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History of Broadstairs

Broadstairs was the fishing hamlet associated with the inland village of St Peter’s established around the parish church which was built circa 1080 A.D.

St Peter’s was the original settlement and had a proud history long before Broadstairs grew up next door and became the larger town. St Peter’s came within the jurisdiction of the Cinque Ports under a 15th century charter and contributed handsomely for the privilege.

Anciently, Broadstairs was called Bradstow. This was derived from the “broad stairs” carved in the chalk cliff, that led from the sands to the 12th century shrine of St Mary situated above the cliffs. The town spreads from Poorhole Lane in the west (named from the mass graves dating from the Black Death), to Kingsgate in the north (named after the landing of King Charles II in 1683), and to Dumpton in the south (named after the yeoman Dudeman who farmed there in the 13th century). The York Gate in Harbour Street remains from this period: given by the Culmer family in the 16th century, originally it was complete with a portcullis against invading armies or pirates.

Reading or Redyng Street was established by Flemish refugees in the 1600s. Much of their original architecture can still be seen in the village.

The location of Broadstairs led to a comment by Daniel Defoe in 1723,“Broadstairs has a population of around 300, 27 of them being in the trade of fishing, and the others appear to have no means of support. I am told that the area is a hot bed of smuggling”. The ‘free trade’ was not stamped out until the 1840s.

In the middle of the 18th century, gentlemen and gentleman farmers started to arrive in the locality, and built seaside residencies such as Holland House (1760), Stone House (1764), Pierremont Hall (1785) & East Cliff Lodge (1794). The relatively remote position attracted the nobility seeking seclusion, including the Princess Victoria.

By the 1850s the professional classes had arrived, and steady town expansion took place: the population doubled in 50 years to 3,000. As the town grew, artists, writers, and poets started to visit as did clerks, lawyers and architects, causing more accommodation for rent to be built, and the seaside holiday industry started.

The town continued to expand and by 1910 over 10,000 people were living in Broadstairs & St Peter’s. The fresh sea air brought an influx of convalescent homes for children at the end of the 19th century, many lasting well into the 1950s. Many have now been converted into attractive family houses.

Unlike many another resort, the town successfully came through the decline in British seaside holidays that started in the 1960s and 1970s. It still offers a combination of superb events for visitors, delightful beaches and architecture, and of course an exceptionally mild, sunny and dry climate.

For further information on local history, see the displays at:

The Broadstairs Local History Museum, at CRAMPTON TOWER The Broadway, Broadstairs, CT10 2AB

Please contact the council for details on how to contact Mr Barrie Wootton the town historian.

22 February 2024
Last Updated
22 February 2024