Sandgate Starts With Shipbuilding in 1778

The town of Sandgate is of no great antiquity, its history commences about the year 1778, some of the present houses having sprung up during the past few years.

It owes its origin to a Mr Wilson who established a shipbuilding yard and erected many wooden tenements which were occupied by his employees. This induced others to commence business here, to supply provisions etc. During the war with France in 1704, a summer camp was established on Shorncliffe Hill on the north side of the village (it was but a village in those days). The camp was under the command of the celebrated Sir John Moore. During this encampment, the then Commander In Chief, his Royal Highness the Duke of York, visited the forces and took up his abode in Sandgate.

This camp was removed after the war (the memorable battle of Waterloo) and the declaration of peace. By this time the other shipwrights opened shipyards with the result that Sandgate became famous for its boat building and during the war between this country and the American colonies six 28 gun frigates, two fireships and several sloops of war were built here for the government, besides a number of formidable privateers.

Among these shipbuilders was a Mr Lowe, who when the revolution in 1830 caused the separation of Belgium and Holland, became the chief boatbuilder to the King of the Belgians. (These yards were at a site behind Michael Fitch, Antiques at 99, High Street and stretching some distance to the west). By 1854 the Shorncliffe Camp had been permanently re-established on the elevated plateau above the town and afforded accommodation for about 6000 troops.

Her Majesty Queen Victoria accompanied by the Prince C0onsort visited the camp in 1855. His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales also visited here on June 10th 1859. Owing to its proximity to Shorncliffe Garrison, Sandgate at this time became a very rough place, chiefly composed of low-class beer houses thronged with soldiers returned from India and the Crimea.

In consequence of the military, and owing to its healthy situation and close proximity to the sea, Sandgate was sought after as a watering place and was principally supported by those visitors who prefer seclusion and retirement to the more crowded watering places on the Kentish Coast.