by Janis on 12th April 2019 / 8 comments

A medieval bite into Kent’s ancient history

Yep, believe me when I say Sandwich is an English town and not just a lunchtime snack.

Although the good old sandwich does derive its origins from here.

When the 4th Earl of Sandwich was said to have ordered his valet to bring him some slices of meat, tucked in two slices of bread and "eh voila", it all began.

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How to get to Sandwich, Kent

By Train - You can catch a train from London St. Pancras International direct to Sandwich Station, which takes around 1 hour 30 minutes.

By Car – Sandwich is 82 miles from London, along wither the A20/M20, or A2/M2, and then a series of further A roads.  There are pay & display car parks around town.

Visit Kent’s Cinque Ports

Discover Kent’s nautical past
So, what does the ancient town of Sandwich have to offer? Certainly, when you consider the beauty of Deal and Rye, two other towns that are linked with the Cinque Ports Royal Charter, are not too far away.
The outside of the historic King's Arms Public House on Church Street St Marys and Strand Street in Sandwich, Kent
The King's Arms Public House
Don’t get me wrong, I loved visiting Deal and Rye; where Rye is your picture postcard Medieval town and Deal is your quaint historic seaside town. Sandwich offers that little something different from either.
A traditional outfitters' store, 'Brewers of Sandwich', in the Corner House building.
'Brewers of Sandwich'
Sandwich isn’t quite as touristy; however, that isn’t due to its lack of quaint half-timbered buildings. The historic town has the real feel of being sustained by its local residents. Coffee mornings in the church, hardware store selling handy DIY items and the chitter-chatter on street corners.

If you're intrigued by Kent's weird and wonderful history, or all unusual stories around the county, then take a peek at "Kent's Strangest Tales".

You won't be able to put it down, you can pick it up for your Kindle or in good old paperback.

Kent's Strangest Tales Cover

Discover Sandwich’s quayside tales

Twinned with a friend in France
Although I said, Sandwich is a “Cinque Port”, which was a charter established pre-Royal Navy in 13th-century, to recruit mariners. Its ancient town no longer has a direct harbour to the sea, but it’s from the quay here on the banks of the River Stour, that Kings and their armies would have headed off to France to war. We’re all friends now, and Sandwich is twinned with Honfleur in Normandy.
Small boats moored up on the quayside of the River Stour in Sandwich, Kent
The Quayside, Sandwich
Nowadays, along the quayside, you can take a boat trip to do a bit of seal spotting, a little bit more sedate, I think.
A bright yellow sign offering seal spotting boat trips attached to the railing on the edge of the quayside in Sandwich, Kent
Seal Spotting

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Unearth the intriguing architecture of Sandwich

History around every corner
My first reaction when visiting Sandwich was the incredible number of historic buildings throughout the town. The quaint homes and shops are beautifully maintained and from so many different periods in history.
The medieval Fischer Gate and the Fisher Gate House in Sandwich
Fisher Gate & Fisher Gate House
The Fisher Gate, along by the quay, dates from 1384 is the only one of the original medieval town gates in Sandwich to have survived. The location of the long-lost Canterbury Gate stood next to Gallows Field, and we can only imagine what went on there.
The Golden Key building on Market Street, a 19th-century building in a mock Jacobean style timber-framed style in the centre of Sandwich
The Golden Key - Striking architecture

We have a new little book on our shelves that we delve into when we're heading to the coast.

Packed full of historical facts, and broken down into the different counties of England.  It tells tales of the history of the shoreline that surrounds our country.

Available in Kindle & Hardback editions, it's an excellent addition to anyone's collection who loves the English seaside.

I never knew that about Coastal England Cover

The Barbican Gate in Sandwich

Pay your dues for crossing the bridge
Just by the River Stour bridge is the 14th-century Barbican Gate, once a tollgate. From 1759 until 1977, tolls were collected for crossing the bridge. Prices differed depending on the size of your chariot or Landau and how many horses or oxen you had.
The round towers of the 14th-century Barbican gatehouse on the edge of the old town of Sandwich, Kent
The Barbican Gate
Stroll through the Barbican Gate, and you’re greeted with even more ancient listed buildings. Just within a stone’s throw are three public houses.
The 15th-century timber-framed Admiral Owen Pub on the corner of the Strand and the Hight street in Sandwich, Kent
The Admiral Owen Public House
The Admiral Owen a 15th-century timber-framed building. The Crispin Inn, which dates from the 16th -century, and across the road on the quay is the Bell Hotel. Extensive restoration has been undertaken over the years; however, there has been a Bell Inn on the quay since the 14th century.
The late 19th-century Bell Hotel on the corner of the Quay and the Hight street in Sandwich, Kent
The Bell Hotel

Explore the streets of Sandwich

Where do you discover first?
I couldn’t make my mind up which lane to head down first, as they were all so inviting. Strand Street, which runs parallel with the River Stour, is once again lined with half-timbered buildings, immaculately kept homes and little independent shops & cafés.
The 15th-century Sandwich Weavers' half-timbered building on the Strand in Sandwich, Kent
The Sandwich Weavers
At the King’s Lodging along here, it is purported that King Henry VIII stayed and latterly Elizabeth I.
The 15th-century bound wall & historic archway to King's Lodging on Strand Street, with the Old King's House in the background.
The King's Lodging

I know it’s a bit of a cliché, but it was like stepping back in time. There didn’t appear to be one home or building that looked out of place from centuries gone by.

We got such a warm and friendly feel from the place; on three or four occasions, people in their cars stopped in the road to lets us take photos or video.

Stone homes of mixed periods on Strand Street in Sandwich, Kent
The end of Strand Street

Strolling The Butts

The fortification of Sandwich
The street sign for The Butts, a pathway that follows the Old Town Wall of Sandwich, Kent
The Butts - Old Town Wall

Sandwich was historically a walled town; it was due to constant enemy invasion that in 1385 Richard II ordered for Sandwich to be protected; therefore, a Bulwark was erected.

As the barricade was constructed of wood, traces of the structure no longer survive. However, there is a pathway along The Butts by the River Delf, which you can stroll along, passing by the cricket pavilion, where the Bulwark would have once been.

The cricket pitch and pavilion of Sandwich Town Cricket Club alongside The Butts, or the Old town wall of Sandwich
The cricket pavilion

Through the winding lanes of Sandwich

Discover the different architectural styles
We head into the old town centre of Sandwich, passing by the Art Deco Empire Cinema. It’s great to see that the cinema is still screening the latest releases.
The art nouveau Old Empire Cinema in Delft Street, Sandwich, Kent
The Empire Cinema
A look up the narrow street known as 'The Butchery', with a mix of listed buildings of different periods
The pretty little lanes
So many original shopfronts remain in Sandwich; the interiors may have evolved over time; nonetheless, love and care are the main focal point in this picturesque town.

Sandwich Town Square

Take a pew and soak it all in
Sandwich Guildhall is what really catches your eye when you first stroll into “The Cattle Market” main square. The historic building was constructed in 1579, beautifully half-timbered, with characterful stained glass leaded windows. The striking hall is now home to the Guildhall Museum.
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The Guildhall
This square is lovely just to sit and watch the world go by.
A view of the historic centre of Sandwich from 'No Name Street'
View towards the town square

The Guildhall Museum

In the town centre is open Wednesday - Sunday from 10:00 to 16:00 and is free.

You can find out more at their website - Sandwich Guildhall Museum

It’s the little things that make Sandwich special

Especially its traditional, independent stores
There are so many quirky street names in Sandwich, Holy Ghost Alley, Paradise Row, Moat Sole and my favourite, No Name Street.
The No Name Shop on No Name Street in the centre of Sandwich, Kent
No Name Street
Sandwich’s main focus doesn’t appear to be on just attracting the tourist, there are a few antique and curios shops and a couple of galleries, but the emphasis is definitely on everyday life. I loved the ironmongers and the traditional Roses Garage, catering for all your automotive needs.
Traditional shops set in historic 16th-century buildings on New Street in the centre of Sandwich, Kent
Quaint shops
Now, while I say its focus is on the locals, they certainly do not have a shortage of traditional pubs, cafés, restaurants and good old-fashioned fish and chip shops, you’re spoilt for choice.
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The Market Inn Public House

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Old Traditions in Sandwich

Ringing the ‘Curfew Bell’
There are three churches in the heart of Sandwich town that we came across, St Clement’s, St Mary’s and St Peter’s. In the churchyard of St Peter’s, is a touching memorial dedicated to the local Victoria Cross recipient, Augustus Charles Newman.
The stone memorial to Victoria Cross recipient Augustus Charles Newman set in the ground in front a recovered gothic church window
The Augustus Charles Newman VC memorial
In Sandwich, the Curfew Bell is still rung from St Peter’s Church every evening at 8pm, a signal in Medieval times for everyone to go to bed.
The 13th-century rebuilt church of St Peter's on St Peter's Street in Sandwich, Kent
St Peter’s Church

Escape for a few days

Are you looking for that ‘perfick’ holiday hideaway to relax in while you discover the Garden of England?

After a day exploring the Kent coast and its many historic castles enjoy one of the handpicked properties and unique retreats at Holiday Cottages.

The ancient Almshouses in Sandwich

A little bit more to discover
Along the street ‘Moat Sole’ are the Almshouses and St Thomas Hospital, which were built in 1392 and named in honour of St Thomas Becket. The Almshouses were always offered to the poor, and here 12 people would make this their home.
St Thomas' Hospital Almshouses rebuilt in a mid-19th-century gothic style, displaying the sign for the Cinque ports above the entrance arch, on the outskirts of Sandwich, Kent
The St Thomas Hospital Almshouses

A Founding Father of America

Remembering Thomas Paine
One of Sandwich’s claims to fame is that of the political activist and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, Thomas Paine.
A 16th-century terraced town cottage in painted white, with black features, once home to a Thomas Paine, in Sandwich, Kent
Thomas Paine's cottage

A Blue plaque marks where Thomas once lived along New Street.

One of Thomas Paine’s most significant works was the “Rights of Man” in 1791.

Hiking and cycling around Sandwich

If you fancy discovering the surrounding footpaths and bridleways around Sandwich, head to the Ordnance Survey website. The local OS Map covering the region is no. 150, ‘Map of Canterbury & the Isle of Thanet’.

For a perfect stay in Kent

Base yourself in historic Sandwich
Dover Castle's outer walls draped with the standards of Henry II, and flying the flags of English Heritage & the Union Flag.
The inner walls of Dover Castle

I would definitely encourage you to choose Sandwich as a place to base yourself while you discover other parts of Kent.

From here you could visit Ramsgate, Margate, Dover Castle, Hythe, Deal and Canterbury.

Most of these towns are also accessible by bus from Deal; my parents have first-hand experience of this. They love using the buses as you meander through tiny villages across the Kent countryside.

Where to stay

- The Bell Hotel – The recently refurbished Bell Hotel is located on the quayside in Sandwich. The elegant rooms offer a beautiful, tasteful feel within traditional stylish surroundings
- The Fleur De Lis Hotel – This traditional, comfortable hotel is located within the heart of Sandwich. They offer pleasant rooms, and a full English breakfast is included in the price.

Home of The Royal St George’s Golf Club

A course with a beautiful view

If you’re an avid golfer, then you would have probably heard of Sandwich already, as the Royal St George’s Golf Club is here. The Links club will be hosting The Open Championship in 2021.

Also nearby is Prince’s Golf Club in Sandwich and the Royal Cinque Ports Golf Club in Deal.

Our black Audi Convertible, with the roof down, parked on the edge of the Royal St George’s Golf Club, Sandwich, Kent
On the edge of the Royal St George’s Golf Club
This shoreline of Kent isn’t renowned for its sandy beaches, unlike the golden shores of Margate in the north of the county. Sandwich Bay is a very pebbly and large pebbles at that; nevertheless, this is what makes this region of the Kent coastline so unique and incredibly stunning.
The pebbled shoreline of Sandwich Bay, Kent
Sandwich Bay

The signpost for ‘Ham Sandwich’

The quirky side to Kent
I appreciate that not everyone has access to a car, although if you have, then head out to catch a shot of this unique road sign. Nearby Sandwich is a hamlet named ‘Ham’. On this old-fashioned street sign, just on the outskirts of the tiny village of Northbourne, the sign points to both, therefore reading ‘Ham Sandwich’.
The cast-iron street sign with directions to the hamlet of Ham, and the town of Sandwich, creating a Ham Sandwich sign, just outside Sandwich, Kent
The Ham/Sandwich sign
Well ok so, it’s not that funny, but I found it amusing.

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  1. We were literally looking for a day trip down by Dover as we will be driving to England and need a resting stop! Sandwich is really quite cute and I love that the good ole’ sandwich derives from here! #FarawayFiles

    1. It is a really pretty town and most certainly worth a visit. It has lots of character and it’s not too touristy.

      Yes it funny about the sandwich, great little snippets of information.

  2. I’m with you! I think the Ham Sandwich sign is funny! Sandwich looks like a lovely and quaint place to visit. I’ll be visiting Kent this summer, and with so much to see and do in I’ll be hard pressed to decide. #farawayfiles

    1. Wow, you’ll list will be long, there are some lovely, towns, castles, cathedrals, villages….I could go on. Have a wonderful time and I hope the sun shines for you.

      If you make it to Dover Castle, there’s a Banksy in Dover town you may want to catch.

  3. Me too, with the ham sandwich sign! I love how you’re sharing all of Kent’s seaside towns on the blogs and marvelling how you always seem to have the most wonderful blue skies for your visits. Thanks for sharing on #farawayfiles

    1. Thanks Clare, it’s amazing how many lovely towns there are along the Kent coastline. The Ham Sandwich sign I believe has been around for years, I don’t think anyone dares to replace it.

  4. Sandwich in Kent is a very nice and historical village Definitely worth paying a visit too. Full of lovely old buildings; and the Barbican Bridge worth seeing.

    1. Author

      We love visiting Sandwich it’s such a charming place and like you say full of so many historic buildings. It’s a little different from other towns along that stretch of the Kent coast, it still has a strong community feel about it.

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