I have recently discovered that Michael's Bookshop in Ramsgate publishes books on the local history of the Isle of Thanet. Two of the most recent books published in 2006 are "The Small Happy Family of Broadstairs" and "The Petrified Haystack of Broadstairs" both of which make very interesting reading. The books from Michael's Bookshop cover many aspects of local history and are available from either the publisher or other local bookshops.
There are a number of other websites which go into some detail of the History of the Isle of Thanet and Broadstairs, I hope it will be of interest. You can view larger images below by clicking on them.
In Roman times the Isle of Thanet was indeed an island, being separated form the mainland Kent by The Wantsum Channel. The Romans actually built forts at each end of the channel, Reculver to the north and Richborough to the south. These are now sites of historic interest and the remains are tourist attractions. In AD449 the Viking Hengist actually landed near Ramsgate at Pegwell Bay.
Today there is a replica Viking long ship on display at Pegwell Bay. This replica was actually rowed across the North Sea in 1949 and landed at was then called Main Bay in Broadstairs - now renamed Viking Bay in honour of this event. In June 2005 this longship was returned to public display at Pegwell Bay having been completely restored by Tommi Nielsen & Co, a firm specialising in maintaining historic sailing ships. This restoration was funded jointly by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Thanet Council.
In the middle ages St Peters was a thriving farming community and had a nearby fishing village which became what we now know as Broadstairs. Its name being derived from the Anglo-Saxon word Bradstow which means a broad place.
Much later shipbuilding became of great importance for Broadstairs and in 1538 George Culmer built the first pier and York Gate to protect his shipyard which was on the site currently occupied by The Pavilion and Garden on the Sands.
The York Gate is the archway which can be seen near the bottom of Harbour street today. Shipbuilding continued in Broadstairs until 1824 when the business transferred to Whites on the Isle of Wight.
In 1850 Whites donated the first lifeboat to Broadstairs, sorely needed because of the treacherous Goodwin Sands. These boards mounted on the Harbour building show all of the rescues of the lifeboats based in Broadstairs. Today the modern lifeboats are based at Margate and Ramsgate.
Smuggling was almost as important an industry as anything else in the area and the men of St Peters became very good at outwitting The Revenue Men! This was very profitable because of the very high duty payable on tea, spirits and tobacco - not much change there now for the latter two! There were many tunnels and caves which were used by smugglers to hide their contraband.
The tourist industry started in the early 19th century, Broadstairs being popular with the gentry after 1829 which the then Princess Victoria spent her summer at Pierremont Hall. Charles Dickens was also a regular visitor, hence the museums and festival named after him.
The growth of the railways brought more and more people to holiday at Broadstairs, and encouraged the development of many schools and convalescent homes. Broadstairs and St Peters continued to grow into a thriving residential area and a major holiday resort.
In recent times Broadstairs as a major holiday centre for one or two week summer breaks has declined but the town continues to thrive, sometimes despite the best efforts of the local Council! It has adapted well to serve short stay and day trip visitors although it still retains a healthy number of hotels and guest houses. As you can see elsewhere on this site there are a number of events each year to attract visitors, perhaps the most well known being the week long events of the Dickens Festival and Folk Week, and Water Gala Day.
Broadstairs and the surrounding areas have has some very famous residents in the past. Here is a short list of some:-
Apart from those mentioned above there have been many other famous people over the many years who have visited the town, in no particular order here are a few:-
There have also been a couple of rather infamous visitors or residents in Broadstairs' past:-
This Potted History now continues on a second page with listings of convalescent homes and schools which existed in Broadstairs during the 1900's.