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Sandown’s eastern beach.jpg
One of Sandown's sandy beaches
Sandown is located in Isle of Wight
Location within the Isle of Wight
Population11,868 (2011 Census)
OS grid referenceSZ600843
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townSANDOWN
Postcode districtPO36
Dialling code01983
FireIsle of Wight
AmbulanceIsle of Wight
EU ParliamentSouth East England
UK Parliament
List of places
Isle of Wight
50°39′18″N 1°09′15″W / 50.6551°N 1.1541°W / 50.6551; -1.1541Coordinates: 50°39′18″N 1°09′15″W / 50.6551°N 1.1541°W / 50.6551; -1.1541

Sandown is a seaside resort and civil parish[1] on the south-east coast of the Isle of Wight, England, with the town of Shanklin to the south and the settlement of Lake in between.

Sandown is the northernmost town of Sandown Bay, known for its long stretches of easily accessible, sandy beach. The outer bay is also used as a sheltered anchorage, with ships requiring salvage periodically towed there (such as the Tarpenbeck). The wreck of a salvage tug could be seen until recently[when?] at low tide under Culver Cliff (the Harry Sharman), which had been assisting the stricken tanker Pacific Glory in the 1970s.

Together with Shanklin, Sandown forms a built-up area of 21,374 inhabitants.[2]

Natural interests[edit]

Sandown's impressive sandstone and chalk cliffs at the northern end of the Bay
Sandown Pier, with Culver Cliff behind

Sandown is a Victorian seaside resort surrounded by a wealth of natural features. To the north is Culver Down, a chalk down accessible to the public, mostly owned and managed by the National Trust. It supports typical chalk downland wildlife, and along with seabirds and birds of prey which nest on the adjoining cliffs.

Nearby are Sandown Levels in the flood plain of the River Yar, one of the few freshwater wetlands on the Isle of Wight, where Alverstone Mead Local Nature Reserve is a very popular spot for birdwatching. Sandown Meadows Nature Reserve, acquired by the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust in 2012, is a place to spot kingfishers and water voles [3]. Further inland, the woodland of Borthwood provides delightful woodland walks, with bluebells aplenty in the Spring.

The coastal and inland areas of Sandown are part of the Isle of Wight Biosphere Reserve designated by UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Programme in June 2019.

The area's marine sub-littoral zone, including the reefs and seabed, also has the wildlife designation Special Area of Conservation. At extreme low tide, a petrified forest is partially revealed in the northern part of the Bay, and fragments of petrified wood are often washed up on the beach.


Sandown Barrack Battery completed in 1863, a Palmerston Fort on the town's western cliffs and a scheduled monument since 2000
Looking out to the English Channel from the town's main beach
Sandown's former Town Hall, a Grade 2 listed mid-Victorian building in Grafton Street
A performer at Sandown's popular summer carnival

Until the 19th century, Sandown was on the map chiefly for its military significance, with the beaches of the Bay feared to offer easy landing spots for invaders from the continent. It is the site of the lost Sandown Castle. While undergoing construction in 1545, the castle was attacked by a French force which had fought its way over Culver Down from Whitecliff Bay, resulting in the French being repelled. It was built too far into the sea and constantly suffered erosion, until now reduced to a pile of rocks. Later forts in the town include the Diamond Fort (named after its plan), built inshore to replace the castle and which fought off a minor attack from privateers (probably French) in 1788, and the present "Granite Fort" at Yaverland, now the zoo.

One of the first non-military buildings was "Villakin", a holiday home leased[4] by the radical politician and one-time Mayor of London John Wilkes in the final years of the 18th century.

The arrival of the railway in 1864 saw Sandown grow in size, with the town's safe bathing becoming increasingly popular. In the summer of 1874, the Crown Prince and Princess of Germany and their children rented several properties in the town and took regular dips in the Bay. Sandown's pier was built in the same decade, opening in May 1878. The town laid further claim to becoming a fashionable English resort when the Ocean Hotel opened in 1899. However, Sandown's destiny in the 20th century was to be a favourite bucket-and-spade destination for all classes. The Canoe Lake opened in 1929, followed by Brown's Golf Course in 1932 offering 'Golf for Everybody'. The golf course and its ice cream factory were adapted in the 1940s to disguise pumping apparatus for Pipe Line Under the Ocean (PLUTO) designed to pump oil to the D-Day beaches. The Art Deco Grand Hotel, now closed and awaiting demolition, was built next to Brown's in the late 1930s.

Today, Sandown esplanade has a mixture of Victorian and Edwardian hotels and their modern counterparts overlooking the beach and the Bay. Sandown Pier hosts an amusement centre with arcade games, children's play areas and places to eat and drink. The pier is also used for sea fishing, with designated areas for anglers. Further north is the Isle of Wight Zoo (also known as Sandown Zoo) which specialises in tigers. Nearby is the Dinosaur Isle geological museum and Sandham Grounds, offering a skate park, children's play park, crazy golf and bowls.

Sandown Town Hall[edit]

Commissioned and built by the Local Government Board in 1869, Sandown's Grade-2 listed former Town Hall is situated in Grafton Street. The present-day Sandown Town Council no longer use the building and moved to new headquarters in 2018.

Sandown Carnival[edit]

The town's summer carnival has been entertaining visitors since 1889. Today's organisers put on a series of events including the popular Children's Carnival and Illuminated Carnival, as well as November Celebrations later in the year with entertainment and fireworks.

Since 2017, a further Sandown event called Hullabaloo has been held over two days in May, organised by Shademakers UK Carnival Club in collaboration with local businesses and charities.

Pubs and dining[edit]

Sandown offers an assortment of pubs and restaurants. The pubs range from the more traditional offering a selection of local ales and ciders, to more family-friendly 'gastro-pubs' with a wider menu. Restaurants in the town offer a varied cuisine and there are a variety of traditional tea rooms on High Street. A full listing of places to eat and drink in Sandown is now available online.


Sandown railway station, opened in 1864
A plaque marks the site of John Wilkes' 18th century cottage, just off the High Street
Naturalist Charles Darwin stayed at Sandown's King's Head Hotel in July 1858, working on the abstract that became On the Origin of Species
The family of Crown Prince Frederick and Crown Princess Victoria of Germany, who spent the summer of 1874 in Sandown
The Bandstand restaurant and cafe on Culver Parade, an example of the town's regeneration
Christ Church, Sandown's parish church consecrated in 1847

Sandown railway station is on the Island's one remaining public railway line from Ryde Pier Head to Shanklin.

Sandown's Hullabaloo event, May 2019

As well as the Island Line Railway, Sandown is served by regular buses run by Southern Vectis on routes 2, 3 and 8. Destinations which can be directly reached include Bembridge, Newport, Ryde, Shanklin and Ventnor. Night buses are run on Fridays and Saturdays, along route 3.[5] Local bus services previously run by Wightbus have now been re-absorbed by Southern Vectis.

Sandown is on the Isle of Wight Coastal Path, between Niton and Ryde.


The TV series Tiger Island chronicles the lives of the more than twenty tigers living at Isle of Wight Zoo.

Cities links[edit]

Sandown is twinned (jumelée in French) with the town of Tonnay-Charente, in the western French département of Charente-Maritime. Its American twin town is St. Pete Beach, Florida.

Famous connections[edit]

  • John Wilkes (former Lord Mayor of the City of London) stayed regularly in Sandown in the late 18th century at the place he called 'Villakin', also known as Sandham Cottage. A memorial plaque marks the site of the cottage close to the present-day High Street. On Sunday mornings, Wilkes would go to Shanklin Church, and after the service would walk across the fields to Knighton with David Garrick and his wife. [6]
  • Naturalist Charles Darwin worked on the abstract which became On the Origin of Species when staying at Sandown’s King's Head Hotel in July 1858. He and his family later moved on to Norfolk House in nearby Shanklin. [7] Darwin also visited the Isle of Wight on other occasions, and was photographed there by Julia Margaret Cameron in 1868. [8]
  • The writer George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) stayed in Sandown during a two-week visit to the Isle of Wight in June 1863, having recently published her novels Romola and Silas Marner. Her celebrated work Middlemarch was published nine years later. [9]
  • The author Lewis Carroll, the Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, spent successive summers on Sandown sea front in the 1870s, staying first at the King's Head Hotel and later at Culverton House on the sea front. In 1875, while he was writing The Hunting of the Snark, he met 9-year old Gertrude Chataway whose family was staying next door. The first edition of The Hunting of the Snark is dedicated to Gertrude. [11]
  • HMS Sandown is the name ship of the Sandown class of mine countermeasures vessels. It commemorates a wartime namesake, which served as a minesweeper, having formerly been a passenger ferry.

Other notable people[edit]

  • James Dore (1854-1925), a noted photographer who recorded hundreds of late Victorian and Edwardian images of Sandown and the Isle of Wight. The Isle of Wight Heritage Service holds a collection of his work [18] Dore was also a local councillor, Justice of the Peace and Sandown's Chief Fire Officer [19]
  • Mary Ellis, ATA Pilot 1941-1945, later managing director of Sandown Airport. Mary died in July 2018 aged 101 [21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ English Parishes & Welsh Communities N&C 2004
  2. ^
  3. ^ . [1] Sandown Meadows Nature Reserve web page
  4. ^ The correspondence of the late John Wilkes: with his friends, printed from ... - John Wilkes - Google Books. Retrieved 17 September 2013.
  5. ^ "Southern Vectis route list". Southern Vectis. Archived from the original on 30 November 2009. Retrieved 22 December 2009. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  6. ^ [2] John Wilkes on the Isle of Wight by Jan Toms, JanTomsBriefBiographies, July 2018
  7. ^ [3] Darwin Correspondence Project, letter to W D Fox, 21 July 1858.
  8. ^ [4] Charles Darwin by Julia Margaret Cameron, V&A Collection
  9. ^ [5] Project Gutenberg's George Eliot's Life, Vol. II (of 3), by George Eliot
  10. ^ [6] Queen Victoria's Journals, entry for 31 July 1874
  11. ^ Lewis Carroll, A Portrait With Background by Donald Thomas (Chapter 10 'Dreaming as the Summers Die'), John Murray, 1996 ISBN 0-7195-5323-7
  12. ^ Richard Strauss: Man, Musician, Enigma by Michael Kennedy, Cambridge University Press 1999
  13. ^ [7] The Life of Sir Isaac Pitman (Inventor of Phonography) by Alfred Baker p172, Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons 1919
  14. ^ [8] John Hannam archive interview with Frankie Howerd about working on the Isle of Wight (25 mins of audio)
  15. ^ [9] IoW Beacon feature about Sandown Pier and its performers, June 2017
  16. ^ [10] Tributes to Anthony Minghella, BBC Hampshire and Isle of Wight, 28 October 2014
  17. ^ [11] Renegade in Springtime by Rod Mengham, Times Literary Supplement, March 22nd 2017
  18. ^ [12] The photographs of James Dore
  19. ^ [13] Profile of James Dore by the Isle of Wight Fire Brigades Federation
  20. ^ "Thomas Gibson & Thomas Field Gibson". Dictionary of Unitarian and Universalist Biography. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
  21. ^ [14] Mary Ellis obituary, The Guardian, 29 July 2018

External links[edit]