Archive for October 18th, 2016

My daughter and I went to Bleak House on Saturday afternoon for a Cream Tea and to tour the Smugglers Tunnels beneath the house…Bleak House was once known as Fort House and Broadstairs was a hotbed of smuggling with many notorious smugglers once captured,  being deported to Australia.

smugglers tunnels and afternoon tea at Bleak House

If you wake at midnight and hear a horse’s feet, Don’t go drawing back the blind, or looking in the street…

In 1723 Daniel Defoe wrote of a visit “Broadstairs is a small fishing village of 300 souls, of which 27 follow the occupation of fishing…” You can surmise therefore that the rest were gainfully ’employed’ in other businesses…..in fact, beneath much of Broadstairs is a warren of smugglers tunnels, mostly closed off now. Oh how I’d love to have access to those tunnels 🙂

afternoon tea and smugglers tunnels at bleak house

This chap had been ‘redcapped’ for being an informer, as lucrative a business as smuggling, with the possibility of a £500 reward for information.

‘Redcapping’ – A Revenue Spy who broke the smuggler’s unwritten law were dealt with in different ways. The Informer would be staked out on the beach at low tide with a RED LANTERN by his head. The smugglers would then watch to see that the spy was not released till the lantern had gone out.

Broadstairs is located on the east coast of Kent on what is/was known as the Isle of Thanet; an island 2 miles out to sea – the water separating the island from the mainland known as the Watsum Channel. After the channel silted up, the land which includes Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate is now part of Kent  County.

The Romans considered the Watsum Channel very important and built forts at Reculver and Richborough to protect it. In 449 The Vikings (after which the little bay is now named), under Hengist, landed at Thanet, rowed up the Watsum Channel and attacked Canterbury.

Broadstairs is just filled to the brim with history. Since Roman times and the Vikings Broadstairs has seen the likes of Wellington’s troops camped out and Napoleon’s Standard was presented here in 1815 after the British won the Battle of Waterloo. Charles Dickens lived in Broadstairs on numerous occasions and one of the most well-known is Bleak House where he wrote much of David Copperfield. As part of the tour we were able to visit the study where he sat and wrote while gazing out the windows across the English Channel.

smugglers tunnels and afternoon tea at Bleak House

the desk where Charles dickens sat and wrote David Copperfield

Previously known as Fort House, Bleak House, as it looks now, was remodelled in 1911. We’ve been there a number of times for Cream Tea but this time we decided to explore the smugglers caves beneath. Absolutely awesome.  I’m guessing that since the land is chalk it was pretty easy to tunnel away and create the caves and Smuggler’s tunnels. The chalk cliffs extends all the way from the Thames estuary as far as the White Cliffs of Dover and thence to the Isle of Wight.

smugglers tunnels and afternoon tea at Bleak House

smugglers tunnels and a cream tea at Bleak House

The Cream Tea (which is what we normally have) is delicious and the scones are fresh and yummy. I can recommend a visit to Bleak House for tea and do be sure to include the tour of the tunnels and Dickens’ study…at £4 per person for the tour, it’s a steal 😉  Although you can order the Cream Tea on a whim…NB if you wish to partake of the Afternoon Tea at Bleak House you would need to book in advance.

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