Spotlight on Sandwich

PUBLISHED: 12:33 22 March 2014 | UPDATED: 12:33 22 March 2014



Manu Palomeque

Spring is the perfect time to visit this quaint historic town with its splendid riverside setting, more ancient buildings than almost anywhere in Kent and so much to do and see

Once the greatest port in England, ‘Sandwic’, meaning ‘settlement on the sand’, was regularly ravaged by the French, yet when it became landlocked, it was continentals from the Netherlands who transformed its fortunes, transplanting their skills as weavers and market gardeners.

These Flemish ‘strangers’ rebuilt St Peter’s Church, gave Sandwich some fine Dutch brickwork, celery, plus quite a lot of new words.

But it wasn’t until 1954 that American pharmaceutical company Pfizer really put the east Kent town on the international map when it acquired an 80-acre site on the outskirts of Sandwich to enable the expansion of its Kent-based activities.

By the 1970s the huge Pfizer plant was the largest research operation of any pharmaceutical company outside the US, but the company decided to leave Sandwich in 2011 and the site was sold to a private consortium in August 2012.

Now known as Discovery Park, it is home to 60 companies, including Pfizer, who have retained a presence in the town.

Last October a 10-year masterplan was prepared for the site, detailing proposals for a superstore development (pivotal to the scheme as a whole), petrol station, shops and 500 homes, these to run alongside the commercial premises.

The planning application was lodged in September 2013 but at the time of writing no decision has yet been reached.

In early 2014 the heart of the magnificent historic gardens at The Salutation was devastated by flooding. Head gardener Steve Edney was aided by many kind volunteers in helping to restore the gardens to their former glory – by the time you read this let’s hope that this will have been achieved.

“We’re tremendously touched by the kindness everyone’s shown, and the wonderful support we’ve had,” says Dominic Parker, who lives with his wife Stephanie in the main house, and offers luxury accommodation in three historic properties in the grounds (01304 619919, CT13 9EW).

Despite all this industrial and flood-driven upheaval, Sandwich remains a quaint and highly appealing riverside town, packed with ancient buildings and the perfect place to unwind for a weekend break.

What to do and see

You can see across the rooftops of town by walking around the old town walls, or visit the remains of a Roman site at Richborough Roman Fort (CT13 9JW).

Gazen Salts Nature Reserve (CT13 9HN) has woodland and rare birds, while Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory Trust (CT13 9PF) is a twitcher’s paradise.

Another highlight is The Salutation at Sandwich, which has acres of fine historic gardens (see below), and White Mill Rural Heritage Centre (01304 239544, CT13 9JB), a 1790s-built smock mill with craft displays.

St Mary’s Arts Centre (CT13 9GX), based in a redundant church, is the town’s performance centre: in April you can enjoy A Tribute to Simon and Garfunkel (5 April) and The Rat Pack Vegas spectacular (12 April): tickets from The Admiral Own, see below.

The Quay, on the banks of the River Stour, offers spectacular scenery and river views.

Eat, drink and sleep

Good hotels and restaurants include: The Salutation (see above), Shepherd Neame-owned The Bell Hotel (01304 615308, CT13 9EF), Kings Arms hotel (01304 617330, CT13 9HN), Fisherman’s Wharf (01304 613636, CT13 9RU), The Admiral Owen (01304 617771, CT13 9EB), and the George and Dragon (01304 613106, CT13 9EJ).

Dates for your diary

Sandwich celebration (10-11 May): two-day Food Fayre, cookery demonstrations, street music.

Le Weekend (7-8 June): with Le tour de Sandwich cycle special, French market, street music, dancing and free concerts, La Balade classic car meet and medieval encampment.

Folk and Ale Festival (11-13 July): bands and artists performing gigs in pubs and Morris dance teams throughout the town.

Sandwich Festival (21-25 August): 20th anniversary, motor cycle meet, barn dance, duck race.

Community events

Steve Laslett is Chair of the Sandwich Community Events Organisation (SCEA), a body that aims to promote all events and tourist attractions in the town, via its website

These volunteers list tourist activities, visitor events, and community activities of all kinds. Steve also runs The Sandwich Shop (CT13 9AE).

“SCEA was started because I realised that there were a lot of people working hard in the town, so we joined together to pool resources, such as new ideas and a website,” he explains.

“Our aim is to boost businesses and to raise the town’s profile, and it’s working – our visitor footfall is increasing every year. We have an event each month, including a Christmas Lights and Fayre in the winter.

“We’re planning an Arts Week in September, plus late this year we’re ready to start building a boatyard and a medieval flagship.

“Sandwich is visually stunning, friendly and it has a lovely continental climate. We have the accolade ‘an architectural gem and the most complete medieval town in England,’ and I’m not sure I can better that!”

Rob Wallis, who is organising La Balade de Sandwich (part of Le Weekend), adds: “We are aiming to get more than 50 cars, plus vintage motorcycles and a good selection of vintage cars. A key challenge is will there be enough room on the Quay to accommodate all the participants?”

Big Band

Sandwich Concert Band (SCB) is comprised of two bands: the Concert Band and the Training Band, the latter encouraging and developing those playing at Grades 1 or 2 upwards.

SCB welcomes players of wind, brass and percussion instruments, who perform four or five concerts annually, including bandstands and outdoor concerts in the summer and have a festive concert at Christmas.

Kate Robinson, who lives just outside Sandwich and is a clarinet player, is the Training Band conductor.

“I joined the band about 10 years ago together with my son, who plays the trumpet,” Kate says. “The music is a mixture of marches, classical transcriptions, music from films and shows, plus good symphonic band music.

“We perform a variety of pieces, classical as well as pop. And within the band we have a clarinet ensemble, which raises money for the Martha Trust (01304 615223), a charity that provides care and practical help for people with physical and learning difficulties.”

She adds: “Sandwich has a tremendous sense of community; there are lots of events throughout the year. And in the town there are a great many fascinating little alleyways that have a lot of history attached to them.

“Sandwich is a small medieval town, with interesting architecture, and lots of leisure and cultural activities.”

Not to scale

Local resident Nick Mathews, who used to teach in Sandwich, has designed a delightful card model of St Peter’s church, scale about 100:1, that can be assembled by anyone aged over 12, using just a sharp knife, ruler, scissors and card glue (cost £10, email Nick:

He also makes models of small buildings and beach huts, and is considering making morels of Herne Church, Dover Castle, and the Roman Gateway at Richborough Fort. His grandfather Sydney Bushell, who fought with the 38th Welsh Division on the Somme, was featured in the February edition of Kent Life.

“I taught English, art and history at Sandwich Technical School for 28 years, and I love the town,” says Nick.

“I like its beauty, variety, lively shops, the many activities and clubs, the choice of great places to eat and the lovely fun people.

“Coming soon is our Arts Week in September and the First World war art exhibition in November. I’m especially interested in our medieval fayres, art exhibitions, and helping at the local school.

“Sandwich is a beautiful and interesting town with a strong sense of community and fun. The architecture is interesting and the walks are varied and beautiful.”

Getting there

Sandwich is on the east Kent coast, just south of the isle of Thanet and about halfway between Deal and Ramsgate. Reach it via the A257 from Canterbury (get there via the M2/A2); alternatively follow the A299/A256 from Ramsgate, or from the south via Dover (take the A2 and A256). There is a station and good bus services.

Satnav: CT13 9AH (town centre)

More from Out & About

As the world slows down, we turn our eyes to the skies in search of the best places to watch some celestial wonders this summer

Read more

Here are 12 places that may have flown under your radar before but are well worth seeking out

Read more

Kent is blessed with fine and indeed famous country houses, but over the decades has lost as many of its grander houses as it retains. A new book by Martin Easdown reveals 120 examples that have simply disappeared

Read more
Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Take our quiz to see if you can decipher the town or place in Kent from the emojis

Read more
Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Enjoy three of Kent’s best and most loved cycle rides which take in lots of the county’s beautiful coastlines

Read more

We look ahead to the end of lockdown and to a quiet seaside resort we can’t wait to visit again – Herne Bay

Read more

Hythe and New Romney, with their peaceful marshes, abundant wildlife and beautiful coastline, are the perfect places to explore when we’re allowed to travel again

Read more
Friday, June 12, 2020

We’ve gathered six of the best dog-friendly pubs in Kent to enjoy a bite to eat after a scenic stroll

Read more

Try these Kent-themed ideas for the ultimate ‘stay-cation’ – without having to move further away from home than the garden gate

Read more
Monday, June 8, 2020

Picnic baskets at the ready because we have gathered 10 of the best places to enjoy a picnic in stunning rural Kent

Read more
Kent Life Food & Drink awards. Open for entries.

Latest Competitions & Offers

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Follow us on Twitter

Like us on Facebook

Local Business Directory

Search For a Car In Your Area

Most Read

Latest from the Kent Life