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Broadstairs - a Brief History

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Researched and written by Bob.
All photographs - Bob.

Broadstairs was originally known as Bradstowe which is of Anglo-Saxon origin and means "Broad Place". The name evolved into Broadstairs as a result of the broad "Chapel Stairs" which once led up from the beach to St. Mary's Chapel (see page 2 of this article).
Originally a small hamlet, the inhabitants made a living from fishing, shipbuilding and during periods of the 18th and 19th centuries ....... from smuggling!
Broadstairs was governed by St. Peter's up until 1856 when Broadstairs became a separate parish.

One of Broadstairs most famous visitors was the author Charles Dickens who discovered it by chance in 1836 whilst on a walk from Ramsgate.
He returned the following year and became a regular visitor up until the 1850's.
In 1851 Dickens described the town as "Our English Watering Place" but this was to be one of his last long-stays at Broadstairs, by now the town was getting busier and had lost the quiet appeal that had first attracted him.

Today, the shipbuilding has long-gone and much of the fishing has ceased although a few commercial fishing boats do still use the harbour.

Viking Bay

Viking Bay
(Pictured above) was originally known as "The Main Sands", this name was later changed after the arrival, at this bay, of the "Hugin" on July 28th, 1949. The Hugin, a replica Viking Ship, was sailed from Denmark to commemorate the 1500th anniversary of the landing by Hengist in 449 AD.
The Hugin is now on permanent display at Pegwell Bay, Ramsgate - the site of the original landing.

The building at the end of the cliff-top in the photo (right), with the castellated roof, is Bleak House, originally known as Fort House it was built in 1801.
Charles Dickens used it as a seaside home and it was here that he wrote much of David Copperfield.
The name change to Bleak House was made by a subsequent owner in 1901 who incorrectly believed that the house figured in the novel of the same name.
In the early 1900's, the building was extensively altered and extended and today bears little resemblance to how Dickens would have known it.
Bleak House, viewed from the Pier

The Pier
The Pier Boat House (extreme right in the photo above) is around 300 years old, the original pier is thought to date back to Tudor times and subsequent piers were severely damaged several times by storms. Much of these earlier structures still survive, encased within the concrete and stone cladding that can be seen today.

A privately run lifeboat station was established at Broadstairs during 1850, in 1868 it was taken over by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. In 1912 the station was closed, during its time there were 275 rescue launchings which resulted in 269 lives being saved.

The Pier Boat House
Pictured below, left - "Hercules" came from a Spanish vessel which came ashore on the 16th January, 1844.
The rib bones came from a whale which was washed up on the beach during February 1762.

Pictured below, right - the Scotsman figurehead came from the vessel "Highland Chief", wrecked on the Goodwin Sands on the 12th February, 1869.

Hercules The Scotsman Figurehead

The large white coloured building (on the beach, pictured below) was originally the headquarters of the Coastal Blockade during the Napoleonic Wars.
Broadstairs' residents were the first to hear of the victory at Waterloo in 1815 when Major Percy and troops returned, from France, to this building with the captured French Eagle Standards.
The building's name was subsequently changed to "Eagle House" in recognition of this.
The property today is divided into flats.
The next building to the right (on the beach) is the Pavilion which was built in 1933.

Eagle House and the Pavilion

Pictured left - Plaque situated on the archway over Fort Road, adjacent to The Old Curiosity Shop in Harbour Street - "Charles Dickens lived here and wrote part of Barnaby Rudge 1841".
The ghost of Charles Dickens has allegedly been seen walking this route up to Bleak House.

Pictured extreme left - memorial to Charles Dickens on Bleak House.
Wall Plaque Memorial to Charles Dickens

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