The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland 1868


The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland - 1868

"SANDWICH, comprises the parishes of St. Peter, St. Clement, and St. Mary; it is a cinque port, market town, and municipal and parliamentary borough in the hundred of Eastry, lathe of St. Augustine, county Kent, 12 miles E. of Canterbury, and 68 S.E. of London by road, or 98 miles by the South-Eastern railway, which has a station here. It is situated on the flats or marsh lands of the Stour, about 2 miles from the sea at Pegwell Bay, between Ramsgate and Deal. The town has always been of importance, and is associated with many historical events of interest.

It most probably grew out of the ruins of the important Roman station Rutupium, or Ritupæ, popularly known as Richboro' Castle, which stands about 1 mile to the N.W., and was built in the reign of the Emperor Vespasian. The walls, which are built of chalk and cement, faced with square blocks of granite, are still 24 feet high after a lapse of near 2,000 years. To the southward of the castle are traces of an amphitheatre 210 feet in diameter, where coins and other antiquities have been found, proving this to have been once an important station. It continued to flourish after the departure of the Roman legions, and was the Saxon Sondwic, or sand town. The Danes attacked it twice during the first half of the 9th century, but were repulsed; they, however, pillaged the town several times between the years 852 and 1046. Canute landed here in 1010, and again in 1029, when he gave it to Christ Church, Canterbury. It was also visited by Hardicanute in 1039, and was made a cinque port by Edward the Confessor. At Domesday Survey there were nearly 400 houses, but they were all burnt or rased to the ground by the French in 1217. Richard Coeur-de-Lion landed here after his return from captivity in Germany; and it was here that Edward III. embarked for France on several occasions, as also Henry V. in 1416; and Edward the Black Prince landed, in company with the French king, his prisoner. In the reigns of Henry IV. and Henry VI., Sandwich was plundered or burnt by the French several times, to avoid which Edward IV. considerably strengthened the town by fortifications. Henry VIII., Elizabeth, Cromwell, and Charles II. successively visited the town, and Queen Elizabeth contributed greatly to its prosperity by directing the harbour, which was then nearly choked up, to be cleansed, and by allowing the Walloons, or French Protestants, to settle in the town.

It has returned two members to parliament since the reign of Edward III., but by the Reform Bill is grouped in conjunction with Deal and Walmer. It was incorporated by Edward the Confessor, and is now governed by a mayor (who is returning officer), 4 aldermen, and 12 councillors, with the style of "mayor, jurats, and commonalty of the town and port of Sandwich." The population of the municipal borough in 1851 was 2,966, with 602 inhabited houses, which in 1861 had decreased to 2,944, with 649 inhabited houses; but the parliamentary borough, including Deal, had increased in the same period from 12,710 to 13,750 in 1861.

The principal export trade is in corn, malt, flour, wool, and hops, and the import in iron, coals, and timber. Sandwich is irregularly built, consisting chiefly of narrow streets, and the houses are for the most part old-fashioned, but many of them large. The streets are in general paved and lighted with gas, and the town supplied with good water. A portion of the town wall and the old Fishergate are still remaining. The guildhall was erected in 1579, and in it the cucking-stool for scolds is still kept, and a quarterly court of sessions for the peace is held. The gaol was built in 1830. It contains two commercial banks, a savings-bank, ship-building yard, iron foundry, seed-crushing mill, besides several breweries and malting establishments.

For ecclesiastical purposes it is divided into the three parishes of St. Peter, St. Clement, and St. Mary, within the diocese of Canterbury: the first is a rectory, value £150, in the patronage of the lord chancellor and the mayor; the other two are both vicarages, value respectively £310 and £117, in the patronage of the archdeacon. St. Peter's church is an ancient structure with a tower, the lower part of which is of stone and the upper brick, and was formerly surmounted by a spire, which fell in 1661, demolishing the S. aisle. It had formerly a chantry, and contains effigies of Sir J. Grove and one Ellis. St. Clement's church is a massive structure with a Norman tower rising from the centre, supported by four semicircular arches, and built of Caen stone. It contains several old wooden stalls, and an ancient octagonal font. The architectural effect has been greatly marred by injudicious repairs and alterations. The tower has been lately restored at a cost of more than £1,000. St. Mary's church, though an ancient structure, has been partially rebuilt and a steeple added in 1718. It had formerly a chantry, Lady chapel, and hermitage attached. The interior contains a monument to Knollys, author of "The History of the Turks." The Independents, Wesleyans, and Baptists have each a place of worship. The free grammar school was founded in the reign of Elizabeth by Sir Roger Manwood, a native, and has four scholarships, two in Oxford and two in Cambridge University.

There are also National schools, four Sunday-schools, and twelve private schools. There are three hospitals, of almshouses; the largest and most ancient, St. Bartholomew's, for 16 aged persons, has a revenue of £800 per annum; St. Thomas's, for 12 persons, and St. John's, were founded in the 13th and 14th centuries-though both have been since rebuilt. There is a stone bridge, with a swing-bridge in the centre for the passage of vessels. The harbour is in great need of being restored and enlarged; only small vessels can come up to the town, and although an Act was passed in 1847 to improve and maintain the haven, but little has been done to effect that object-the one steam vessel employed not being sufficient to effect any permanent improvement, so that the harbour is becoming more shallow. Hoys sail weekly for London. Shocks of an earthquake were felt here in 1579. The plague raged here with considerable violence on three occasions during the reign of Charles I., and again in 1666. It gives the title of earl to the Montague family. Market days are Wednesday and Saturday. Fairs are held every alternate Monday for cattle, and a pleasure fair on 4th December."

[Transcribed from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland 1868 by Colin Hinson ©2010]