Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Deal and Sandwich

A cold bright sunny day between Christmas and New Year saw us heading out to east Kent to visit Sandwich and Deal. Approaching Sandwich we stopped at Richborough Castle. This is an English Heritage site and was closed for the winter but there is access around the site by public footpath so we were able to get reasonably close.

Richborough Castle is a Roman fort built on the site of their first landing in AD43. The first site was defended by earthworks and in AD85 an 80 foot high marble covered arch was built to commemorate the conquest of Britain. The original fort was demolished in AD275 and the new stone walls were added in AD290, turning it into one of the most important of the Saxon Shore forts. The walls on three sides of the fort and the surrounding earthworks are still standing but only the foundations of the arch are left. When the fort was built it was it was surrounded by water on three sides, but silting of the Wantsum Channel which once separated the Isle of Thanet from the rest of Kent has left it two miles from the present sea shore.

We then drove the short distance to Sandwich and parked on the Quayside close to the Swing Bridge over the River Stour. According to Wikipedia, the name is of Old English or Scandinavian origin, meaning 'a trading-centre on sand' (from 'wic' or 'vik', 'settlement').
Sandwich is one of the original five Cinque Ports - again from Wikipedia - The Confederation of Cinque Ports is a historic series of coastal towns in Kent and Sussex. It was originally formed for military and trade purposes, but is now entirely ceremonial. The name originates in Norman French, meaning "five ports". They were: Hastings New Romney Hythe Dover Sandwich. However, Rye, originally a subsidiary of New Romney, changed to become one of the Cinque Ports once New Romney was damaged by storms and silted up. Other towns also contribute to the confederation, including two Antient Towns ( Rye and Winchelsea), and seven Limbs. These are: Lydd (Limb of New Romney) Folkestone (Limb of Dover) Faversham (Limb of Dover) Margate (Limb of Dover) Deal (Limb of Sandwich) Ramsgate (Limb of Sandwich) Tenterden (Limb of Rye).

If you use the swing bridge to cross the Stour and enter Sandwich you are faced with  the Barbican, one of the main gates to the town. This used to be called David's or Davy's Gate.  

Until 1971, people had to pay a toll to use the bridge - an old Table of Tolls from 1905 is displayed on the side of the structire.

We walked a short way along the Stour before entering the town ...

... near to the main church: St Clement's Church. The building is Saxon in origin but little is left of that church. The Normans re-built it although all that remains from then is the tower - albeit one of the finest in the south of England.

St Peter's Church in the centre of the town. The parish of St Peter ceased to be a seperate parish in 1948 and the historic building is now looked after by The Churches Conservation Trust - a national charity that protects historic churches at risk. (

Much of today's building dates from 800 years ago, though it has been altered many times. The handsome tower with its distinctive onion dome top is a 17th-century addition - built by Flemish protestant refugees,in the style of their homeland churches.

Inside the medieval roof can  be seen.

The Guildhall was built in 1579 although it has been added to and modified since then.

Returning to our Quayside car park we walked past the Fisher Gate. The gate as we see it today, dates from 1560, as at that time, the Coopers were granted a Charter of Incorporation, as long as they kept the gate in good repair. However the lower part of the gate dates from around 1384 and formed part of the fortifications ordered by Richard II. It is the only one of the original mediaeval town gates to survive and is a Grade I listed building.

For the record  -The origin of the word 'sandwich' for an item of food may have originated from a story about John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich. He didn't really 'invent' the sandwich but he may have made it popular.
It is said that in approx.1762, he asked for meat to be served between slices of bread, to avoid interrupting a gambling game. This story may have been rumour or adverse propoganda, put about by his rivals. But soon people may have started ordering “the same as Sandwich”, and the name stuck !

We then made the short drive to the coast at Deal. We were very impressd with the architecture in Deal with one exception  - the Pier.

The current pier is the third one in the town's history. The first, a wooden one, built in 1838, was designed by Sir John Rennie. Unfortunatly it was destroyed in an 1857 gale and then  replaced by an iron pier in 1864. This  survived until the Second World War, when it was struck and severely damaged by a mined Dutch ship, the Nora, in January 1940.  The present pier, designed by Sir W. Halcrow & Partners, was opened on 19 November 1957 by the Duke of Edinburgh. Constructed predominantly from concrete-clad steel, it is 1026 ft (311 m) in length. It  is the last remaining fully intact leisure pier in Kent and is a Grade II listed building....but it is not a thing of beauty.

France is only about 25 miles away!

The Timeball Museum - Deal Timeball is a Victorian maritime Greenwich Mean Time signal located on the roof of a waterfront four-storey tower . It was established in 1855 by the Astronomer Royal George Biddell Airy in collaboration with Charles V. Walker, superintendent of telegraphs for the South Eastern Railway Company. It was built by the Lambeth firm of engineers Maudslay and Field. The timeball, which, like the Greenwich timeball, fell at 1 pm precisely, was triggered by an electric signal directly from the Royal Observatory. Before it became a timeball tower, the tower was a semaphore tower used to signal to ships at anchor in the Downs or passing in the English Channel.

Deal Castle was built by Henry VIII between 1539 and 1540 as an artillery fortress to counter the threat of invasion, brought about by the alliance between Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and King Francis I of France in 1538.  Deal Castle and its smaller neighbours, Walmer and Sandown, were intended to dominate the Downs, a sheltered area of water in the English Channel protected by the Goodwin Sands.

Deal Barracks were constructed shortly after the outbreak of the French revolution and finally closed in 1996. Its buildings converted for residential use. The clock tower is on the top of the former East Barracks (now Admiralty Mews).

There is no harbour at Deal - fishing boats appear to operate from the beach.

A second piece of concrete architecture but a big improvement on the pier - one of the shelters on the seafront.

By which time we were back at our car and a very pleasent day was concluded.

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