SANDGATE’S HIDDEN HISTORY
While researching aspects of the village history for the Society’s 50th anniversary book, I was struck by one particular section that had virtually no references to its past. Clearly this stretch of real estate had previously been home to wealthy occupants, but any details were sadly elusive.
This intriguing area is the Esplanade – encompassing land to the west of the Encombe Estate up to the border with Seabrook.
So for the last year I’ve been collecting fragments of this historically neglected area. The earliest houses were built from the 1820s and, being next to the sea, would have been prime sites for wealthy families.
The vast majority of the dwellings were to become grand homes for senior staff at Shorncliffe Camp. And as the front row filled up, new roads were cut up the cliff to provide elevated plots for even more palatial residences. Residents along Sandgate Esplanade in 1875 included Lord & Lady Pelham (Earl & Countess Chichester), Hon. Lady Bligh, Lord Russell plus four Majors, three Colonels, three Captains, a Lieutenant and a retired General.
Let’s start our tour at the far west of the Esplanade. Up Battery Point is the 2005 estate development of Ocean Ridge. This land was previously home to a number of Military Hospitals – hence Hospital Hill which runs up to the Camp. The most prominent was Helena Hospital, to the east of the estate. This, in its final years, was used as the maternity unit for the Folkestone area and closed in April 1970. The land was subsequently sold by the MOD to developers and the final price paid for the site was in the region of £2 million.
Before Number 1 the Esplanade, there were two rather plain dwellings – Lister (1932) and Helena House (1933) – actually semi-detached, but enormous. They were occupied over the years by senior Military officers but were sold and demolished in 2008 to make way for Seascape, the recently completed block of luxury apartments. The land now occupied by Spencer Court appears to have been tennis courts for private use of the occupants of the Helena and Lister Houses.
Next, eastwards, we finally come to Number 1 The Esplanade, Littlebourne Lodge and No. 2 the Frenches, two very imposing houses set back with extensive grounds in front.
Again these were for senior commanding officers at the Army base. Built c1910, Littlebourne Lodge was first occupied by Col. Wiehe. Next door was the then named Marine Villa.
While Littlebourne Lodge remained in private residence, its neighbour which shares the central drive and renamed Frenches in 1920, was in hotel use through that decade. This was run by the Campion family and returned to private occupation in the early 1930s.
Three further houses were in the space now taken by Castle Bay. Number 3 in the 1880s was Homestead, the London Samaritan Society Convalescent Home, which by 1906 was called Trebatha and by 1910 was the Glenthorne Hotel. Villa Honore, at No.4, was built in 1906 as Valentine Villa and eventually became a doctor’s surgery in the 20s and seemed to have gone by 1931 – it is now the site of the present block of apartments.
Construction of the present houses up Castle Bay commenced in c1968. Shorncliffe House (5) and Varne View (6) now form the Bar Vasa. The contemporary Loxford Lodge town houses replaced the same named Lodge built c1948 and then occupied by Captain B.K.H. Norgate R.N.
The Castle Bay entrance was opened up in 1932 and replaced 3 & 4 Esplanade. By 1933 at the top of the road was the magnificent Castle Bay House, home for three years to Brig-Gen Chas Vesey Humphrys, CBE. Around 1949 this house became the Castle Bay Hotel while down on the Esplanade in 1947, numbers 4, 5 and 6 were combined as the Waffle Inn, Restaurant and Private Hotel.
Gloster Terrace is next – from construction in 1889 bearing the full spelling of Gloucester. These 6 houses were also home to high ranking military personnel. At the eastern end of the terrace are the semi-detached houses, once known as Portland House and Nelson Villa – the latter renamed c1920 as Cananore. On the site of the present Galley Quay house was from c1926 St.Winifreds, which appeared to survive until 1939.
Sunnyside Road now leads high up on the cliff and had houses built during the decade from 1930 – these included on the north side, Hillsboro’, Latchgate, Channel View, Thatch Cottage and the quaintly named Three Bears.
The present Grafton House and Regency Cottage (according to the directories originally named Crafton House West & East) on the Esplanade have, since 1822, served as private houses and at various periods as hostels for visiting troops.
Wellington Terrace is next, which was established at the turn of the 20th century – and was then largely lodging houses. The Sandgate Hotel was originally at the end building, Number 10, but was joined by a Private Hotel at their present position, 8 & 9 in the mid 30s. From the same period, “The Bungalow” abutted Brewer’s Hill.
To the east of Brewer’s Hill, Hylands, now undergoing renovation, dates from 1930, while West Lawn has its origins in the mid 19th century. Once a home for the Du Boulay family from c1850, it later was used as accommodation for Canadian troops in the Great War. By the early 20s it had been split into three flats and then through the next decade West and East wings were added – so by 1935, there was West Wedge, West House, West Lawn, East Wing (from 1937 known as Spanish House) and The Wedge.
This is just a start and clearly there is considerable further research needed to plot the growth of the Esplanade. If you have any additions or corrections, please send them to the magazine, and we’ll continue the trail in the next issue.
By Bob Preedy