Sort file:- Broadstairs, July, 2024.

Page Updated:- Tuesday, 09 July, 2024.


Earliest 1763

Captain Digby

Open 2020+

Whiteness Road

Kingsgate on Sea / St Peters


01843 867764

Captain Digby rescue 1857

Above engraving showing a rescue in 1857.

Captain Digby little parlour 1857

Above engraving showing the little parlour in 1857.

Captain Digby stereoscope 1859

Above stereoscope, circa 1859, kindly sent by Rory Kehoe.

Captain Digby

Above postcard, date unknown, looking from Kingsgate Castle.

Captain Digby painting 1912

Above postcard postmarked 1912, showing a painting in the style of A R Quinton.

Captain Digby 1920

Above postcard, date 1920, kindly submitted by Mark Jennings.

Captain Didgy narrow escape 1920s

Above photo, 1920s showing a narrow escape, the vehicle taking out the pub sign. Kindly sent by Michael Mirams who tells me the outlet pipe is still there in 2021.

Early Broadstairs & St Peters in old photographs collected by Barrie Wootton.

Saily Mail staff

The Daily Mail staff at Kingsgate outside the "Captain Digby" (date unknown) enjoying what is thought to be a ‘waygoose’, a term used by the printing trade for a ‘knees-up’. The Daily Mail was Lord Northcliffe’s own paper, so it is not surprising that the staff outing should travel to so quiet a spot.

Early Broadstairs & St Peters in old photographs collected by Barrie Wootton.

Captain Digby

The Captain Digby public house, Kingsgate owes its existence to Lord Holland who built it between 1763 and 1768. The Digby was once part of Bede House, half of which collapsed into the sea in 1809, leaving only the stabling which was built upon in 1816 and was used as a bibitory recess for men and horses (hostelry!). The Digby had a set of steps down to the shore which were obviously used by smugglers. It was here in 1857 that rescued men of the Northern Bell were brought when saved from a watery grave by the two Broadstairs lifeboats off Kingsgate Bay. Ironically, the Digby is named after Lord Holland’s favourite nephew, who had a distinguished naval career catching smugglers.

Captain Digby

Above postcard, date unknown, kindly submitted by Mark Jennings.

Captain Digby

Above photo, date unknown, with permission from Eric Hartland.

Captain Digby 1930

The above postcard, dated 9 September 1930, reported on the back the following details:- Dear Harry, many thanks for card, I expect you will have seen we had some excitement here last night, it was a great flare up, all the inflammable sort of stuff, it went up in a great column of flame and smoke, it was a miracle none of the adjoining houses caught, we had a wonderful view from the 3rd floor at the "Marina". There is nearly always plenty to do here. I had a early "dip" this morning and a topping morning tennis after.....

Captain Digby 1936

Above postcard, date 1936, kindly submitted by Mark Jennings.

Captain Digby 1936

Above postcard, circa 1936, kindly sent by Rory Kehoe.

Captain Digby 1946

Above photo, circa 1946, kindly sent by Rory Kehoe.

Captain Digby 1950s

Above postcard, circa 1950s. Kindly supplied by Rory Kehoe.

Captain Didby 1957

Above postcard, circa 1957, kindly sent by Rory Kehoe.

Captain Digby

Above postcard, date unknown, kindly submitted by Mark Jennings.

Captain Digby

Above postcard, date unknown, kindly submitted by Mark Jennings.

Captain Digby bar

Above bar, date unknown.

Captain Digby

Above photo 2013.

Captain Digby sign 1936

Above sign 1936.


In 1769, the Battle of Botany Bay took place nearby when Revenue men ambushed Joss Snelling and his gang as the smugglers unloaded their booty. Snelling and four others escaped through an opening in the cliffs. A riding officer was shot on the cliffs and taken to the pub where he died from his wounds. He haunts the inn, along with the smuggler, Snelling.


A dreadful storm in January 1857 caused an American ship, the Northern Belle, to anchor off the North Foreland, but the intensity of the gale sent waves crashing over the vessel and she was driven onto the rocks. Miraculously her crew, who had lashed themselves to the rigging, were rescued and taken into the "Captain Digby Inn" at Kingsgate where they made a swift recovery.




What tribute shall we give the brave

Who fight the glorious fight,

Who stand or fall in freedom's cause

Defenders of the right,

Who ward the blow that tyrants deal

And vengeance they would wreak?

The meed they claim—the wreath of fame,

The glory which they seek;

Living, th’ applause of grateful crowds

And pathways fresh with blooms;

And, when they die, the world’s regret

Emblazoned on their tombs.


And what the tribute greater still

We owe the humbler brave,

"Who, though the light of glory shine

Like sunlight on the wave,

Look up from sunlight to the sun,

And see, through clouds afar,

The fairer ray, more bright than day,

Of Duty’s guiding star;

Who ask no recompense of men,

To save a brother's life?

And shame by greater bravery

The bravest deeds of strife?



What shall we give them—souls sublime,

Who in the stormy dark,

When frantic seas assault the shore,

And whirl the helpless bark

On treacherous sands, hear far away,

Amid the fitful gale,

The boom of guns, the seaman’s cry,

Or dying woman’s wail,

Then launch their skiff, through blinding foam

Of wild waves tempest-trod,

Their errand, Love; their only guides,

Their own true hearts and God?



Heroes of Peace ! No pomp of war,

Or sound of fife and drum;

No splendour of the soldiers’ craft,

Or hope of joys to come,

Make quick their pulse with high resolve,

Or nerve their honest hands;

They only feel that Mercy calls,

And at its high commands

They look at peril face to face,

With calm, untroubled eye;

And, when it bursts, undaunted still,]

They meet it—and defy!


What shall we give them? Honor? Fame?

Ay, these, and something mere—’

The gratitude of free men’s hearts,

And tribute from their store;

Yet, not to satisfy a debt

’Twould beggar gold to pay,

But, for example to the world,

High gleaming to the day;

The gallant hearts—the hardy wights—

Who, mid the foam and swell,

Made famous in all time to come

The hapless “ Northern Belle.”


And those who died—the noble nine?—

When pitying sighs are borne,

We’ll not forget their orphan babes

And widows left forlorn.

If nought can dry those widows’ tears,

And heal the wounded heart,

To help them in their hour of need,

Let England do its part.

Small bounty—great in its intent—

May light their household fires;

And teach their babes in future days

To imitate their sires.


 By Charles Mackay. Jan. 14th, 1857.


In last week’s publication we gave a brief notice of the loss of this vessel, but the brave conduct of the Broadstairs boatmen, through whose exertions the crew of that vessel were rescued from their perilous situation, deserves a more extended report.

It was about three a.m. during the dreadful storm on Monday, the 5th inst., that the Northern Belle, from New York to London, came to an anchor off Kingsgate, about three-quarters of a mile from the shore. A few houns later she rode very heavily, and the sea at times broke completely over her. The crew having cut away the mizen and main masts, the ship rode easier; but as the gale increased, and as it was feared that she would part from her anchors and come on shore, a message was sent to Broadstairs to that effect. The Broadstairs boatmen, who are renowned for their alacrity, immediately harnessed themselves to the truck on which the life-boat—the Mary White—is always ready, and proceeded to drag it from Broadstairs to Kingsgate, a distance of two miles, over a heavy and hilly country. It was nine o’clock when the boat arrived at Kingsgate. By that time the news of the ship’s dangerous position was spread throughout the neighbourhood, and by eleven o’clock the cliffs wore crowded by persons of all ranks from Margate, Ramsgate, and Broadstairs. At 11.30 a.m. the multitude assembled were destined to witness a very painful sight. A Margate lugger, called the Victory, was hovering about the ship in the hope of rendering her some assistance, when a huge sea struck her and she suddenly disappeared from eight. She and her crew went down, and were no more seen. Another lugger, the Octan, of Margate, had at six a.m. put five hands on board the Northern Belle. At noon, it was expected every moment that the ship would run on shore upon the rocks beneath the cliff; but she held on, the crowd remaining until dark anxiously watching the vessel, despite the hail, sleet, and snow, which began to descend. Between ten and eleven on Monday night, the ship parted with her anchor and drove upon the rocks. At that hour it would have been utterly impossible to launch the life-boat, for the hail, sleet, and snow prevented the men from seeing any object whatever; and the spot whence it would be necessary to put off was distant more than half a mile. When day broke at between six and seven o'clock next morning, an awful sight was revealed to those on the cliffs and on the beach. With the naked eye could be seen the twenty-three men lashed to the rigging of the only mast left standing. With those poor creatures must have suffered during the night the reader will readily imagine.

At half-past seven o'clock on Tuesday morning the life-boat, the Mary White, was manned. Since July, 1850, when this boat was presented to the boatmen of Broadstairs by Mr. Thomas White, of Cowes, she has saved many lives, and her crew have encountered many dangers; but never had she been engaged in a matter of such peculiar peril. Ten brave men pulled through a boiling surf und raging sea, which several times hid them from sight, and filled all with alarm for their safety. When seven out of the twenty-three men upon the wreck had been got into the life-boat it was found necessary to cut her adrift and disentangle her from the ship. With these seven men the boat returned to the shore amid the cheers of the many persons assembled on the beach.

A second life-boat, which had also been wheeled from Broadstairs, to be ready in the event of the first life-boat being lost, was now launched, and went off to the wreck. She succeeded in bringing away fourteen. The two remaining were the captain and the pilot, who had been taken in at Dover. The former declared that he would rather die than leave his vessel, and the latter expressed a desire to remain and perish in the old man’s company. After an hour and a half had elapsed the life-boat for the third time left the shore in order to persuade these two men to save their lives. After much difficulty the crew of the boat succeeded in inducing them to come off the rigging and go to the land. It is impossible to describe the scene on the bench when it was known that all hands had been saved. A more affecting scene was seldom witnessed. There were tears of gratitude shed by the Americans, tears of joy and of pride by the Broadstairs boatmen. Benumbed as the shipwrecked men were, they could scarcely partake of the refreshment which was provided for them in the little warm parlour of “The Captain Digby,” the solitary inn which stands upon the cliff at Kingsgate.

At three o'clock on Tuesday the Mary White was dragged upon her truck by three horses into Broadstairs. In the boat sat her gallant crow. Tied to an American oar was the American standard which was so recently hoisted as a signal of distress. The tattered flag fluttered over the broken bows of the Mary White. It was thus that the boat passed through the streets of Broadstairs, amidst the joyous shouts of the inhabitants of the town. We have engraved this stirring scene.

Nearly all the brave fellows who, at the imminent peril of their own lives, were thus engaged in restoring to America the lives of nineteen of those seamen of whom she is so justly proud, are married men with large families of small children; and there is not a man among them who has not assisted in saving life, and who has not, at some period, lost a father, brother, or cousin in the same glorious cause.

A subscription has been opened to reward the deserving and self-sacrificing conduct of the crews of the two boats; and General Robert Campbell, the United States' Consul in London, has appealed in their behalf to the American residents in the metropolis; and Mr. Joseph Rodney Croskey has generously subscribed 50 to the above fund. Mr. Laing, in a letter to the Times, states the names of the crews of the boats, and adds some well-timed details:—

Crew of the Mary White.— John Castle, George Castle, William Hiller (junior), Robert Miller, James Rowe, George Emptage, Edward Emptage. This boat saved seven hands.

Crew of the Calmer White on her first trip to the wreck.— John Cowell, William Wales, Jethrow Miller, John Sandwell, George Emptage, Thomas Holborn, William Ralph, Robert Gilbert, Robert Parker. Saved fourteen hands.

Crew of the Culmer White on her second trip to save the Captain and Pilot.— John Cowell, William Wales, Jethrow Miller, Jerry Walker, Fred Lawrence, Thomas Sandwell, Robert Simpson, James Bere, Robert Parker, George Emptage, Alfred Emptage.

These men, sir, were not labouring under any species of excitement when they engaged in the perilous duty which they performed so nobly and so well.

Under the impression that these men would never return—the impression of all who witnessed their departure from the shore—I watched their countenances closely, There was nothing approaching bravado in their demeanour—nothing to give a spectator an idea that they were about to engage in a matter of life or death to themselves and the crew of the ship clinging to the fore rigging of the Northern Belle. They had no hope of a "decoration," or of pecuniary reward when, with a coolness of manner and a calmness of mind which contracted strongly with the energy of their movements, they "stripped to their shirts*' and bounded into the Mary White and the Culmer White to storm batteries of billows far more appalling to the human mind than batteries surmounted by cannon, and bristling with bayonets. There could be no question about the heroism of these men.


The "Captain Digby" is possibly one of the oldest drinking houses in Thanet. Lord Holland originally built it as a ‘Bede House' between 1763 and 1768. This was a place for drinking and entertainment by Lord Holland's guests from the impressive Holland House some hundred yards to the south.

The name Captain Digby comes from Robert, a nephew of Lord Holland who commanded a warship of the English fleet in 1759. It is recorded that when Lord Holland died he left a sum of money so that Captain Digby's health could be drunk every year by the customers. Also in his will was a sum to provide a bottle of wine to every young woman within the parish about to give birth. Sadly both these provisions seemed to have lapsed through the years!

By 1797 the ‘Kentish Gazette' records that the tenant, Mr Herbert, welcomes numerous guests from all the Thanet towns arriving by horse at the ‘Noble Captain Digby'.

On 18th October 1861 the larger part of The Captain Digby fell over the cliff in a severe storm. A gentleman's magazine of that date reports, “The Noble Captain Digby fell into the sea, except part of one wing where a servant boy slept”.

The last remains of the ‘Noble Captain Digby', a flint gazebo situated right on the edge of the cliff, fell into the sea below during the winter of 1998. The flint rubble was used to build flower planters in the gardens at ‘The Pavillion' on Viking Bay, Broadstairs.

In 1816 the Captain Digby was recreated some yards away from the original site in the stables of the original Bede House. The present day building is almost the same as the 1816 building but through the years has undergone several alterations such as the restaurant, which was added in 1973. I am informed that this was a Truman tied house at the time.

Beneath the inn is a large subterranean cavern reputed to have been used by local Kingsgate smuggler, Joss Snelling and his infamous gang. Up to a few years ago one could reach the beach below by going through a trap door in the cellar.

In 2001 The Captain Digby won the highly prestigious ‘Family Pub of the Year' award at the National Publican Awards.

Robert and Hollie have taken the helm here at The Captain Digby and hope that you have enjoyed your visit, as much as they have enjoyed looking after you, and in the infamous words of 1797 tenant, Mr Herbert – “Haste ye come back again!”

Dick Barter informs me that licensee Frank Sparrowhawk (1966-70+) had been part of Winston Churchill's personal bodyguard during WWII.


Kent Gazette Reports 13 September 1805.

Kingsgate, Isle Of Thanet.

To be SOLD By AUCTION, By Messrs SKINNER, DYKE, and Co. On Thursday the 17th October, at 12 o'clock, at Garraway's House, 'Change Alley, Cornhill, London, in 4 lots, if not previously deposed of by private contract.

Lot 1. A CAPITAL FREEHOLD RESIDENCE of handsome elevation, and suitable for a family of every description, pleasure grounds, garden, and surrounding land, containing in the whole about Twenty Acres, formerly the seat of the Late Henry Lord Holland most delightfully situate at Kingsgate, in the Isle of Thanet, commanding an uninterrupted view of the sea, and an agreeable distance from the fashionable and much admired watering places of Margate and Broadstairs.

Lot 2. An excellent freehold residence, situate in front of the sea, called the "Castle," a spacious and stately structure, with coach-house, stabling, and other convenience offices lawn, and adjoining land, and containing near five acres.

Lot 3. A freehold estate, consisting of the established and well accustomed Tavern, the sign of the "Noble Captain Digby," with stabling, and other suitable erections, and about an Acre and a Half of land, most desirable situated for business, now in the occupation of Mr. Denn Dunkin, tenant at will, who has noticed to quit at Christmas.

Lot 4. A freehold Estate, consisting of a substantial brick-house, barn, stable, and out-buildings, garden, and about 30 acres of land, extending to the sea, in the occupation of Mr. Denn Dunkin, who has notice a quit at Christmas. With this lot will be sold, the Pillar erected to the memorial of the Right Honourable Thomas Harley, Lord Mayor of London, in the year 1768, and also two other erections, called Neptune's Temple and Arc Runchim.

To be viewed by tickets only, which may be had of Mr. Gore, Cecil Square, Margate, or of Messers Skinner, Dyke, and Co. Aldergate-street, London, who are authorized to treat for the sale by private contract.

Printed particulars may be had at the "Digby Tavern;" also at "Mitchener's Hotel," Margate; "Kings Head Inn," Ramsgate; "Fountain," and "King's Head Inns," Canterbury; "Rose," Sittingbourne; "Crown," Rochester; "Bull and George," Dartford; "Ship," Dover; and at the place of sale.

Plans of the lots maybe seen at the "Castle," Kingsgate.


Kentish Gazette 5 January 1819.

A serious accident had well nigh happened to Mr. Surman, on Wednesday last, he in company with two friends of this town went to attend a sale at Kingsgate, which not being over before dark, Mr. Surman left the house on his return home and little mellow, but being warned by his companions to take care of the Cliff, and in his anxiety to avoid this Scilla he fell into Chnrybelis, tumbling over a bank into a horse-pond, with his head half immersed in the water and his heels in the air he vociferated most loudly for help. One of his companions, a well-known disciple of Momas, (ancient Green personification of satire and mockery) proceeded to his assistance, but the ludicrous position of the old gentleman (his hat and wig were floating on the waves) so far excited the risible facilities of his friend as totally to incapacitate from giving the desired assistants; fortunately the third gentleman making his appearance, Mr. Surnam was dragged by his heels from his perilous situation, but so reduced by alarm and by his unpleasant immerse, that he was unable to stand. He was conveyed back to the public house, and missing his hat and wig a search was made for them - his hat was recovered, but his wig (from whatever cause) had sunk to rise no more. As Mr. Surman was unable to proceed home on foot, Mr. Hill, the landlord of the Inn, put his horse in his light cart, and the whole party proceeded in this compliance towards Margate - when, as if the Demon of Mischief had levelled his whole shaft at Mr. Surman's bare sconce, the seat of the vehicle gave way, and the whole party were precipitated to their foundations in the cart; in this second downfall, the lately found hat missing the adhesive sociability of his old friends the wig, flew off in a tangent, and in spite of every search was nowhere to be found. Another hat was, however, procured from a neighbouring cottage, and the party at length reached home in safety.


Kentish Weekly Post or Canterbury Journal 08 August 1823.


This was an indictment by information of John Parkinson, employed in the coast blockade. 'The evidence went to shew that the defendants had several times offered bribes to the informant, to permit the illegal landing of contraband goods, at which Parkinson was seemingly conniving, and at the same time acquainting his officers with the particulars. The defendants Richard and Elizabeth Hills keep the sign of the Captain Digby, at Ramsgate, and Cook, the other defendant, was a resident of the same place. On the 24th of July they offered him 3, to assist in landing 20 tubs, which he apparently consented to, and at the moment gave the alarm, when the whole cargo fell an easy prey to the coast blockade.


Morning Advertiser 25 November 1823.


The Solicitor-General prayed the judgment of the Court against Richard Cooke, Richard Hill and Elizabeth Hill, for a conspiracy to defraud the revenue.

Mr. Justice Best read the notes of the trial which took place at the Kent Assizes, before Mr. Baron Graham. The conspiracy was to land smuggled spirits on the coast of Kent.

[Elizabeth Hill having nearly fainted, was directed to be taken out into the fresh air.]

The affidavits of the defendants set forth several instances of dangerous interferences to rescue Revenue Officers in storms and threatened shipwrecks, and various complaints with which they were afflicted. The present conviction would operate as a warning to them for their lives.

Mr. Adolphus, jun. addressed the Court in mitigation.

The Solicitor-General in aggravation.

Mr. Justice Bayley pronounced judgment. - I shall relieve Elizabeth Hill at once, on account of the state of her health; the Court is not disposed to inflict any personal punishment, but Richard Hill her husband, must enter into his own recognizance in 100, for her good behaviour for five years.— Richard Hill, you had the benefit of a licence from the Magistrates, and yet you were guilty of this very serious offence. You are to be imprisoned in St. Augustine, near Canterbury, for six months in the House of Correction, and pay a fine of 50; you, Richard Cooke, to be imprisoned in the same place for six months; and that you enter into real cognizance's for five years each in 50, and two sureties in 25, for each of you.


From the Kentish Gazette or Canterbury Chronicle, 16 January 1829.

DAVIS, Richard:

On Thursday last an inquest was held at the "Captain Digby" public house at Kingsgate before Matthew KENNETT Esq. Mayor and coroner for Dover and its liberties on view of the body of Richard DAVIS, when the jury returned a verdict of “found dead”. It appeared that the deceased who was servant to an officer in the Blockade Service had been missing since the evening of the 7th inst, when it is supposed he fell over the cliff in the darkness of the evening. The surveyors of the parish of St Peter's it is understood are about to erect a fence to prevent any further accident.


From The Era (London, England), Sunday, June 9, 1839; Issue 37.


During the past week the following important taverns and inns have been submitted to public competition at the Mart and Garraway's (including:-)

By Mr. Bullock, a freehold inn or public-house, situate at Kingsgate, Isle of Thanet, known as the "Captain Digby," with stables, out-buildings, bowling-green, and right of way of tunnel to the sea-shore, 150.


From the Kentish Gazette, 28 February 1843.


On Friday se'nnight a fall of cliff took place at Kings-gate; one of the Coast Guard on duty had been leaning against the rail just before it went over with the cliff. The carriage road is quite stopped; a consultation has taken place between the local magistrates with the surveyor of the parish, on the subject. The inroads of the sea have been constant for some years at Kingsgate; scarcely a vestige of the former "Digby Tavern" is remaining, a small part of the foundation only. Within a few years carriages passed between the Old Tavern and edge of the cliff.


Canterbury Journal, Kentish Times and Farmers' Gazette, Saturday 17 August 1844.

Important and extremely desirable freehold landed property, in the Isle of Thanet, comprising a distinguished Marine Residence, two capital Freehold Residences, a compact Freehold Farm, and a well accustomed Inn.

Mr. Leifchild has been honoured with peremptory instructions from the proprietor to sell by public auction, at the "Albion Hotel," Ramsgate, August 21st, at to precisely in various lots,


That desirable and valuable Freehold Property, known as the well-accustomed "Captain Digby Tavern and Hotel," most eligibly situate by the side of the high road at Ramsgate, leading from Margate to Broadstairs and Ramsgate.


From The Essex Standard, and General Advertiser for the Eastern Counties (Colchester, England,) Friday, July 17, 1846.

NOTICE OF SALE Near RAMSGATE, in the Isle of Thanet

Includes:- Desirable FREEHOLD PROPERTY, known as the well accustomed "Captain Digby Tavern and Hotel," most eligibly situate by the side of the high road to Ramsgate, leading from Margate to Broadstairs and Ramsgate.

The whole of the property may be viewed any time preceding the sale, and particulars had of Messrs. Winter, Williams and Co.,16, Bedford Row; at the Libraries and Hotels, Dover, Broadstairs, St. Peter's, Ramsgate, Margate, and Canterbury; at Garraway's; and of Messrs. Leifchild, 62, Moorgate Street. (Messrs. Leifchild are the auctioneers and the other properties being auctioned at the same time include "Kingsgate Castle.")


From the Kentish Chronicle and General Advertiser, 21 December, 1861. Price 1 1/2d.


The monthly sitting of this court was held at the Town Hall on Monday, before Charles Harwood, Esq.. judge. There were only 20 plaints issued, 13 of which were settled out of Court, and the only calling for a report were the following:—

Wales v. Godden.

This was an action brought in the Court of Common Pleas and sent down to Margate for hearing. The claim was for 4 14s. 4d. for grocery supplied. The plaintiff formerly kept a grocer’s shop at Broadstairs, and the defendant keeps the “Digby Tavern,” at Kingsgate.

An articled clerk from the office of Mr. Wetherfield, Loudon, with permission of his Honour, appeared for the plaintiff. The defendant was represented by Mr Towne.

The plaintiff was called, and produced her book, in which the defendant appeared to be indebted to the plaintiff in the amount of 4 14s. 4d. The plaintiff residing in London an action was brought in the Court of Common Pleas, and the defendant pleaded never indebted, and that he had paid the amount previous to being sued.

The plaintiff was severely cross-examined by Mr. Towne.

The defendant’s wife was then called, and denied the debt of 4 14s. 4d., but acknowledged she might owe plaintiff about 20s. The debt from plaintiff showing was incurred in 1859, and since then she had had a fire, in which her books were burnt.

His Honour held there was no direct delivery of the goods proved, and in consequence of the fire the plaintiff was placed in a dilemma.

The verdict must, therefore, be for the defendant.


Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald, Saturday 20 September 1890.

Broadstairs. Adjourned Licensing Sessions.

The adjourned Annual Licensing Session for Dover and its liberties was held at Broadstairs, on Wednesday; Sir. R. Dickeson being the presiding justice. The whole of the existing licences were renewed, with the exception of that of the "Captain Digby," Kingsgate.

A licence was granted to sell spirits at the "Westgate Private Hotel," which was the only new local licence granted by the worship.

The Licence Of The Captain Digby.

We understand that Mr. Burrows, solicitor, has entered an appeal to the Kent County Quarter Sessions against the decision of the Dover licensing justices at Broadstairs, last week, refusing to grant a renewal of the licence of the "Captain Digby," Kingsgate.

The tenant of the public house "Captain Digby," of Westgate, having last year, and this year been complained of to the Magistrates, and fined for irregularities, the Bench, after enquiries from Superintendent Hewell, resolved to refuse to renew the licence. The house was situated in an outlying district, and owing to its situation, was somewhat difficult to look after.


Thanet Times, Tuesday 14 May, 1963.

Marriott. Sparrowhawk.

The engagement is announced between Ralph Marriott, son of Mrs. S. Roseenbers of Toronto, Canada and Janice Patricia Sparrowhawk, oldest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. A. W. Sparrowhawk, of the "Captain Digby," Kingsgate, Kent.


East Kent Times and Mail, Friday 22 December 1972.

Death of Former Publican.

A man whose face was familiar to many of the customers having a drink and chat at the "Captain Digby" public house, Kingsgate, died at the weekend.

He was licensee Mr. Alf Sparrowhawk, who retired from the clifftop inn only a few weeks ago.

He and his wife moved into a flat at Kingsgate, but Mr. Sparrowhawk was taken ill and admitted to Ramsgate Hospital where he died on Friday.

he leaves a widow and two daughters and the funeral took place at Thanet Crematorium on Wednesday. Mr. Sparrowhawk was in his early sixties.


Thanet Times, 2 August, 1977.

Drama at sea.

Holidaymakers out for an evening seafront stroll on Friday watched as Margate lifeboat was launched to go to the aid of a stricken cruiser, the Sovereign.

Sovereign rescueSovereign rescueSovereign rescue

Which had gone aground on the rocks below the "Captain Digby" at Kingsgate Bay while on a journey from Tower Bridge to Sandwich.

Earlier Margate Inshore Rescue Lifeboat had made its way to the scene but had broken down before they reach the Sovereign. The lifeboat made a rendezvous with the inshore craft and the two men crew rowed ashore with a line to tow off the Sovereign which had damaged its side.

With the help of the two men in the cruiser, brothers Ray and Lou Lansley, of London both the cruiser and the inshore craft was secured to the tow line and the lifeboat towed both back to the safety of Margate Harbour.

Sovereign rescueSovereign rescueSovereign rescue

On the spot pictures our Chief Photographer, Bruce Seatle.


From the By Secret Drinker, 20 September 2019.

Secret Drinker reviews the Captain Digby pub, Kingsgate Bay, Broadstairs.

As a regular on the Viking Trail, I’ve cycled past the "Captain Digby," near Broadstairs, several times but have never ventured in.

Arriving on two wheels in lycra and with the sun still shining on the righteous I decided to sit at a picnic bench outside. Fortunately for me all the little darlings are now back in the hands of long-suffering teachers so both the pub and garden were relatively empty apart from a few token wrinklies.

You’re guaranteed great beach views, I could even see the wind farm.

Or at least they were until a legion of German exchange students invaded the place and started ordering soft drinks to accompany their packed lunches – I was certainly glad I got to the bar and placed my order ahead of the masses from Bavaria.

There was a sign stating by order of the captain only food and drink purchased on the premises can be consumed but clearly the captain was turning a blind eye while I was in.

Captain Digby food sign 2019

From my seat there was a spectacular view of the beach many feet below and again, the additional signs making it crystal clear non-patrons using the car park will be fined 150.

Popping inside to order I was informed Molly was my server and she kindly offered me a taste of both the Adnams Ghost Ship and the Gadds No 7 that's brewed just up the road. Both were very good but I opted for the former as it was just slightly tastier and fizzier, which suited my mood. It had a thick, creamy head which stayed fresh right to the bottom of the pint.

There is dark panelling everywhere and whilst the pub obviously prides itself on being family friendly it also oozes historic charm. There is not only a full-on indoor pirate playground for the sprogs but also an extensive pirate-themed outside area too. And, to be fair, the pub’s so vast and designed in such a way you hardly hear them.

Captain Digby 2019

Captain Digby, near Broadstairs.

Having worked up an appetite and listened to reader’s requests for details on the food as often as possible I scoured the menu.

I opted to start with a garlic bread and cheese which was fantastic, ciabatta might not be everyone’s idea of the best base for this treat but I really enjoyed it. I followed up with a tuna/sweetcorn jacket potato. This was also good, though the skin did taste a little sweet, as though it might have been coated in honey – the salad that came with it, served in a small colander, was fresh and tangy.

There is a stack of seating, both inside and out, and the place must be mobbed on a sunny Saturday. Inside I bumped into a couple of Sky engineers installing cabling so it seems the current three screens I spotted may be well be increasing in number.

Captain Digby inside 2019

The main feature inside is dark wood panelling.

Captain Digby play area 2019

There are pirate-themed play areas both inside and outside at the Captain Digby.

I did see a fruit machine but there is no pool table or darts – it really is family orientated, so much so that I noticed there is a toilet specifically for children. As a side note I think the height of the picnic table benches is also set specially for children, or at least my back thought this when I got up to leave!

The adult facilities were clean, tidy and fresh smelling with the usual advertising posters we have come to expect. There’s also a massive car to match the size of the venue, just make sure you heed the captain’s warning and buy something from the pub.

This is a full on family pub that is proud to cater for the masses and you can’t deny it does offer some spectacular seaside views.


Town pub reopened after 34 years under original name


Food is served daily from noon to 9pm, or 9.30pm on Saturdays

Captain Digby garden 2019

There are a sea of picnic tables available to those who want to dine alfresco.

Captain Digby sign 2019

Captain Digby is proud to celebrate its clifftop history.

Captain Digby side entrance 2019

The side entrance has hanging baskets either side of the steps.


From an email received 5 December 2017.

We have a horse brass of the "Captain Digby." I am not sure of its history as I inherited it from my mother. I recall going to Margate as a child (55 years ago?) but don't know if it originates from that.

Captain Digby horse brassCaptain Digby horse brass

Would love to know the background of it if you know.



Geoff Summers.



HERBERT Mr 1797+

HILLS Richard 1823-51

HILLS Elizabeth 1851+ (widow age 73 in 1851Census)

GODDEN George 1861-71+ (also farmer age 69 in 1871Census)

WOODRUFF Sarah Mrs 1874+

DRAY Frank 1881-82+ (age 26 in 1881Census)

DRAY Lilian Jane Mrs 1890-91+ (age 36 in 1891Census)

DRAY Sillias J 1891+

SCOTT George E 1901-03+ (age 57 in 1901Census) Kelly's 1903

HOBBY William George 1911-22+ (age 30 in 1911Census)

LOVERSEED Bert 1925-28+ Next pub licensee had

ALDRIDGE Alfred Victor May/1930-Sept/37 Next pub licensee had

COOPER Lilla E 1939+ (age 37 in 1939)

SPARROWHAWK Frank "Alf" 1966-Dec/72


Kelly's 1903From the Kelly's Directory 1903



If anyone should have any further information, or indeed any pictures or photographs of the above licensed premises, please email:-