Sandwich is a village in Kent, one of the Cinque Ports responsible for England's maritime defence. In the 14th and 15th centuries the harbour silted up and the river changed its course, leaving Sandwich well inland: so it lost its importance and its attractive medieval centre was preserved. In modern times a large industrial area has developed a couple of miles north, with a pharmaceutical complex operated by Pfizer, but this doesn't impinge on the old town. In 2011 Sandwich had a population of 4985.

Understand edit

The Barbican

Anglo-Saxon England didn't have an army or navy. When hostilities loomed, each baron ordered his men to take up arms, while the Channel ports mobilised ships. This was haphazard enough to let in the Normans in 1066, so once in power they made more systematic arrangements. A Royal Charter of 1155 designated five leading ports, hence Cinque Ports— Hastings, New Romney, Hythe, Dover and Sandwich. Between them they had to make 57 ships available for Crown use for 15 days each year. In return they were exempt from tax, and enjoyed a long list of privileges: soc and sac, tol and team, blodwit and fledwit, pillory and tumbril, infangentheof and outfangentheof, and mundbryce, were some of the best fun you could have in the 12th century.

The five became the nucleus of a defence confederation. Early ships lacked fire-power and their main military role was as troop-carriers: Rye and Winchelsea (chartered as "Ancient Towns") organised the men. There were seven subsidiary ports called "Limbs": New Romney had Lydd, Sandwich had Deal and Ramsgate, Dover had Folkestone, Margate and Faversham, and Rye had Tenterden. Others were added in medieval times (Sandwich even grew a Limb north of the Thames at Brightlingsea), to a peak of 42. Because of their importance, the towns' freemen ranked as barons, and enjoyed trade monopolies. A Lord Warden presided over them all.

These ports dwindled in the 15th century as a regular navy was established, larger ships needed deeper harbours (such as Southampton and Portsmouth) and their expense was met by general state revenue. Above all they lost the sea: Dover remained a major port but Hastings was washed away and the rest of the Kent coast silted up. Sandwich is now 2 miles from the coast, and much further if you try to get there along the convoluted river. It's literally a backwater, so its medieval centre has been well preserved. The confederation's duties and privileges were removed by successive government reforms, and "Lord Warden" of the Cinque Ports is now just a flummery title.

The Tourist Information Centre is in Guildhall Museum, see below.

Get in edit

River Stour at Sandwich

Trains from London Charing Cross run hourly via Waterloo East, London Bridge, Ashford, Folkestone, Dover and Deal, taking 2 hr 20 min to Sandwich and continuing to Ramsgate. It might be quicker to take the fast train from London St Pancras via Ebbsfleet (for Eurostar) and change at Dover. These trains loop back to London along the north Kent coast through Ramsgate, Broadstairs, Margate, Whitstable and Faversham.

1 Sandwich railway station   is just south of town centre.

Stagecoach Bus 81 runs from Dover via Walmer, Deal, Sholden and Eastry, taking 1 hr 15 min to Sandwich, M-Sa hourly and every 2 hours on Sunday. (Bus 80 might do it, but they usually only run as far as Deal.)

Bus 43 runs from Canterbury via Wingham, taking 40 min. It's every 30 min M-Sa and hourly on Sunday.

Bus 45 runs from Ramsgate hourly M-Sa, taking 40 min.

The main bus stop and turnaround is by the Guildhall.

By road from London follow M2 / A2 to Canterbury then A257 through Wingham. But if it's night and you're unsure of your navigation, you may prefer to follow A28 / A299 towards Ramsgate then turn south on the coastal A256. From Dover and the Channel ports follow A256 north.

Get around edit

Map of Sandwich (England)

Walk: the old centre is just a small village. Park at Guildhall, the Quays is more expensive.

Sandwich Connect is the village bus, running from Staple (5 miles inland) to Ash, Sandwich, Betteshanger, Northbourne, Great Mongeham and Upper Deal, which is a mile short of Deal and Walmer centres. It runs four times M-F.

See edit

  • Old town streets are charming. St Peter's Church on Market St is 14th-century: it's open daily 10AM-4PM, free, but you can pay to ascend the tower.
  • 1 Guildhall Museum, Cattle Market CT13 9AH, +44 1304 617197. W-Su 10AM-4PM. It was built in 1579 and last refurbished in 2017. The museum has a copy of the Magna Carta (Clause 9 details Sandwich and the other Cinque Ports) and the Charter of the Forest. The courtroom is still used for civic events. The Tourist Information Centre is also here. Free.
  • St Thomas's Hospital next to Guildhall car park was founded in 1392 as lodging for a dozen religious brothers or sisters. It's still in use as sheltered housing for the elderly.
  • 2 The Barbican and Toll Bridge guard the north exit of town towards Ramsgate. In 1028 King Cnut gave the monks of Christ Church Cambridge the right to ply a ferry here and collect tolls. That became a toll bridge in 1773, and the present iron swing bridge was built in 1892. Tolls were abolished in 1977.
  • Fisher Gate on the Quay 100 yards east of the Toll Bridge is the only surviving gate in the town walls. It has three storeys, the lowest from 1384 and the top from 1578.
  • Sandwich Medieval Centre on the Quay facing Fisher Gate is a small museum recreating medieval crafts such as metalworking - they run courses in these.
  • Salutation Gardens are in the grounds of The Salutation, a mansion built by Lutyens in 1912. Until 2020 it was a hotel, see Sleep, but the business folded and as of Jan 2021 the gardens are closed.
  • St Bartholomew's on Dover Road just south of the railway station was founded in 1190 as a hospital, ie lodging for pilgrims. It became a religious community: you can visit the chapel.
  • 3 White Mill on Ash Rd is a smock mill. The cap rotates with the main sails, with a fan tail keeping it into wind. It was built in 1760: smock mills were common in Kent until the early 19th century then were supplanted by steam power. In 2021 the mill is closed and under restoration.
  • 4 Monk's Wall is a wetland nature reserve. The monks reclaimed this land for farming in the 13th century by building their flood wall, but it's now been restored to its earlier condition.
  • 5 Richborough Roman Fort, Richborough Road CT13 9JW, +44 1304 612013. Julius Caesar made expeditions to Britain in 55 and 54 BC, but in 43 AD Claudius launched a full invasion and colonisation. Richborough, then an island, was the Roman beachhead. They built a port Rutupiae, a fort, and roads for their troops, chiefly Watling Street to London. They also brought an elephant, perhaps guessing that they were unlikely to find one over here. As they subdued Britain and the front line receded, Rutupiae grew as a civilian settlement with temples, an amphitheatre (now just an earth embankment) and a mansion house for government officials and business. A grand triumphal arch spanned Watling Street: only the foundations remain as the Romans themselves dismantled it. That was probably circa 280 AD, to re-use the stone as a Saxon Shore Fort, one of a series guarding the channel coast. There was a Christian church here in the 4th century, built either in the last days of the Roman Empire in Britain or in the early Saxon period.    

Do edit

Roman fort at Richborough
  • Walk along the tow path beside the river.
  • Boat trips[dead link] putter along the River Stour. They may go upstream to Richborough Roman Fort, further up to Fordwich on the outskirts of Canterbury, or down the estuary to sandbanks where seals haul out. (Some seals have orange fake sun-tans, the stain of iron oxides in the mud of Hampton Water north of the Thames estuary: inevitably they're dubbed "Essex Girls".) In either direction, boats pass Stonar Cut, a 300 yard canal that bypasses a five mile loop of river. Until medieval times the river drained into Wantsum Channel, which separated the Isle of Thanet from the mainland. This silted up while a shingle bank pushed the river further south, and further and further, until eventually it made a U-turn at Sandwich before heading north to Pegwell Bay.
  • Empire Cinema is on Delf St.
  • Sandwich Leisure Centre is on Deal Rd south of the railway station.
  • 1 Royal St George's, Clubhouse, Sandwich CT13 9QB, +44 1304 613090. Open Championships are held here in July. It's a challenging links course founded in 1887, championship (red) tees 7204 yards, par 70. Round Apr-Oct £250, Nov-Mar £160.    
  • Four other golf courses lie along this coast. North to south are St Augustine's near Ramsgate, Stonelees at Ebbsfleet, Princes by the estuary east of Sandwich, then south of Royal St George's is Royal Cinque Ports near Deal.

Buy edit

  • Co-op Food by the Guildhall car park is open M-Sa 8AM-10PM, Su 10AM-4PM.

Eat edit

The 4th Earl made sandwiches fashionable
  • Sandwiches: the Earls of Sandwich took their title from this area (the first Earl was MP for Dover), and John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich (1718-1792), gives his name to the convenience food. Eating meat or cheese between bread slices was already common in England but around 1765 the Earl made it aristocratically fashionable - supposedly he called for a snack while playing cribbage, and his companions then asked for "the same as Sandwich." As First Lord of the Admiralty, he backed the 1775 voyage of James Cook, who gave the name to the bleak South Sandwich Islands near Antarctica. Cook similarly named a mid-Pacific archipelago, but that became known as Hawaii.

1 Papas (The Deep Blue), The Little Cottage, The Quay CT13 9EN (by bridge), +44 1304 614387. M-Sa 11:30-21:00. Popular fish and chips restaurant and take away.

  • No Name Shop[dead link] is a deli / bistro on No Name Street, open M-Sa 8AM-5PM, Su 8AM-4PM. They also have a branch in Deal.
  • Fleur-de-Lis on Delf St has a decent bar and restaurant, but reviewers don't think much of the accommodation.

2 Goats That Dance, 10A King St, +44 7502 368 065. Su-F 8AM-4PM, Sa 10AM-4PM. A pleasant coffee shop.

Drink edit

1 The Crispin Inn, 4 High St, CT13 9EA (at the foot of High St by the bridge), . Su-Th 11AM-midnight, F Sa 11AM-1AM. has good bar food.  

2 George & Dragon, 24 Fisher St, CT13 9EJ, +44 1304 614 194. Restaurant and pub. An inn was built on the site in 1446, and the name “George and Dragon” was registered in 1615. pint of ale £3.90, dinner mains from £11.

3 Market Inn, 7 Cattle Market, CT13 9AE (opposite the Guildhall bus halt), +44 1304 448 410. Su-Th 11AM-11PM, F Sa 11AM-midnight. is an authentic traditional pub

  • The Admiral Owen next to the Barbican is a picturesque 15th century building, but it closed down in 2019.

Sleep edit

  • 1 The Kings Arms, 65 Strand St CT13 9HN, +44 1304 617330. Inn dating to circa 1580, with beer garden, good food, adequate sized and furnished rooms, car parking, friendly and efficient staff. B&B double £85.
  • 2 Bell Hotel, The Quay CT13 9EF, +44 1304 613388. Slick friendly place in Edwardian building on riverside, good restaurant. B&B double £80.
  • 3 Sandwich Leisure Holiday Park, Woodnesborough Rd CT13 0AA, +44 1304 612681. Open Mar-Oct, this is a clean well-run place west side of town. Dog-friendly, but no commercial vehicles. Tent pitch £30, tourer hook-up £36.
  • The wonderful Salutation Hotel alas went bust in 2020. Beware, in 2021 a flaky website still offers to take your money and credit card details to stay there.

Connect edit

As of May 2022, Sandwich has 4G all UK carriers. 5G has not yet reached this area.

Go next edit

  • Whitstable is a pleasant old-style beach resort; the beach is shingle but the sea is surprisingly warm.
  • Canterbury is a must-see, a cathedral city on the   UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Broadstairs had a long sandy beach and a cottage frequented by Charles Dickens.
  • Ramsgate is a large historic port.
  • Margate is down-at-heel but has a funfair and other trad resort attractions.
  • Deal on the coast has two castles built by Henry VIII.

This city travel guide to Sandwich is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.