Sandgate, a coastal village near the outskirts of Folkestone, has been hailed as the ‘author’s haven of repose’ and can claim association with several well-known authors.1
Ann Thicknesse (1737-1824) author of Sketches of the Lives and Writings of the Ladies of France which she “Addressed to Mrs Elizabeth Carter moved to Sandgate in 1789 where she enjoyed a house with a sea view.
Fanny Burney (1752–1840) visited the town in 1813 and “avoided going to the library, the general rendezvous of the social, or upon the pier”. She did however go to church where she met William Wilberforce:
‘Eh bien — at church at Sandgate, the day after my arrival, I saw this justly celebrated man, and was introduced to him in the churchyard, after the service, by Charles. The ramparts and martellos around us became naturally our theme, and Mr. Wilberforce proposed showing them to me. I readily accepted the offer, and Charles and Sarah, and Mrs. Wilberforce and Mrs. Barrett, went away in their several carriages, while Mr. Barrett alone remained, and Mr. Wilberforce gave me his arm, and, in short, we walked the round from one to five o’clock! Four hours of the best conversation I have, nearly, ever enjoyed.’2
Mary Shelley came in 1832, writing: “I think this place the healthiest in the world (though a little windy and cold).”3
Anna Sewell, the author of Black Beauty came on holiday to Sandgate as a child and visited neighbouring Folkestone where she saw the Blue Clay fossils.4
Sarah Grand, writer, feminist campaigner and proponent of sex education for girls, lived happily at Sandate after her marriage to David Chambers McFall. McFall, an army surgeon, was stationed at Shorncliffe Barracks in the Spring of 1871. It was here that Sarah “concentrated on the host of new experiences in her life” and gave birth to her only son on the 7 October 1871.5
The journalist and author, George Augustus Sala visited Kent in September 1886 and was particularly taken with Sandgate, he wrote: “My favourite excursion by fly is to Sandgate, because there I found a pretty, smiling, friendly hotel called the “Royal Kent” with a green garden, stretching down to the sea. The “Nobs” had discovered the prettiness and geniality of the “Royal Kent” and had taken possession of it so that I could not obtain rooms there, but I shall call occasionally to take tea in the garden and contemplate the upper classes from a respectable distance.”6
The art critic and writer, John Ruskin visited the ‘Kent Hotel’ a year later to “cool down” after a row at the National Gallery about works by J.M. W. Turner.7 He was suffering from depression and stayed in Sandgate until the following summer, sometimes able to write, but at other times unable to pick up his pen. He invited Henrietta Vaughan Stannard who wrote under the pseudonym John Strange Winter, to visit him and was clearly enchanted by her work, however his mental instability was evident as he demanded that she give him statistics on the armament of British troops which she was unable to supply. In the morning he said sweetly “You never gave me those statistics I asked you for, John” after which a very lively debate ensued.8.
In a letter to Kate Greenaway, dated 19 February 1888, Ruskin wrote: “This is the dismallest day I’ve seen at Sandgate.” He also said that he was working his way through the circulating library.9
In 1888, Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941) was a pupil at Sandgate House boarding school. She would later write Mysticism: a study in the Nature and Development of Man’s Spiritual Consciousness (1911).
The antiquarian and writer, Wilfred Cripps (1841-1903), regularly visited Farleigh House throughout the 1870s-1890s. He was known for his writing on antique silver plate.
Edith Katherine Spicer Jay moved to the south coast for the climate in the 1890s and was inspired by the soldiers at Shorncliffe Barracks to write tales of military life.
Florence Warden former actress turned writer spent some time here at the same period.
Not long after this, H.G. Wells moved to Beach Cottage on the advice of his doctors, then later Arnold House, before commissioning his own house near the Riviera. He entertained many of the leading writers of the day here, including George Bernard Shaw, Henry James, Arnold Bennett, and Joseph Conrad.10 His novel The Sea Lady is set in Sandgate.
Bithia Croker, writer of military life in India, lived at 10, Radnor Cliffe, not far from Wells and set her novel Miss Balmaine’s Past in the nearby Romney Marshes and the playwright Henry Hamilton lived at The Haven until his death on 4 September 1918. He sang his ‘world-famous’ song “Tommy Atkins” from the musical play ‘A Gaiety Girl’ at Hythe Town Hall in February 1900.11
Author Jocelyn Brooke who was born in Sandate in 1908 describes Radnor Cliff and the wildflowers along the Lower Road in The Orchid Trilogy.
The Chaplain of Eversley School, Sandgate, John Ferguson wrote Campbell of Kilmhor (1915), Stealthy Terror (1918), The King of Morven (1922), The Secret Road (1925), The Man in the Dark (1928) and Murder on the Marsh (1930) whilst working at the school.
Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald - Saturday 27 May 1899 ↩
Madame d’Arblay to Dr. Burney., Sandgate, Sept., 1813. British and Irish Women’s Letters and Diaries. Alexander Street Press. ↩
Chitty, S. The woman who wrote Black Beauty. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1971. ↩
Kersley, G. and Singers-Bigger, G. Darling Madame: Sarah Grand and devoted friend. London: Virago, 1983. 34. ↩
Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald - Saturday 11 October 1902 ↩
Copy of letter to Mr Fletcher from John Ruskin, Kent Hotel, Sandgate, 26 Dec 1887 ↩
Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Saturday 07 July 1894 ↩
Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald - Saturday 17 February 1900 ↩