Literary Connections - Sandwich
Many recent travel writers have been enchanted by the old town of Sandwich, and Paul Theroux, visiting the town in 1982, speaks for them all. He finds it
'a lovely place surrounded by flat green fields', 'still pretty and old-fangled'.
(The Kingdom by the sea)
But earlier visitors were less impressed. In 1697, Celia Fiennes (1662-1741), found Sandwich
'a sad old town' and
'run so to decay that except one or two good houses its just like to drop down the whole town'.
(Through England on a side saddle in the time of William and Mary)
And Daniel Defoe, passing though some 25 years later, called it
'an old decayed, poor, miserable town'.
(A tour through the whole island of Great Britain)
St Peter's Church
Better known for his short stories, the author W. W. Jacobs (1863-1943) wrote novels as well. One of these, 'At Sunwich Port, published in 1902, uses Sandwich as the inspiration for 'the ancient port of Sunwich'. It is a story of sea captains, of rivalry and romance, and opens with a description of the town church which still shares many features with St Peter's today.
"It is a fine church, and Sunwich is proud of it. The tall grey tower is a landmark at sea, but from the narrow streets of the little town itself it has a disquieting appearance of rising suddenly above the roofs huddled beneath it for the purpose of displaying a black-faced clock with gilt numerals whose mellow chimes have recorded the passing hours for many generations of Sunwich men."
20 New Street
Tom Paine (1737-1809) was a radical thinker and writer who spent a year in Sandwich in 1759, trying to make a living as a staymaker. But his true vocation was as a writer and by the 1770s he was publishing pamphlets and articles, setting out his revolutionary ideas. He is best known for his 'Rights of Man', published in 1791, but his 'Common sense' of 1776 had a strong influence on the American Declaration of Independence of the same year. His ideas were ahead of his time: not only did he oppose slavery, but he also had strong views on what he saw as the inferior position of women.
Royal St George's
Ian Fleming was a frequent visitor to the Guilford Hotel at Sandwich Bay and played golf regularly at Royal St George's. This golf course - thinly disguised as Royal St Mark's - features in the James Bond book 'Goldfinger' published in 1959. In a contest which foreshadows the book's final outcome, Bond plays the wealthy gold smuggler, Auric Goldfinger, at golf - and wins! It is a tense match, but Bond finds time to take his eyes off the game:
"he gazed at the glittering distant sea and at the faraway crescent of white cliffs beyond Pegwell Bay"
And Bond's view is clearly Fleming's own - that the Sandwich golf course is
"the greatest seaside course in the world."
The children's writer, Rosemary Sutcliff (1920-1992), uses her historical novel 'The Lantern Bearers' (1959) to recreate Richborough in all its former glory. Set in 410 AD, the year the Romans finally left Britain, the story unfolds against the backdrop of Rutupiae – the Roman fort at Richborough. In those days it was Tanatus, the Isle of Thanet, that was 'the gateway to Britain'.
Approaching travellers would have seen:
"the grey fortress of Rutupiae that rose massive and menacing above the tawny levels, with all the lonely flatness of Tanatus Island spread beyond it. At night, the Rutupiae Light blazed out, a beacon of civilization holding back the darkness."