Kent, 12 -19 July 2013
Trip Start Feb 25, 2013
47Trip End Sep 21, 2013
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Kent is in south-eastern England and is home to four of the Cinque Ports. Originally, the Cinque Ports were a confederation of five harbours, Sandwich, Romney, Dover, Hythe, and Hastings. Later, the two Ancient Towns of Rye & Winchelsea were added. (Yes that equals seven, don’t ask!!) These were grouped together, for defense purposes, by Edward the Confessor (1003-1066) and supplied the Crown with ships and men in times of war. Although they weren’t much help when the Conqueror turned up in 1066!
In return for the use of their ships and crews, the ports received many privileges from the Crown e.g. freedom from tolls and customs duties, freedom to trade and to have their own judicial courts
The beginning of the end came with the Great Storm of 1287. This started the siltation of a number of ports and rivers on the south coast. Numerous harbours and rivers and towns were inundated and submerged. Despite this, the Cinque Ports still retained their status and privileges. Even today, these towns are still known as the Cinque Ports, but the coastline has changed considerably over the centuries and only Dover retains its major port status
There has been a Lord Warden in charge of the Cinque Ports since the 12th century. Recent Lords Warden include Sir Winston Churchill 1941-1965 and Sir Robert Menzies, former Prime Minister of Australia 1966-1978. Apparently, this was the Queen’s reward for Menzies’s adulation when he was Prime Minister!
We’ve spent a few days travelling around the coastline – Whitstable, Herne Bay, Margate, Broadstairs, Ramsgate, Sandwich and Deal. Much of the coastline is tall chalk cliffs – the White Cliffs of Dover, being the most famous! The towns are built on top of the cliffs and the ingenious Victorians built lifts down to the beaches – some of these lifts are still in use
In the 1850s and 1860s, Charles Dickens spent his summer holidays at Fort House in Broadstairs and, whilst there, wrote David Copperfield. Some believe that he also wrote Bleak House there, but others disagree. Whatever, Fort House was dubbed Bleak House in the early part of the 20th Century.
Ramsgate has the honour of being the only Royal Harbour in the UK, thanks to George IV who used it for travelling to/from his other kingdom of Hanover. Sandwich is one of the Cinque Ports, but unfortunately is now 2 miles inland! It is a lovely place with some very old buildings. The first record of the port of Sandwich is 664 AD. It has a Norman church built in the 12th century, we had a look inside and 'yes it is old’. In 1952 a group of local people got together and saved it from demolition. They restored what was a ruined and derelict building to a building that’s now used for concerts and meetings. They maintain it by donations from visitors and local people. It’s also used for concerts and meetings- another source of income.
Our next visit was to Deal Castle, one of a chain of castles along the South coast of England built by Henry VIII to protect the country from French and Spanish attack
On a more personal note, Robert’s Mum and Dad first met during WW2 at a Radar station on the North Foreland at Broadstairs. Robert was keen to find the Radar Station and so we spent a couple of days trying to track it down. This involved long walks tramping over sand dunes and a visit to an RAF Museum – lots of old Spitfires, Hurricanes, old vehicles etc but they also had a small section on the old radar stations along the coast! (Liz, if you’re reading this – you’d have loved the museum!!) We’ve also done a bit of historical research (well Robert has) and have found the site of the Radar station and also the address where Robert’s Mum was billeted, his Dad was billeted in a house next to the North Foreland Lighthouse. To be continued..............