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Does Queen owe Sandwich £8 billion over 450-year-old debt?

By Eleanor Perkins

A royal promise made in Sandwich almost 450 years ago has yet to be honoured, but the current monarch has politely refused to be drawn on the 'debt' - estimated at £8 billion.

In 1572, Queen Elizabeth I agreed to pay for dredging the River Stour, but the money never materialised.

The paperwork outlining the historic agreement was unearthed by Haven Cafe’s Breakfast Club in Sandwich in December last year, who decided to take up the cause.

Clay Sluder, Charlie Bourner, Ron Coleman, Jim Minnock, Jim Pevy and Barry Hopkins, members of the Haven Cafe Breakfast Club, with their letter from the Queen. Picture: Chris Davey
Clay Sluder, Charlie Bourner, Ron Coleman, Jim Minnock, Jim Pevy and Barry Hopkins, members of the Haven Cafe Breakfast Club, with their letter from the Queen. Picture: Chris Davey

Members wrote to Her Majesty, asking if there was any word yet on the money.

Recently, they received a polite response from Lady-in-Waiting Philippa de Pass.

It read: “The Queen was interested to know of the historical accounts you discovered in which you say Queen Elizabeth I came to Sandwich in 1572.

"Although unable to reply to you personally, Her Majesty hopes you have enjoyed looking at the activities and records written so very many years ago.

“I am to send you The Queen’s good wishes and thank you for your thought for Her Majesty in writing as you did.”

Member Ron Coleman said: “We had almost lost hope when the reply came but we were pleasantly surprised, and indeed honoured, that she responded.

“Now then, the lack of a substantive reply to the serious matter of the silting of the Stour is less than satisfactory and we feel that a more considered explanation is necessary.

"If Her Majesty believes that a polite brush off is going to settle the issue I fear she is going to be very disappointed.

The reply the club received. Picture: Chris Davey
The reply the club received. Picture: Chris Davey

"One of our members, an accountant, has calculated the subsequent loss of income to Sandwich over the 444 years allowing for inflation to be not less than £8 billion.

"We don’t want to be unreasonable and suggest that our present mayor should settle for £7 billion."

The group, who describe themselves as a dozen or so retired gentlefolk, meet in the King Street cafe six days a week to discuss a range of issues.

The letter, from Sandringham House, has been framed and is now on the wall of the breakfast club. Every meeting, the 60 to 91-year-olds close with a loyal toast, and marmalade.

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