Sandwich Goes Italian 25th Aug 2019

Well what a sensory experience this event was with the Italian markets, local niche shops and the AROCKES car display. I have never been to Sandwich, despite living in Kent for almost 40 years and raising my family here and have never thought to visit the town. My “Bad” as it is a lovely town and I’m glad I eventually got to experience it.

The place name Sandwich was first mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, where it appeared as Sandwic in 993. In the Doomsday book of 1086 it appeared as Sandwice. The name Wich  comes from the Anglo-Saxon Wic meaning a dwelling or fortified place where trade takes place. The name means “market town on sandy soil.” Its history goes farther back than that being the landing point of the Roman invasion of England in AD43 and archaeological digs have revealed that they established a 700 metre bridgehead to defend the invasion point there.

The town now has a population of just over 5,000 and was originally one of the Cinque Ports opening directly onto the Eastern end of The English Channel and is based on The River Stour. It retains most of its original medieval and Flemish buildings including many listed public houses and a gate house of the old town walls.

The Fisher gate on the Quay dates from 1384 and is listed as an ancient monument and the only one of the original town gates to survive to the present day.

Close by is The Barbican, which dates from the 14th Century, once used as a toll house and stands at the end of the bridge over The River Stour, which is still tidal.

Sandwich at that time was on the edge of defendable England and on the 28th August 1457 after an uneasy peace in England the country was wasting with feudal Barons lording over the population in the north and west. The French took advantage and sent a raiding party of 4,000 men to Kent and burnt much of Sandwich to the ground. The Mayor, John Drury, was murdered and established the tradition that survives to this day of Mayoral black robes.

Once a major port it is now two miles from the sea due to the silting of The Wantsum Channel. This was a channel separating The Isle of Thanet from the north eastern extremity of Kent and connected the Thames Estuary with The English Channel. It used to be a major shipping route when England was part of the Roman Empire and was eventually closed due to silting in the late middle ages. Its course is now represented by The River Stour that runs past The Barbican. The River Wantsum, which is now no more than a drainage ditch lying between Reculver and St Nicholas-at-Wade, joins the Stour 1.7 miles (or 2.7KM since we are still tentively in Europe) south-east of Sarre.

More recently, in 2014, an original copy of The Magna Carta (Made in 1300) was found in the town and only the second time in history that this document was found together with other period manuscripts. Half of the town has Flemish architecture due to Queen Elizabeth I allowing Flemish settlers to live here and the other half has retained much of its mediaeval buildings.

The Old Stranger’s Church rebuilt by the Flemish settlers after its tower’s collapse and now known as St Peters hosts some magnificent views of the town, the sea now two miles away beyond the old Pfizer research facility. Boat masts, clearly visible in the picture below, on what was once the coast but is now the River Stour.

In the opposite direction from the angle of this photo was where we displayed our Alfas – next to the Italian market.

I could only lean out so far to catch only half of Jeff Kaby’s 159 TBI which now known to be quite a rare vehicle with around 250 still on the road in the U.K and seen at the far end of the picture. Typically Italian, we were all packed very closely together and in some places there was barely enough pedestrian room to get a reasonable sized push chair through. It did make for a very intimate Italian environment, albeit the heart was in the mouth every time a parent wheeled their child past my series four. But that’s Italian and it all added to the atmosphere.

Attending members were – Myself & Sue in the Series 4 Spider; Graham Duplock in the GTV 2000; John Dray in the 4C, Jeff Kaby in the 159 TBI; Michael Carlow & Liz in the Brera 2.2; Andy Craker (The Time Keeper at Brands Hatch race course) & Vicky in the blue GTV 6; Dave King & Rosemary in the Giulietta; Chris Francis in the pearly white 4C; Ken McKay in the GTV Cup and accompanied by Vincent Crisci in his GTV Cup.

The invaluable gazebo came in handy again and protected us all from the heat and is, as ever, the focal point of the club during these events. Everyone meets here and has a chat irrespective of whose chairs are set up and it really was a good investment.

Then of course there was lunch and myself and Sue opted for Luigi’s on the Quayside. This place gets really busy, so book a few days in advance and the air conditioning is a welcome cool down from the day’s heat. This restaurant comes highly recommended and, if you desire, you can watch the food being prepared as the kitchen is part of the seating area. The bar is not at all bad either at the opposite end of the restaurant.

Sandwich is full of surprises and something I did not expect whilst taking a stroll down the quayside was a post war gun boat and the only one of its kind left in working order in the form of U.S.N P-22 and maintained completely in sea going condition by volunteers. This patrol boat is of important historical significance as its role was part of the allied deterrent preventing The Russian Army from expanding from East Germany across the Rhine following the end of WW2. There were seventeen of the craft built in 1952 and was operated by the Americans. In 1958 when Germany acquired a stable government they were handed over to the German peace keeping force. In 1969 this real threat was thought to be contained and all of the gun boats were sold off. P-22 was rescued and is still used to ferry paying passengers to the mouth of the Stour estuary.

By the time we got back to the gazebo the heat of the day had got to everyone and it was well and truly time for a sit down and a chat where we were joined by Nick Koleszar, who was just passing by on his bike and modelling the latest in casual cycle wear. He did shout good-bye on the way out across the bridge but I completely missed him, so apologies Nick.

Now the day would by no means be complete without thanking Annemarie Huigen who was the organiser of the event, an AROCKES section member and the proud owner of a Zoe yellow spider – Thank you Annemarie!

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