Dead Dolphin ashore May 2016

Dead Dolphin ashore May 2016

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

What do you do with pre Euro coins ? part 2

One of the austerity measures announced by the coalition government is the proposal to produce cheaper coins in nickel plated steel. Obviously such a move is designed to save money for government, it has also been pointed out that such a move is going to be very expensive for the machine vending industry and will drastically affect the efficient process of small change with coins of the same denomination having different weights and conductivity in circulation.
However, moving away from the pros and cons of such a move it is worth noting that the motive for such a move is more or less down to the price of nickel than anything else. From the end of the Second World War nickel has been used in British and other European countries for the production of higher denomination coins in the form of a copper and nickel alloy (75% copper 25% nickel) generally known as cupro nickel. Since 1947 we have had decimalization and the major European economies have gone over to the Euro. In both cases there was a change over period enabling an exchange for old for new. However, like little magpies people squirreled away many coins which missed the change over dates, resulting in billions of coins throughout Britain and Europe being tucked away in drawers, tins or whatever.
These coins no longer have a legal tender value, so what do you do with pre Euro and pre Decimal British coins? Well the answer is pretty simple if they cannot be exchanged for new Euro currency like Irish and German coins or they are not in pristine collector condition the only option is to sell them as scrap. In recent times the commodity value of all metals have broken all time records and this has led to many coins especially non legal tender being worth far more for the metal content value than original their face value.
Traditionally both British and mainland European copper alloyed coins have always been the lower tender coins alloyed with either zinc, aluminum, tin and small amounts of nickel. Since the end of the Second World War billions have been minted and very few have a collector value. I see the only option is to accumulate as many as possible together and take them to the local scrap yard which in Thanet pays around £2.50 a kilo.
The Cupro nickel and nickel coins are a different kettle of fish and considering nickel on the London metal exchange is roughly trading at $25,000 a tonne this is something to look into. Obviously nobody can expect to be paid that for scrapped coins but it does is act as an indicator for a secondary market. Anyone who is familiar with will know what the demand is worldwide for recycled nickel.
So what are the options for those of us who are on the make? Well my little tip is to seek out pre Euro European coins that are made of 100% Nickel, especially French 2 Franc, 1 Franc, ½ Franc coins and Netherlands Guilders, 25 & 10 cent coins and hoard them. They are made of the pure stuff and as a commodity it is something in demand for the nickel alloy production industry. Obviously anybody reading this is not into the big time and we are talking Kilo’s. However with information technology as it is there will an opening somewhere someday to sell our kilos of nickel making it all worthwhile, it is only a matter of finding a market.

This website can give you a rough estimate of the value the nickel in your pre Euro coins .

Sunday, 19 December 2010

A human bone ?

I know this is not the best of photographs, but I do believe I have a piece of human bone in my hand. If I have judged correctly I have found a 1st Metatarsal from a human left foot.
The piece of bone was found last Sunday at St Mildreds Bay (12/12/10), Westgate on Sea close to the site of bronze age finds at St Mildreds Bay which were discovered in 1988. I know the piece of bone is no way connected with the site as I am sure the piece of bone came in on the North Easterly backed tide. The only clue I have of the origins from where it may have come from is by smelling the bone as it has that distinct smell associated with items that have originated from the off shore mud / clay beds.
For anyone interested in the Bronze age site at St Mildreds Bay , Westgate on Sea I can give you a reference, which is page 243 Volume 105 of Archaeoligia Cantiana 1988 in a article by Dave Perkins. Margate library has a copy in the local studies section.
With the on set of Winter I have started collecting any bones and teeth amongst the other finds from the Thanet beaches. I will list the finds later in the spring.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

The Valkyr

Pictured is all what remains of the Swedish schooner Valkyr that was wrecked on the Margate Sands on 29th April 1919. The vessel had been abandoned after all the crew had been saved by the Margate lifeboat only to eventually run aground in Minnis Bay , Birchington . Some of the cargo of tinned sardines was liberated by some of the locals who lived on the marshes and after the official salvage operation the wreck was left to the elements.
In the years that followed pieces were salvaged from the Valkyr and they were used in locally cottage industries like the rivets and bolts pictured. One such use was to make tips for local produced walking sticks which were sold to visitors. As these cottages industries faded so did the knowledge of the Valkyr and the wreck became another of the wrecks in Minnis Bay. The wreck is easy to find and is almost level with the western end of the flat promenade and where the sea defences begin and is about 140 metres out to sea laying between the rocks and the sand.
The Valkyr was formerly known as the Valkyrien, it was registered at Figeholm , Sweden . It was built in 1901 at Figeholm by K. J Rockstrom and had a gross tonnage of 336 tons, the length in feet was 131.1, breadth 29.7 and the depth was 12.2. The master was J P L Hansson and the owner was Gustave Johansson. Further details can be found in Llloyds casualty return for 1919 on page 10.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Driftwood Art.

If the weather is to be as predicted with the return of the bitter cold weather and northerly winds, the conditions for a bit of beachcombing on the Thanet beaches between Christmas and the New Year will be ideal. I always take a interest in everything I find by researching, displaying, collecting and utilising. This includes driftwood, as I like the worn smooth twisted shape of worm infested wood. I collect many pieces because I like them and that is as far as it goes as I am not really a artistic person. However, I am fascinated by other peoples work and recently I attended a coastal wardens meeting at the Royal Albion Hotel in Broadstairs. On display in one of the rooms were some very interesting pieces of driftwood owned by the Hotel that is well worth a look.
Driftwood art is something that has been going on for years, works of art and even the smallest pieces can be purchased on the Internet. Here in Thanet we are surrounded by the stuff and believe or not there is a bit of a market for the weird and wonderful pieces of driftwood like the pieces on display in the Albion Hotel. I not sure how many driftwood artists there are in Thanet if there is any at all, but a few days ago I came across this image in a file which I thought was rather clever. I do not know who the creator is or who owns the image, but it is clever.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Dably Square , Margate

A few years back I started reproducing back articles from the Margate Historical Society magazine for downloading which have attracted a lot of interest from people who have googled Margate or Cliftonville looking for a specific subject. In the recent Margate Civic Society newsletter I came across this article by Suzannah Foad on Dably Square , Cliftonville . I approached Suzannah and asked her if I could reproduce her article as a fact sheet for anyone researching Cliftonville , Dalby Square or the Reeve family and she has agreed. Suzannah is a researcher specialising in Margate family history and can be found by Googling, Margate Local & Family History.
For anyone interested in the Margate Civic Society they can be contacted on the web address I have on my sidebar or can be found on google. They produce a very factual newsletter on Margate's history and the editor is James Brazier.
Today, I received some good news from Thames Talback makers of the series Great British Railway Journeys series 2 which begins on BBC2 from Monday 3rd January at 6.30pm for five weeks. Margate will be featured on the 26th January programme featuring Margate's seaside heritage and the Bathing Machine. I am pleased to say that the Margate Historical Society team have made a contribution by providing information for the programme which is another notch on the Margate Historical Society bed post. As I keep saying Margate's History is undergoing a renaissance and the making of the programme is further proof.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

The balloon race

The pre Christmas period is perhaps the best time of time of year for beachcombing, especially when the wind has a touch of Northerly in it. Perhaps it may be the potential of interesting finds on the Thanet Coastline at this time of year or it is just nice to spend a few hours away from the pre Christmas rush , whatever the motives it was perfect conditions at one of my favourite spots St Mildred's Bay, Westgate on Sea.
This area has a lovely history behind it, ranging from the discovery of a iron age site on the beach many years ago, the battle of Marsh Bay which was a smuggling incident, shipwrecks, the First World War seaplane station and events that took place during the Second World War.
However, today's finds were from the strand line and had came in on the previous tide so there was nothing historical . The finds were very much as predicted, such as the usual sea coal, copal resin, bone, various sea shells and a golf ball bringing my Thanet Coast tally tally to 35 golf balls for 2010. The only exception being a tag from a balloon race. On rare occasions I have found tags of various descriptions from pigeon rings, fishery tags, balloon races etc., mostly around the Foreness Point and North Foreland areas.
I do like balloon tags as they have a personal touch around them and because of that I always send them off ASAP. This tag came from a balloon race that took place on 29th November 2010 from St James- the- Less, Hadleigh Church, Hadeigh, Esssex and they will be getting it back this week.
Finally, I should also mention there was no crab death to report amongst the Velvet swimmer crab population, the only casualties in a 100 metres of strandline was about half a dozen edible crabs which is normal for anytime of the year.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Friday, 3 December 2010

" I promise to pay...............,"

Sorting through things as you do, I came across two ten shilling notes from the 1960's, a 1960's issue pound note and a late 1940's issue pound note. They were not really in a collectors condition and had more or less been around the block a bit and served their time.
Each note had the line "I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of ..........,"
The notes had been out of circulation for years, so out of interest I thought I will test the system to see if I would be able to get the three pounds back which was the total value of the notes as promised by the Bank.
Looking on the Bank of England website I found a form to redeem withdrawn banknotes. So I filled it in and sent off the banknotes to the Bank in Threadneedle Street, London and waited.
Twenty four hours later a payment from the Bank of England ended up in my account. Not exactly a major financial transaction but the system certainly does work and a promise is a promise.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Beat to pieces

In Cornish folk lore there is a little rhyme which is as follows.

"The Eliza of Liverpool came ashore
to feed the hungry and clothe the poor"

I am not sure the origins of this Cornish rhyme but it could easily have come from any coastal community during the 18th and 19th century. It is very much a fact of life that throughout that period in the British Isles, coastal communities were able to get through the harshness of winter as a result of a ship being wrecked at sea. In some cases local economies benefited from shipwrecks, either from the salvage operation or just the flotsam and jetsam coming ashore. Thanet is no exception with the Goodwins, North Foreland and Margate offshore sandbanks accounting for many shipwrecks on our doorstep. In the case of large vessels going down or those owned by companies like the English East India Company, agents were appointed to manage the salvage operation and the full force of the law applied. Examples being the "Active" owned by the British West India Company being driven ashore on the Nayland Rock in January 1803 and the salvage operation was coordinated by a agent operating from India House. The same applied to the "Hindostan" lost in the same month in the same year. The "Hindostan" was owned by the English East India Company and was outward bound to Madras. The "Hindostan" broke its back on a offshore sandbank off Birchington after its pumps become clogged with sand, this resulted in the cargo being lost and washed ashore on the North Thanet foreshore. As this was a high profile wreck most of the cargo was officially recovered and sold at auction.

In the case where a ship has been "beat to pieces" and there is no salvage operation or the wreck is unknown, then flotsam and jetsam washed ashore then became fair game for the impoverished local community. There are very local few records as such a bounty was almost as secretive as smuggling, an example being in November 1854 where there is a entry in the coastguard return which reads as follows "A portion of the hull with the name BORE, Gelfe on it washed onshore at Epple Bay. The Coastguard Officer reports that nothing more is known, but supposes the vessel to have been lost on Margate Sands in the late gale." It can be assumed anything else that came ashore would have been utilised by the locals.

When the "Northern Belle" was wrecked of Kingsgate in January 1857 the timber from the wreck was used to refurbish the Watermans Arms which was renamed the Northern Belle". This was a common practise in all coastal communities to salvage wood for house repairs and refurbishment. In some coastal towns where old buildings still exist evidence of salvaging ships timbers for house refurbishment can be found in roofs and under the flooring of old buildings. One example in the 1970's was when I came across a raised floor in a fisherman's store in Fort Mount, Margate. The floor had been raised using salvaged ships timbers that had been covered in pitch.

In most case however, wood from the foreshore was generally used as fuel. I also mentioned in the previous posting dead animals were hacked to bits and stripped of their hides on the foreshore. Another practise was to burn the copper nails , fittings and any other metal from timber. Evidence of this was found in the early 1980's when metal detecting on the foreshore coming across areas of melted metal. One example was below the promenade where the Turner Center is today, this happened after a storm in November 1993 when I found a area where there had been a fire and recovered partially melted hand made ships fittings that had been in a fire.

Today we live in a different type of society plus shipwrecks are a rare occurrence. However, today there are still many people who search the foreshore for wood or anything they can lay their hands out of necessity or leisure which does make our coastline interesting.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Stormy weather.

Over the last fortnight I have been researching Fort House , Broadstairs from 1801 to 1901 when it became Bleak House at a great personal cost to the then owner James Barry. As predicted all and everything points to the period when Charles Dickens spent time their.However, I have purposely tried to avoid Charles Dickens until a later date in order to remain focused at pulling together facts about Fort House. Then I came across a interesting piece quoted in a 1981 edition of Bygonne Kent that Charles Dickens wrote to his friend Frank Stone .
It reads as follows "this day fortnight a steamer laden with cattle going from Rotterdam to London, was wrecked on the Goodwin. Yesterday the shore was strewn with hundreds of oxen, sheep and pigs in every state of decay. Hovering among the carcases was every kind of plunderer pulling the horns out, getting off hides, chopping the hoofs with poleaxes, I have never beheld such a demoniacal business."
I found this account very interesting as there a very few accounts of salvaging of wreckage on the Thanet coastline in the 19th century as most salvaging was kept very quite by the poverty stricken locals as this business of salvaging was on par with smuggling. However, it did throw some light on something that I have not found a answer to in all my years of beachcombing. That being , where did all the animal teeth and crudely butchered bones found on the beach come from ?
Over the past 30 years on beach digs I have come across teeth and bones that have been subject to considerable force and I couldn't think of a explanation. The only theory I could come up with was perhaps they came to be in the sea due to coastal erosion and in the sub soil from a cliff fall. Thinking on it, I suppose it stands to reason if a dead animal is washed a shore and someone wants a piece of it they are going to hack a piece off.
This weekend looks very promising for interesting finds on the strandline with the wind hitting the North side of Thanet full on off the sea. So far this year has been a good year for finds and this weekend will definitely add to the list.
Last night was the coastal wardens annual meeting and it was a bit of a get together of wardens with a excellent talk by a representative of Vattenfall about the wind farms. Talking to Tony Sykes the Westbrook warden we have both decided that as from this weekend we are going to monitor the Velvet swimmer crab deaths on the foreshore as the water gets colder in order to collect data and be more prepared for the mass deaths we experienced last year.
Above is pictured a ox yoke that was washed up in Viking Bay in 1911 from the former Bleak House maritime collection.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Brinks Matt - The Margate connection ?

After the storm of January 1978 which destroyed Margate Pier, metal detecting on the North Thanet coastline went through a golden era quite literally. This was down to fact that coastal erosion along the coast led to many beaches losing sand each winter thanks to the changes to the sea defences. For many metal detector users this led a bonanza of metal finds and this went on each winter well into the 1980's. Top of the list was the amount of gold found in the sand in the form of broken, worn and damaged scrap jewellery. Even though it was not worth anything as jewellery it could be sold as scrap and at the end of the season this could amount to a fair bit of money. The problem was where on earth could we get rid of it ?
At first we would sell it locally, then we tried Hatton Garden. We found the only problem with Hatton Garden even though it was a good price was it cost money to take it up on the train and the time off work . Then by chance at the time I was reading a national newspaper and found this advert for a company called Scadlynn Ltd who bought scrap gold , the original postal gold company for sure. They paid good money for the scrap and I even recommended them to other beachcombers who used them. Eventually our supply ran out and the advert also disappeared from the papers. I was later told the company had been done, something to do with Brinks Matt robbery and to be honest I didn't think much of it. Then a few days ago I was watching the Brinks Matt heist on Youtube and up popped the name Scadlynn Ltd. It appears Scadlynn Ltd was buying scrap gold and melting it with the pure Brinks Matt gold so it can be laundered.
I must admit it did make me smile to think that gold found on Margate beach was used to launder gold from the Brinks Matt robbery.

I have posted the Youtube clip and Scadlynn Ltd is mentioned at 2:23.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

There she blows

Margate Museum certainly has got a few surprises like this Harpoon Head for a hand held wooden shafted spear.From the information on the display card this harpoon was used aboard the British Whaler "North Britain" circa 1840. Definitely an item which I am sure has a interesting history behind it including the biggest mystery of all, how it got to be in the Museum Collection in the first place ?

Margate Harbour 1779

A few posting back I made the comment that the history of
Margate is going through a period of rediscovery or a rennaisance as I like to call it. The reason I believe this is because of the amount of enquiries I now receive through my blog for information. Something I believe is due to the Turner Centre as I can see no other reason for it.
Some time back a television company researcher emailed me for info on Margate and the bathing machine for a programme they are making they even offered me a small fee. Obviously I was flattered, but I just told them copy what they like and if I can help I can see what I can do. Which is what I tell everybody because to be honest a large percentage of the articles and photographs on my blog archive came from Mick Twyman and it was always Mick's wish that all his work posted on my blog is for Margate.
Sorting through my postcards I came across this postcard purchased from the Margate Museum called a view of Margate Harbour from the "Shipwrights" which I am sure a lot of people have. However, there was a little piece written by Mick to accompany it and reads "This engraving was made by J .R Smith in 1779 and shows the Harbour crowded with coastal raders. As well as the Hoys there are two square rigged Barks, in front of the central one of which is a pointed stern barge with a spitsail rig, the earliest such depiction known of this type of craft this far south of the River Thames. Note all the bathing machine at work"

Every little bit helps.

This past fortnight I have relied heavily on the Internet for leads on a research project I am working on. In some cases I have found the odd interesting snippet of fact or artifact thanks to google. All because someone somewhere has made something that is a little fact known. Each little fact helps towards the bigger picture and without doubt somewhere in Thanet we have something that is useful to someone elsewhere.
I have recently been trawling through some pictures I took in the Margate Museum many years age that may be of interest. This shipbuilders plate is such an item and it is from the London Belle built by William Denny & Brothers Dumbarton. So for anyone researching Denny ship builders with have a ship builders plate in the Margate Museum. Unfortunately the Museum is closed so here is the picture.

The whole truth and nothing but the truth.

For many years now I been absorbed into the coastal history of Thanet . Before the formation of the Margate Museum in 1987 I would visit the Maritime collection at Bleak House many times in the course of each year during the eighties. During that period I took almost everything in at the Bleak House maritime museum and with my maritime links and knowledge of the coastline this broadened my coastal knowledge. Then in the 1990's I played a role like many others in the development of the Margate Museum collection and the museum became a sort of base from which I worked from. From there I was able to incorporate new knowledge and news finds into the Margate Museum collection and archives.

Then came the formation of the Margate Historical society which was the brainchild of Mick Twyman and John Williams. The society was set up to seek and conserve the History of Margate through new research . Taking on board researchers like Alf Beeching and Chris Sandwell the maritime archives were soon to grow and in many cases some horrendous errors in the "established" archives were corrected. Furthermore every article published by the society was thoroughly researched and accurate.

The closure of the Margate Museum and the Ramsgate Maritime Museum a few years ago was a blow but never a disaster. However, when Mick Twyman died in September this was a tragic day for anyone with a interest in local history. Fortunately most of Mick's work has been published and the society has been revamped but somehow things do not seem the same. Today many of us are now working on our own pet projects and in some cases we are back to our roots. So when Richard Hilton asked me to research into Bleak House I jumped at the opportunity.

A few years ago I did some work identifying the Maritime collection when he bought Bleak House, so it was just a matter of reopening the file. This time I have used contacts and with the help of the Internet I have came up with some very interesting leads. However all was not as it seems and I am now starting to find errors, very much in the same way when the Margate Historical Society set out in earnest to research the history of Margate. A fine example being a Broadstairs Pier fact sheet naming Captain George Gooch the guy who had Bleak House built as Captain George Gough.

I have always admired Louis Longhi for the way he started and the way he built up the Bleak House Maritime Museum. Also I like reading the works of Bill Lapthorne however some of his work does carry a warning which I quote,

"The East Kent Maritime Trust published a booklet in 1998 entitled 'Maritime Heritage of Thanet' and it contains an article by the late Bill Lapthorne. Bill researched extensively but never cited his sources and although it doesn't appear against _this_ article, other articles written by him do carry a warning by him which effectively means that if he couldn't find out, he made it up! Unfortunately he doesn't tell us which bits he found, and which he made up!"

So as you can see it is not going to be easy. I have already identified a couple of gems at Bleak House and I have found Captain Gooch's grave in St Peter's cemetery. Also I have forwarded some research on George Gooch to the English East India Company Archives. I am currently looking into the North Cliff battery which was commanded by Captain Gooch when Napoleon threatened invasion from 1803. The postcard I have posted is the site of the North Cliff Battery. According to some arcticles I have read the gun powder store was situated in the clifff face to the right of the picture.
Also considering the Battery was constructed to defend Broadstairs Harbour I am thinking were the guns 18 pounders ? like those used on Martello towers and are the gun platforms still there today or even buried ?

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

I am defecting.

Well it had to happen, sooner or later I would be paying some attention to the coastal history of Broadstairs. So all this week I have been reading up and researching Fort House and the transition to Bleak House to the point where I feel I almost have square eyes.
Fort house was built in 1801, and this week I have been researching Captain George Gooch of the English East India Company the man who had it built, I have found his grave in St Peter's churchyard and I am currently looking up info on the North Cliff Battery that defended Broadstairs Harbour under his command during the Napoleonic wars when invasion was looming in 1803.
However, like all research it is so easy to get side tracked especially when I come across one of my passions. In this case it is anything to do with the Maritime Museum that was once housed in Bleak House, and the work of Louis Longhi and Bill Lapthorne in setting up the Museum. This newspaper cutting from the Isle of Thanet Gazette was sent to me by Suzannah Foad of Margate Local & Family History and is from 1982 when divers working three miles off Broadstairs found a wreck of a Spritsail barge. Amongst the cargo they found Miller's item including six large mill stones and a large copper bowl engraved Joshua Shears. The bowl weighs half a ton and is half an inch thick.
Louis Longhi is pictured holding Hamilton Mineral Water bottles that were also found on the wreck.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

A Edwardian view of Cliftonville

Over the past few months I have been collecting data from ebay and other sources on the web to put some together some sort of catalogue of Margate artefact's excluding printed matter. Most of these items are seaside souvenir items and represent a chapter in our seaside heritage. What has become noticeable by following ebay is how many serious collectors there are of Margate memorabilia and just how much some items have increased in value in the past year. I have mentioned Margate Butlins badges in previous postings and to be honest I am really amazed how much people are prepared to pay for them. After tracking most of them after a few months there does seem to be a scale and this must be based on rarity. For example the 1955 badge featuring a crab depending on the colour of the background can fetch a average of anything from £75 to £50, whereas 1958 is about £40, 1960 £30, 1961 £20 and 1967 £5 all depending on how much people are prepared to pay at auction. However some items have gone into a decline like crested china and postcards. At any one time on ebay there can be anything up to 1,000 postcards of Margate listed and it has become a buyers market. Admittedly they do tend to be of general views like the clocktower, seafront, main sands, harbour and jetty. This postcard I have posted is a gem, it is Edwardian and it is looking west along the Cliftonville cliff top before the Walpole Bay hotel was built. It cost me 50 pence with 50 pence p&p.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Its back to the beaches

I really do like this time of the year and it is not because I like getting up early on dark mornings or enjoy the bitter cold mornings of Ramsgate Station. It is just that I am looking forward to the wintry changes in the weather that will have an effect on our coastline turning up lots of interesting things to be found. I suppose in all the years I have combed Thanet's beaches the period between November and March does account for over most of my finds.
Last year between November and March I concentrated most of my efforts around Ramsgate with the occasional search at Margate when the weather conditions have been favourable. It is amazing just how different the Margate and Ramsgate coastlines are for finding things. Margate is like a well preserved time capsule of history with coastal erosion and shifting sands unearthing the towns historical and seaside past which I have no problem finding things when conditions allow, but then I have focused on Margate for over 40 years and I have well researched the town's history and found over 10,000 items in that period.
Ramsgate on the overhand I am finding a harder nut to crack with its volatile beaches of constantly shifting sands and very little preserved and buried in its sands. During the early 1980's there was a amazing loss of sand on Ramsgate main sands exposing features that have never been seen in living memory before. There were some interesting finds then, mostly coins which were in poor condition and a discovery of a wreck of a customs cutter out off the East Pier.
In the few years that I have worked the Ramsgate beaches I have found that the majority of interesting items are not buried beneath my feet like Margate. They come in off the tide from the seabed offshore which makes the beachcombing more unpredictable and a bit of a challenge. The Western Undercliff and Pegwell Bay has probably the best range of natural history specimens to be found than anywhere else in Thanet and this year I did find my first pieces of Chinese mitten crab.

Today I gave Margate a look, finding a unidentifiable animal tooth, some clay pipe stems and two very old glass bottle necks which is not a bad start to the season.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

The Ghost of the Market Place fire ?

I do not generally post emails I recieve on thanetcoastlife but this one is a gem and with the authors permission I can share the account of working in the Sample Shoe shop Market Place during the 1970's.

When ever I get a bit nostalgic, I start surfing the web, and find sites such as yours about my old hometown.They usually springboard me to other useful, and enjoyable sites too...for example, I just emailed Mick Tomlinson, the Mayor..and found some interesting links at the Margate Historical Society site - so thanks for making this possible! I've lived in the U.S. since 91, and I'm nearly 45 now (good Lord, I don't know how that's possible!), but was born and raised in Margate, from a long line of Mundays.

My friend Sally Ann Weller and I worked in the old Sample Shoe Shop, then owned by the Dobsons, when we were around 13 -14 (so, let's say 1978, 79). It was a peculiar old building, indeed. One of the many I loved, and got to know quite well over the years in the Market Place.The oddest thing about working in the shoe shop was our combined reluctance to go up to that middle landing, and worse still, the top floor. There was no heat, it was always incredibly cold, and cool even in the summer, and a solitary, light bulb illuminated each dark level. Small rooms, filled with extra-wide sandals and brogues piled high on wooden shelves, jutted off the landings, and it was our task, as shopgirls, to run up and down, numerous times on Saturdays, to find the perfect sandal for rather demanding, old day-tripping ladies from London. (Invariably we'd end up taking them back up stairs because even the extra wides couldn't accommodate their bunions...)Somehow, with what seemed an unfair regularity, I often got stuck with the task of running them back up, and without fail, on each occasion, my muscles would tighten, and I'd get goose-bumps as I went from the middle landing, to the top floor. It was a progressively, desperate feeling. Both myself and Sally had the distinct notion we were being watched - not necessarily in a malevolent way, but sufficiently strong enough to unnerve us, that once we'd grabbed or returned the item, we'd hurtle at full throttle back down several flights of stairs, skipping several, just to get away from the oppressive and watchful air of those upper level floors. It's a feeling I've not experienced since.It wasn't until some years later, (85, 86) that by some unusual twist in circumstance, I was employed by a government funded work program, to get the Margate Museum up and running. This incentive was housed just across the road from Sample Shoe Shop at the Old Town Hall, (itself, not without distinctive character and a personality of its fact, my great grandmother had apparently worked there as a "female searcher" when it housed the police station.) In this capacity, I was charged with poring over old, Margate newspapers, and microfiched articles up at the library, ferreting out all sorts of historical information.When I came across the newspaper article about the Market Place fire, and P.C. Rolfe's death - and realized this had occurred in the same location that I'd worked, and experienced the feelings described above, I was quite speechless, and got goose-bumps, again. It now made perfect sense. I'm convinced P.C. Rolfe continued to maintain a presence not only because that's where he fought desperately for life, and must've felt incredibly frustrated by the delay in being found, but was still watching over the occupants of that building to make sure they got out OK. (If only this time, a little more quickly than they would have preferred!)Many thanks again, for keeping these wonderful, local stories alive. It makes a homesick girl feel very connected to a great, seaside town - and it ensures that our history there, isn't forgotten.

Best wishes,
Alison Munday

Thanks Alison

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Margate and comic postcards

Recently was the 100th anniversary of the Bamforth & Co Ltd postcard company famous for the publication of the comic seaside postcards that were sold in there thousands every summer season locally at Margate, Ramsgate and Broadstairs during the post war period up until the 1970's. Often described as saucy, risque or even rude, these postcards represent a chapter from our seaside heritage that most people are now starting to look back to with nostalgia.
During 1950's comic postcards as I like to call them, sold in their millions throughout the country and it was during that period they were to earn notoriety that ensured their place in annals of seaside history forever. This was all due to the high profile prosecutions under the 1857 obscene publications act in various seaside resorts that made national headlines. This court action instigated by the self appointed guardians of local morals who regarded these postcards with their double meanings and innuendo as obscene. This led to prosecutions under the 1857 act and seaside resorts like Eastbourne, Hastings, Brighton and Cleethorpes even banning the sale of them. Top target on the list was the artwork of Donald McGill who was persecuted more than most because his artwork contained sexual double meaning and innuendo aimed at middle class couples and lifestyle. Another target were the postcards produced by unknown artists and unknown publishers printed on the economy post war card using two colours which did not pull any punches of which postcards produced by Bamforth & Co were tame by comparison
Most seaside resorts have recorded history of the accounts of the prosecutions , banning orders and confiscations that occurred in their resorts resorts during that period. So what happened in Margate as the resort was a cockney watering hole where such cards were readily appreciated.
There was one case that was reported in a edition of the Isle of Thanet Gazette that was presented to Margate magistrates in October 1953. The story began with the secretary to the Mayor of Margate purchasing comic cards by "arrangement" and then taking them to the Police to make a complaint. The traders that were targeted were H.S.F Caterers of Marine Terrace Margate, Whitnall's on the corner of Lombard Street and New Cross Street which is know the Mad Hatters tea rooms and from K.Phillips of 13, Market Place Margate. This resulted in the Police confiscating a total of 1,824 postcards.
During the ensuring court case, George Whitnall told magistrates, "Thousands of people have a jolly good laugh at them. They are good, honest fun - good, honest vulgarity" Joshua Harrison the Mayor's Secretary, said that by arrangement he went to Phillip's shop on the 19th August 1953 and bought some postcards at 3d each. Detective Inspector Smith said , "The wordings or drawings were obscene, and the figures were crude in some cases." The Magistrates inspected some samples of the 1,824 postcards. The Chairman Mr F . J Cornford , declared that they all had double meanings and ordered they were to be destroyed as being obscene.
There were many attempts to sell the postcards without being pulled up by the local authorities in Margate and one such case were the postcards that were sold on Margate Jetty (Pier). In those days some day trippers also came down to the resort by boat from the Thames and as they waited on the Jetty for the return boat home. One enterprising shop owner would wheel out four display boards , keeping a sharp lookout shore side. Sales were good and when the boat eventually left for London the display boards were wheeled back in as quick as they were wheeled out.
A few years back I started a collection of comic postcards and even persuaded the Margate Museum to start a small collection of these postcards to be added to the seaside collection held at the Museum. The building up of the collection was easy and cheap because most shops still sold them in their postcard racks and it was just a matter of touring every shop in Thanet and having a good rummage, I even did boot fairs and local collector fairs. As a rule I did not buy anything off the Internet because I wanted every single card to have a local provenance which they all had. I carried out some research which threw up the few facts that I have listed above. I found the postcards I put in the Margate Museum collection were also interesting because I managed to get hold of some of those postcard I mentioned earlier that were printed and published anonymously that did not pull any punches.
I eventually sold off the bulk of my collection to local collectors retaining the ones I like including the postcard above that typifies the earthy humour of Donald Mcgill.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

The Mayor of Margate's silver spoons

Sometime ago I purchased at auction one of the old Borough of Margate silver spoons belonging to the civic collection. Like all “official” artifacts as I like to call them I knew some of the background to the collection and being a former Margate Charter Trustee and knowing where my loyalties are I returned the spoon back to the collection.
This spoon was of an old English pattern and was one of 100 hundred purchased in 1966 with a 1965 Sheffield Hallmark and was presented as gifts by the Mayor of Margate to local citizens and dignitaries for achievement or whatever. In discussion with Mick Twyman I was later to find out that this tradition was an old one and had been practice before 1966, therefore it was obvious there must have been other issues.
I was always intrigued by the design of the Margate coat of arms on the stem as it was not a traditional design as the shape of the shield was longer and more pointed. So I set about to research even further into the spoons, and I set to try and obtain more spoons of which I knew the the odds were going to be stacked against me. Eventually my patience and persistence was to pay off.
A few months back while working on my data base of Margate of Margate artifacts I was to come across one of the spoons on eBay of which I recognized immediately. The only difference was this spoon was hallmarked Sheffield 1932 and the design almost similar but engraved, so I purchased it for £11.99. On examination the 1932 spoon was almost identical had the same maker’s mark as the 1965 spoon manufactured by the English silversmith James Dixon & Sons of Sheffield established in 1806. The spoon was manufactured at their Cornish Place workshop in the old English pattern weighing 13.5 grams sterling silver. However, it was this engraved design of the coat of arms that I found interesting and I was soon to realize that the 1932 spoon was an Art Deco influenced design and the 1965 design was influenced by the 1932 design, which explains why the 1965 design was not traditional. All I needed was a 1965 spoon for further comparison.
To cut a long story short, I came across another silver spoon in pristine condition, this time it was a 1965 issue making an offer the seller could not refuse. In the same pattern as the 1932 issue this spoon was manufactured by the same manufacturer James Dixon & Sons of Sheffield, the stem was broader and slightly thicker and the weight was 14.7 grams of sterling silver. As for the design it was a deeper engraving of the 1932 issue.
Above I have posted the ad for the 1932 spoon as sold on ebay. The hallmark is 1932 and and the James Dixon & Sons makers mark is authentic. The town crest is the 1965 design and differs from the design on the 1932 I have, so the research continues.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Roy Ford

A few days ago I heard the sad news that Roy Ford had died, Roy as many people will know was a past Mayor of Margate and was a TDC councillor and KCC councillor. I first knew Roy in 1983 when I joined the Labour Party and later I was to become his election agent when he first stood in Cecil ward and then for KCC in Margate Central. Once elected he adopted the "Spread Eagle" as the branch office and from there over a pint or two we would talk politics and he would tell me about his life. I suppose something I will always remember was his wartime experiences. As Roy was in the Parachute Regiment and fought at Arnhem , experiencing the full horrors of war including hand to hand combat to survive, then witnessing the death of friends. He also told me about Berlin and what is was like when the British occupied their sector after the Soviet occupation. There was carnage and dehumanisation everywhere something he would never forget. I knew he never collected his medals after the war and could never stand in front of a war memorial because the emotion was to much. It was only when he become Mayor of Margate that he attended a Remembrance Sunday and stood in front of a war memorial for the first time. All I can say is his eyes said it all.
Roy had a brilliant mind and was a bit eccentric at times but he would never admit it . I loved his conviction and he was a true Democrat believing that because someone disagrees with you it doesn't make them your enemy. He got on well with Councillors in other parties and he was fun to be with, I think colourful would be the right term.
As Mayor of Margate he modernised the Mayoralty, including conservation of some of the artefacts and this included taking an interest in conserving tradition. Infact he made the Charter Trustees more relevant to the people of Margate. Palm Bay School was also his idea and so was Westwood Cross. But at the end of the day he was a great bloke, had a good life and his family can be proud of him.
Roy's funeral is at St John's Church Margate on 15th October at 11:15.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

The renaissance ?

Following on from the Butlins theme, I have scanned in a postcard for anyone following Butlins of the Queens Hotel Cliftonville which has long since been demolished. Sadly like the St George, Norfolk and Grand all demolished to make way for flats.

This week two more Butlins badges of different years 1958 and 1964 are up for auction on Ebay of which I will be watching.
The whole idea of my monitoring of Butlins badges is part of may data base of Margate seaside items. To give an example of how many Thanet items are up for sale on ebay, last week there were 1,480 items related to Margate, 1,206 for Ramsgate and 641 for Broadstairs all up for sale. The majority of items were mostly postcards or printed items, the rest consisting of crested china , ceramics, football club items and metal ware such as badges and souvenirs. I find such quantities a breathe of fresh air because ever since the fire that destroyed the Ramsgate Museum in the Ramsgate library I have always looked at the possibilities of how a collection could be rebuilt the Margate Museum ever suffer the same fate. There is also another plus factor in the number of private collectors there are. A few days ago I spoke to someone who is also a member of the Margate Historical Society and he told me that his collection of Margate postcards is over 6,000 and he has now over 2,000 Margate items which dwarfs the Margate Museum collection if you discount the art collection. Which backs up my theory that Margate's history and heritage will undergo a Renaissance.

Like it or loathe it once the Turner Center is built Margate's seaside history and heritage will undergo a renaissance which will spill into the other Thanet towns. I also believe it will also be the catalyst that finally gives Thanet history the status it deserves.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Margate Butlins badges.

Following on from the previous post I have been tracking Margate artefacts on ebay. Taking a look at badges it is noticeable how highly collectible Margate Butlins badges are, as to whether this is because the badges are popular because the appeal is Margate or Butlins I do not know. Either way compared to other Margate badges they do fetch a tidy sum of which I am know recording on a data base of Margate artefacts for the Margate Historical Society.
Pictures above are badges from 1960, the pink ball badge recently sold on ebay for £20.99. the red ball badge sold for £10.79 and the yellow shell sold for £30.76.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Margate seaside memorabilia - Butlins badges

About ten years ago during the management of the Margate Museum under the East Kent Maritime Trust the Museum staff were given greater autonomy to develop displays. At the same time the marketing of the Museum was changed to promote the Museum as a seaside history Museum which would have a greater appeal to visitors than just the history of the town of Margate. In other words nostalgia would have a greater appeal.
Embarking on this project meant that the Museum could start to include items from the 50's, 60's & 70's into the collection something the Museum had very little of. Fortunately the Museum was blessed with the Sunbeam photography collection including the props used by Sunbeam photographs on the seafront at the time. However, there was a lack of small items for display. So the curator Bob Bradley set about to build up a seaside memorabilia collection with the help of friends of the Museum of which I was one. Unfortunately there was very little money in the budget ( a familiar story), but then that was not to be a obstacle. Simply because such items are amongst us.
As soon the word was on the streets people started to donate items, I can recall Terry Purser donating a plate and Bob even bought things for the Museum out of his own pocket. We even looked at 60's comic postcards which I bought some from my Councillor's allowance for the collection as money was tight , in fact everything that tells the story of the post war seaside history was pursued and added to the collection . It was cheap and it was easy , but there was one item that proved to be a stumbling block and that was obtaining Butlins badges. These badges originated from the Cliftonville Hotels and they were dated with different designs for each year. In some years there was even a different colour of the same design of badge if you stayed for the second week.
To our surprise, Butlins badges turned out to be a specialist collectors market and the Margate badges are right up there and highly sort after. Obviously, some years and colour are rarer than others, but by rule of thumb the 1950's versions fetch good money and the 1960's versions seem to be worth anything from £5 - £20 each .
At the very top of this posting is a 1955 badge featuring a red crab, this badge recently fetched £70 on ebay after 8 bids. The 1961 with the blue background cost me £8.00 as few years back and the same version with a red background is worth more. The 1967 badge at the bottom of this posting is very common issue and can still fetch around £5.00. The 1962 version below is one of the many varieties for that year and is currently up for auction on ebay.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

A Georgian gift

I have often wondered how far back gifts and souvenirs from Margate originate. The Victorians loved their crested china and paper weights, so how far back do gifts originate ? Well this Bilston Enamel Georgian patch box currently up for Auction on ebay at present pre dates 1800 and is the earliest gift I have ever seen.

Friday, 1 October 2010

RamsgateTown Council antique sale.

On the front page of today's Isle of Thanet Gazette (01/10/10) the headline is about the proposed sale of antiques by the Ramsgate Town Council. The article by Saul Leese starts "Expensive antiques given to Ramsgate Town Council will be sold off if no one can lay claim to them." and then the article gives details on some of the items to be sold off. In other words it is further admission to my theories that all records kept on art and artefacts kept in the Thanet towns prior to local government reorganisation in 1974 have been poorly kept or have been "lost". Obviously no modern day elected politician is responsible but on the other hand no council officer or member will freely admit it, making the issue of Thanet's Art and Artefacts bit of a crusade of mine.

The article also raises the debate on the sale of Art and Artefacts by local Councils. Over the past few years I have looked into the issue of civic collections and researched into how the whole issue surrounding art and artefacts has come about in Thanet. Prior to local government reorganisation in 1974 Art and Artefacts fell into two categories under local government management. There was the Civic collection made up of the town silver, the history and potraits of Mayors and gifts to the town etc., then there was a public funded Museum and Library service. When the local government reorganisation came about the Civic collection became the property of the Charter Trustees and the Library and Museum service was divided up between KCC ,TDC and the newly formed Charter Trustees. In Ramsgate this was easy because the Library and Museum were housed in the same building and was transferred to KCC . The Civic collection and contents of Albion House were transferred to the Charter Trustees and TDC became the legal owners of the Albion House building and owners of some of Ramsgate artwork.
From then on KCC managed the library under its county wide libraries policy and in the absence of a Museums policy the Museum at Ramsgate the library became a static exhibition. I should also mention the Ramsgate Artwork inherited by TDC was added to the TDC collection and then managed through its Museum service.
To my knowledge like the Towns Council civic collections before them both the Ramsgate and Margate Charter Trustees did not accept loans into civic collection but they did accept Civic gifts and memorabilia from other towns and organisations, building up collections.
So what is my view of the current situation. Well, I expect nobody has contacted the Ramsgate Town Council about the furniture because I suspect it has been there many many years and when it was acquired it was probably just furniture. So should they sell it ?
Personally I think all tiers of local government should really re examing the issue of Art and Artefacts and their collections policy asking themselves where do we start and where do we end, what is the provenance and do they really need to keep it. So if a item has no local historical ties and is surplus to requirement then they should sell it. After all, what the Ramsgate Town Council has on its books is small fry compared to the TDC collection which over the years has become a appreciating asset.

Margate Beatles poster up for sale

Found this rather interesting item on ebay, a 1963 Beatles poster when the fab four appeared at the Winter Gardens on July 8th of that year . The asking price is £1,000.
If it goes that would certainly put up the value on the Beatles poster in the Margate Museum collection up a notch or two.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

To seek and conserve

Today was Mick Twyman's funeral and amongst the large gathering was as the Americans put it, a "huddle" of local Historians. It was nice to meet so many old and new faces all connected with the History of Margate and Thanet in general .
Over the past week or so I been thinking on how the the whole shape of the interest in the history and heritage of Margate is changing . Some of it I am sure is due to the Turner Center, the Internet and access to properly researched information .

Looking into it a bit deeper this new Renaissance is also represented by the interest taken into the buildings, artwork, archive and artefacts of the town. The buildings do speak for themselves and the collection of artwork held by Thanet District council does the town credit when people get a chance to see it. The archives have grown steadily over the years thanks to Mick Twyman and the Margate Historical Society and the access to information is always improving . This has left the artefact collection of Margate's History looking a bit thin on the ground and fragmented. This is not due to neglect it is just a indicator on how much everything else has improved.
Artefact collections are not really a local authority finaced thing as they usually come about by private collectors donating collections to local Museums. A fine example of this type of collection was a private collection of Ramsgate pot lids donated to the Ramsgate Museum that were lost when the Ramsgate Library burnt down and are irreplaceable.
A individual building up a private collection is not such a bad thing as it does preserve history however the downside is the public at large do not get the opportunity to see it. With the pressure on public finances the chances of the Margate museum reopening are slim and considering the contents of the TDC collection is a secret, the only hope is a private venture.
In the meanwhile I am now starting my own data base of the artefact's that are passing through on the Internet or have been found locally. As I come across items I will start to post them on this blog with any supporting information from the Margate Historical Society archive.

The picture above is a 2 inch diameter Victorian paperweight of the "new landing place" at Margate and the image is of the Jetty how it looked after 1857, this paperweight sold recently on ebay for £21.25. On the left is a print dated 1860 of the "new landing place at Margate" of a similar theme published by Kershaw & sons which Mick Twyman gave me many years ago. Both the print and paperweight would have been how the Jetty would have looked between the years 1857 to 1876 before a extension was built. The reason for building the extension was to allow paddle steamers to berth at different states of the tide and wind direction. This was further extended in 1897.

The photograph is from page 16 of the Margate Historical Society publication Bygonne Margate is of the jetty when the above mentioned extension was being constructed in the spring of 1876. The pile driver can be seen pictured on the jetty head.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Mick Twyman's legacy - The Margate Historical Society

Following Mick Twyman's passing I have been spending the past few days reading his work and reflecting on the legacy he has left behind. Mick had a very broad knowledge of the history of Margate and like many realised Margate's History seemed to be time locked in the Victorian era through to the years up until the out break of the first world war which some historians would herald as a golden age. Mick thought otherwise and this led to the creation of the Margate Historical Society. The formation of the Margate Historical Society led to a whole new era of research into the History of Margate with contributions from anyone who had a story to tell , leading to contributions covering every aspect of the History of Margate from the year dot to the present day, everything was welcome.
The Borough of Margate was Incorporated in 1857 and most records of Margate in Margate date from that time. However, Mick teamed up with Alf Beeching which led to the research into archives kept outside the area, along with John Williams, Chris Sandwell and other members who I apologise for not naming, the research had begun . Mick's vision had begun.
Soon many unpublished historical facts emerged from research and some of the new research even led to historical errors from previous publications being corrected. The foundation of a accurate new data base of the History of Margate had begun incorporating both old and new publications to produce the magazine "Bygone Margate".
This new data base soon uncovered many new and forgotten facts on the development of Margate all properly researched from the 11th century through to the Georgian era, like Tudor House, the Grotto, Cobb family and Maritime Margate to name a few, leading to the publication of over seventy magazines. As they say the rest is History.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

The "Victory" lugger memorial Harbour Arm

A few postings back I mentioned the demise of the "Victory" lugger memorial that was on the wall of the Stone Pier (Harbour Arm). I have found a copy of the inscribed words, it is a bit grainy but like the tablet at the time when it was broken up it is still readable.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Mick Twyman

Yesterday I heard the sad news that Mick Twyman has died, Mick was the founder member of the Margate Historical Society and was one of the most knowledgeable Margate Historians in modern times. Along with Alf Beeching, Mick produced many new historical articles researched from archive discovered outside the area which has now filled in many gaps in local history. Being a Margate man Mick also had a extensive knowledge on Maritime Margate, Dreamland, the Grotto and Old Margate in general. Most of the recent studies from the Margate Historical Society were also co written by Mick working working in conjunction with other members.
In the past most of the articles and photographs featured on this blog came from Mick, and it was always his express wish that anyone who wanted to copy and use anything from this Blog can do so without permission and that policy with my blog stands today.
On one of my sidebars is the Margate Handbook featuring Historical items by Mick which are well worth a read. In the near future I will be putting some of Mick's items on my Blog in his memory.

Monday, 13 September 2010

A new Margate Heritage Group.

A new not for profit org just set up called The Margate Society, made up from local community groups interested in Margate History or Heritage, if you want to know more the contact is via Lynn on 01843 223300.

I look forward to hearing from anyone who would like to join or help.


Sunday, 12 September 2010

Street Architecture - safe in their hands.

In recent years there a been a flow of reports of the theft of items such as memorial plaques, park benches, drain lids etc., All stolen to be sold a scrap metal. In Thanet there has been no exceptions and the list of missing street Architecture due to theft goes back years. Fortunately, some items are safe under lock and key in the Margate Museum. One such item is the plaque to commemorate the opening of Dane Park Margate in June 1898 which was once on display by the park gates and now hangs safely on the wall in the Margate Museum.
In Ramsgate the bronze cannons that were once situated by the Falstaff over looking Ramsgate Harbour are in the Ramsgate Maritime Museum . Just imagine if they were still there today, they wouldn't stand a chance and credit is where credit is due to the person who decided to house them there.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Heritage Day - Margate Museum

Today the doors of the Margate Museum were open to the public as part of the Heritage weekend with only the ground floor available to the public. Manned by Lynn Jackson a volunteer and TDC's Chris Tull I was pleasantly surprised at the interest shown by the public. In fact the museum was very busy with people taking great interest in the exhibits.
Even though I had not been in the place for three years it felt like yesterday since my last visit. Hardly anything had changed except for a few gaps in the cabinets where loan items had been returned. I did take a few photographs of the artefact's and I have attached a photograph of the metal plate that was on display at the entrance to the Margate Jetty since it was constructed. The plate was recovered some time after the storm of January1978 that totaly wrecked the Jetty and is one of the few remaining artefact's of the Iron Jetty. The rest of the photographs I will post at a later date more as a reference .
I was only in the Museum for a matter of minutes when I found myself dealing with an enquiry. Which was to do with the Victory lugger memorial erected in memory of the crew of the Margate lugger who were drowned in a rescue attempt of the crew of the American barque Northern Belle in January 1857 . The memorial was in Marble and on display on the wall to the left of the Droit House before you reach the steps. There is a rumour that the memorial was removed by Thanet District Council, in fact this was not the case.
Following the storm of January 1978 two cracks appeared in the Marble. This made the memorial a accident waiting to happen. However, the memorial remained in place until the early Eighties when a piece fell off and was thrown in the sea by vandals. In 1985 construction work was carried out behind the Droit House to build the break water and essential repairs to stonework in that area were undertaken. By this time the memorial was badly worn and was coming away from the wall and was dangerous, the contractors working on the site removed it and it become buried as part of the infill of the new breakwater.

Friday, 10 September 2010

The change in your pocket.

One thing I learnt as a boy was to always to check my change, not that I had a fear of being short changed. It was just my fascination with the history of our pre decimal coinage system that had a history of over 150 years of legal tender coins that would often be given out in change that interested me. Since the coinage reform in 1816 and changes in 1860 the coinage system in circulation was as solid as a rock. In fact the shilling denomination which circulated as a five pence piece until the introduction of the smaller five pence was the longest running legal tender coin in the world as the 1816 shilling was still classed as a legal tender coin.

The History of British coins has been a glorious one I am sure there are many people over the age of 50 who can still recall spending coins with the head of Queen Victoria on them and remembering to be on the lookout for a penny dated around 1860's & 1870's. With pre decimal coins there was always something to look out for as there were always coins with silver in them to look out for and there were also some many collector rarities. The introduction of the decimal system on 15th February 1971 soon put a end to that and eventually coins just become money. There were very few decimal oddities like the word "New" as in New Pence which was left on a 1983 two pence, plus coins with the head and tails struck out of alignment became highly collectible. Then recently there was a much publicised rarity when the obverse die used for the head of the old style reverse design of the twenty pence was used with the reverse die of the newer partial shield back design. This led to the first legal tender coin in modern times to be struck or mistruck by the Royal Mint without a date on.

Other than that people today in general do not check their change as a habit as they once use to. This soon led to foreign coins appearing in our change, not that foreign coins appearing in our change was something new but the newer foreign coins are more about being the sign of the times. Living on the coastal strip foreign coins historically are more common than inland, however with the increase in foreign holidays and our membership of the European union this has led to foreign coins becoming more common through out the UK than they used to. The most recent addition being the Polish 20 Groszy which is almost the same size as a five pence piece.

I am very familiar which most of the older foreign coins that turn up in Thanet like French and Belgian Francs from the Sally Ferry days and left over coins from holidays to Spain, Yugoslavia and Greece. So what is the position today ?

Well, as predicted lower denomination Euro coins do seem to be appearing everywhere from bit boxes at auctions, charity boxes and in our change. The coins from east European states are on the rise due to the influx of migrant workers and I have a selection of samples from Poland, Romania, Hungry and Croatia all retrieved from change. Some coins are so obvious but there are many than can easily be mistaken such as any coin that is seven sided can be mistaken for the Fifty Pence and there are Bi Metallic coins that are mistaken for two pound coins. In some cases the value of the foreign coin is worth more than the coin it is mistaken for, a example being the American quarter. This past quarter from my various sources I have picked up eleven examples of American quarters retrieved from change. Above I have scanned some samples of the coins I have come across since June.
I have set up a system of disposing of the coins. Firstly I collect samples, The American, Swiss and Euro coins I keep and sell as currency on ebay. The copper and bronze foreign coins I sell as scrap to a local scrap yard. Other legal tender foreign denominations, cupro nickel coins and pre decimal British coins I give to the British Red Cross in King Street, Ramsgate.

Ramsgate Town Artefacts at Albion House

As in good Museum practice the Ramsgate Town Council have issued a final notice for the removal of loan items from Albion House, so if you have loaned something you have until Tuesday.
I am not sure what the Town Council policy on artefact's under its control but I am sure someone can enlighten me.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Taken to the cleaners ? a ramble

In this weekends News of the Screws there was an interesting article on the subject of us recession hit Brits cashing in our gold and being taken to the cleaners. Taking the side of the consumer the article suggests a comparison site to highlight the great British rip off of the postal cash for gold. It is amazing the difference in prices.
Not all dealers are bad and the article is full of praise for . I also found two other companies and offering fair prices, and I am sure there are many more fair priced dealers on the internet, but then it always pays to shop around.

For some reason silver does tend to be ignored even though it trades at prolonged record prices, yet the chances are that joe average probably has more silver by weight kicking around the house than gold. In many cases it is in the form of pre decimal silver coins. In the past few years pre decimal silver British coins have been putting in a appearance at auctions. The reason being that the people of the pre decimal generation that could afford to hoard silver halfcrowns and florins are in their eighties and many have died. At the time of hoarding the coins did have a substantial face value. However as soon as the coins were no longer legal tender their only value was the silver content. The coins I am referring to are the Pre 1947 sixpences, shillings, florins and half crowns all containing 50% silver which have a minimum of 25 years circulation at the time of decimalisation. Minted between 1920 to 1947 there are few rarities and most coins have no collector value because of the intense wear caused by circulation. Even though these coins have no collector value they have become the cheapest form of investment in silver for joe average if bought at the right price and accumulated into collections. A fine example is on ebay, and this past week I have been looking at the trade in collections (10 or more) of pre 1947 halfcrowns and florins. Both of these coins have a bit of weight behind them which makes them popular making the market on ebay very buoyant. There is a company that trades in investment bags of of pre 1947 coins called, these people really know their stuff and supply is constantly outstripping demand. Earlier on in the year I was in Pressmans in Hatton Garden and someone weighed in bags of pre 1947 silver coins and was paid out £21,000 and I wonder what the return was on that lot. However for the lay man a few pre 1947 are set to be a nice little fall back in these troubled times.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

The Wish List

As late Summer slips into early Autumn my Thanet Beachcombing season begins and from September to March the general finds on the coast really do start to pick up. Summertime can be good but the better finds are normally restricted to the low water mark because of the settled weather and the advantage of daylight hours . Whereas in the Autumn and Winter months the unsettled weather is more challenging offering so much diversity that anything can turn up anywhere at anytime.
Like many local Beachcombers/Treasure Hunters I do approach each season with a plan and the readiness is really based on whether will this year be the one. The one being a great storm.
Throughout history there are accounts of many great storms and in living memory the years 1953 and 1978 do come to mind. The January and February storm of 1996 was the last decent storm , but unfortunately or fortunately whichever way you look at it the Thanet sea defences worked in 1996 so there was very little drama. The only events of any merit in 1996 was the wartime Tongue Fort collapsing, a ship ("Argus") aground on the rocks by the Lido at Cliftonville and the final remains of the derelict Margate Jetty reduced to stumps. Plus the remains of the "Tartar" (29/03/1916) turning up at Foreness Point.
However, these big storms do make permanent changes to the coastline and it is the erosion in the following weeks or months after the storm that many more interesting finds both historical and natural can be found. This generally happens while the local authorities are carrying out repairs to the sea defences. When this does happen it is possible to work out what is buried in a large area by what is found in the smaller areas of a particular site while the erosion is taking place.
Collecting this Data makes it so much easier should another storm erode the same area again because I am able to pin point exactly where to go. From this I am able to come up with my wish list of top places to go should the mother of all storms hit the Thanet Coastline.
Top of the list is Palm Bay oppposite the Jet Ski cafe, then Newgate Gap to the Lido, Fort Point and the sand behind the Droit House. I would like to add Margate Main sands but I doubt if a century of silting up will move in my life time. The list is all Margate and my knowledge of Margate does cover over 30 years of discovery.
However now I live in Ramsgate I am slowly but surely building up a knowledge base there which I will blog later.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Beachcombing - a ramble about the Margate Main Sands

During the late 1960’s beachcombing hit a new dimension along the Thanet coastline with the introduction of the metal detector. Even though the early machines were pretty basic they proved to be very effective in areas of shallow sand over the chalk bed rock and in the soft sand on the main beaches. However, when the improved induction balance metal detectors become available in the early 1970’s the sky was the limit with many square miles of undetected open beaches up for grabs. Some areas without doubt had a history of over one hundred years of sea side tourism were now open to the new craze of Treasure hunting. For the more experienced beachcomber this proved to be a bonanza as it also gave access to more historical finds that tell the story of sea side tourism and events that took place on coastline in the past two hundred years.
My experience from that era to the present day came from the area from the groyne between the then Sundeck and the Nayland Rock to Foreness point. It may seem strange but I hardly ever went over the Westbrook side of the groyne except in exceptionally bitter cold weather. During the period from 1976 to 1996 I reckon that I must have metal detected every available square foot of sand at Margate and Cliftonville using only four different detectors and a mountain of batteries in that time. Furthermore I reckon I must have dug up well over 10,000 items that have a story to tell and considering I am not the only one to use a metal detector it is a indicator of the scales of the finds that have been found on the Thanet coast in recent years.
Today the metal detectors are very sophisticated and there are many areas where metal items can no longer be found. Even though the lost and found cycle of each tourist season brings in results of modern finds, Historical finds are now getting harder to find. However, some of that is not all down to constant metal detecting but the fact that along the coast some areas are silting up. Margate main sands are a fine example and the gradual burial of the boating pool by the clock tower proves my point.
The silting up of Margate main sands began in 1926 with the construction of the Groyne by the Nayland Rock, the Bathing Pavilion later known as the Sundeck and the Tidal Pool opposite the Arlington House. Considering nature has had a 40 year start before the arrival of the first metal detectors there are still many items buried beneath the main sands. If my memory serves me correct in the early years of the metal detector there were not many pre Second World War items dug up from the main sands except in exceptional circumstances. So what are these exceptional circumstances?
The exceptional circumstances were the result and aftermath of the storm of January 1978 and like the storms of 1897 and 1953 change the coast forever. For few a brief periods the aftermath of the 1978 storm did cause coastal erosion. The loss of the Jetty or Pier as some people like to call it did have some impact along the coast. The back of the Nayland rock was swept clean of sand and the remains of the Whitley mark V bomber that ditched on 3rd September 1940 were exposed. The old Tivoli brooks drainage pipe was exposed for the first time providing a bonanza of Victorian and Edwardian dated finds for metal detector users. On one exceptionally low tide, where the sand had been washed away the wheel marks from the Victorian bathing machines could be clearly seen and this to, resulted in many finds. When the Jetty head was finally demolished in 1998 there were ceramic and glass items found on the low tide line relating the paddle steamers and the Jetty. As in previous posting I have mentioned the many finds that have come from the Harbour in other exceptional circumstances.
Today, the gradual silting is returning to the main sands and the whole of the main sands is becoming a sealed time capsule of sea side history. I do still have a few remnants of some of my early digs from my patch from the early days plus recent natural history finds with I have loaned to the Marine Studios in Albert Terrace for display.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Not so Bleak

I found it so pleasing to read in today's Isle of Thanet Gazette (13/08/10) that the Museum at Bleak House Broadstairs is to reopen. Following the series of set backs local heritage has taken over the past few years with the dithering over the Ramsgate Maritime Museum, the closures of the Margate Museum and Margate caves, this has to be good news.

Another venue that is looking good at the moment is the Coach House at Northdown Park. Recently I had the privilege to have a look at the progress being made at the Coach House. Even though progress at the Coach House is moving forward slowly there is every potential that like Bleak House the Coach House can certainly be a centre of excellence. I must admit when I had a look around at the Coach House I could almost taste the history as the hairs on the back of my neck stood up and my first thought was this is Old England nothing artificial, nothing reinvented this is the real thing. There is plenty of space at ground level and the interior is well preserved and is not derelict, it just needs a bit of maintenance and a lick of paint. The coach that will be the focal point of the museum will look magnificent when the conservation is completed.
Overall if allowed to be completed this venue will be a assett to the local tourism package offering a interesting amenity for both local and vistors a like.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Shellfish Harvesting

In today's Isle of Thanet Gazette there is a interesting article on page 8 about shellfish harvesting, which once again opens the debate about harvesting shellfish from the foreshore of the Thanet coast.

Sometimes I think the concerns in the past have been more about the ethnic origin of the people doing the harvesting than what is actually being taken. But the Gazette does raise a very interesting point about whether shellfish is being harvested sustainably from our foreshore. Something which in my experience is really difficult to measure.

Firstly we have have to look at the life and death cycle of the shellfish that are being affected by the harvesting. I am without doubt that the loses of mussels during the harsh Winter period of the January and February winter period does make a hundred dustbin bags of mussels a drop in the ocean. Yet the population does recover.

Then we have the Oysters which also take a bashing during the Winter months. The only difference with Oysters on the Thanet Coast is that they are not native. In fact they are a invasive Pacific species which is undergoing a population explosion at present which has not reached its peak. So how on earth can that be measured.

As for Winkles, well they use to be harvested commercially many years ago by hand. This was done sustainably by sieving, allowing the smaller ones to fall through. Even during that period there was always plenty of Winkles about. Today the amount being taken is still fractional to the time when eating winkles was popular.

The problem I suppose is down to people breaking Fisheries bye laws and ignoring the Thanet Coastal code which is put in place to ensure sustainability. Even then I cannot see what inpact a few people ignoring the rules would have on the shellfish population.

My main concerns has to be the methods people use to harvest shellfish which is also pointed out in the article by coastal warden Steve Beck. It is the damage caused by digging, hammering or whatever to the shellfish beds which makes it difficult for the population to recover. A fine example of this has to be the harvesting of Limpets where the method is to literally smash at everything to get the Limpet off.

Friday, 30 July 2010

Pre Euro Banknotes what can you do with them.

Following yesterday's posting on pre Euro coins hoarded away this side of the channel, I thought I will give pre Euro banknotes a mention.
Following the switch over by some European Union member states to the Euro the banknotes issued by the central banks of those countries ceased to become legal tender overnight. However, each member state have set a time limit in which banknotes issued by their respective central banks can still be exchanged for euros. Something I am sure many people in the UK are unaware of. Throughout the UK there must be millions of pounds of old pre European banknotes tucked away in drawers doing nothing that can be exchanged for cash which would be a boost for our economy.
It is so easy to exchange the banknotes, first go onto the European central bank website and they will give the details of each central bank. From there it is just a matter of downloading a form from the relevant central bank and posting it off with the banknotes. Some countries do make it easy but some countries do make it hard, and it may be easier to sell the banknotes from some countries through dealers who deal in pre euro banknotes exchange, the only problem is the commission they take.
I have found that the Deutsche Bundesbank, the Netherlands bank and the Irish Central Bank the easiest and most efficient to deal with directly. Just remember that all pre euro banknotes that were legal tender at the time of the switch to the Euro can still be exchanged for euros.

Most countries the time limit is unlimited, below I have listed those whose time limit will end in the next five years.

France 17th February 2012

Italy 29th February 2012

Finland 29th February 2012

Greece 1st March 2012

If you cannot be bothered to cash them with the central banks or dealers the Red Cross will accept them or there is ebay.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

What do you do with pre Euro coins ?

Almost every Brit who has travelled abroad has brought back foreign coins as small change because they cannot be exchanged or there is simply not enough to by a drink at the bar before going home. The same applied to the Sally Ferry days with most people saving small change (French and Belgium francs) that cannot be exchanged, so they were saved maybe to spend on the next trip. With the demise of Sally Ferries and the French Franc being converted to Euros this has left a lot of French Francs this side of the Channel in drawers, boxes and tins etc.,
I see this all the time at auction whenever there are bulk lots of coins up for auction, French, Dutch,Belgium, Spanish and German pre Euro coins all up for sale, that have been accumulated by travellers and have nowhere to go. In many cases the face value of the coins before they become obsolete when calculated is staggering had they been exchanged or spent at the time. Unfortunately today pre euro coins cannot be spent in their home countries. However, there are some European pre euro coins that can still be exchanged for Euros if sent to the relevant central bank of countires who will exchange them for Euros, depositing a payment in Euros to your account. I know German, Irish,Italian,Spanish and Austrian coins can still be cashed for Euros and it would be ideal to search on the relevant countries Central Bank site for details. It can be done because I have done it and I must add the service from the German Bundesbank is first class.

It is unfortunate that the majority of European Union countries no longer exchange pre Euro coins for Euros. Bearing in mind that many of the modern pre Euro issues have no collector value the next stage is to sell them as scrap. When the European Union went over the the Euro the central banks ended up with hundreds of thousands of tonnes of coins in their vaults. As Euro coins were made of alloys that excluded Nickel, this meant that most of the returned coins could not be recycled into Euros. Countries like France and the Netherlands for example minted coins in pure nickel, others minted coins in cupro nickel and all produced coins in various alloys of Bronze which also could not be used

The first decade of this millennium saw a dramatic rise in commodities due to demand from Chinese industry. This led to a demand in the secondary metals market leaving the obsolete pre euro coins as a valuable asset. China bought thousands of tonnes of French 1/2, 1, 2, and 5 franc coins for its stainless steel production which at one point pushed the value of nickel up to $35,000 a tonne a few years back . So there is every chance that the stainless steel cutlery for sale in Wilkinsons could contain recycled French francs or Dutch Guilders.

At the time of writing the price of nickel is $20,312 a tonne or $20 a kilo which gives some indication how much value there is in scrap coins. Based on that figure I reckon if every foreign coin surplus to requirements in Thanet was to be accumulated it would certainly represent a tidy sum. Food for thought ?