H.G. Wells originally came to the seaside town of Sandgate with his family in 1896 to try to recover from one of his many periods of poor health, which he believed were exacerbated by the pollution and stress of London.
The move from London really did seem to improve the English writer’s mental and physical health, and proved to be productive for his work as well. It was during this time that Wells wrote many of his greatest books, including The Island of Doctor Moreau, The War of the Worlds, and The Invisible Man. Wells also regularly hosted many illustrious fellow writers and friends such as Joseph Conrad, Arnold Bennett, George Bernard Shaw, Winston Churchill, Ford Maddox Fox, Edward Sassoon, and Henry James while living in Sandgate.
Wells’s famous novels led him to go down in history as one of the most influential writers of the early 20th century, often called the father of science fiction. But his more provocative books, such as A Modern Utopia, and his vocal and unconventional beliefs regarding monogamy and marriage, raised many eyebrows and became the source of much malicious gossip. Wells’s behavior didn’t seem to help matters and he continually ruffled feathers by his proclivity for womanizing and engaging in extramarital affairs, and cuckolding a number of powerful men both locally and in London high society. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this would eventually cause a scandal in the small Kentish town, resulted in his ostracism and social downfall, and prompting the writer and his family to move back to London.
Despite this, and even after Wells’s death in 1946, the town of Sandgate continued to be associated with the author, and eminent writers including Jorge Luis Borges visited the town specifically to see the house where Wells had lived and written his most famous works. Today, Sandgate has come to embrace its link to this famous historic resident. There are references to the writer all over town, including a local H.G. Wells Society that holds a short story competition in the neighboring town of Folkestone every year. A small plaque marks the writer’s first Sandgate house, where he lived from 1896 until 1901, when he built a larger family home known as the Spade House.