Sandwich dates back to Anglo-Saxon times and was once an important Cinque Port. Fishing and smuggling thrived here during the middle ages and by the 15th century it grew into one of the most important naval bases in England. Sadly over time the harbour silted-up leaving it stranded a mile or so inland. However, the receeding sea has left an area of sand dunes, salt marshes and tidal mud-flats, which provides an important habitat for migratory birds.

River Stour at Sandwich
River Stour at Sandwich © Nick Macneill (CC2)

Renowned as one of the most complete medieval towns in the country it is a pleasant place to visit with a rich history and several surviving relics of the past. The town's massive 14th-c defensive ramparts follow the line of the old town walls, providing an excellent tourist path around landward side of the town. The more elevated parts afford an excellent view over the town and its important landmarks. The fine restored medieval Barbican, once the main gateway to the town, is now a toll-gate to a bridge over the Stour. A little further downriver is the Fishergate, another medieval entrance built in 1384.

The delightful old town area has lovely winding streets, lined with 16th-c high gabled, timbered houses built for the Flemish weavers who once lived here. Several of the old houses have traditional overhanging upper floors. The Elizabethan Weaver's House in Strand Street is a particularly good example. Many of the old timber-framed buildings are now disguised with brick frontages. Nearby Monken Quay hints to the presence of its original owners, the monks of Christchurch, Canterbury.

In the tiny central square stands a 16th-c Guildhall that has retained its original facade, old oak timbers and other Tudor features. Today it contains a museum detailing the history of Sandwich, including a fine 17th-c court-room. Several arficacts from the old Flemish weavers are on display. The old Cattle Market area by the Guildhall is now a carpark.

Sandwich has three ancient churches. St Clement's, the town's main parish church, has a fine Norman tower that incorporates several other Norman features. The Church of St Mary the Virgin also dates from the Norman period. The 13th-c St Peter's, the former parish church that dominates the centre of the town, is now the chapel of the Sir Roger Manwood's Grammar School.

Just to the northwest are the remains of Richborough Castle where the Romans established a bridgehead, which they called Rutupiae. Initially built as an army suppy base, it once boasted a triumphal archway, that stood on a promontory facing the sea. The arch was demolished but the base is still visible.

Sandwich and Pegwell Bay National Nature Reserve

This important nature reserve covers nearly a thousand acres of sand dunes and shingle, freshwater marshes and saltings on either side of the River Stour. Officialy a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) it provides a mixture of habitats and supports a rich variety of wildlife, including redshanks, shelducks, plovers and turns. Its lime rich soil also accounts for an abundance of maritime wildflowers, such as thrift and sea holly.

Map of Sandwich


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