Margate, Kent

Historical Description

Margate, a market-town, a municipal borough, a member of the Cinque Port of Dover, and a parish in Kent. The town stands on the N shore of the Isle of Thanet, and has stations on the L.C. & D.R. and the S.E.R. It also has steamboat communication with London, Gravesend, Thames Haven, Boulogne, &c. It is 3 miles WNW of the North Foreland, 5 MNW of Ramsgate, and 72 E by S of London. It was originally a small village called Meregate or Mergate, signifying " an opening or gate into the sea;" it includes the site of another and later small village, called St John or Lucas Dane; and it long continued, even after the junction of the two villages, to be only a small fishing-town and small seaport. It had a wooden pier long before the time of Henry VIII., and it was often an embarking point from England to Holland. The Elector-Palatine and his wife, the Princess Elizabeth, daughter of James I., embarked at it; William III. more than once sailed from it and landed at it; George I. and George II. landed at it; the Duke of Marlborough selected it as his place of embarking and of landing to and from his several campaigns; and the Princess Alexandra of Denmark, on her way to be married to the Prince of Wales, anchored off it in 1863 in order to receive the first municipal congratulations of her adopted country. Margate is recorded to have been in repute " for fishery and coasting trade;" but in the time of Henry VIII., when Leiandwrote, it was " sore decayed." Its houses, even at a later date, like those of Flemish and Scotch fishing towns, were generally mere cottages. Several farmhouses and private dwellings of the time of Edward III., it is said, still remain of antique form. But it began toward the middle of the 18th century to be frequented as a bathing-place; it gradually attracted an increase of visitors by the purity of its air and its firm and smooth bathing-beach; it acquired about 1790, by invention of one of its own inhabitants, the first bathing machines ever used in England; and it has continued to become increasingly attractive till, for many years past, it has been annually frequented by a temporary population of at least 100,000. The influx to it from the metropolis, both by steamers and by railway, is very great, insomuch as to render it practically a suburb of London. It is less aristocratic than some other great bathing resorts, and on that very account has great multitudes both of temporary residents and of flying visitors. There is a grotto, with shell-work in floreated patterns lining its whole extent, and ending in a groined room, in which it is said a Roman altar was found when the cave was accidentally discovered several years ago, which seems most probably to be of Roman origin. No other explanation seems possible of the character of the cement in which the shellwork is embodied. Another object of interest is of ecclesiastical origin, namely, Salmstone Grange, or, as it was once called, " Rectory." These buildings and ruins are situated outside Margate, and consist of the ancient hall, chapel, and dormitories and kitchens of the abbots of St Augustine, Canterbury, who were owners of the rectorial tithes of the parish of St John, and who lived here part of the year whilst collecting them. The ruins are in a good state of preservation, especially the chapel, which dates from 1230, but which succeeded one on the same site that had become decayed.

The town stands on the declivities of two hills and along low ground at their base. It is well laid out, has good streets, and is thoroughly well drained. A sea-wall about a mile in length extends along the coast to defend the town from the sea. The Marine Terrace lies along the shore contiguous to the sea-wall; was originally 1500 feet long; has been extended in front of the Royal Crescent, and forms a favourite walk for residents and visitors. The Esplanade or Marine Drive was opened in 1880, and leads from the Marine Terrace to the Parade. This fine road has been constructed on a site reclaimed from the sea, and is lined with good buildings and shops. The Parade is continued for some distance from this drive. The Fort is a fine promenade on the cliffs eastward of the town, having in the centre a green on which a bandstand has been erected. This part of Margate is now known as Cliftonville, and contains some fine residences. A pier of Whitby stone, 901 feet long, 60 wide, and 20 high, was built in 1810-15 by Rennie at a cost of more than £100,000; forms a grand promenade ; and has at the extremity a lighthouse in the form of a Doric pillar, open to the public, and commanding fine sea-views. The jetty is a platform supported by iron pillars, and extending several hundred feet from the shore, was constructed in 1854 for enabling steamers to land their passengers at any time of tide; and this also is used as a public promenade; it was considerably enlarged in 1876; in the centre is a large structure containing a pavilion, bandstand, and several kiosks. The Market was erected in 1820, and is enclosed. by Tuscan porticoes and iron railings. The Town-hall, near the market, is a plain building, and contains some portraits. The Droit-office, at the end of the pier, is a handsome structure with a portico, and has an illuminated clock. The Assembly Rooms, rebuilt after a fire in 1882, are handsomely fitted up, and include billiard-rooms and coffee-rooms. The theatre is a convenient and well-built structure. The Hall-by-the-Sea has a large and handsome ball-room, beautiful gardens, which are well laid out, and a menagerie. The Clock Tower, at the junction of the Marine Terrace and Esplanade, was erected in 1889, and is a very ornamental building in the French Renaissance style. The Church Institute in Hawley Square maintains lectures on scientific subjects during winter, and contains a library and a well-supplied reading-room. The Clifton Baths are excavated out of solid chalk rock, comprise a series of subterranean passages, and include a library, a newsroom, a billiard-table, and an organ. There are also baths on the Lower Marine Terrace. St John's Church dates from 1050, i'etains some Norman portions, is constructed of rough flint, consists of nave and. aisles, with a tower, contains numerous brasses, and was restored in 1875. Trinity Church was built in 1825, is in the Pointed style, of brick with Bath stone dressings, comprises nave, aisles, and chancel, and has a tower 135 feet high, which was not erected, as is so generally supposed, partly at the expense of the Trinity House, and serves as a landmark. St Paul's Church, Cliftonville, was erected in 1873, and is a fine building of Kentish ragstone in the Decorated style. A Congregationalchapel is in Union Crescent, a chapel of Lady Huntingdon'sConnexion in Addington Square, a Baptist chapel near Cross Street, a Wesleyan chapel in Hawley Square, and a Roman Catholic chapel in Victoria Road. The Royal National Hospital for Scrofula stands at Westbrook, is a neat building, has accommodation for 250 patients, and is supported by legacies and donations. The Alexandra Alms-houses, in memorial of the Princess Alexandra's marriage in 1863, were built by public subscription in 1866, and have an elevation somewhat in the Italian style. There are a cottage hospital, deaf and dumb asylum, an infirmary forchildren, and some convalescent homes.

The town has a head post office, several banks, and is a seat of petty sessions, county courts, and quarter sessions. Markets are held on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and have a good supply of meat, poultry, fish, and vegetables. Fishing for skate, haddock, soles, flat fish, and shrimps is carried on, and a coasting trade is conducted in corn, timber, and coal. All the amusements common to a watering-place abound. Many interesting places, with features either of beauty or of antiquity, are in the near neighbourhood or within easy distance, and contribute much to variety of recreation. The town was made a municipal borough in 1857, and is governed by a mayor, 4 aldermen, and 12 councillors. It is divided into four wards.

The parish contains also the hamlets of Garlinge and Woodchnrch, and comprises 3919 acres of land and 618 of water; population of the civil parish, 21,367 ; of the ecclesiastical, 19,017. Under the Local Government Act of 1894 the hamlets of Garlinge and Northdown became rural parishes. Dentdelion or Dandelyon, 1 ¼ mile W of the town, was an ancient manor house belonging to a family of its own name, retains a fine castellated gateway of about the time of Henry IV., and was long used as a tea-garden. Hartsdown House is a farm edifice commanding a fine sea-view. The living of St John and that of Trinity are vicarages, in the diocese of Canterbury; net value of the former £410, of the latter £500. Patron of the former, the Archbishop of Canterbury. The net value of the living of St Paul, Cliftonville, is £300. There are also the churches of Garlinge, All Saints', Westbrook, and St Mary, Northdown, and a mission church of St Barnabas, the two latter being connected with St John's.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England and Wales, 1894-5


Old maps of Margate are available on the site, and a current map is available on the site.

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following Kent newspapers online:

Visitations Heraldic

The Visitation of Kent, 1619 is available on the Heraldry page, as is also The Visitation of Kent, 1663-68.