Broadstairs Tourist Guide
Come and explore the many delights of this Kentish town which stands on the coast!
Broadstairs lies on the East Kent coast with a population of about 22,000. The town lies above a harbour, historically known for smuggling. Some 20 miles from both Dover and Canterbury, and approximately 60 miles from the M25, London's orbital motorway, it is a popular resort for day-trippers and holidaymakers. It has seven bays of golden sand which are Viking Bay, Louisa Bay, Kingsgate Bay, Dumpton Gap, Botany Bay, Stone Bay and Joss Bay. Situated between Margate and Ramsgate, it is one of the seaside resorts on the Isle of Thanet, often known as the ‘Jewel in Thanet's crown’. Broadstairs derives its name from the Anglo-Saxon word Bradstow(e). Broadstairs was the fishing hamlet associated with the inland village of St Peters established around the parish church which was built circa 1080AD.
The town spreads from Poorhole Lane in the west, (named from the mass graves dating from the Black Death), to Kingsgate in the north, (named after the landing of King Charles II in 1683), and to Dumpton in the south, (named after the yeoman Dudeman who farmed there in the 13th century). Reading or Redyng Street was established by Flemish refugees in the 1600s. In 1440, an archway was built by George Culmer across a track leading down to the sea, where the first wooden pier or jetty was built in 1460. A more enduring structure was to replace this in 1538, when the road leading to the seafront, known as Harbour Street, was cut into the rough chalk ground on which Broadstairs is built, by another George Culmer. Going further in defence of the town, he built the York Gate in 1540, a portal that still spans Harbour Street, and which then held two heavy wooden doors that could be closed in times of threat from the sea.
St Peters came within the jurisdiction of the Cinque Ports under a 15th century charter. The ‘free trade’ or smuggling was not stamped out until the 1840s. In the middle of the 18th century gentlemen and gentleman farmers started to arrive in the locality, and built seaside residencies such as Holland House, (1760), Stone House, (1764), Pierremont Hall, (1785), & East Cliff Lodge, (1794).
By the 1850s the professional classes had arrived, and steady town expansion took place, the population doubling in 50 years to 3,000. As the town grew, artists, writers and poets started to visit as did clerks, lawyers and architects, causing more accommodation for rent to be built and the seaside holiday industry started.
The town continued to expand and by 1910 over 10,000 people were living in Broadstairs and St Peters. The fresh sea air bought an influx of convalescent homes for children at the end of the 19th century, many lasting well into the 1950s.
Broadstairs has changed very little over the past fifty years, a feature that brings visitors back time and again. Nearby, with its beach below, is Kingsgate Castle once the home of Lord Holland, but now converted into private residences. Several follies of the castle still exist within the area. There is a small cinema "The Palace Cinema" (formerly known as the The Windsor) in Harbour Street and a venue nearby called the Pavilion on the Sands, which hosts a summer show as well as all-year entertainment, and which offers an wide-ranging view across the bay.
The town's water gala in August has been a part of the summer calendar for more than 117 years. There is also a Charles Dickens festival each June and a folk festival and craft fair every August. The beaches at Botany Bay and Joss Bay have both been awarded the Blue Flag rural beach award in 2005. Viking Bay beach, the main beach in Broadstairs, won the Blue Flag in 2006. The beach has a number of cafes and ice cream outlets. There are regular firework displays on Wednesday evenings in the summer.
By 1824 steamboats were becoming more common, having begun to take over from the hoys and sailing packets about 1814. These made trade with London much faster. The well-known sailing hoys took anything up to 72 hours to reach Margate from London, whereas the new steamships were capable of making at least nine voyages in this time! Charles Dickens was a frequent visitor and Bleak House, where he wrote David Copperfield, towers above the town.
Although many holidaymakers were attracted to Broadstairs and to other Thanet seaside towns during the Victorian era, it was not directly served by rail until 1863. Broadstairs station (unlike neighbouring Margate) is a good 15 minutes walk from the beach. Although rebuilt in the 1920s electricity was not installed at the station until well into the 1970s and the buildings and platforms remained gas lit until then.
Attractions in Broadstairs
Broadstairs Folk Week involves Broadstairs and St. Peter’s Town Council sponsoring a programme of Summer Entertainment based at the Bandstand, Victoria Gardens and Viking Bay. This varies from year to year but can include Fireworks Displays, Sunday Afternoon Band Concerts, Circus Skills Workshops, Live Bands, Ceilidhs, Magic Shows and of course the traditional ‘Punch and Judy Show’. In 2007 the dates are 10-17 August. Check for latest details on www.broadstairsfolkweek.org.uk
The Dickens’ Festival reminds everyone that Charles Dickens visited Broadstairs regularly from 1837 until 1859 and immortalised the town as ‘Our English Watering Place’. In 1937, to commemorate the centenary of the author's first visit, Gladys Waterer, the then owner of Dickens House, conceived the idea of putting on a production of David Copperfield and of having people about the town in Victorian dress to publicise it. Thus the festival was born and, with the exception of the years of World War 2, has been held annually in the third week of June ever since. Broadstairs Dickens Festival runs in 2007 from Saturday 16th June until Sunday 24th June inclusive. www.broadstairsdickensfestival.co.uk
St Peter’s Village Tour offers a guided walk around the historic village and churches of St. Peter's, where the past is dramatically brought to life by costumed characters. In 2007 the tours take place: every Thursday from 10th May to 20 September either in the morning, afternoon or evening; afternoon Tours at 13.45 on May 24th and 31st, July 26th, August 9th and 30th; evening Tours at 18.30 on June 14th and 28th, July 5th and 19th; morning Tours at 09.45 on all other Thursdays; Heritage Saturday Tour at 09.45 on September 8th.
The Crampton Tower Museum is an absorbing small museum partly housed in a flint tower adjacent to the Broadstairs Railway Station. The tower formed part of the first Broadstairs public water supply and was put in repair by Thanet District Council. The museum contains Crampton’s working drawings, models, graphics, patents, awards and artefacts connected to his life and works. Other galleries illustrate the history and development of the railways, the electric tramways, road transport and other aspects of local industry. The original Broadstairs stage coach built in 1860 is displayed alongside seven working model railways in gauges N,OO,O and Gauge One. Visit www.cramptontower.co.uk for details.
The Dickens House Museum is on the main sea-front at Broadstairs. Once the home of Miss Mary Pearson Strong, on whom Charles Dickens based much of the character of Miss Betsey Trotwood in his novel David Copperfield, this building has been adapted as a museum to commemorate the novelist's association with the town of Broadstairs The parlour is refurbished as described by Dickens and illustrated by H. K. Browne (Phiz). Some of the author's own letters and memorabilia are on display. Around the house there are fascinating old prints of local and Dickensian interest as well as costumes and Victoriana. 01843 863453 or www.dickenshouse.co.uk
If you fancy a round of golf try the North Foreland Golf Club in Convent Rd. the Golf Club is situated on the Kent coast at the point where the English Channel becomes the North Sea and is a cliff top downland course that offers seaside golf at its very best. With a view of the sea from every tee and every green, North Foreland is a free running chalk-based course, and possibly Kent's premier all-year-round course - confirmed by the number of returning visitors and societies. Visit the Club at www.northforeland.co.uk
Broadstairs Leisure in Harbour Street offers a very different form of entertainment: coin-operated entertainment. Play the latest video and fruit machines as well as Pool. Refreshments are available and there is wheelchair access.
Palace Cinema (formerly the Windsor Cinema) also in Harbour Street is the place to catch up on the latest films (Tel:01843 865726). If you prefer live entertainment pop along to the Pavilion Theatre, again in Harbour Street (Tel:01843 600999).
The Broadstairs Pavilion itself in Harbour Street is situated with picturesque views over Viking Bay and the harbour. The large function room is a delightful setting for your party and can cater for a variety of occasions. As well as being available for private hire all year round, the Pavilion Restaurant and Bar is open to all - 7 days a week - providing a variety of delicious food and drinks. A venue for entertainment / craft fairs / dancing etc.: view details here - >a href="http://www.pavilion-broadstairs.co.uk">www.pavilion-broadstairs.co.uk
For a more active time try the Joss Bay Surf School, Joss Bay Beach, in Elwood Avenue,North Foreland. Why not try something different and have a go at surfing in the Thanet Coast! The Surf School provides professional and enthusiastic lessons. It caters for all ages from 8-80. Surf Board and wetsuit hire available and they are now now introducing kayaks.
Revolution Skatepark & Climbing Centre in the Oakwood Industrial Estate, Dane Valley Road, St Peter'’s offers you the chance to skate and climb. There is a Pro Skate/Surf shop and the course includes Halfpipes, flatbanks, quarterpipes and a large variety of obstacles. The Climbing Centre has a diverse range of walls and routes for all standards of climber. www.revolutionskatepark.co.uk
Major Airports closest to Broadstairs:
London Stansted Airport 63 miles
London Gatwick Airport 72 miles
London Heathrow Airport 82 miles
Airports Closest to Broadstairs miles
Manston Kent International Airport 4 miles
Southend Municipal Airport 35 miles
London City Airport 60 miles
To double-check information contact the Broadstairs Visitor Information Centre on +44 (0)1843 583333. Visitor Information Centre Call Centre: +44 (0) 870 264 6111
Disclaimer: The information in this Tourist Guide has been researched from a variety of sources including books, articles and online information. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information the reader should check any specific facts for themselves before making any decisions based upon the said information.
Last Updated: 28 Apr 2015