Sandown is a seaside resort and civil parish on the south-east coast of the Isle of Wight, United Kingdom with the resort of Shanklin to the south and the settlement of Lake in between. Together with Shanklin, Sandown forms a built-up area of 21,374 inhabitants.[1]

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
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

The northernmost town of Sandown Bay, Sandown has an easily accessible, sandy shoreline with beaches that run continuously from the cliffs at Battery Gardens in the south to Yaverland in the north.


Sandown's impressive sandstone and chalk cliffs at the northern end of the Bay
A view of Sandown Meadows Nature Reserve along the flood plain of the Eastern Yar.
Looking out to the English Channel from the town's main beach
A view from the garden of Sandham Cottage, one of Sandown's first non-military buildings

The town grew as a Victorian resort surrounded by a wealth of natural features.

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,[2] and Sandown's sea front and clifftops form part of the Isle of Wight Coastal Path.

The Bay that gives Sandown its name is an excellent example of a concordant coastline with five miles of well-developed tidal beaches stretching all the way from Shanklin to Culver Down due to Longshore drift.[3] This makes Sandown Bay home to one of the longest unbroken beaches in the British Isles.[4]

To the north-east of the town 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 seabirds and birds of prey which nest on the 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 popular 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.[5] Further inland, Borthwood Copse provides delightful woodland walks, with bluebells aplenty in the Spring.

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


Sandown Barrack Battery
The former Ocean Hotel
The distinctive 1930s roof tiles at Brown's Golf Course on Sandown seafront

Before the 19th century, Sandown was on the map chiefly for its military significance, with the Bay's beaches 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 fortification was attacked during the French invasion of the Isle of Wight when invaders fought their way over Culver Down from Whitecliff Bay before being repelled. The castle was built into the sea, prone to erosion and demolished fewer than a hundred years after it was built. In 1631, the castle was replaced by Sandham Fort [6] built further inland. In 1781, the fort's complement consisted of a master gunner and over twenty soldiers.[7] Sandham Fort was demolished in the mid-19th century and is now the site of Sandham Gardens.

In the 1860s, five Palmerston Forts were built along the coast of Sandown Bay, including Granite Fort at Yaverland, now the Isle of Wight Zoo. On the town's western cliffs Sandown Barrack Battery survives as a scheduled monument and Bembridge Fort, where the National Trust offers tours, can be seen on the downs to the north-east.[8]

One of the first non-military buildings was Sandham Cottage or 'Villakin', a holiday home leased by the radical politician and one-time Mayor of London John Wilkes in the final years of the 18th century.[9] See 'Sandown's famous connections' below.

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 Frederick and Princess Victoria of Germany, their children and entourage rented several properties in the town and took regular dips in the Bay.[10] Sandown's pier was built in the same decade, opening in May 1878, and extended in length in 1895.

The town laid further claim to becoming a fashionable English resort when the Ocean Hotel opened in 1899. The brainchild of West End theatrical impresario Henry Lowenfeld, the Ocean built on to and swallowed up the town's previous hotel of choice, the King's Head. For the new hotel's inauguration, a large number of dignitaries were invited from London, arriving in Sandown from Portsmouth by special boat. Guests had the chance to explore Sandown in coaches and carriages, and the hotel servants were all dressed in uniforms 'like admirals and post-captains' [11]

Sandown's destiny in the 20th century was to become a favourite bucket-and-spade destination for all classes. The Canoe Lake was opened in 1929 by the author Henry De Vere Stacpoole followed in 1932 by Browns Golf Course (see below). The Art Deco Grand Hotel, opened next door to Browns in April 1938, is now closed with planning permission for demolition granted in 2014.

Today, Sandown's esplanade has a mixture of former Victorian and Edwardian hotels with modern counterparts overlooking the beach and the Bay. A new Premier Inn is due to open in 2021. Sandown Pier has an amusement centre with arcade games, children's play areas and places to eat and drink. The pier's former landing stage is used for sea fishing.

Further north is the Isle of Wight Zoo run by The Wildheart Trust.[12] Established as Sandown Zoo in the 1950s, it was acquired by the Corney family in the 1970s and today specialises in rescued tigers and other big cats. Nearby is the purpose-built Dinosaur Isle palaeontology centre which opened in 2001, and Sandham Gardens [13] which offers a dinosaur miniature golf course, play parks for children and young people, and bowls.

HMS Eurydice foundering in 1878

HMS EurydiceEdit

On 24 March 1878, the Royal Navy training ship HMS Eurydice (1843) capsized and sank in Sandown Bay with the loss of 317 lives, one of Britain's worst peacetime naval disasters. The tops of the vessel's sunken masts were still visible from Sandown two months later on the day the town's pier was opened [14]

HMS Eurydice was refloated in August and beached at Yaverland to be pumped out, the subject of a painting by Henry Robins (1820-1892) for Queen Victoria who came over from Osborne House with other members of her family to see the wreck.[15]

There is a memorial to crew of the Eurydice in the graveyard of Christ Church, Sandown.

Sandown's former Town Hall

Town hallEdit

Commissioned and built by the Sandown Local Board in 1869, the Grade-2 listed former Town Hall is situated in Grafton Street. The building also became the home of Sandown Fire Brigade, with a two-storey extension added by the early 20th century.

The Town Hall's stage was home to the Sandown Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society founded just before World War I.[16] For many decades, the building was Sandown's principal venue for musical concerts, political meetings and civic events.

The present-day Sandown Town Council no longer use the building and moved to new headquarters in 2018. The fire brigade also occupies new premises on the fringe of the town.

Brown's Golf CourseEdit

Seaside golfers wait to tee off at Brown's, July 2020

Designed by one of the UK's leading players of the time Henry Cotton (golfer), the Brown's pitch and putt courses were the idea of south London pie and sausage maker Alex Kennedy. Opened on Sandown's eastern sea front in March 1932, the original clubhouse had the motto 'Golf for Everybody' emblazoned on its roof.[17] Brown's and its ice cream factory were adapted in the 1940s to disguise pumping apparatus for Pipe Line Under the Ocean (PLUTO) intended to deliver oil to the D-Day beaches. The courses remained popular with all ages in the 21st century, but closed in September 2020 with the Isle of Wight Council reported to be considering development on the site.

Sandown CarnivalEdit

The popular summer carnival

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 New Year's Day Celebrations with entertainment and fireworks.

Since 2017, another popular Sandown get-together called Hullabaloo [18] has been held over a weekend in May, organised by Shademakers UK Carnival Club in collaboration with educational organisations, musicians, businesses and charities.

Eating and drinkingEdit

Sandown offers an assortment of restaurants, cafes, bars and pubs along the sea front and in the town. They include the restored Bandstand restaurant on Culver Parade [19] with sweeping views of the Bay. Family-friendly 'gastro-pubs' include The Caulkheads in Avenue Road.[20] Boojum and Snark at 105 High Street, opened in 2019 and inspired by author Lewis Carroll who stayed across the road in the 1870s, is the town's first sustainable microbrewery offering craft beers and ciders, and art exhibitions.[21]

The Bandstand restaurant and cafe, an example of the town's regeneration


Sandown station, opened in 1864
The Hullabaloo event held in May
The site of John Wilkes' cottage, just off the High Street
In 1858, naturalist Charles Darwin worked on the abstract that became On the Origin of Species
Germany's Crown Prince and Princess and their family spent the summer of 1874 in Sandown
Christ Church, Sandown's parish church consecrated in 1847

Sandown railway station is on the Island Line Railway, the Isle of Wight's one remaining public line from Ryde Pier Head to Shanklin.

Sandown is also served by buses run by Southern Vectis on routes 2, 3 and 8 with direct services to Bembridge, Newport, Ryde, Shanklin and Ventnor. Night buses are run on Fridays and Saturdays, along route 3.[22]

Media locationEdit

The UK group Take That filmed the video for their fifth single I Found Heaven on Sandown's beaches and sea front in 1992 [23]

Sandown High School and locations nearby were used in the 1972 film That'll Be The Day starring David Essex, Ringo Starr, Billy Fury and Rosemary Leach.[24]

The TV series Tiger Island on ITV and National Geographic in 2007 and 2008 [25] chronicled the lives of the more than twenty tigers living at Isle of Wight Zoo.

Twin townsEdit

Sandown had a twinning (jumelée in French) arrangement with the town of Tonnay-Charente in the western French département of Charente-Maritime although the relationship was reported to be 'in tatters' in 2002.[26] Sandown has also been twinned with the United States town of St. Pete Beach, Florida.


  • The town of Sandown and its Bay have inspired the naming of a number of Sandowns around the world, including Sandown, New Hampshire USA, Sandown, Gauteng a suburb of Johannesburg in South Africa, and Sandown Bay in South Africa's Western Cape. The former industrial area of Sandown on the Parramatta River, New South Wales, Australia was commemorated by the Sandown railway line in the western suburbs of Sydney, which ceased passenger services in 1991.
  • HMS Sandown, launched in 1988, was the name ship in the Sandown class of mine countermeasures vessels. Its earlier namesake was the paddle steamer and passenger ferry PS Sandown which saw wartime service as a minesweeper.

Notable peopleEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ [1] Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs 2014, built-up areas identified as hub towns
  2. ^ [2] UNESCO description of the Isle of Wight Biosphere Reserve
  3. ^ "Isle of Wight Shoreline Management Plan 2" (PDF). Isle of Wight Council. December 2010.
  4. ^ "Coastal Communities Economic Plan, Sandown Bay" (PDF). Coastal Communities Alliance. May 2016.
  5. ^ [3] Sandown Meadows Nature Reserve web page
  6. ^ [4] A brief history of Sandham Fort, Island Eye
  7. ^ History of the Isle of Wight by Sir Richard Worsley, 1781
  8. ^ [5] Bembridge Fort and Downs, the National Trust
  9. ^ Wilkes, John; Almon, John (1805). The correspondence of the late John Wilkes: with his friends, printed from ... - John Wilkes - Google Books. Retrieved 17 September 2013.
  10. ^ The Isle of Wight Chronicle, Thursday 30 July 1874 'No greater recommendation can be given to the excellent bathing facilities possessed by Sandown than recording the fact that the members of the Imperial family take every possible advantage of them by bathing almost daily...'
  11. ^ 'The Ocean Hotel, Sandown' Isle of Wight Observer, Saturday 20 May 1899
  12. ^ [6] The Wildheart Trust and its mission statement
  13. ^ [7] Sandham Gardens website
  14. ^ The Hampshire Advertiser County Newspaper p8, 1 June 1878
  15. ^ [8] The Wreck of the Eurydice, Royal Collection Trust
  16. ^ 'Sandown Operatic and Dramatic Society', a review of HMS Pinafore, Isle of Wight County Press, 20 April 1912
  17. ^
  18. ^ [9] Hullabaloo IoW on Facebook
  19. ^ [10] Bandstand Restaurant website
  20. ^ [11] The Caulkheads website
  21. ^ [12] Boojum and Snark join Beer and Buses this weekend, On the Wight, 8 October 2019
  22. ^ "Southern Vectis route list". Southern Vectis. Archived from the original on 30 November 2009. Retrieved 22 December 2009.
  23. ^ [13] Take That's 'I Found Heaven' video on YouTube
  24. ^ [14] That'll Be The Day locations on Reelstreets
  25. ^ [15] Athena Films, Tiger Island
  26. ^ [16] Frenchman 'used town twinning for cheap holidays', Daily Telegraph 19 April 2002
  27. ^ [17] John Wilkes on the Isle of Wight by Jan Toms, JanTomsBriefBiographies, July 2018
  28. ^ [18] Darwin Correspondence Project, letter to W D Fox, 21 July 1858.
  29. ^ [19] Charles Darwin by Julia Margaret Cameron, V&A Collection
  30. ^ [20] Project Gutenberg's George Eliot's Life, Vol. II (of 3), by George Eliot
  31. ^ [21] Queen Victoria's Journals, entry for 31 July 1874
  32. ^ Lewis Carroll, A Portrait With Background by Donald Thomas (Chapter 10 'Dreaming as the Summers Die'), John Murray, 1996 ISBN 0-7195-5323-7
  33. ^ Richard Strauss: Man, Musician, Enigma by Michael Kennedy, Cambridge University Press 1999 ISBN 9780521027748
  34. ^ [22] The Life of Sir Isaac Pitman (Inventor of Phonography) by Alfred Baker p172, Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons 1919
  35. ^ [23] John Hannam archive interview with Frankie Howerd in 1980 about working on the Isle of Wight (25 mins of audio)
  36. ^ [24] IoW Beacon feature about Sandown Pier and its performers, June 2017
  37. ^ [25] Tributes to Anthony Minghella, BBC Hampshire and Isle of Wight, 28 October 2014
  38. ^ [26] Renegade in Springtime by Rod Mengham, Times Literary Supplement, March 22nd 2017
  39. ^ [27] The photographs of James Dore, Isle of Wight Council Heritage Service
  40. ^ [28] Profile of James Dore by the Isle of Wight Fire Brigades Federation
  41. ^ "Thomas Gibson & Thomas Field Gibson". Dictionary of Unitarian and Universalist Biography. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
  42. ^ [29] Mary Ellis obituary, The Guardian, 29 July 2018

External linksEdit