Birchington on Sea

Birchington on Sea

You could be mistaken that Birchington is a suburb of Margate, sited perilously at the crossroads of the Canterbury Road and the Thanet Way. It’s famous for being the birth place of the bungalow and the resting place of Dante Gabrielle Rossetti. All Saints Church is at the crossroads of these two ancient roads. When I visited organ music could be heard from the church but all doors were locked. Visits to the inside of the church are restricted to Saturdays 10-12.

All Saints Church

All Saints Church

Close to the main door is Rossetti’s grave, joint founder of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. His health began to deteriorate in the 1860s and in 1869 he took the extreme step of exhuming his wife’s coffin to retrieve his Poems, which he published the following year. He died at Birchington-on-Sea 9th April 1882. Having disturbed the final resting place of his wife he chose not to be buried with her in London. The large ornate cross was designed by his friend and fellow Pre-Raphaelite, Ford Maddox Brown.

Gabrielle Dante Rossetti's Grcave

From the church, a walk along the High Street will lead to the seafront. There’s a fine collection of architecture, Georgian and Victorian, if you look beyond the shop fronts. It’s keeping the plight of high streets at bay and most shops are occupied. With three fish and chip shops in town, you will never want for the traditional seaside supper.

Tunnels leading to bungalows in Birchington

At the seafront there is a coastal trail that leads to Margate in one direction and Reculver in the other. It’s still relatively unspoiled with vast views of the Estuary and the occasional thick skinned swimmer. On top of the cliffs are garden sheds alarmingly close to the edge. These belong to the bungalows strung out along the coast. Below are arched gateways now blocked but some still reveal the steps that led from the sea to the bungalow. John Pollard Seddon, a friend of Rossetti, built the first bungalow estate in England in 1870. When Rossetti had a stroke he moved to a bungalow in Shakespeare Road Birchington.

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