Famous People

Sandgate has been a popular place to visit for many years – here are some of the famous or infamous people who have visited, lived or were born here.

Romford’s (1805-6) the earliest of Pocket Guides to the area, is eloquent . . .Sandgate can claim at least an equal degree of admiration to any watering place in England.

In 1816, W. Tiffen invites the invalid to ‘shun the rank city’ and seek the purer air of this peaceful shore. But Sandgate’s very ‘smallness’ breeds a genteel informality and Thomas Purday’s elegant Library and Reading Room (c.1800) becomes the hub of social life. At all times, Sandgate has a quality which endears it to writers, artists and ‘eccentrics’ among others. The list below is not exhaustive but perhaps gives a flavour of the interest that Sandgate inspired.

1789 Philip Thicknesse (1729-92) polemist and ‘private eye’ known as Dr. Viper is perhaps the first eccentric to settle in Sandgate towards the end of his querulous life.

1790 Sarah Siddons (1755-1831) foremost tragic actress of the day, returns from a visit to France where her daughters are at school. After a rough crossing to Dover, she makes haste to Sandgate. She writes  . .it is the most agreeable seaplace, excepting those on the Devonshire coast, I ever saw. . . .At present the place cannot contain above twenty or thirty strangers, I should think. I have bathed four times, and I believe I shall persevere on. Sir Lucas Pepys says my disease is entirely nervous.

1794 Ann Radcliffe (1764-1823) novelist passes through pristine Sandgate: the white, new village straggling along the beach on each side of the wide road, wide free and pleasant . .

1804 Lt.Gen.John Moore writes. .  .My situation here becomes daily more irksome, and I am almost reduced to wish for peace. I am tired of confinement, without the occupation of war.

1806 John 4th Earl of Darnley (1767-1831) – is an active promoter of Catholic Emancipation and Electoral Reform. He purchases an extensive tract of hillside just north of the Post-road and builds Belle Vue, his marine village (rebuilt 1852 as Enbrook House) In 1830, HRH Prince Leopold (soon to be King of the Belgians) pays him a visit

1812  William Wilberforce MP (1756-1833) has just resigned his Yorkshire seat after 32 years in parliament, before becoming Member for the pocket borough of Bramber. He brings his wife Barbara and five children in search of quiet to restore his health, and time for reading, writing and the enjoyment of nature.

1813 MME. D’Arblay (Fanny Burney) in September, after ten years seclusion, finally escapes from France. On a visit to her brother Charles and family in Sandgate, she is introduced to William Wilberforce coming out of Folkestone Church.

1832  Mary Shelley (1797-1851) Author of Frankenstein etc. takes up lodgings to avoid the cholera epidemic now menacing London.

1852  The Duke of Wellington (1769-1852) takes the train to Folkestone and sets out on foot to visit his old friend, John Wilson Croker (politician and essayist)

1874  Empress Eugenie visits General Hankey at Cliff House

1893 Prince and Princess Louis of Battenberg with their children are staying at the Undercliffe. They have won golden opinions from the inhabitants of Sandgate with whom they mingle quite freely.

1898-1910  H.G. Wells (1866-1946) visiting New Romney as a sick man, chances upon Sandgate. Late in 1898, he rents Beach Cottage on Granville Parade. In March 1899, Wells takes a 3 year lease on Arnold House (20 Castle Road) while, as a man far ahead of his times, he commissions C.F.A Voysey to design Spade House on one off the finest sites in Sandgate. 

Renewed in health and spirit, Wells raises a family and produces 17 novels, and other stories and studies during his 12 year stay.  They include Kipps, Ann Veronica and The Sea Lady, a fantasy on Sandgate’s fish-tailed temptress.

If  Sandgate is good for Wells , so Wells is good for Sandgate. England’s literary lights are at his door – George Gissing, Arnold Bennett, Anthony Hope, Sir James Barrie, G.K. Chesterton, A.E.W. Mason, John Galsworthy, Hilaire Belloc – and Fabians such as Hubert Bland, the Webbs, Graham Wallas and Bernard Shaw.

1908  Jocelyn Brooke, born in 1908 on the south coast and lived in Sandgate, is known for his many books – The Military Orchid (1948) provided the opportunity to buy himself out of the Army. He then settled down to write, publishing some fifteen titles between 1948 and 1955. Partly though recollection, partly by fictional narrative, Jocelyn Brooke explores, in The Military Orchid, his two worlds – the one bound by his own experience and the other a magical and , as yet unknown landscape which lies beyond the ‘frontier’. A  sensitive and intelligent child, Brooke perceived himself as an outcast from society, but introspection proved fruitful and enabled him to recreate this lyrical and witty portrait of his own past and also evoke that tradition of Englishness which is now lost for ever. Brooke died in 1966.  

1918  Professor Dame Sheila Sherlock (1918-2001) worlds leading liver specialist and considered Sandgate’s first FRS. Born in Dublin Sheila grew up in No. 7 Devonshire Terrace, attending the Country School for Girls in Folkestone, before a scholarship took her to Edinburgh Medical School, and the start of a brilliant career and phenomenal output – written, clinical, research and teaching.

Describing herself as an unrepentant career woman Sheila, indefatigable, demanding, warm-hearted, had a tough uphill path in the medical world. In 1959 she was the first woman to hold the Chair of a Dept. at the Royal Free Hospital which pioneered medical education for women in Britain.

The Education Centre there, is named in her honour.  Ancient Renown Cottage (later burnt down) in Wilberforce Road, close to the bottling plant in the disused Methodist Chapel (1816) provided a weekend retreat for Shelia and husband Gerry James, a distinguished physician. Always loyal to Sandgate, Shelia readily agreed to become a patron of the Sandgate Heritage Trust set up in 1983/4 to save the Old Fire Station for the Community.

1924  Hattie Jacques (Josephine Edwina Jacques) (1924-1980) better known by the stage name Hattie Jacques, was a comedy actress. Hattie Jacques, born in Sandgate and lived in Sandgate High Street, best remembered for her numerous appearances in Hancock’s Half Hour and the Carry On films, and for her long-running TV partnership with Eric Sykes. She was married to the actor, John Le Mesurier.