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History of Sandwich

Sandwich comes from the Old English word ‘Sand’ meaning ‘sand’ with ‘wic’ as a ‘dwelling, building or collection of buildings for special purposes, trading or industrial settlement’; therefore, a ‘trading-centre on sand’. A trading settlement existed in Sandwich early in the Saxon period. The Domesday Book chronicles Sandwich as Sandwice.


In the 11th century, the five ports Sandwich, Dover, Hythe, Romney and Hastings joined together to provide ships and men for King Edward the Confessor. They became known as the Cinque Ports (after the Norman French word for five). In return for providing naval and ferry services, these towns received many rights and privileges, which helped Mediaeval Sandwich to thrive as a port. However, in 1287 a great storm silted up many of the ports and harbours, eventually, over many centuries, leaving Sandwich two miles inland, although the title of Cinque Port remained.

Sandwich parish church is a Grade: I listed building, dedicated to Saint Clement. It became the sole parish church following the union on the old town parishes in 1948. It would appear to date to the 12th Century, although the dedication suggests 11th century. However, it would almost certainly have replaced an earlier Saxon building. The addition of a north chapel and a central tower came in the 13th Century, with a south chapel in the following 100 years. The spire required replacement, in 1668, with a timber balustrade and ‘onion’ cupola, as a precaution against possible collapse. In 1672, John Hodson replaced the bells with a new ring of five.


In 1800, Edward Hasted described St Clement’s church as standing at the ‘eastern part of the town, on the highest ground in it; it is a large handsome structure, consisting of a nave and two isles; the steeple stands in the centre of the church, and is by far the oldest part of the fabric. It is square, and ornamented on each side with three ranges of pillars and circular arches; the lowest range has only six, the next seven, and the uppermost nine arches. It had formerly a spire and battlements, which were taken down between the years 1670 and 1673; it is built of Norman stone; the other parts of the church are formed principally of bolders, (that is, flints worn away by friction on the shore) mixed with sand-stone, and some Caen stone, probably from the ruins of the original building. There is a high chancel, and two side ones at the east end. Here were stalls, fitted with seats, for some religious fraternity; and in this church were the chapels of St. James, St. Margaret the Virgin, and St. Thomas the Martyr, the chancel of St. George, and Green's chantry; and there was a brotherhood in this church established for the procession of St. George, when his figure was yearly borne about the town. The nave is separated from the isles by light airy pillars and pointed arches. The cieling is of oak, in pannels, between arched beams centered with angels holding shields, with ornaments of roses and foliage. The font is an antient octogonal bason, and shast of stone; the eight sides are charged with shields and roses alternately. On the shields are, first, the arms of France, three fleurs de lis quarterly, with those of England; second, a merchant's mark; third, the arms of the cinque ports; fourth, the arms of Ellis. Above these squares, at the eight angles of the moulding, are grotesque faces, except at the dexter side of the first shield, where the ornament is a bird like a heron; and on the sinister side is a coronet with balls between spires, terminated with fleurs de lis; the whole of it is besides much de corated, and ornamented with different devices, leaves, flowers, fruits, satyrs faces, &c. There are five bells, not very tuneable, and consequently of little use, but to hasten the downfall of this venerable steeple in which they hang. They were cast in 1672’.


The Sandwich church underwent a major restoration in 1870, by the Gothic Revival architect Joseph Clarke. With the tower being unsafe, he removed the parapet and cupola, and four bells, leaving only the tenor. Having sold the four bells, Harrington, Latham & Co made a set of eight tubular bells. In 1989, the parishioners purchased six bells from St John the Baptist, Kirkheaton, West Yorkshire – originally cast in 1805 and 1819 by Thomas Mears II. The Bishop of Dover, in the presence of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother dedicated the bells on 20 May 1990…. more



Saint Peter’s church is a Grade: I listed building, although ceased to be a parish church following the union of parishes in 1948. However, it became redundant on 22 February 1973 and taken into the care of the Churches Conservation Trust on 16 October 1974. The Normans originally built it in the 11th century with additions in the following century. In 1216, the French destroyed the church, although the parishioners rebuilt it with the chancel, north and south arcades and chancel chapels, together with the clerestories. They widened the aisles in the 14th century and added a north porch in the following 100 years. In 1661, the spire and upper part of the tower collapsed destroying the south aisle. They blocked off the south arcade and rebuilt the upper part of the tower. In 1727, Canterbury Cathedral sold St Peter’s six bells, known as the ‘Oxfords’, which Samuel Knight, having recast the tenor, hung in the tower. In 1779, William Mears recast the six bells into a ring of eight. The church became dilapidated, with some repairs carried out in the 19th century, including a new clock and chimes fitted by Gillett and Johnston in 1898. In 1948, when the three Sandwich parishes united, Sir Roger Manwood’s school used it as a chapel until 1973.


The final parish church in the 1948 union is a Grade: I listed building, dedicated to Saint Mary the Virgin, and taken under the wing of the Churches Conservation Trust in 1985. The Saxons originally built it in 664AD as a convent. Early in the 11th century, the Danes destroyed the church, although, Queen Emma, wife of King Canute rebuilt it. The Normans largely rebuilt it later that century, adding the north and south aisles and a central tower. They rebuilt the chancel in the early part of the 13th century. The following century saw a south chancel aisle constructed and a central buttress, together with widening of the aisles. Repairs needed to be carried out in the 14th century following a French invasion and in the 16th century subsequent to an earthquake in 1578. In the 19th century, an unknown architect carried out restoration works. When the three Sandwich churches amalgamated in 1948, St Mary’s went out of use.


Sandwich railway station opened on the South Eastern Railway’s extension from Minster to Deal on 1 July 1847…. more