For starters, the two communities sit an ocean apart. They are in two separate nations. One is more than three times as old as the other, but is nearly five times less populous. The golf is far more challenging in one than the other.
On the other hand, both have four schools. Both consider tourism their major industry. Both cope with storms and natural events that batter their shores.
And both share a common name: Sandwich.
Now Sandwich, Kent, United Kingdom, and Sandwich, Massachusetts, United States of America, share something else: the common bond of twin communities.
On Wednesday morning at town hall (here in Sandwich, Massachusetts), officials gathered to sign an official proclamation “twinning” the American Sandwich with the English Sandwich.
Ralph A. Vitacco, chairman of the board of selectmen, Taylor D. White, town clerk, and Cynthia M. Russell, chairman of the 375 Committee signed the four copies of the proclamation.
Ms. Russell, chairman of the Sandwich 375 Committee, which is organizing events and endeavors to mark the 375th anniversary of Sandwich’s incorporation as a town, said the four proclamation copies now will be sent to Sandwich, Kent, to be signed by that community’s mayor, town clerk and chairman of its Bringing Alive Sandwich Heritage Committee.
Sandwich, Kent, will keep two copies, and send back two copies in time for Heritage Day, which Sandwich, Massachusetts, will celebrate on June 14.
As far as Ms. Russell can tell, no residents of the town’s English twin will make it across the Atlantic Ocean in time for Heritage Day.
But she said residents of Sandwich, Kent, may put in an appearance later this summer.
There have been hands across the water before.
In 2008, the mayor of Sandwich, Kent, and his wife paid a four-hour visit to Sandwich, Massachusetts, which included a lunch at the Dan’l Webster Inn hosted by town manager George H. Dunham, the then-selectman chairman, Thomas F. Keyes, and the then-town clerk, Barbara Walling.
And there have been reports of other Sandwich, Kent, inhabitants dropping by now and then to check out the American Sandwich.
But this year’s formal twinning endeavor can be traced to one woman: Crestview Drive resident Wendy King, who asked at a 375 Committee planning meeting 18 months ago whether any thought had been given to reaching out to Sandwich, Kent, the town’s likely namesake.
Tale of Two Sandwichs
The answer was, “No—would you like to?”
“Okay,” Ms. King said, and started the twinning ball rolling.
“I’m someone who loves to travel,” she said. “Making connections with people is one of the joys of life.
“Our roots are in England,” said Ms. King, who is a Mayflower descendant. “To create a friendship today and beyond is important.”
The contacts made by Ms. King included Sonia Frost, secretary of the Kent community’s Bringing Alive Sandwich Heritage, or BASH, committee.
In an e-mail that arrived here at 6:36 AM yesterday—sent not long before noon from Sandwich, Kent—Ms. Frost wrote that BASH is delighted about the twinning initiative.
“From our discussions with local people, many have visited Sandwich MA in the past and would love to do so again,” she wrote. “Bringing our two towns together is a great way to remind ourselves about our shared history.
“I’ve very much enjoyed my correspondence with Wendy, whose enthusiasm has been tireless,” Ms. Frost wrote. “She has kept me informed about the 375 anniversary events in Sandwich MA and we have exchanged news about our parallel projects.”
According to Ms. Frost, Sandwich Infant School, which educates children ages 4 through 7, has responded enthusiastically to the twinning.
During the half-term holiday next week, Ms. Frost wrote, all children at the school will be producing their own message from Sandwich, Kent, to Sandwich, Massachusetts.
As for BASH, the committee will be sending a parcel of “Messages to Massachusetts” in time for Heritage Day on June 14.
“This will include postcards of greetings from individuals, letters from societies and organizations and brochures and books about the town and its history,” Ms. Frost wrote. “On 21st June, we will be holding a celebratory tea party in St Peter’s Church, Sandwich, to correspond with your heritage tea on the same day.”
While modern-day inhabitants of the two Sandwiches have been able to find and connect with each other, finding documentation linking the naming of American Sandwich to the English Sandwich is another story.
Indeed, town archivist Barbara Gill said yesterday that the actual decision appears “lost in the mists of history.”
The best evidence, however, points to the influence of John Humphrey, a one-time deputy governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, who lived for a time in Swampscott, near Saugus.
In 1637, the “10 men of Saugus” and their families became the first English settlers of what would become known as Sandwich.
Ms. Gill said Sandwich, Kent, was one of the English ports from which the Massachusetts Bay colonists sailed to America, and that eastern England, of which Kent was a part, was a stronghold of the Puritans who would colonize Massachusetts.
The archivist also said that John Humphrey, who came from Dorset but who had a relative who lived in Sandwich, Kent, may have been struck by the similarity of the prospective settlement to the Sandwich in England, including their extensive marshes and shallow harbors.
The proclamation, designed by Rose Provencher of Splash Stationers on Route 6A, signed Wednesday notes “the shared history, culture and interests” of the two communities.
The document essentially was composed by town clerk Taylor D. White, who knows a thing or two about proclamations from his prior work at the Massachusetts State House.
The town’s 375th anniversary, Mr. White said, provides “good timing to look back at where you came from, and their ties to the home country.”
As the people of the two Sandwiches look back, they also are looking ahead to the future.
“We hope this is just the beginning of a lasting friendship across the water,” Ms. Frost wrote yesterday.