The Castle by the Sea

Published June 1949

A Castle by the sea. One that has seen the slow passage of many centuries. Not a ruined crumbling castle, with broken, crumbling walls, but one that stands like an imperishable rock on green and alluring Tankerton Hill.

It started as a tower from which watch was kept over sea and land for approaching foes. At night its beacon fires gave warning of danger to those on guard at other defence posts along the coast. English homes and the lives of those in them were always in dire peril of destruction and attack from piratical enemies.

In warding of that peril, through long years, the men of Kent who kept ceaseless from the tower on Tankerton hill played a great part. The tower was also used for another purpose. On it were kept burning the navigation lights that guided passing ships safely on their way.

As time passed the tower became a castle lived in by successive lords of the Manor. In 1792 it was used as a summer residence by Charles Pearson, who in that year purchased the property from Viscount Lord Bolingbroke. Wynn Ellis, who came to Whitstable in 1935 and lived at the castle for many years. His collection of pictures by famous artists were shown there. One of them was the painting by Gainsborough of the Duchess of Devonshire which, sold to Messrs. Agnew, the picture dealers, was stolen their Bond Street gallery during the night of May 26th, 1976, and taken to America, where it remained at Chicago until 1901. Returned to its lawful owners, it was sold by them to the late Pierpoint Morgan, and is now in an American art gallery.

On the death of Wynn Ellis, in 1875, the Tankerton Castle estate passed to Miss Susan Alinda Lloyd, who lived their until her death in 1884. The next resident was the Rev. Arthur Conrad Graystone, who died in 1886, when the estate came into the possession of Mr. S.W. Graystone, who sold it in 1890 to Mr. C. Newton Robinson for £22,000.

Then it was taken over by “The Tankerton Estate Company, Ltd.,” a land development organisation. Living there for a few moths was the late Sir Arthur Wing Pinero, the celebrated playwright. His successor was Mr. Adams, who bought the house and grounds, and whose widow made it her residence until 1920.

Acquired by Mr. Mallandain, who made extensive additions to the building, the Castle and its beautiful grounds were sold by him in 1935 to the Whitstable Urban District Council for the small sum of £10,500 for the use of the public. There was considerable opposition to the proposed sale by local ratepayers but, fortunately for the community, it was carried through. Mr. and Mrs. Mallandain still remain staunch friends of Whitstable and great benefactors to the Almshouses, frequently coming from London to visit the old people. Ever since the Castle was bought by the town it has been the chief point of attraction for countless numbers of visitors who, passing under the shadow of the grey, old Tower, enter the lovely grounds where there is so much to charm and entertain them.

These grounds, with their tree shaded walks, green lawns and bright flower gardens, are not surpassed in beauty at any other seaside resort on the coast. In the summer months they are always crowded with visitors and residents, who can sit and listen to the music of bands and take part in the dancing that is such a popular form of recreation for most people these days.

More entertainment than ever will be provided for them this year. Sandy Sandford, the recently appointed Resident Entertainer, has for several weeks been making extensive plans for the entertainment of visitors to “The Pleasure Garden” at the Castle Grounds. His workmen have been busy under his supervision for weeks past making preparations for the opening of the season. Everything possible has been and is being done to transform the site chosen for the garden into a place where thousands of happy people will be able to enjoy themselves.

On the wide, open space where there is amply room for over 700 dancers, 52 dances, including 16 olde tyme dances, have already been arranged for. On a specially constructed stage, there will be 28 hourly shows for children of Punch and Judy, magic and ventriloquism. 12 Sunday evening concerts, in one of which the well-known B.B.C. violinist, Tom Jenkins, is expected to take part are on the programme.

There will be a baby show, a dog show, races for model cars, ballroom dancing contests, singing and talent competitions, and a big variety of other entertainments of the most popular type. Hundred of coloured lights will turn the garden at night into a veritable fairyland. The electric light installation is being carried out by experts who know how to make the utmost use of them.

After negotiating for several weeks with the B.B.C., Sandy Sandford, who has himself made 54 successful broadcasts for the B.B.C., is nearing the settlement of a plan for a broadcast from Whitstable some time in the summer in the B.B.C. Sunday programme “Down your Way.” He is also endeavouring to arrange a broadcast from “The Pleasure Garden” during the season.

At newly erected refreshment kiosks, visitors to the garden will be provided with all they need in the shape of light refreshments, and there will be shelters for use in rainy weather.

Author: Ernest Brindle. Transcription and image: Brian Baker.