A Brief History of Sandbanks – From “Rags to Riches”

Every place has a history. A story to tell. Sandbanks has surely one of the most exceptional stories of all places. A story that one could identify as ‘rags to riches’, from humble deserted Sand dunes to today’s millionaires playground for the super-rich.

Sandbanks, true to its name, was formed by the sand washed up into vast piles 100ft high by the changing tides. It had no name at first but was eventually known as, ‘Parkstone-on-sea’, which in time was changed to the name we know of today, ‘Sandbanks’.

In the late Victorian era Sandbanks was largely deserted. It was cut off from the rest of civilisation by the huge mountains of sand and there was no road to reach it. The only building there in 1870 was the Poole Lifeboat station, this was a simple wooden hut situated on the headland.  However, in 1880 a hotel was built on the southern peninsular and was known as somewhat of a ‘get-away’, a place to escape civilisation. This hotel still stands today and is called the Haven Hotel.  With no road across Sandbanks, guests to the hotel would have to take a horse and cart and a steam charabanc to reach the hotel.

Haven Hotel 1880

Sandbanks at this time was owned by Lord Wimborne of the Canford estate. He soon realised that due to the impact of the sea from the English Channel, on the unprotected and vulnerable sand dunes, sea defences, in particular groins, were desperately needed. If nothing was done to protect the sand dunes, the middle part of Sandbanks would be washed away and turn the remaining land into an island. However, Lord Wimborne did not want to pay the cost of coastal protection. He offered the land to the Poole Harbour Commission for a small fee, if they paid for the coastal protection that it so desperately needed.

The Poole Harbour Commission had only one way to pay for the coastal protection and that was to sell off 40 plots of land on Sandbanks for development. The mayor of Poole protested this idea, describing the development of Sandbanks as a disaster for Poole, ruining the picturesque harbour town. Despite the mayor’s objections a public auction went ahead in June 1896, held at the Antelope Hotel in Poole. 40 plots of land were up for sale, with a selling price of £125, with the option to rent also available. The outcome of the auction was that 17 out of the 40 plots were leased for a yearly sum of £5 rent but none were sold. The remaining of the 40 plots did eventually sell over the next few years.

The early properties that were built on the plots were simple wooden houses, mainly bungalows, with most being used as holiday homes. It was still the case though that a great deal of Sandbanks and the land in between the plots remained wild and uninhabited.

A road was finally built adjoining Sandbanks to the local area just after WW1. This was undertaken by returning servicemen that would otherwise been out of work. Once the road was completed it made Sandbanks accessible to the many and the area grew in popularity with day trippers, looking for a quiet day beside the sea.

(The road leading to Sandbanks post WWI.)

Due to this new accessibility, Sandbanks began to have larger, more permanent houses built on the land that had not previously been sold off. The wild and unspoilt dune areas between the original plots were disappearing quickly. Sand dunes that were originally 100ft high were being flattened by the building of these houses.

One of the first property magnets for Sandbanks was a wealthy banker and father of 8, Doctor Edward Andreae, of German descent. He decided it was the perfect place for him to build 8 homes, one for each of his children. Over time these properties were sold off as the children grew old and died. However, one of the properties still stands today and is occupied by descendants of the family.

Edward Andreae’s 8 children

The development of the area came to a rather abrupt halt in 1939 due to the beginning of World War 2, with soldiers patrolling the dunes in 1940 for fear of German invasion. Sandbanks had now become a fortified military base. It would stay this way until 1960, when Sandbanks was able to continue its earlier progression. After this time, the development took off on a whole new level. Any available plots were snapped up and older properties were demolished and rebuilt. Sandbanks was enjoying the prosperity that came with investment and development. It was, at this time however, still accessible to local people wanting to buy their own place on Sandbanks, with flats selling for less than £100,000 in the 1980’s.

During the 1990’s some clever marketing from local estate agents put Sandbanks on the World map and it undertook its latest and very greatest transformation into millionaires’ row. The average price for a two-bed apartment being £689 per square foot, with prices for houses reaching £1,250 per square foot. Thus, making it one of the most expensive places to live in the world.

A typical house on Sandbanks Peninsula today…

Sandbanks is now home to 1,100 plots, 60 of which have seafront access and many of which are owned by the rich and famous. Today there is a queue of people waiting to buy plots, each of which are worth millions of pounds. The coastline of Sandbanks has been dubbed as ‘Britain’s Palm Beach’ by National media and therefore the area continues to support its reputation as the ‘jewel in the South Coasts crown’.

It is important to remember the story of Sandbanks, its history, how it has come to be a gift of the changing tides and natures materials, to allow us to experience a piece of paradise that no amount of wealth could ever have created alone.” (J. Andrews, 2020)

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