What’s in a name?

During the construction of the Channel Tunnel, the area was known as Shakespeare Cliff Lower Construction Platform. In 1994 a competition was organised by Eurotunnel and the Dover Express to find a new name for the newest part of England which was reclaimed from the sea. Hundreds of entries were received, from which the judges chose Samphire Hoe.

Gillian Janaway came up with the name. Having been an English teacher, she was familiar with Shakespeare’s King Lear.

"There is a cliff whose high and bending head looks fearfully in the confined deep… The crows and choughs that wing the midway air scarce so gross as beetles; halfway down hangs one that gathers samphire, dreadful trade!".

At the time that William Shakespeare was writing King Lear he was said to have travelled regularly through Dover. It was his familiarity with the cliffs that may well have inspired his descriptions. To this day the first cliff on the West side of Dover is known as Shakespeare cliff.

Rock samphire was once collected from the cliffs. Its fleshy green leaves were picked in May and pickled in barrels of brine and sent to London, where it was served as a dish to accompany meat.

The samphire that is most often eaten today is marsh samphire also known as glasswort or salicornia; it grows on the upper edges of salt marshes.
It is unrelated to rock samphire, which grows on the eroding edges of the cliffs. Rock samphire seeds were sown onto the top edge of the sea wall at the Hoe, where the plant is now thriving.

A ‘Hoe’ is a piece of land which sticks out into the sea.