Broadstairs is a popular holiday resort on the Kent coast. It was Charles Dickens, the famous author’s favourite seaside holiday resort and he spent many summers here between 1837 and 1851. He declared, “You cannot think how delightful and fresh the place is and how good the walks”.
Beaches of Broadstairs – Viking Bay, Louisa Bay, Dumpton Gap, Stone Bay, Kingsgate Bay, Joss Bay and BotanyBay
Broadstairs is a small town which offers a range of seven sandy beaches and bays. The main beach, Viking Bay, offers many attractions for families, both on the beach and the cliff-top above. There are children’s rides, amusements and a timber harbour with original buildings, such as the Red Scotsman. The town has a quaint town centre with cobbled and narrow streets. There are smugglers and fishermen’s flint cottages amongst the guest houses and interesting small shops.
The beaches and bays can be reached by cliff-top walks. Louisa Bay is a quiet sandy bay with a promenade below the traditional bandstand, which was built in the 1950s. South of Louisa Bay is Dumpton Gap, from where it is possible at low tide, to walk to Ramsgate. Stone Bay is close to the town, with a promenade, chalk cliffs and interesting rock pools. Kingsgate Bay is a quiet and secluded sandy beach, with dramatic sea caves. It was called St. Bartholomews Bay until King Charles I’s ship was driven ashore by a storm, forcing him to land. Joss Bay is a golden sandy beach and home to the Joss Bay Surf School. Botany Bay is a secluded sandy bay, containing spectacular chalk stacks. The name is derived from smuggling, which was carried on here in the late 18th century. The sentence for anyone caught smuggling, was deportation for life to Botany Bay in Australia.
Broadstairs was originally a hamlet, which grew gradually. St. Peter-in-Thanet, which is the inland village associated with it, was at one time more important than Broadstairs. It has many attractive buildings, including the Georgian Nuckell’s Almshouses. There is a row of mid 19th century wash houses in Church Square, a survival of the practice of people washing their dirty linen in public.
Broadstairs and Charles Dickens
The town is closely associated with Charles Dickens and in June every year there is the Dickens Festival which celebrates his life, times and work. 2012 was of particular significance, as 7th February 2012 was the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens’ birth. Celebrations were held at various locations throughout the world.
Above Viking Bay is Bleak House, which is set high on the cliffs. In Dickens time it was called Fort House and was smaller than at present. He regularly negotiated the lease for the summer for many years, from August until the end of October. He had a study in the house, which was reached by a small staircase and had large windows, giving a fine view of the open sea. Although a little distance from the main town and seafront and separated from the Harbour by a cornfield, Dickens was irritated by the sound of street sellers, musicians and children. Close by was a coastguard station and Dickens asked the coastguard to take the children away if they became too noisy. In the study in Bleak House, Dickens completed “David Copperfield” on 23rd October, 1850.
Dickens House Museum
On Victoria Parade, on the main seafront, there is the Dickens House Museum, which contains the parlour which is described in “David Copperfield” and was illustrated by “Phiz”. In this building, lived an elderly lady, Miss Mary Pearson Strong. She was the main inspiration for Dickens’ character, Miss Betsey Trotwood, David Copperfield’s great aunt. Her cottage is described in detail in chapter thirteen of “David Copperfield”, but he located the cottage in the novel in Dover, presumably to avoid embarrassment to Miss Strong. Dickens rented various properties in Broadstairs, including 40 Albion Street, (now The Royal Albion Hotel) where parts of “Nicholas Nickleby” were written.
It is strange that Dickens named his daughter, who was born in August 1850, after a character, Dora Spenlow, who was David Copperfield’s wife. In the novel, Dickens decided that Dora should die young after suffering a miscarriage. Dora Dickens died suddenly in April 1851, eight months old, after suffering convulsions.