An expanse of sand dunes, once a shanty town at the entrance to Poole Harbour, became a millionaires' playground. Today Sandbanks is one of the most salubrious holiday colonies in the country. Many of the shanties and old converted railway carriages, some without drainage and water, were residences and summer homes for people who had set them up soon after the turn of the century, and the last of these eyesores disappeared in the 1960s.
Today a house at Sandbanks can cost over ;£100,000 and every square inch of the peninsula has been utilized for blocks of expensive flats and luxury style houses, many with gardens reaching down to the sandy shore. Amongst the early dwellings was a row of coastguard cottages. Hugh Insley Fox, head of the leading south coast estate agents, Fox and Sons, bought one of these for £850 in 1934. I would not care to estimate its value today. In fact the whole of Sandbanks, now worth millions was once offered for sale by the Guest family who owned it, for £200 and there were no takers.
This sandy peninsula connected to the mainland by an isthmian road and sandy beach, which give properties along it views of the harbour on one side and the bay on the other, is the home of the Royal Motor Yacht Club. One of the leading powerboat clubs in the world, which has the Duke of Edinburgh as its Admiral. The RMYC today is very friendly, but at one time it was basically for the aristocracy. On the pages of its membership are the names of Lord Mountbatten, the Duke of Westminster, the Marquis of Milford Haven, The Marquis Camden, Earl Howe and Lord Iliffe. From the business world come household names: Worthington Brickwood and Dale, all brewers; Lyle, Palethorpe, Fox and Cadbury representing food and confectionery; W.L. Stephenson of Woolworth fame; Madame Schiaparelli, and Lois de Rothschild.
Col. Walter Bersey, the most autocratic of all the Commodores, reigned from 1933-48. The Colonel, who is reputed to have tried to stop a man who had almost drowned off the club jetty, from being brought into the clubhouse because he was not a member, was a stickler for protocol. He insisted on a ceremonial flag-raising each morning, and it was band leader Billy Cotton who once substituted the Ensign, and to the anger of Col. Betsey, the flag that broke out at the masthead was a Russian Red flag complete with Hammer and Sickle.
Another resident of Sandbanks with sporting connections was Mrs. Louise Dingwall who trained her racehorses on the sands. She was one of the first women to hold a Trainers license, and was still working when she was over ninety years old.
Sandbanks, because it is linked with the Studland shore by a chain ferry has become known as the Gateway to the Purbecks.