I have mentioned elsewhere on my Broadstairs page that I have been visiting this wonderful town for almost twenty years, generally to play at the excellent Broadstairs Folk Week and I must have walked past the slightly odd looking Crampton Tower literally hundreds of times. I was even aware that it housed a small local Museum but it was only on my most recent visit (August 2013) that I actually managed to visit it. I really have no idea why and, having visited now, I do rather wish I had done it a lot sooner, it is very enjoyable.
Let's start with the building itself which you really cannot miss if you are at the "top" end of the town. It was built by Thomas Russell Crampton (1816 - 1888), a locally born engineer and a very interesting character. He was trained as a railway engineer under the famous Marc Bruenl, cutting his teeth on the Great Western Railway project but later turned his attentions to locomotive design rather than the laying of tracks. He patented his own loco design which became very popular on the Continent but still continued with an interest in driving thorough new railway routes all over UK and Europe.
Away from railways, Crampton seemed to be able to address just about any engineering problem. He formed the Broadstairs Water Company in 1859 and built the tower her which is 80 feet high and was capable of holding 83,000 gallons. He was also responsible for laying the first international submarine cable in the world between UK and France. He also developed a boring machine for a proposed Channel Tunnel and this device is credited as having assisted greatly in the development of modern boring equipment. Quite a man and a local hero to the extent that the old Railway Arms pub is now renamed Crampton's!
Given the provenance of the Tower, the contents of the Museum are hardly surprising and much of it centres around railways with some fine model railway displays (pictured). Again, this is perfectly natural as the famous Hornby model railway museum and factory is a mere couple of miles up the road making this truly a very locally rooted place. Apart from the various model railways, there is a very fine old coach as a main display and all manner of local memorabilia. If you are expecting the sterile organisation of a mainstream Museum, you are in the wrong place. The very friendly staff so the best they can to display everything in fairly cramped conditions and it is quite quirky and utterly charming. Just don't wait as long as I did to visit!
To the logistics now.
The museum is open daily from 2pm - 5pm between 1st March 2013 and 31st October 2013 inclusive.
The museum is closed between 1st November 2013 until 28th February 2013 except for 6/8th, 13/15th & 20/22nd December 2013 for Santa Specials (specifically designed for children).
Adult admission was £3. A wheelchair user may just about be able to negotiate the "shed" where the main part of the Museum is but by it's very nature the Tower itself would be inaccessible.
With the blessing of the delightful staff members, I went on a bit of a shutter frenzy and took far more images than the five allowed on a single tip and so I have created a travelogue on this page, Please do take a look.
OK, I have to declare an interest here. Over the many years I've played the Broadstairs Folk Week I have had some absolutely cracking gigs in here. This year (2006) on the first Saturday night, they had to shut the doors because the place was so full. Now I don't say this to be boastful (there were many better musicians than me playing in town that night) but I use it to illustrate how popular this place is - especially amongst the young.
As I said in the tip header, it's not a place to take your Granny, except perhaps on Sunday lunchtime (if the football isn't on). It is very much geared (in the evenings) towards loud music and live sport on the big screen TV's. Friday and Saturday nights are also popular with parties of people starting out before they go on to a nightclub. If you're in a partying mood, this might just be the place for you.
Update august 2013.
Since I first wrote this tip many years ago, some things have changed and yet much has not. The pub is still much as it was all those years ago with a great emphasis on live sport (watch out, Eric the wonderful owner is a massive Tottenham Hotspur fan, best to avoid the place for a while if they lose, especially to Aresenal!) and they will show just about any live sport that is on TV if you ask them.
Whilst live music was only really a sideline when I initially wrote this tip, the Barnaby is becoming very much one of the leading music places in Thanet. It has live acts on during the wonderful Broadstairs Folk Week every year, and I have played some hugely enjoyable gigs there myself. The music, however, is not limited to that one week and full details are on the attached website. I know a lot of the local musicians and I can tell you that there are some excellent acts appearing here.
I have amended this tip to include the website that was not available when I first wrote it, amend the out of date telephone number and add some up to date information and a few additonal images.
OK, it is still not a place to take your Granny but if she happens to be indoors watching Catherne Cookson re-runs on TV, this is a very good pub to hang out in.
In the same way that no trip to the English seaside is complete without fish and chips, so ice-cream is also a necessity. There are a couple of good ice cream parlours in Broadstairs but this is my favourite.
Dating back to 1932, in these same premises, it was the first ever ice cream parlour to serve over 20 flavours, and Heaven knows how many there are now.
Good selection of flavours and styles - all guaranteed to pile on the pounds!
Update august 2013.
Readers of my pages will know that I like to keep them as up to date as possible and so I ahve now added a website that was not available when I originally submitted this in 2005 and also amended an out of date telephone number.
Current opening hours are
Monday to Friday 0800 - 1730
Saturday to Sunday 0800 - 1800
i knew that Morelli's had a franchise in the famous Harrod's department store in London but I didn't know until I checked the website that they also now have outlets in Bahrain, Dallas, Dubai, Manila, Kuwait and Dammam with new ones opening soon in Tblisi and the Gabon! They are certainly expanding and rightly so, they are still excellent.
I first discovered this place when I played a gig there many years ago, and have since returned many times. It is a simple, no-nonsense locals pub, which is far enough off the beaten track to avoid most of the summer tourist rush. Having said that, it's only about five minutes walk from the main street. If you want a decent pint in pleasant surroundings, this could well be the place for you.
If you are wondering about the slightly unusual name, Wrotham is a village in Kent and there are at least three different pronounciations of it!
I should also mention that the Wrotham is an abolute hub of musical activity in the town, not just during Folk Week when it is permanently full of bands, song and music sessions and general merriment, but all throughout the year. Started by the previous manager Jenny and continued by the present incumbent Jackie (both delightful ladies) there are regular live bands encompassing a range of musical styles so there is something for everybody. Full details of the music are available at
I know local musicians are very appreciative of such a supportive place to play and a few local acts have had their first break here.
I cannot believe it has taken me so long to write this tip, in the same way I cannot still quite believe that the one time I was here I was watching the world premiere of a film in which I had a small appearance! The event was a few years ago and was the premiere of a film about the wonderful Broadstairs Folk Week, commissioned by them and premiered the next year. I have to say it was a little odd sitting in company with a few of the main "stars" of a film I was watching in a most delightful old cinema setting, it was rather magical. Martin Eddington, take a bow!
If you are not in the fortunate position (in my case completely accidental, I didn't even know I was in it) of watching youreself on the silver screen, this place is still well worth a visit. They do show first run films and, frankly, I would much rather sit in the intimate atmosphere of this wonderful old building than submit myself to the bland corporate anonymity of the nearby multiplex up at Westwood.
This is going to "the flicks" as I remember it as a child (the Curzon in Belfast if you are interested!) When you walk in the door and into the, frankly, miniscule foyer it is like stepping back in time. It really is a relic of a bygone age but it is not atrophying or dying on it's feet as so many things are in seaside towns all over the UK. This is a living, breathing entity and I know from my many Thanet friends that the locals use it a lot, never mind the passing tourists on a rainy day.
So why is it so atmospheric? Well, it was initially built in 1911 as the Museum of Armoury (whatever that might have been!) and was subsequently a puppet theatre and then converted to a cinema in 1965. It is currently privately owned (as it has always been) and receives no external funding albeit that I think it should be preserved as a national treasure! Incidentally, don't let the facade put you off. Due to the topography of the place you actually walk through the foyer into what is the balcony (23 seats). If like me you are a cheapskate, the stalls are lower (obviously and towards the beach!), all 88 of them, and down the stairs.
If you really want a touch of nostalgia on your day at the seaside or if the weather turns a bit nasty (OK it happens in the UK) then this is a very good little bolthole for you. It's comfy, it's kitsch, it is fun and it is definitely recommended.
I have mentioned in another tip on this page about the proliferation of micropubs in East Kent. For those of you not aware of what a micropub is, it is a pub selling only beer, cider and sometimes wine but not spirits. I believe it is easier to get this type of licence, although don't quote me on that. They always stock "real ales" generally sold from barrels on display and not a pressurised keg in sight. They also seem to pride themselves on finding unusual brews from obscure microbreweries all over the place.
I was recently in Broadstairs playing at the wonderful Broadstairs Folk Week and one of my booked venues was the Chapel. I was looking forward to this as, in addition to loving playing for the great audiences at that festival, I had never actually been in the place even though it had been open the previous year. This was an omission I was happy to rectify.
If you look at the main image on this tip, the title may make a little sense. The building looks like the old religious structure that it in fact was with the exception of the shop window. This looks for all the world like a bookshop which was what the place became for many, many years. I have been playing Broadstairs for years and always remember it as "The Albion Bookshop", a treasure trove of second hand books.
Some time ago, the premises was bought (stock and all) by Julian Newick, the same chap that owns the excellent Lifeboat micropub in nearby Margate. After a little local objection, he was granted permission to turn it into what it is today which is, frankly, one of the most unusual places you are ever likely to have a pint. The objection centred around the fact that there was supposedly a crypt underneath containing bodies and that the premises were still consecrated. An archaeological survey revealed that the crypt was, in fact, an air raid shelter and the only thing found was a load of rotting old ammunition! As for it's religious status neither the diocese of Canterbury nor the Ministy of Justice, who administer such things, could find any evidence for it being still holy ground and so it is now a pub.
The images will hopefully give you some idea of what to expect. It has been retained more or less as it was whilst a bookshop and you can select something to read as you quaff one of the excellent selection of beers, ciders and perries on offer. As I say, I was working (well, some people call it working) so I did not have as much chance to enjoy the atmosphere as I might but I had a really fun gig. As you might expect from a building like this the acoustics were excellent and the in-house PA was also very good having apparently been selected by a lecturer in sound engineering from a nearby academic institution. This is a good thing as there are regular music nights here, currently open mic jazz on Monday, a booked act on Wednesday and a general open mic night on Thursday.
Should all this reading, listening and drinking make you a little peckish there is a selection of bar snacks available. They are all locally sourced and the cheese selection is particularly good. If you are not in the mod for alcohol, they also have a selection of hot and cold beverages and patisserie items which is probably useful as they open at 0900 every day.
Apologies for the last image but I do not have any images of me onstage here and it is just to prove that people are actually daft enough to book me to play. Please don't let my occasional presence onstage put you off though, this place really is worth a visit!
If you get thirsty on your meanderings around Broadstairs (I know I do), you could do worse than drop in here for a pint. It's a relatively unspoilt old-fashioned pub and very pleasant. So unspoilt is it that the actual bar itself is Grade II listed. If you are not aware of listing, this basically means it is protected by law as being of historic interest.
Neptunes Hall, or the Neps as it is locally known, is also the sort of unofficial HQ for the musicians and dancers in Folk Week. Many's a good session and gig I've had in here.
Look out for the picture on the wall of the last four landlords all having a drink together. Between them they span some unbelievable period of time. There is also a photo of two dear friends of mine on their wedding day processing up Harbour Street to the pub and flanked by an honour guard of morris dancers with staves. Don't ask, it is a folkie thing.
What used to be the low bar was a tapas restaurant (see seperate tip) for a while although is not currently in use, so ignore what the brewery website says (I have reported it to them). Should you want to enjoy the Kent weather or just have a smoke, there is a delightful and spacious beer garden. Don't be put off by the image, it was taken at dusk.
The Neps is a fine pub and well worth a visit. Tell Ken that I sent you!
I know I keep going on about it, but I make no apologies. Heading towards it's 50th year, the festival just seems to get bigger and better every year.
I know many of you will probably think, "I don't like folk music, I'm not going to that", but I can assure you, there is really something for everyone. There are torchlight processions, fireworks, circus displays, morris dancers (see the pictures), various world musicians, blues gigs etc. etc. etc. There probably isn't an area of artistic endeavour that isn't represented somewhere during the week.
I have had many friends who are not at all into folk music who, once persuaded, return every year purely for the atmosphere or craic, as the Irish would say.
Just a word of warning, there is not a bed to be had in the town that week. You really need to book about ten months in advance to have any chance.
Update August 2013.
Regular readers of my pages will know that I do like to keep my tips as up to date as possible, so here is an update on this one. I just returned yesterday from the 48th Folk Week where I played a lot of music, hung out with a lot of dear friends and generally had a great time. The festival just seems to go from strength to strength and I really do recommend it.
I know the reader may find it odd to find a tip about somewhere to obtain a meal in the things to do section rather than the restaurant section, so allow me to explain. I work on the principle that anywhere with a seating area goes in the restaurant group and takeaways go here on the principle they hardly qualify as restaurants.
Now we have got the logistics out of the way, let me tell you about the Lucky House in Clarendon Road. Because of it's location it is very much a locals sort of a place being well off the tourist route and I have been eating here for many years with great results. The interior decor, as you can see, is a pretty garish pink but don't let that put you off, the food really is rather good. There is the usual selection on offer at about normal prices. I have eaten other things but I am rather fond of sweet and sour pork balls and rice and tend to return to that regularly.
There is a delivery service withing three miles for orders of a certain size and the premises are open Monday to Sunday (closed Tuesday) from 1700 - 2300 and additionally Wednesday to Saturday from 1200 - 1400, although there is no delivery service lunchtime.
Update August 2013.
I do like to keep my tips as up to date as possible and I have to report that I re-visited Broadstairs thius month and had a take away from here and it was delicious, the standard is still very good. I have included an aditional photo of the meal (sweet and sour pork with boiled rice if you are interested!)
There seems to be an absolute rash of "micropubs" springing up all over East Kent and so I wasn't overly surprised when I visited tp play at the excellent Broadstairs Folk Week to find that what had been a commercial premises (petshop if memory serves) in York Street was now yet another of the genre. I have no problem with that as I regularly bemoan the number of Dead Pubs there are, specifically in London.
For those of you not aware of what a micropub is, it is a pub selling only beer, cider and sometimes wine but not spirits. I believe it is easier to get this type of licence, although don't quote me on that. They always stock "real ales" generally sold from barrels on display and not a presuurised keg in sight. They also seem to pride themselves on finding unusual brews from obscure microbreweries all over the place. This is evidenced by one of the images here which was taken on 19th August 2013 they had served 289 different ales from 155 different breweries since 29th November 2012. That is some going and testament to the drinking powers of the residents of Thanet!
I should mention that they actually had a beer specially made for Folk Week from a nearby brewery. Now that is what I call a specialist item. There was also an excellent selection of cider (my preferred tipple) and I settled on the Westons First Quality which was exactly as it's name suggested it might be.
Speaking of names, you might wonder why this place is called what it is. It refers to the crime thriller of the same name written in 1915 by the author John Buchan whilst staying in Broadstairs and subsequently adapted several times for film and TV. The 39 steps are actually a real place in nearby North Foreland. There is an excellent link on the attached website if you are interested.
Dogs are welcome and there are even dog bowls and free dog biscuits provided. There is a limited menu of bar snacks (crisps, ickled eggs and the like) and the prices are very reasonable by local standards At time of writing, all pints (beer and cider) were £3 which is good. If you are a beer or cider drinker, this really is worth a look.
If you are a fan of live music the Folk Festival has a lovely atmosphere and do not miss it :
The next date :
9 - 16 August 2013
Apologies to VTers with messages on this page previously; it has been deleted and cannot be reinstated :-((
Readers of my pages know that I like a drink now and again and I have got a great fondness for British pubs for which I make no apology. I had just walked to the nearby Westwood Cross shopping centre which is a fair old walk from Broadstairs especially on a warm August day and this, coupled with my nearly pathological hatred of shopping centres, meant I was in need of a quick drink when I stumbled upon the Star Inn.
I was greeted by a very friendly young lady behind the bar and settled down to calm my frayed nerves with a pint of Strongbow cider. A quick look round showed that meals were served although I did not dine albeit that they looked very good. The building is 18th century and is a typical old style country pub although now hardly in the country.
They do have occasional music nights and indeed, your humble correspondent may even be appearing here at some point in the future, having left his business card for perusal!
To the rear there is a delightful garden and a covered smoking area with a lovely old pot bellied stove which must be much appreciated on a cold winter's evening. the Star is run by a very convivial Greek gentleman with whom I conversed for a while.
All in all a very pleasant little pub. You may not particularly want to search it out as it is a bit out of the way but, if you are in the area, it is well worth a visit.
I have spoken at length on my Broadstairs pages about the wonderful Folk Week but there is a noew kid on the Broadstairs things to do block. I was in Broadstairs over the last weekend in September 2011 and was delighted to discover tyhe Food Festival. Readers of my pages will know that I adore food, so to have a food festival in one of my favourite places on Earth was really something of a dream for me.
The Festival is endorsed by the celebrity chef Gary Rhodes, who trained at Thanet College in the town, which must say something about the standard of the place.
Kent is known as the Garden of England and is famed for it's fruit, particularly apples which leads to the production of some excellent cider, another favourite thing of mine. The range of produce was staggering with over 120 stalls representing just about every cuisine imaginable. As well as a lot of excellent local food, there was Italian, Mexican, Portuguese, German, Rusiian, the list goes on. The presence of several beer / cider tents helped the whole thing along nicely.
Various cookery demonstrations were arranged and, all told, it was a great success, especially considering it is only in it's third year. I thoroughly recommend you make the effort to visit next year of you can.
go to the beach. Unodubtedly, a lot of the popularity of the town was built upon the beaches, which are still popular with day trippers and longer term visitors. Actually, the whole coast here is full of bays, which were home to smugglers for many centuries.
Broadstairs is actually built around seven bays, of which the most central and famous is Viking Bay, apparently so named because the Vikings landed there in 1949! Actually, a replica longboat, rowed across the North Sea, landed there, but it makes for a romantic name, I think.
The beach, in summer, has traditional kids entertainment like Punch and Judy, and also trampolines, a bouncy castle and other attractions. As popular beaches go, it's very clean.
If you don't fancy walking down to the harbour and along, there is a lift from the Promenade.
The 2005 festival runs from Saturday 18th June until Sunday 26th June inclusive. There will be a host of events including the festival play which this year is Great Expectations.
Follow in Charles Dickens' footsteps by coming to Broadstairs, which he visited between 1837 and 1859. See the delights of the town which he named "Our English Watering Place".
[b]2008 Broadstairs Dickens Festival
The 2008 Broadstairs Dickens Festival runs from Thursday 19th June to Sunday 22th June inclusive