu including dishes such as homemade smoked mackerel pâté with homemade piccalilli; chicken roulade stuffed with stilton and walnuts on an apple and sage potato rösti; and pie of the week with mash or new potatoes and creamed cabbage and lardons.
- Food Fayre // May
The Sandwich Food Fayre consists of over 50 different stalls showcasing both local and non-local foods from around the world, so you can try something new and discover what’s right on your doorstep. There are plenty of cooking demonstrations and activities to join in with too.
- The Sandwich Folk & Ale Festival // Jul
The Sandwich Folk Festival is a multi-arts festival that highlights traditional and contemporary folklife and folk arts in this beautiful medieval town.
- The Sandwich Festival // Aug
Celebrating the wonder that is Sandwich happens annually during the aptly named Sandwich Festival. The festival is three days of free entertainment and shouldn’t be missed.
Sandwich Bay is a long and lovely stretch of sandy beach that is as traditional as it gets. Enjoy a day out here with the family where sandcastles and memories will be made.
Did You Know?
If you’ve ever seen the Mayor of Sandwich at a ceremony, you might wonder why he or she is wearing a black robe. This is to honour the mayor who was killed in 1457 when Sandwich was attacked by 4,000 invading Frenchmen under Marshal Pierre de Breze, who’s known as Peter Brassey in the English accounts.