Travels with Victoria: The Charming Town of Sandwich, Kent

Sandwich has little or nothing to do with the famous dish of the name, other than the fact that the 4th Earl of Sandwich invented it in the 18th century. The earl’s title had been taken from the name of the city in the 17th century. However, one of the amusing vagaries of geography is in the vicinity. I must admit I never saw the hamlet of Ham.

If you need a glass of milk with your sandwich, you will find it still delivered in glass bottles.  Shades of long ago!

And just in case you wondered where the meat came from…

But seriously, folks… Sandwich has been important since before the Roman landings here in the first century AD, and as one of the vital Cinque Ports, so designated in the 12th century.  Along with such harbours as Dover, Hastings, and Hythe, Sandwich was protected by the crown, exempted from some taxes and fees, in exchange for performing official services, such as the provision of ships for the king.

The organization continues in a ceremonial format to this day. We’ll encounter the Cinque Ports when we talk soon of nearby Walmer Castle. Though Sandwich’s harbor was once on the English Channel, today the silted up harbour means it is two miles inland, joined to the sea by channels and the River Stour.

Across from the quay stands the Fisher Tower, dating from 1384, the only one of original gates in the town’s walls to survive. It is constructed of bricks and the kind of flinty stone so common in this region of Kent.

Nearby is the much-remodeled Barbican, formerly the toll house for the bridge over the Stour.

As we wandered the crooked streets and gazed at the old houses, our guide told us the town is now very prosperous.  A nearby pharmaceutical company provides many good jobs. Two championship golf courses and the easy access to the sea make Sandwich a very desirable place to live and a sought-after weekend retreat for wealthy Londoners.

The old houses and hidden gardens are popular and pricey. Sandwich is another of those when-I-win-the-lottery places!

I can’t tell you how tempted I was to try and climb up to peek over.

Seems like there were a lot of these garden walls…this one of more of that flinty stone.

Above and below, up close and

This wall encloses a famous secret garden…and a mansion designed by Sir Edward Lutyens in 1912.

It is now part of the complex  known as The Salutation, which provides luxury accommodations and has a tea room within the gardens designed by Gertrude Jekyll in the early 20th century.

Sandwich has been in the sports headlines recently as the site of the 2011 British Open Golf Tournament, held at the Royal St. Georges Golf Club (website here).  More than a dozen British Opens have been held here.

Our quick tour of Sandwich only whetted my appetite for more, but I was eager to go a few miles back toward Dover, through the town of Deal to Walmer Castle…next.

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