Margate

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Margate is a seaside town in the district of Thanet in East Kent, England. It lies 38.1 miles (61.3 km) east-northeast of Maidstone, on the coast along the North Foreland, and contains the areas of Cliftonville, Garlinge, Palm Bay and Westbrook.

Margate was recorded as “Meregate” in 1264 and as “Margate” in 1299, but the spelling continued to vary into modern times. The name is thought to refer to a pool gate or gap in a cliff where pools of water are found, often allowing swimmers to jump in. The cliffs of the Isle of Thanet are composed of chalk, a fossil-bearing rock.

The town’s history is tied closely to the sea and it has a proud maritime tradition. Margate was a “limb” of Dover in the ancient confederation of the Cinque ports. It was added to the confederation in the 15th century. Margate has been a leading seaside resort for at least 250 years. Like its neighbour Ramsgate, it has been a traditional holiday destination for Londoners drawn to its sandy beaches. Margate had a Victorian pier which was largely destroyed by a storm in 1978.

Like Brighton and Southend, Margate was infamous for gang violence between mods and rockers in the 1960s, and mods and skinheads in the 1980s.

The Thanet Offshore Wind Project, completed in 2010, is visible from the seafront.

Margate is part of the North Thanet parliamentary constituency.

Margate was incorporated as a municipal borough in 1857. This was abolished in 1974, since which date Margate has been part of the Thanet district of Kent. The town contains the seven electoral wards of Margate Central, Cliftonville West, Cliftonville East, Westbrook, Garlinge, Dane Valley and Salmestone. These wards have seventeen of the fifty six seats on the Thanet District Council.

In more recent years, as tourists have travelled further afield, Margate’s unemployment rate has become higher than much of the rest of south eastern England.

Margate railway station, constructed in 1926 to designs by Edwin Maxwell Fry, serves the town. Train services are provided by Southeastern Trains.

For at least 250 years, the town has been a leading seaside resort in the UK, drawing Londoners to its beaches, Margate Sands. The bathing machines in use at Margate were described in 1805 as

four-wheeled carriages, covered with canvas, and having at one end of them an umbrella of the same materials which is let down to the surface of the water, so that the bather descending from the machine by a few steps is concealed from the public view, whereby the most refined female is enabled to enjoy the advantages of the sea with the strictest delicacy.

Margate faces major structural redevelopments and large inward investment. Its Dreamland Amusement Park (featured in “The Jolly Boys’ Outing” extended episode of the television series Only Fools and Horses) was threatened with closure because of the increase in value of the site. In 2003, one of the arcades on the seafront was destroyed by fire. This has created a new potential entrance point to the Dreamland site. In the following years, 2004–2006 it was announced that Dreamland (although somewhat reduced in its amusements) would reopen for three months of the summer; a pressure group has been formed to keep it in being. The group is anxious to restore the UK’s oldest wooden roller coaster.

The Scenic Railway, which is Grade II Listed and the second oldest in the world, was severely damaged in a fire on 7 April 2008. It was planned that the Dreamland site would reopen as a heritage amusement park in the near future with the Scenic Railway at the centre. Classic rides from the defunct Southport amusement park have already been shipped in as well as parts of the now-demolished water chute at Rhyl. More details on Dreamland’s future can be obtained from the Dreamland Trust website. Today the Dreamland roller coaster is one of only two early-20th century scenic railways still remaining in the UK; the only other surviving UK scenic railway is located in Great Yarmouth and was built in 1932. If the Dreamland Scenic Railway is not rescued, the Great Yarmouth coaster will become the last of its kind in the country. The Margate roller coaster is an ACE Coaster Classic.

Cliftonville, next to Margate, has a classic British Arnold Palmer seaside mini golf course.

The Turner Contemporary art gallery occupies a prominent position next to the harbour.

There are two notable theatres, the Theatre Royal in Addington Street – the second oldest theatre in the country – and the Tom Thumb Theatre, the second smallest in the country, in addition to the Winter Gardens. The Theatre Royal was built in 1787, burned down in 1829 and was remodelled in 1879 giving Margate more national publicity. The exterior is largely from the l9th century. From 1885 to 1899 actor-manager Sarah Thorne ran a school for acting at the Theatre Royal which is widely regarded as Britain’s first formal drama school. Actors who received their initial theatrical training there include Harley Granville-Barker, Evelyn Millard, Louis Calvert, George Thorne, Janet Achurch, Adelaide Neilson and Irene and Violet Vanbrugh, among others.

An annual jazz festival takes place on a weekend in July.

Margate Museum in Market Place explores the town’s seaside heritage in a range of exhibits and displays, and is now opened at weekends by a team of volunteers.

First discovered in 1798, the Margate Caves (also known as the Vortigern Caves) are situated at the bottom of Northdown Road. They are currently closed to the public.

The Shell Grotto, which has walls and roof covered in elaborate decorations of over four million shells covering 190 m2 in complex patterns, was rediscovered in 1835, but is of unknown age and origin. It has been designated as a Grade I listed building.

There is a 16th century 2-storey timber-framed Tudor house built on a flint plinth in King Street.

The former chairman of the Margate Civic Society, John Crofts, had a plan to develop a centre that would explore and show the link that the painter JMW Turner shared with Margate. In 1994 he became increasingly determined to create such a gallery and in 1998 the Leader of Kent County Council met a number of people from the art world to discuss the idea. They hoped that the centre would regenerate the once-thriving town of Margate and offer an alternative to Margate’s traditional tourist trade. In the late 1990s, the County Council offered to fund the building of the Turner Gallery. Additional funding was contributed by the Arts Council England and South East England Development Agency. In 2001 the Turner Contemporary was officially established. The site initially proposed formed part of the harbour itself, but some critics questioned the prudence of placing part of Britain’s national art treasures in a spot that was exposed to the full fury of the North Sea. To reduce the cost, Thanet District Council chose a new site inland from the harbour wall. The scheme was supported by the artist Tracey Emin, who was brought up in Margate. The building itself was designed by David Chipperfield Architects after the abandonment of the design by Snøhetta + Spence architects. Building work started in 2008 but the project’s initiator, John Crofts, died in 2009. The Turner Contemporary Gallery officially opened on 16 April 2011. It is hoped the gallery will help regenerate the town in the same way St Ives has benefited from the introduction of the Tate Gallery.

Near the gallery is a thriving community of independent shops in an area known as the Old Town, centred around the Old Town Hall and Market Place. Local entrepreneurs here are aiding the regeneration by giving visitors an ever-expanding range of shops to browse and buy in, and an equal variety of places in which to eat and drink.

Victorian author William Thackeray used out-of-season Margate as the setting for his early unfinished novel ‘A Shabby Genteel Story’.

Margate features as a destination in Graham Swift’s novel Last Orders and the film version of it. Jack Dodds has asked to have his remains scattered at Margate. The book tells the tale of the drive to Margate and the memories evoked on the way. It also features at the start and as a recurrent theme in Iain Aitch’s travelogue A Fete Worse Than Death. The author was born in the town.

T. S. Eliot, who recuperated after a mental breakdown in the suburb of Cliftonville in 1921, commented in his poem The Waste Land Part III – The Fire Sermon:

On Margate sands.
I can connect
Nothing with nothing.

Draper’s Mill is a smock mill built in 1845 by John Holman. It was working by wind until 1916 and by engine until the late 1930s. It was saved from demolition and is now restored and open to the public.

‘Margate Fhtagn’ is a song by UK steampunk band The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing. The story of the song combines the Victorian tradition of the seaside holiday with the works of H. P. Lovecraft, specifically the Cthulhu Mythos. It tells the story of a Victorian family going on a seaside holiday to Margate, which gets interrupted by Cthulhu rising from the sea.

Margate is twinned with: Larnaca, Cyprus; Idar-Oberstein, Germany; Yalta, Ukraine.

Note: this page is partly based on a Wikipedia page. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. Where possible, text is being updated to original, fully referenced research. ‘Our photos’ means we took the photographs. The Street View and street map visuals are courtesy of Google.

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