Margate (St. John the Baptist)

MARGATE (St. John the Baptist), a sea-port, market-town, and parish, in the cinque-port liberty of Dovor, of which it is a member, and in the union of the Isle of Thanet, locally in the lathe of St. Augustine, E. division of Kent, 72½ miles (E.) from London; containing 11,050 inhabitants. This place, formerly a small fishing-village, was distinguished by a mere, or stream, here flowing into the sea, from which circumstance arose the name Meregate, afterwards changed to Margate. About the middle of the last century it became much frequented as a bathing-place, from the fineness of the beach and the purity of the air; and though originally consisting of but one scattered and irregular street, it has, by the erection of new buildings at various times to meet the wants of the increased number of visiters, attained its present importance. The town is pleasantly situated, partly on the acclivities of two hills, and partly in the valley; and is lighted with gas, well paved, and abundantly supplied with excellent water from wells. Considerable inprovements have been effected, and others are still in progress, by the commissioners for paving and lighting, under the authority of numerous acts of parliament. The London entrance, which is distinguished by an esplanade protected by a stone wall, presents an imposing appearance, and forms an extended crescent, terminated by the pier: the whole of the sea defences, which are constructed of stone, and exceed a mile in length, cost upwards of £15,000.

The market is held on Wednesday and Saturday, under a grant obtained in 1777: the town-hall and market-place were rebuilt in 1821, at an expense of £2400. In Hawley-square is a handsome building for the public subscription library, and there are three other excellent libraries. The different bathing-rooms in High-street, and on the New-road, and the more recently constructed works of that kind on the Fort, are all of the best description. The theatre is a neat building, erected in 1787, at an expense of £4000: the subscription and assembly rooms, attached to the Royal hotel, are spacious; and several bazaars have been erected. Adjoining the town are the Tivoli Gardens for concerts, fireworks, &c., possessing the advantages of a delightful situation, ornamental sheets of water, and thick plantations; and at St. Peter's, two miles from Margate, are the Ranelagh Gardens. Steam-packets ply daily between London and Margate, making the passage in about six hours and a half; and in the season, a thousand persons frequently arrive in one day. There is railway communication with Ramsgate, Canterbury, and towns beyond. The trade is almost entirely connected with the supply of visiters; a very extensive brewery and a rope manufactory, however, are carried on, and considerable quantities of corn are exported. Margate being a member of the port of Dovor, the mayor of that place appoints one of the inhabitants to act as his deputy, and the town is subject to the jurisdiction of that port. The powers of the county debtcourt of Margate, established in 1847, extend over the parishes of Margate, St. Peter's, and Birchington, and the ville of Wood. A court leet for the manor of Minster takes place about Michaelmas.

A pier of timber was constructed at a very early period; and for its preservation, two pier wardens and sub-deputies were appointed by the lord-wardens of the cinque-ports, and certain rates on corn and other imported produce were granted in the reign of Elizabeth. In 1787, an act was passed for the general improvement of the town, and for rebuilding the pier, the entire property and management of which were vested in commissioners. Under this act the old wooden pier was cased with stone. In a violent storm on the 14th of January 1808, the pier was irreparably injured; and in July, 1812, an act was obtained for establishing a joint-stock company, under whose direction a new pier was completed from a design by Mr. Rennie and Mr. Jessop in 1815, at an expense of upwards of £67,000: it is a handsome and substantial stone structure, 900 feet in length, in its plan forming a portion of a polygon, and well calculated to afford protection to the vessels in the harbour. It is divided into two stages, the lower forming a quay, and the upper a promenade defended on the sea-side with a stone parapet, and on the land-side by iron railings: this promenade, which as a marine walk is almost unrivalled, was designed by Mr. Thomas Edmunds, builder, of Margate. At the extremity of the pier is a stone lighthouse, erected from a design by Mr. William Edmunds, and a new pier-house has been built, under the superintendence of the same architect. To the east of the pier is the jetty for passengers, used when the depth of water will not allow vessels to reach the pier, and which was executed in the year 1824, without any additional toll or cost to the public, by the Pier Company, at an expense of £8000; it is constructed entirely of English oak, and extends northward into the sea 1120 feet from the shore. The harbour, though from its situation much exposed to storms from the northeast, was greatly improved by the construction of the new pier, and affords good shelter; several tradingvessels are constantly sailing between this place and the Dutch coast. Amongst the distinguished persons who have embarked or landed at Margate were, the Elector Palatine and his consort, in the reign of James I.; William III.; George I.; George II. and his queen Caroline; the Duke of Marlborough; the late Duke of York, on his expedition to Flanders, in 1793; and Admiral Duncan, after his victory off Camperdown, in 1797.

The parish comprises by measurement 3852 acres, of which by far the greater portion is arable land in a high state of cultivation. The living is a discharged vicarage, valued in the king's books at £8; net income, £681; patron and appropriator, the Archbishop of Canterbury. The church, a spacious building of flint and stone, with a square tower and low spire, erected at various periods and in different styles, was originally a chapel of ease to Minster, and was made parochial in 1290. The church dedicated to the Holy Trinity, completed in 1829, from a design by Mr. Wm. Edmunds, is an elegant structure of Bath stone, in the early English style, with a tower which rises to the height of 135 feet, and is visible at a considerable distance: at the west end of the interior is a deep recess for the organ, which cost £750, and was presented by the late James Taddy, Esq. The total expense of the building was about £28,000, towards which the Parliamentary Commissioners contributed £10,000, and the Pier Company £2000. The living is held by the vicar, but after his death will be made parochial. The Baptists, Wesleyans, Lady Huntingdon's Connexion, the Presbyterians, and Roman Catholics, have places of worship; there is a Seamen's chapel; the Wesleyans have a small meetinghouse at Garlinge, and the Society of Friends possess one at Drapers' Hospital. This hospital, about half a mile from the parochial church, was founded in 1709, by Michael Yoakley, for nine aged women. The Royal Sea-bathing Infirmary was instituted in 1792, and opened in 1796; the building consists of a centre and two wings, capable of accommodating 200 patients. In 1839, Mrs. Kidman bequeathed the interest of £2500 consols., to poor seamen at Margate, and seamen's widows, to be paid anuually; and there are numerous other bequests for the relief of the poor.

At the distance of a mile to the south-west of the town is Dandelion, the fortified mansion of a family of that name in the reign of Edward I., and of which a gate-house is still standing: the last of the family was buried in the north chancel of the church, and the stone over his grave bears his effigy in brass, and the date 1445. About a quarter of a mile south of the church is Salmstone Grange, where are the remains of a chapel, or oratory, that belonged to the monastery of St. Augustine; and in the middle of a field about a mile and a half further, at a place called Chapel Bottom, are the ruins of Dene chapel, held under a licence from the monastery, in 1230, by Sir Henry de Sandwich. It is supposed that a severe battle was fought between the Danes and the Saxons in this neighbourhood, from the number of graves discovered on both the hills contiguous to the town. Various coins, also, and other antiquities, have at different times been dug up; and in making the excavations for Trinity Church, two urns filled with human bones, standing in, and likewise covered with, pateræ, were found in a fine state of preservation, having the name of the Roman Emperor Maximilian impressed on the different pieces.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.