Broadstairs is a coastal
town on the Isle of
Thanet in East Kent, England,
east of London with a population of about 22,000.
between Margate and Ramsgate, it is one
of the seaside resorts on the Isle of
Thanet, known as the "Jewel in Thanet's crown".
crest motto is "Stella Maris - Star of the Sea". As a civil parish, it includes the St.
Peter's area and is known as Broadstairs and St.
This was derived from the "broad stairs" carved in
the chalk cliff, that led from the sands to the 12th century
of St Mary situated above the
The town spreads from Poorhole Lane in the west (named from the
mass graves dating from the Black Death
in the north (named after the
landing of King Charles II
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
in the 1600s.
Broadstairs derives its name from the Anglo-Saxon
village of St
Peters established after the building of a parish church in about 1080.
fishing settlement developed in the 14th century known as Bradstow.
Old English for "broad-stairs", it was named
after stairs carved in the chalk cliffs, leading to the beach from
the cliff-top 12th-century Shrine of St Mary. Charles Culmer, son of Waldemar, is supposed to have built the
stairs for the fishermen in 1350.
The stairs have survived
to this day and were first repaired by Richard Culmer
over three hundred years after
their original construction.
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. Richard Culmer
was the son of Sir Richard
Culmer by his first wife and was born in 1640/41. Richard was buried in
the parish church of Monkton, on the Isle
Of his legacies was the endowment
on Broadstairs of an area of six
(24,000 m²) of ground for the poor of the
parish. The name survives to this day as "Culmer's Allotment" as
does the allotment.
In 1723, Broadstairs had a population of about 300. A brief outline
of the history of Broadstairs Pier
is given in
Broadstairs, past and present
, which mentions a storm in
1767, during which Culmer's work was all but destroyed.
time it was of considerable importance to the fishing trade with
catches as far afield as Great Yarmouth, Hastings, Folkestone, Dover and Torbay and
elsewhere being landed. It had become so indispensable that the
corporations of Yarmouth, Dover, Hythe and
Canterbury with assistance from the East India Company and Trinity House subscribed to its restoration with a payment of
£2,000 in 1774.
York Gate needed repair to repel any threat from the French Revolutionary Wars; the
subsequent renovation was undertaken by Lord Hanniker in the same
year as the first lightship was placed on
occasion of the landing at Thanet, of Major John Percy, on 21 June 1815 with the captured
French eagle standard taken at Waterloo, a tunnel stairway from the beach to the fields on
the clifftops above was excavated, and christened Waterloo Stairs
to commemorate the event.
Broadstairs was supposedly the
first town in England to learn of this historic victory although
there is no written evidence of this.
was an important industry in the area and the men of Broadstairs
Peters became very good at outwitting customs agents.
This was very
profitable because of the very high duty
payable on tea, spirits and tobacco.
There is a network of tunnels and caves strewn in the chalk strata
which were used by smugglers
to hide their
Development as a seaside resort
By 1824 steamboats
were becoming more
common, having begun to take over from the hoys and sailing
about 1814. These made trade with
London much faster. The familiar 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.
must have been strongly expressed by the Thanet boatmen in general,
as the unrivaled speed of the steam
was outmanoeuvering all other classes of vessel, but it
brought a new prosperity to Thanet. In the middle of the 19th
century, the professional classes began to move in. By 1850, the
population had reached about 3,000, doubling over the previous
50 years. Due to the fresh sea air, many convalescent homes
for children opened towards the end of the 19th century.
numerous holidaymakers were attracted to
Broadstairs and to other Thanet seaside
towns during the Victorian era, it was
not directly served by the railways until 1863. This was time of
great expansion for railways in the South East; in 1860 Victoria
Station had been completed, followed by Charing Cross and Cannon
Rail access to Broadstairs had previously
relied heavily upon coach links to other railway stations in the
district or region; with firms such as Bradstowe
, operated by William Sackett and John Derby,
principally involved. Their coaches connected Broadstairs to
station where a railway service had begun as early as 1830
(one of the first in England, with its pioneering Stephenson's engine Invicta). By 1851, the region's
network was still more complete, being supplemented by the London
to south coast route, including the
coastal link from Chichester to Ramsgate, the cross-country service between London and
Dover and the Mid-Kent line
that linked Redhill, Tonbridge and Ashford to London's new terminal at Waterloo (opened in 1848). Broadstairs
station (unlike neighbouring Margate) is a 10 minute 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 illuminated by gaslight
In 1841, 44 mariners
were recorded as
resident in Broadstairs; nine of these being specified as
fishermen, and of course the residual boat-building
activity that remained after the
Culmer~White yard closed in 1824 (under pressure from the
steamships), still continued (though there were only four shipwrights
recorded in the census: Solomon
Holbourn and Joseph Jarman among them). Others may have been
at sea on census day: Steamer Point, as the pier head at
Broadstairs was then known, would have been fairly busy with
shipping movements since consignments of
coal and other produce would have been traded
along the coast and there would have been regular work on the steam
packet to and from Ramsgate.
By the 1840s, the smuggling had
By 1910, the population had reached about 10,000. A "guide book
" of the 1930s by A H Simison (the
photographic chemist) entitled Ramsgate (The Kent Coast at its
best) Pictorially Presented
, describes Broadstairs town as
having approached modernisation and urban development "always with
a consistent policy of retaining those characteristics for which it
has for so long been renowned". The town has retained a great many
aspects of historical interest, besides its maritime history
. Amongst these is its
notable religious history, evoked
by places such as the Shrine of Our Lady, Bradstowe.
Broadstairs is a magnet for visitors year after year and has been
likened to a "Cornish fishing town" .
arrived in Broadstairs in 1851.
It has been suggested that news of the loss of the Irish packet
with 250 lives, on the sands off Margate on 6 April 1850, was the
prompt that led to old Thomas White to present one of his lifeboats
to his home town of Broadstairs that summer. The lifeboat saw its
first use on 6 March 1851 when the brig
White became trapped on the Goodwin Sands during a severe gale blowing from the north.
A ballad was written to celebrate the occasion, Song of the Mary White
Holbourn, coxswain of the Mary
White of Broadstairs had an aunt, Sophia who married
at Folkestone in 1813 to William Stevenson.
His eldest son
William became a mariner and boatman, and married an Elizabeth
Wellard in 1839 at St Peter's, Broadstairs. One of their children,
born in 1848, was named after his father William, but in his adult
life was better known as Bill "Floaty" Stevenson, and as such as a
member of the Frances Forbes Barton
lifeboat crew. The
"Frances Forbes Barton" was originally, in 1897, the legacy of a
Miss Webster to the boatmen of Broadstairs. It is recorded as
having remained at that station until 1912, when it was moved to
station when the Broadstairs one closed, during which time
it had been taken out on 77 launches and saved 115 lives, by far
the most effective of the RNLI craft stationed
Broadstairs' lifeboats were further supported by a fund established
in the 1860s by Sir
Charles Reed FSA
Broadstairs is within the Thanet local government district
. The town
contains the five electoral wards
Bradstowe, St Peters, Beacon Road, Viking and Kingsgate. These
wards have eleven of the fifty six seats on the Thanet District Council
. As of the
, all eleven of those seats were held by the
Conservative Party. Broadstairs and St Peters Town Council has 15
members, who are elected every four years, led by the mayor.
Member of Parliament (MP) for
Thanet is Dr Stephen
Ladyman of the Labour
He has been the constituency's MP since the
, when he took the seat from the Conservative Jonathan Aitken
. At the 2005 general election
Labour won a majority of 664 and 40.4% of the vote in South Thanet.
Conservatives won 38.8% of the vote, Liberal Democrats
13.2%, United Kingdom Independence
2.2% and an independent 0.5%.
Broadstairs and St. Peter's is twinned with
- Wattignies in northern France. The towns were twinned
in the early 1980s.
Joss Bay near Broadstairs on a warm
Saturday in August 2008.
Kingsgate Castle, taken from the
Captain Digby pub, December 2007
The town lies above a harbour with cliffs on either side. It has
seven bays of golden sand, which are Viking Bay, Louisa Bay,
Kingsgate Bay, Dumpton Gap, Botany Bay, Stone Bay and Joss Bay.
Broadstairs has changed very little over the past fifty years.
cliffs above Kingsgate Bay 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.
Broadstairs has a very mild maritime
is situated from both Dover and Canterbury, and about from the M25, London's
As a seaside resort, the economy is mainly based around tourism;
there are hotels and guest houses on and near the seafront, to
accommodate the influx of all year round visitors. Although the
number of hotels in recent years has declined because of the high
land redevelopment values this has resulted in an improvement in
quality of the existing premises. The High Street has a wide
variety of independent shops and services, and there are a small
number of factories mainly situated on the small industrial estates
on the town's borders. The elderly population (many retire to the
seaside) has led to many health and social care jobs at local care
homes. As of the 2001 UK census, 1.8% of the population resided in
a medical or care establishment, compared with the national average
of only 0.8%. Many jobs in education are provided by the town's
relatively high number of schools and colleges.
As of the 2001 census, the economic activity of residents aged
16–74 was 34.1% in full-time employment, 12.8% in part-time
employment, 10.0% self-employed, 2.9% unemployed, 2.3% students
with jobs, 4.1% students without jobs, 20.0% retired, 6.5% looking
after home or family, 4.9% permanently sick or disabled and 2.4%
economically inactive for other reasons. The percentage of retired
people was significantly higher than the national figure of 14%.
The percentage of unemployed people was low compared with the
national rate of 3.4% and the district rate of 4.4%. 12% of
residents aged 16–74 had a higher
qualification or the equivalent, compared with 20%
nationwide. The Office
for National Statistics
estimated that during the period of
April 2001 to March 2002, the average gross weekly income of
households was £522 (£27,219 per year).
The industry of employment of residents, at the 2001 census, was
15% retail, 14% health and social work, 13% manufacturing, 13%
education, 10% real estate, 8% construction, 7% transport and
communications, 6% public administration, 5% hotels and
restaurants, 3% finance, 1% agriculture and 5% other community,
social or personal services. Compared with national figures, there
was a relatively high number of workers in the education and
health/social care industries and a relatively low number in
finance and real estate. Many residents commute to work outside the
town; as of the 2001 census, the town had 9,842 employed residents,
but there were only 9,049 jobs within the town.
Industry and commerce
- Broadstairs' & St Peter's Chamber of Commerce has existed for over
100 years and has been instrumental in establishing links
between traders and authority and raising money for projects
including the town's CCTV scheme. It organises events and promotes
tourism to benefit the town economy, the local customer and
- Broadstairs has several industrial estates,the largest at
- Residential building land is now scarce and
property prices within Broadstairs tend to be higher than the rest
- Broadstairs has seen major development in
its area recently with a large out of town shopping development at
Westwood called Westwood
Cross. This has attracted national retailers, a
new Travelodge hotel a Mecca bingo club a
casino, a ten screen state of the art vue cinema, a new fitness centres, and an
Ask, Nando's, Frankie
& Benny's and Chiquito
is currently being redeveloped to extend the existing Westwood
Cross shopping centre.
- Within the Broadstairs boundary there are
three large supermarkets: Asda, Sainsbury's and a Tesco Extra,
which, before redevelopment, was the home of a large Co-op store (one of the first hypermarkets built in the UK).
Tesco has a metro
store in the town. The Co-op has a convenience store in the
town and in St Peter's village.
- A high speed train link to London is planned and should be
running by 2009.
- A new community centre will be built in the town in 2008/9
replacing Park Hall in the town centre.
- Motor and household insurance claims of Saga Insurance Ltd. are managed in
|2001 UK census
|65+ years old
As of the 2001 UK census
the Broadstairs had 24,370 residents and 10,597 households. Of
those households, 34.2% were married couples, 6.7% were cohabiting
couples and 8.3% were lone parents.
31.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 20.9% had
someone living alone at pensionable age. 25.7% of households
included children aged under 16, or a person aged 16 to 18 who was
in full-time education.
The town has a low proportion of non-white people compared with
national figures; the ethnicity recorded in the 2001 census was
97.9% white, 0.7% mixed race, 0.3% Chinese, 0.7% other Asian, 0.2%
black and 0.2% other. The amount of foreign-born residents is
relatively low; the place of birth of residents in 2001 was 94.7%
United Kingdom, 0.7% Republic of Ireland, 0.5% Germany, 0.9% other
Western Europe countries, 0.3% Eastern Europe, 0.8% Africa, 0.6%
South Asia, 0.5% Far East, 0.3% North America, 0.2% Middle East,
0.2% Oceania and 0.1% South America. Religion was recorded as 75.3%
Christian, 0.4% Muslim, 0.3% Hindu, 0.3% Buddhist and 0.3% Jewish.
14.3% were recorded as having no religion, 0.5% had an alternative
religion and 8.6% did not state their religion.
The age distribution was 5% aged 0–4 years, 14% aged
5–15 years, 5% aged 16–19 years, 26% aged
20–44 years, 27% aged 45–64 years and 24% aged
65 years and over. There was a high percentage of residents
over 65, compared with the national average of 16%, mainly due to
seaside towns being popular retirement destinations. For every 100
females, there were 87.1 males.
Junior and infant
- St. Peter's Court School: attended by King George VI and his
relatives. Demolished some time since 1955.
Secondary modern and grammar
The Charles Dickens, Hereson, and St George's are below the 30%
Colleges and universities
Entertainment and leisure
- The Broadstairs Dickens Festival is held annually in
honour of the novelist Charles
Dickens in the third week of June. A Christmas event in
December is now part of the calendar. The festival includes a
production of one of Dickens' novels and people about the town
wearing Victorian dress. The festival first took place in 1937,
when Gladys Waterer, the then owner of Dickens House, conceived the
idea of commemorating the centenary of the author's first visit by
putting on a production of David Copperfield, a novel
written in the town.
- In the second week of August each year, the town holds the
Broadstairs Folk Week music festival. The main acts
perform at the Concert Marquee in the town's main park (Pierremont
Park), but smaller gigs are also held in many pubs, restaurants and
cafés as well as at the town's bandstand. The playing fields at
Upton Junior School become a vast campsite (as visible on the
Google Maps view of Broadstairs taken during a Folk Week in the
mid-2000s) as the town's population swells with thousands of
tourists, both the traditional folk reveller, and the curious
visitor keen on imbibing seaside culture. Whilst Folk Week's
origins are centred around Folk music and its appreciation, for
many this period is simply an opportunity for general festivities
in which pubs and bars have later opening hours and the main
streets are closed to traffic in order that revellers may fully
enjoy open air drinking and social merriment.
- During the summer season, and on 5 November the town hosts
firework displays every Wednesday evening on Viking Bay, with
hundreds of people lining the overlooking cliff tops.
Sport and recreation
- Thanet Wanderers rugby team is based in Broadstairs.
- Sandcastle building competition takes place annually.
- Broadstairs has a Green bowling club.
- Beach Volley Ball is held on the beach in the summer.
- Broadstairs is home to the North
- Broadstairs Sailing Club in Harbour Street once had former
prime minister Edward Heath as a
- Fishing competitions are regularly held in the Harbour.
Broadstairs has two paid for newspapers, the Isle of Thanet
and Thanet Times
, which are owned by Northcliffe Media
. Free newspapers for the
town include the Thanet Extra
, part of the KM Group
; and yourthanet
, part of KOS Media
Local radio stations are KMFM Thanet
owned by the KM Group; and the county-wide stations Heart Kent
BBC Radio Kent
Landmarks and places of interest
- There is a small cinema, "The Palace Cinema" (formerly known as
The Windsor), in Harbour Street.
- Also in Harbour Street, the Pavilion on the Sands hosts a
summer show and all-year entertainment. There are extensive views
across the bay. Its location and facilities make the Pavilion a
popular wedding venue.
- 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 main beach (Viking Bay) has a number of cafes and ice cream
outlets. During the summer, this bay is often very busy.
- Punch and Judy and donkey rides a feature of the summer beach
- There are four firework displays on Wednesday evenings over
Viking Bay in the summer and a free display on 5 November.
- The Dickens' House museum is situated on the seafront, which
displays many artifacts relating to Charles Dickens and his life in
- Crampton Tower by the railway station houses a museum. The
museum contains Crampton working drawings, models, graphics,
patents, awards and artifacts 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.
- In the village of St Peter's, tours are held throughout the
- The church of St. Peter-in-Thanet has one of the longest
churchyards in England.
Notable residents and visitors
TV and film location
- The E.ON windfarm advert "The Wind of
Change" was filmed here.
- Scenes featured in the Churchill
Insurance advert were filmed on the jetty.
- The Channel 4 programme Relocation, Relocation has
recently featured Broadstairs.
- The Thriller TV drama Oktober starring actor Stephen Tompkinson was filmed in and
- The police station featured in the Only Fools and Horses episode
"The Jolly Boys' Outing" to
Margate was actually in Broadstairs.
- Jo Brand has filmed comedy sketches for
her TV shows on the beach.
- Meridian TV produced a lifestyle
programme called Alfresco and featured Broadstairs.
- The 2007 film Exodus, a contemporary re-telling of the
Book of Exodus, is the story of Moses and his search for the
promised land. Written and directed by filmmaker Penny Woolcock,
Exodus is a film made for Channel 4 shot on location in
Margate and Broadstairs.
- Segue's for The Paramount Comedy Channel
have been filmed across the Thanet coast,
notably Broadstairs and Kingsgate.
- The beach comedy sketch in the 2007 Catherine Tate Christmas special was filmed
on the beach in Viking Bay.
- 2008 BBC 4 Docudrama Hancock and Joan, based on the
last months of Tony Hancock's life
which he spent in Ramsgate with Joan Le
Mesurier (wife of actor John Le
Mesurier), was filmed around Viking Bay and in a house on South
- At least one outside broadcast scene in the BBC cbeebies series
Boogie Beebies was filmed on Viking Bay.
- General beach scenes in Thanet - including some in Broadstairs
- feature in the 2008 feature film Ruby Blue which was mostly
filmed in Ramsgate.
- Scenes were shot around the coast of Broadstairs for ITV1 drama
- BBC South East Today staged their first 'Deckchair Tour' of
2008 from the beach with much of the 18.30 regional news programme
being broadcast from here featuring local guests and some
performers from the Folk Festival.
- Broadstairs Town Council People
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