A Reunion Diary

by Mary Volberding

Tuesday, September 16, 2008 (TSFA reunion)

Michael J Sackett (Canada) and I, Mary E Volberding (Arizona, USA), finally arrived at the Royal Harbour Hotel in Ramsgate in the early evening after having visited Dover Castle in the afternoon. We are a day early for the TSFA reunion. It is a lovely little hotel, on Nelson Crescent, in a row of houses, that was once 2 adjoining townhouses, built in 1799, with 4 floors of rooms (and no lift!).

Royal Harbour Hotel
Royal Harbour Hotel
(Picture: Arabella Sackett)

Checked in and found out that 4 others had already arrived, but that Chris Sackett (Guernsey), Michael's first cousin, wasn't staying here, even though he'd been here the night before. We brought in our two small suitcases and carried them up one flight of stairs to the first floor. It is a nice room, overlooking the garden, but quite small, with a tiny shower in the small bathroom. We then went in search of Chris, who was staying at a hotel down the hill (Kent International). Michael called him on his cell phone and when he answered, discovered that Chris was walking up the street towards us!

We returned to the hotel and went up to George and Arabella Sackett's (London, UK) room (there are no phones in the rooms). Arabella said they had arranged to meet downstairs with Steven and Debbie Barbee (New York, USA) in a few minutes. We all went down the hill to the first restaurant on the left at the bottom of the stairs, an Italian restaurant (La Magnolia). The food was very good, with large portions, and the 7 of us certainly seemed to gel. Chris came back with us and stayed for awhile to talk and then back down the hill to his hotel. (The hotel here had lost his reservation, and only had a tiny garrett room available, which he didn't want for a full week, so he stayed one night and then moved.) We do have free internet access in our room, even though connection is only at 11Mbps. It is good to finally have access to the outside world again. The hotel has an honor system (writing entries in a notebook for drinks consumed, including specialty lattes and cappuchinos, with a self-service coffee maker) and puts out a lovely free assortment of cheese, biscuits and cookies in the evening. Steven and Debbie went upstairs first, then the four of us went up about 11pm. I stayed on the computer until almost 1am.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008 (TSFA reunion)

We woke early, went back to sleep and didn't get down to breakfast until 8:30am. We were the first of our group to be down, as it turned out. A full English hot breakfast is available: eggs, bacon, sausage, beans, mushrooms, tomatoes. The cold spread was wonderful: fresh-squeezed orange juice, many kinds of cereal, two kinds of bread and waffles to toast, croissants, muffins, with butter and pots of 4 kinds of jam, a pan with fresh honey still in the comb, several kinds of cheese, a whole roast ham, tomato halves, delicious fresh fruit, whole and as a compote, plus strawberries and yogurt. All kinds of tea and coffee and hot chocolate are also available in another room.

Everyone except Arabella decided to go for a walk back to a church we'd seen on the way into town. It turns out it wasn't really open, even though the door was (just for cleaning). We talked to the Irish girl, who was raised in New Jersey and married an American, coming back 5 years ago when her husband died, who now cleans the church. St Augustine's church is only open for the church services. It is covered in flint; really lovely on the outside. There was a Grange next door that has a Cartoon room that was open Wed from 2-4pm. The church grounds with graveyard were open. We wandered around and found a gravestone that had been carved by Sackett of Church Hill. (It turns out the Sackett stonemason still has an office by the St Lawrence's church up on the hill). Had a nice walk, much of it along a nice boardwalk along the coast. It was actually a nice day, partially overcast. When we got back, we found out that we'd just missed a live radio interview that Arabella had done.

More reunion attendees arrived before lunch: Tom and Toni Smith and grandson Christopher Goss (Connecticut, USA), Jean Carpenter (Virginia, USA) and her brother, Mike Trickey (Texas, USA). We all visited for awhile and then walked around the corner to the Foy Boat pub for lunch about 2pm. I had left a message for Ralph and Elizabeth Sackett (Lichfield, Staffordshire), Michael and Chris's second cousin, so they came and joined us just as we were finishing lunch. Ralph and Elizabeth went back to their room. Most of the others went to the RAF Manston Spifire and Hurricane Museum. Michael, George and I decided to walk into town. We walked down as far as the lower road goes, down to the beach, along to the end of the pier to a restaurant (that isn't currently open, at least not when we were there, but lit up at night) and back. George and Michael stopped at the Maritime Museum. I thought I remembered that the Grange was open until 5pm, so took off by myself back up the hill. Got there at 4:15pm, to find it had closed at 4pm, so I just walked back and decided to do some work on this diary. Ralph and Elizabeth were just returning to the hotel (having scoped out the site of the Mayor's reception) when I got back. Michael and George arrived just after all the rest of them returned. Michael's back was hurting, so he's gone to lie down for awhile.

Brian Sackett (Margate, UK), who had heard we were here because a friend gave him the article that was in the paper and called Chris, is supposed to join us shortly before the female Mayor's (Councillor Kay Dark) reception at 7:30pm. He actually arrived about 6:30pm. We visited with him for a few minutes before we went up to change.

We all convened about 7pm for the walk down and up the other hill to a large building, Ramsgate City Hall, with a British flag flying on the top. We were met by Janet Dale, who is the Mayor's assistant. We were shown into the Mayor's Parlour, to which only a few are invited, so it was quite an honor.

Ramsgate Mayor picture
Mayor of Ramsgate with Sackett descendants
(Picture: Mary Volberding)

The mayor is only the 5th woman, out of 100 Ramsgate Mayors, and since she is divorced (with 3 sons and twin daughters (28)), one of her sons, Adam Dark, was her escort. She is a working mother, who works full-time as a therapist. When she first met us, she had on a business suit with her chain of office around her neck. She is very down to earth and quite enjoyed herself. She presented to Tom, as the representative of the TSFA, a framed copy of the coat of arms of Ramsgate. One of the pictures is with her and all the actual Sackett descendants. We presented her with one of our light blue TSFA shirts. Janet served us wine and juice and some munchies. We did a toast to the Mayor. After many pictures, she decided to don her regal robes and her hat. Michael took a picture of me wearing her hat. Afterwards we went into the council chambers and her son took pictures of all of us with the Mayor. We were there almost 1 hours.

Ramsgate Council Chamber picture
In the Council Chamber, Ramsgate
(Picture: Mary Volberding)

She told us about the official celebration commemorating the Battle of Britain, which will be a parade culminating in a ceremony at the St Lawrence church here in Ramsgate, Sunday morning about 10:45am. We'll already be gone, but many of the others will still be here. Steven, Debbie, Jean, Mike, Michael and I went to the great Fish and Chips place (Peter's) we'd found on our walk. The others went back to La Magnolia and they were still eating when we came by on the way back to the hotel. We went up to bed early.

Thursday, September 18, 2008 (TSFA reunion)

According to the schedule we didn't have to be in St Peter's until 9:45am, so we didn't hurry in the morning, even though we'd been up since 7:30am. We came down about 8am and had to wait for a table. We'd already ordered a hot breakfast, when we found out we were actually supposed to meet to leave at 8:45am. After one false turn, we followed Chris, who didn't go the most straight forward way, as far as we could determine, but we made it to the church (Parish Church of St. Peter (the Apostle) in Thanet) in St. Peter's, which is part of Broadstairs. There we were met by the Town Crier, who introduced the Sackett family to the Mayor of Broadstairs, David Lawson, his lady Vice-Mayor, Councillor Mave Saunders, and the Mayor's Sergeant at Arms, all in traditional dress.

Mike Sackett & Broadstairs Mayor
(Picture: Mary Volberding)

I took a picture of Michael with the Mayor. We were met there by Susan (Sackett) Wood (Whitstable, Kent), her sister Janet (Sackett) Tutt and her husband Peter Tutt (Maidstone, Kent) and her sister Desire (Sackett) Hilden (Ashford, Kent) and one who had just seen the article in the newspaper: Will(iam) Friend (a Sackett descendant), who still farms (East Northdown Farm, Margate Kent) the original farm willed to the Friend family from Richard Sackett. According to Will, Dane Court, the area which starts just outside the church grounds, and much more (1000 acres) was once all owned by the Sacketts. {Reference Dane Court, St Peter's in Thanet, by Peter J Hills St Peter's 1972}.

Our tour guide was Shiela. The tour was one of the best I've ever had, with costumed characters of yesteryear telling the stories at each stop. (The tours are given Thursdays, May–September, and can be booked at St Peter's Village Tour.) We toured the church, then walked through the churchyard (second longest in England), and did a walking tour which included Reverend John Wesley, Mocketts farm, Village Sign and stocks, Nuckell's Almshouse, The Coves (with tunnels used by smugglers), site of an air crash and memorial (where we were shown a 1906 picture with a sign for Sackett and Sons Builders, registered Plumbers and certified Sanitary Inspectors), Ranelagh Gardens, Blagdon Cottages, and the Red Lion.

John Wesley
John Wesley preaches to some of the Sackett group
(Picture: Ralph Sackett)
The proprietors of Ranelagh Gardens
The proprietors of Ranelagh Gardens
(Picture: Mary Volberding)

There is a brass in the church for John Sackett ("Here Lyeth interred ye Corps of John Sackett late of the Parrish who yielded his spirit into the Saviours hands in ye 59 Yere of his age upon ye 24 of February Anno Dei 1623"). We then had lunch at the Red Lion pub across the street from the church (in a building rebuilt after the original one story building with a thatched roof was used as an isolation hospital for smallpox cases, and the cellars were the morgue with an underground tunnel directly to the church). Took pictures of both of us with the Town Crier.

After lunch we were met by Linda Drew (Kent) and her sister Julie Drew Presnell (Kent), who also had just seen the article in the newspaper, and are Sackett's through the Mockett line, and joined us for the first part of the cemetery tour (and were disappointed the church was not still open). Verena-Maria Martin-Dickin, who is a Sackett through her deceased mother, Joan, who is descended from Ann Sackett-Mockett whose ancestors have been in Thanet since the Viking times, her husband, Dr Paul Martin-Dickin and her father, Derek Martin also came, but Verena-Maria is not well and was not able to do the cemetery tour, so they just sat on a bench in the churchyard. Paul had an article for Chris, so he went over and talked to them and invited them to join us at Jill Atwood's at 4pm. We were put into small groups and did a graveyard tour, which I had thought would be mainly of Sacketts. Only one Sackett grave and several Mockett graves were part of the tour. We saw one other Sackett grave, which according to Linda has incorrect information, but I'm not sure what the correct information is. (According to Arabella, Linda was supposed to join us on Saturday, and I would've asked her, but she didn't show up.)

After all of us had finished the cemetery tour we drove up Dane Court Road to Sackett's Hill (it's about a twenty minute walk) and Jill Attwell's cottage from 1633, that is next to the abandoned (and derelict) original Sackett's farmhouse. The house is on the historical registry, so would have to be restored, rather than torn down. The outbuildings could be torn down, but new buildings would have to be on the site of the existing buildings. It was being auctioned for 750,000, but didn't make the reserve. It is totally overgrown. Tom, George and I approached from one side and then Christopher Goss, Michael and I made it through the barn and to the other side of the house from a different direction, and Michael and Christopher used boards to clear a path almost to the side of the house. One of the outbuildings has obviously been in a fire. There is an interesting board in a beam of the barn, which has an inscription "TMTX ST 1851" etched into it. We told the others we had gotten through and most of them went up to see the house and barn. There is no real road that currently goes to the house. The Sackett's Hill (which is not that much of a hill) road goes to the Young's nursery, which is where Jill works. Jill apologised for not letting us into her cottage, but said she hadn't gotten as much done on it as she thought she would've when she offered to have us there. The Youngs, Jackie and Martin, live in a trailer at the top of a hill and it was in their yard that we had tea.

After we went back to the hotel, Michael took a nap and when he woke up we walked up the hill to the corner to The Churchill pub. We had our usual dessert in the hotel and talked for a short while with some of the others before going up to our room.

Friday, September 19, 2008 (TSFA reunion)

We got up early. After a light breakfast, I walked back to St Augustine's Abbey church to be there at 8:30am and waited until 8:45am, but the church door never opened. I did get onto the grounds of the Abbey and photographed their garden. I got back to the hotel in time for the TSFA meeting which was held in the breakfast room. The secretary will have full minutes. The things I thought were of most importance were the DNA study (and certainly hope all male Sacketts with the Sackett surname will have their DNA done. It is painless.), recommendation to move the next reunion from next year to two years out, with another one in England in 4 years, and to work on getting a plaque for Simon in Cambridge.

After the meeting, about 11am, we again carpooled (Michael and I went with Chris) to St Peter's to do some research at St Peter's church hall. I was hoping to do some research on the Sacketts buried in the cemetery there, but the woman who had that information was not available. There were 2 books provided for us. Jean and Elizabeth were working on one with actual entries (in chronological order), while I had a book that was just an index of births, marriages and deaths of actual records that are now stored at Canterbury, beginning in 1727, but at least it was in alphabetical order, so it was easy to find births and deaths, and only marriages had to be closely scrutinized. I compiled a list of the Sacketts I found and will compare that list to the records Chris has, to see if there is any information that has not been researched from Canterbury. I don't expect to find any, but it's always possible.

Most of us went back to Ramsgate, to a lunch place that doesn't serve alcohol, at the end of the row of restaurants, down the hill from the hotel, so we could have a speedy lunch. Michael and I got there first. We were soon joined by Chris. While waiting for the others, we found out that the other couple having lunch at the restaurant, had walked from Broadstairs, and he is the grandson of a Sackett! Our speaker, Barrie Wotton, of Crampton Tower Museum, joined us.

We were a little late getting back to the hotel. Brian Sackett, Angela Robertson (Shefford, Bedfordshire), Susan, Janet and Peter and their daughter Amanda were among those already there. Barrie gave a fascinating talk to the group. The talk was based on a selection of photographs from his personal collection and, for every picture, there was an interesting story to be told. Unusually, the hotel had a small cinema in its basement and this provided an ideal setting for the picture show. Will Friend came in, added some interesting information to the lecture and continued with an additional impromptu lecture on the relevance of the Sacketts in what we'd heard. He is a wealth of information. If we ever have another reunion in Thanet, he should definitely be one of our speakers!

After the presentation, we had been invited to Will Friend's home for tea. He led us, down the scenic way along the coast to his home, East Northdown Farm and Gardens.

The group at Joss Bay
The group at Joss Bay
(Picture: Mary Volberding)

We made a stop part way at Joss Bay, where he explained even more (group picture is from the parking lot). His house is amazing, with spectacular grounds. His wife, Louise, had made tea for us, but had to leave to take one of her 3 children to an activity. We had our tea and cakes at tables and chairs set up on the lawn. He gave us a tour of the house (and showed us how it has been renovated). Brian had brought some of his pictures, which are wonderful, especially for someone who's only been painting for a couple of years. We had been scheduled to be back at the hotel for a reception with wine and snacks at 5pm. Supposedly Arabella had talked to Jill Attwell, the only one we expected who wasn't with us, to tell her we'd be late.

When we got back, the waiter told us that Jill had been there for an hour and just left. She had left Chris pictures of her cottage when she moved in and a CD of pictures she'd taken of the farm when they had put it up for auction (and it was still somewhat overgrown, even when it had been supposedly cleared for the auction). We spent the next hour or so getting to know more about each other and doing some work on the computer. Tom and Toni went to pick up Toni's cousin, Martin Hampshire and his wife Angela (Huddersfield, Yorkshire) from the train station.

Many of us decided to go to The Churchill pub, where Michael and I had gone the previous night. Arabella didn't want to come, so George came with Chris, Michael and I. While Michael and George were placing their order, in their TSFA shirts, the waitress said that the other waitress had become a Sackett 2 weeks ago. She, Ottie, came around the corner and saw the shirts. Her eyes got big. She had married Billy Sackett, whose father is Bill Sackett and his grandfather is William Sackett. They live in Ramsgate. Jean, Mike, Steve and Debbie joined us at our table and Ottie was our waitress. Tom, Toni, Christopher, Martin and Angela were at another of her tables across from us. Arabella was really surprised we had met another Sackett. Hopefully Ottie will get in touch with us. Chris came back with us to the hotel. Michael and I were among the first to go upstairs.

Saturday, September 20, 2008 (TSFA reunion)

We got up early, so we could do some packing and have breakfast early. We all met at 8:30am at the hotel for trip to Canterbury (Michael and I and George (back only) rode with Chris; Ralph and Elizabeth and George (up only); Tom, Toni, Christopher, Martin and Angela; Jean and Mike and Steven and Debbie)). On the way we drove through Sarre, where I missed taking a picture of the windmill. We drove as far as the car park at Sturry (2.50 to park and up to 6 people to ride the shuttle bus) and took the shuttle bus to downtown Canterbury.

We got there about 9:15am, so we walked around for half-hour until 9:45am, when we met our city walking tour guide, Margaret, (4 each) at St George's Cross (which is all that was left of a church after the bombing, but contains the town clock, so was saved by the town's people). Molly (Sackett) Pasquale, her husband Andrew, and daughters, River and Sage (Arizona, USA, but currently working in Derby, UK) joined us for the tours.

Margaret was especially knowledgeable. She gave us a tour of downtown. St George's Tower and Marks and Sparks (Spencer) were the only things in downtown to survive the bombs. We walked down Butchery Lane (past the Roman Museum). She also took us around the grounds of the cathedral, including grounds of the King's School.

At 11:30am we met our Canterbury (Christ Church) Cathedral guide for the one hour tour inside. She seemed to be in a hurry (and walked faster than most of the group!). They were preparing for a play to be performed in the sanctuary and she was surprised to find we could still get in the chapter room, where we could sit for part of her explanation. We walked the path Thomas Becket would have gone, before his assassination. A part of the exterior is undergoing restoration, because of some cement that had been previously used. You are allowed to take pictures every place except in the Crypt. She gave us a pamphlet on the Green Men at Canterbury and showed us a couple of them.

After the tour we split up and Chris, George, Michael and I walked to the Seven Stars pub for lunch. We saw Tom, Toni, Christopher, Martin and Angela already there. Our service was not good.

After lunch we walked by the Marlowe theater, where the nude statue had been moved from in front of the gate to the Cathedral, and over a little bridge to the Westgate, which is the remaining Medieval Tower (gate). It is a museum, but we didn't go in.

We decided to go back to hear Evensong at 3:15pm in the Cathedral, which included the Old Choristers as well as the boy's choir. We were seated on the sides just in front of the main altar, but the priests and the choirs were at the other end, in front of another altar. They had asked if we could stay for the whole service and we said yes. They had run out of service bulletins, so we could follow only part of the service. They use a small, old prayer book.

When we came out we went back to the Roman Museum, arriving at 4:15pm, only to find out it had closed at 4pm. Michael's knees were really bothering him (he really can't stand for long times), so we decided to head back. It seemed to take forever for the bus to come, saw 3 buses for another car park, and then after we got on a bus, there were 2 more for our car park! On the way back, Chris was going to stop at the Sarre windmill, but somehow we missed it, right after seeing a sign for it! We did take a small detour on the way back to see the Viking ship Hugin. We got there right before 5:30, when the car park closed, so actually got to park for free right in front of the ship. We walked around and took some pictures.

We got back to the hotel and got cleaned up for dinner, which was at 7pm. We walked down to the restaurant (Portobello Restaurant along the waterfront in Ramsgate). When we got to the restaurant, Ken Howbrook, widower of Barbara (Sackett) Howbrook, who was Stan Sackett's niece was waiting to talk to Chris, but couldn't stay for dinner. Joanne Sackett Tuffs (Ramsgate, Thanet) joined us for dinner, as did Ralph's niece, Sharon McGowan (UK), and Molly and her family. There ended up being 21 for our last dinner. Since he was unable to attend the farewell dinner, Brian had given Chris some money so we could all have a drink on him, so we shared several bottles of wine and passed around a very moving letter from him. The portions at the restaurant were huge (and we all had 3 courses). It was nice, but because we were at an added-on end of a very long table, it was hard to be part of the conversation. We didn't have coffee, said our goodbyes to everyone and left early because we were planning to leave early in the morning.

At the Portobello
At the Portobello
(Picture: Jean Carpenter)

The reunion obviously surpassed any expectations Michael or I had had. We both thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and feel we've made some neat new friends, even if they are relatives of Michael's!

 



Mary Volberding & Mike Sackett
Mary Volberding & Mike Sackett

View from the hotel
View from the hotel
(Picture: Mike Trickey)

Parade of restaurants near hotel
Parade of restaurants near hotel
(Picture: Mike Trickey)

Picture of ham
(Picture: Arabella Sackett)

Picture of breakfast room
Mary & Mike, Debbie & Steve in hotel breakfast room
(Picture: Arabella Sackett)

St Lawrence Church
St Lawrence Church, Ramsgate
(Picture: Angela Robertson)

Foy Boat pub
Foy Boat pub
(Picture: Mike Trickey)

Spitfire at RAF Manston Museum
Spitfire at RAF Manston Museum
(Picture: Mike Trickey)

Mayor Kay Dark & Tom Smith
Presentations, Mayor Kay Dark & Tom Smith
(Picture: Mary Volberding)

Mayor Mary?
Mayor Mary?
(Picture: Mike Sackett)

Mike, Steve, & Debbie in the Mayor's Parlour
Mike, Steve, & Debbie in the Mayor's Parlour
(Picture: Mary Volberding)

St Peter's Church & Red Lion
St Peter's Church & Red Lion
(Picture: Chris Sackett)

St Peter's Village sign
(Picture: Mary Volberding)

St Peter's Village sign
The award-winning village sign
(Picture: Mary Volberding)

Medieval couple
(Picture: Mary Volberding)

Mary & Mike with the Town Crier
With the Town Crier
(Picture: Mary Volberding)

Brass in St Peter's Church
Brass in St Peter's Church
(Picture: Mary Volberding)

Sackett's Hill sign
(Picture: Angela Robertson)

Jill at Orchard Cottage
Jill at Orchard Cottage
(Picture: Mary Volberding)

Sackett's Hill farmhouse
The derelict Sackett's Hill farmhouse
(Picture: Mike Trickey)

Arabella & Jean
Arabella & Jean at Sackett's Hill
(Picture: Mike Trickey)

Jean & Elizabeth
Jean & Elizabeth
(Picture: Ralph Sackett)

Barrie Wotton
Barrie Wotton
(Picture: Mary Volberding)

Will Friend at East Northdown Farm
Will Friend at East Northdown Farm
(Picture: Arabella Sackett)

Will at his front gate
Will at his front gate
(Picture: Jean Carpenter)

Brian and Arabella
Brian presents Arabella with one of his paintings
(Picture: Mary Volberding)

St George's Tower, Canterbury
St George's Tower, Canterbury
(Picture: Mike Trickey)

Canterbury Cathedral
Canterbury Cathedral
(Picture: Mike Trickey)

Canterbury Cathedral
(Picture: Mike Trickey)

Canterbury shop
A typical Canterbury shop
(Picture: Mike Trickey)