Dead Dolphin ashore May 2016

Dead Dolphin ashore May 2016

Sunday, 30 December 2012

2012, a remarkable year.

2012 has to be the best year on record for coastal finds at Margate thanks entirely to the sea defence works that have taken place throughout the year. Work started about a year ago to underpin the stone pier that result in pile driving and deep digging close to the wall. This included digging up the workings that took place after the 1953 storm on the outside wall. I suppose the significance to this was that most items found around the outside wall had a strong local provenance originating from the original construction of the stone pier. This included sections of the original 1815 balustrade , lead work and other stone work. Some stone work found even bore old graffiti carved into the stone. Most of the metal work found was either the result of marine activity either lost overboard or collateral damage as a result of a storms or accidents. Further along the outer wall behind the droit house for a short period of time fragments were found of the original droit house bombed in the second world. I did find some Georgian and Victorian coins in this area which was remarkable as it was a short window with very little digging taking place. However I did have the benefit of experience from the workings that took place in 1985.
Inside the harbour was a different ball game as some deep digging took place cutting through layers of smelly sand, silt and clay. Also because of practicality the area wasn't barriered  off as work took place so I was able to get up close as digging place. As long as I didn't act like an idiot and observed basic health and safety protocol I knew I would be all right with the contractors and it paid off. As deep digging took place I was able to get up close cherry pick up some good finds before the holes were filled back in.
Some areas inside the harbour were barren of finds which I put down to the post war dredging operation, other areas were very productive with finds dating back to the 1780's. In most cases the finds were related either to harbour activity or coastal trade. I did find complete bottles with the oldest dating back to the 1830's. From inside the harbour I picked up every single thing including fragments of earthenware, crockery and glass resulting in about 2 to 3 hundred finds.
Across the harbour to where the revetment was being constructed things were done differently as the workings were surrounded by a barrier which made access very difficult plus the depth of digging was not as deep as in the harbour. Finds around the revetment were patchy and I found two complete bottles a few clay pipe bowls and stems plus some animal bones on the surface. I doubt if I made 50 finds in that area.
However I was well compensated with the erosion that took place in the center of the bay directly off the main sands on the low water site. It was that good I had too take two buckets each trip picking up mostly shards, clay pipe bowls and stems, bottle stoppers and old stone work .
During the whole time I worked with the Margate Museum a bit like the London mudlarks do with the London museum.The only problem was the Margate museum was they did not have the expertise so I ended up being judge and jury. Bringing items in and telling them what it was and left to them to display it, which they did and held a small exhibition of finds in the late summer of 2012.
I suppose the whole significance of Margate 2012 was that it did come up with tangible items that did tell the story of Margate's seaside heritage. Plus the Museum gained many items for display that I donated. This included paddle steamer shards from Victorian steamers, bits of the stone Pier,  pieces of the Hotel Metropole and pieces of the bombed Droit House during the war , Victorian seaside items and a complete time line of clay pipe bits.
As for myself I retained the items they did not want.This included bottles from visiting coasters into the Harbour  and earthenware shards found in the harbour and surrounding areas. Plus a few Georgian period items I kept for my small collection.
Since late October it has been a case of back to where I started this time last years with finds looking promising, Happy New Year.

Friday, 14 December 2012

A Victorian DFL collection

To find a complete glass bottle from the Victorian era in and around margate harbour and main sands area is something I have always considered to be a bit of an achievement. This week I managed to find two which exceeded all expectations. Both had all the tell tell signs of their time in the sea which all adds to the provenance as a margate found artifact  Even though the origins are DFL (down from London) I just find such finds fascinating as they are a link to Victorian London and a seaside holiday in Margate.
Circa 1870's Whiskey bottle
I was able to date both bottles within a certain timeline as dating bottles is not a precise thing. One bottle was a wine bottle pre 1860 and its irregular shape without a mould seam suggests the bottle may have been free blown. The other bottle was a dark whiskey bottle circa 1870's with a flat bottom base with a dimple that had been dip moulded in a three piece mould with an applied lip. All sounds a bit of a mouth full but to the layman I found a circa 1870's or later whiskey bottle and a pre 1860's wine bottle.
Other finds included a green aqua conical base of a Hamilton glass mineral water bottle embossed "London" "1808"and some other lettering which I need to work on and will be something that will be added to my DFL collection.
Victoria Steamboat Association shard
This week I collected my earthenware collection from the Margate Museum that had been on loan for the beachcomber exhibition. Along with recent earthenware finds this is turning out to be a large collection something I will one day display. I have now given the museum the remaining collection of glass and ceramic to do  with as they please. I have retained only a few small items, one being a Victorian glass bottle embossed J M Taylor Camberwell, a red transfer ware shard with the London coat of arms and Freemason symbols, a vulcanite bottle butterfly stopper impressed "Fred Smith Mile End" and a shard of black transfer ware from the Victoria Steamboat Association . The VSA operated paddle steamers in the River Thames and along the coast to Margate during the 1890's.
At present I have two buckets full of items found over the past month in the Margate area and once I have sorted out the Georgian items and Earthenware items I will pick out the DFL items which I will photograph a collection at a later date.

A close up of the whiskey bottle showing the three piece moulding.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Margate main sands and a November ramble.

This morning up I was up early to catch the low water at Margate at daybreak. The low water was a .5 which is nothing special but it is the first tide since the strong winds we had a fortnight ago that certain areas are accessible.
On arrival I noticed the low water area that had washed out a fortnight ago resembled the lunar landscape with holes everywhere. This is due to the daily pounding the area receives from metal detector users in their quest for gold as there were also discarded metal items to be seen. The popularity of beachcombing at Margate  was also evident as there was a complete absence of  the surface finds often associated  with the area like the weather beaten  shards of patterned crockery for example. I not sure if it is me blogging the fact that Margate main sands are a historical goldmine, but these days I am never short of company something I do welcome. However, I am sure that will change when the thermometer hits the minus and the northerly winds hit the beaches head on.
Today I set out with a different approach as I have been thinking for some time that I am becoming to reliant on surface finds and it is about time I did some proper digging. Digging holes in wet sand mixed with shingle and clay  is hard work and I am sure not many people will be following in my footsteps on that one.
Like everything else on the beach, where to dig does  take a bit of working out because there is no such thing as a historical layers like inland, so today was dedicated to digging pilot holes. It is surprising that some areas of the beach at low water are not far off from the clay bed from the old creek which makes the prospect of digging for finds in the future more promising.
Today I came across the most common find that can be found on any Victorian site in the country and Margate is no exception. The piece in question being a fragment of a James Keiller & sons Dundee Marmalade pot and everyone who has ever dug a Victorian site has most definitely came across a piece.
I am not sure of the date of this fragment even though it states that James Keiller won a medal of merit for his marmalade in Vienna in 1873. All I can think of is that it must be post 1878 as that was the year when transfer printing on earthenware pots were perfected.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Thanet mosaics

Recently I was talking to someone about  the patterned beach shards that are found around the Thanet coastline. A subject that I have only taken up in the past twenty years.
Collecting beach shards and researching them is becoming a popular hobby for the  few hardy souls who like beach combing in the winter. Recently I stumbled across a London mud lark blog and was amazed at the research detail that is under taken even for the smallest piece. Some pieces from the Thames came be accurately identified to items over four hundred years old. On the Thanet coastline there is no such luck as most of the shards found only go back 200 years and most of that is late Victorian through to the twentieth century.
 Most local patterned beach shards are Victorian and Edwardian and  they are often collected to make mosaics. The more dedicated collector can even identify certain designs to the beaches they came from. At Margate for example different catering companies that had concessions  had there own designs of china.
Local companies like F L Pettman sold Bovril and Oxo to the early morning bathers in very distinctive  cups. However there are many designs and companies that are difficult to place. On the left is a design of quality china found mostly on the Westbrook side of  Margate main sands. It does carry the name Letheby and Christopher which can be easily picked up on the internet, but it the finer local historical detail that is a mystery. In the top photograph above in the bottom left corner is another find that is common and its origins  are a mystery. Also another shard that can found on the beach are red print china shards that bear the words "Earl Grey Tea Holborn Viaduct ". Other finds include"Refreshment Pavillion Margate Jetty" shards and they can be dated by the different font. The oldest they can only be is 1897 because that was when the Jetty was extended to take more paddle steamers and the pavillion was built.
Serving tea to beach users was big business like coffee shops are today and even the Southeatern railway company got in on the act as shards bearing the company logo are often found on the beach. Many shards found on the beach are from the paddle steamers that used the Harbour like the General Steam Navigation Company, Victorian Steamboat Association and the New Palace Steamers.
Not all shards are associated with tea drinking and the most predominant plate and bowl finds  are blue patterned like the willow pattern  and other oriental designs. Older shards of the Dutch delft design have been found but these are very rare.
My knowledge of ceramics is limited so I generally research  the ones that have or may have local origins and give them to the Margate Museum. Others that have no local provenance I  just give  to the local arty people to use.

Monday, 5 November 2012

George P Collard

This  top of an earthenware flagon is a more recent find. It is impressed with the name P. Collard & Son, wine and spirit merchants, Canterbury. In fact the complete name should read George P Collard who traded as a wine and spirit merchant from their premises at 32 St Margaret s Street Canterbury. The nearest date I could find in a directory is 1884 and that came from a Canterbury directory on the internet, Above the word "son" there is a Lambeth Doulton potters mark.
It is surprising how many fragments of large flagon  that do appear on the Margate coastline especially in and around the harbour area. So far this year I have only found two fragments that have a clear identity the rest have been unidentifiable.

Sunday, 4 November 2012


I have never been one for Brylcreem, but this bottle does fascinate me. It just oozes 1930's art deco by its design and shape plus it has that beach weathered  appearance. Items from the 1930's are something I do not often come across as my focus is the older stuff but I do cherry pick unique 1930's items for the Margate museum.
Come the end of November the Beachcomber exhibition at the Museum  ends and I should point out that my only contribution to the exhibition was to find the stuff. All the work, research, layout and presentation was done by the army of Museum volunteers.
 Last week I donated 12 complete Margate bottles to the Museum collection and I am now going through the items the Museum can have for display material or for the permanent collection.
My two pet projects Georgian Margate and Earthenware in general are coming along well and I am learning more day by day about that area of Margate. I have found earthenware pieces of Dutch and German origin and it does come as a surprise that German spring water was bottled in three pint earthenware containers and sealed with cement. Only to be exported to London and then consumed on Margate main sands.
Recently inside the harbour I did find part of a top of a George Barret ginger beer bottle that matched up perfectly with another piece I found in February during the deep digging . Both pieces were found in different locations, something I put down to the excavations.
Shards from George Barret Ginger beer bottles are heading the tally at present but the reason I keep them all is that I can get data about all the different designs and manufactures of the bottles. Something that is becoming clear is that in the same time period there are two distinct quality of bottles used by the same companies. I am now starting to think that this could be down to Victorian snobbery  as the mineral water outlets may have deliberately catered for two different class of customers by the quality of the bottles.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Reclaiming the beaches

At last we have some decent weather and nature has reclaimed the beaches  and in return surrendered some of its secrets. Today was an exceptional day and there were finds to match however there was one difference. For the first time there were other people searching in the exact spot at the same time as myself something I am not use to. It is not that I object because I don't own the beach and it is a free country and I do welcome meeting people with similar interests and I like to share information. However the other person did make a couple of significant finds and it does concern me that such finds go unrecorded.
In recent months it has occurred to me that I am educating people through my blog and I was rather hoping that I would get data in return if I point people in the right direction and they made finds. This is not turning out to be the the case as I know finds are being made using my information and yet there is no information flow in return and it is becoming one way traffic. People can be very strange and I have seen it all before, in the past people I know have dug up a couple of grand worth of gold and then act different towards me even though I pointed them in the right direction. I feel the same could be happening it I point people in the right direction to find artifacts. To be honest and I do make it clear I don't give a toss about the money it is recorded history that is important.
Everything I  find goes through the Margate Museum system and its provenance is recorded and that is how I do things. So in future I am no longer posting on my blog my finds as I find them and I will wait until one moon phase has passed then they go on the blog.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

George Knell , 7 Cranbourne Alley Margate.

I bought this bottle some time ago on ebay from a local dealer.It is impressed KNELL MARGATE and has no potters mark. The seller put the date at around the 1860's and the bottle needed some further research.
So it was by chance that I was going through the 1855 Margate directory and I came across the name George Knell 7 Cranbourne Alley Margate. George Knell is listed as a confectioner and in the Victorian times confectioners, general stores and even chemists brewed their own ginger beer to sell on their premises. In  Victorian Margate brewing ginger beer was a cottage industry  due to the influx of visitors to the town. Evidence of this can be found almost anywhere on the Margate main sands below the low tide mark by the different earthenware shards from the different styles of ginger beer bottles that can be found in the area.

Cranbourne Alley was a part of old Margate that was demolished in 1965. It was like a small lane and eight feet wide in places with small Victorain shops either side.
There are many written articles on Cranbourne Alley that can be found on google that really make interesting reading.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

That rustic appeal

Following on from my previous posting I am now sourcing earthenware bottle finds from further around the coast especially those recovered further out to sea. This gem was picked up in fishing nets our side of the channel, however the exact chart position is unknown.
The bottle is an earthenware two tone one pint porter and has that wonderful  straight out of the sea look about it. Impressed close to the base is the name POWELL which was a pottery company in Bristol up until 1906 when it amalgamated with one of its rivals.

I am just amazed how one side of the bottle is encrusted in barnacles to such an extent that they have become fused to the bottle. A bottle in this condition is common to the Thanet coastline but a complete find like this is still very difficult to come by.

My local earthenware project is now starting to gain momentum as I am now including other peoples finds into my collection. Recently I saw a large collection of found vulcanite bottles stoppers, something I haven't seen for a long time.It was interesting just to pick through them identifying local names that have long gone. Among the more common bottle stoppers were some obscure like Duckett  Trinity Square Margate which after after a quick browse through local directories I found originated from the Rose in June pub in the area.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Ramsgate Town Plan Survey

The Ramsgate Town Plan Survey is now live on the Ramsgate Town Council Website 
and will close on 1st January 2013.  A survey link will be sent  to 
all members of RATS and  paper copies created for the shops within the 
area.  If you could distribute the link further to Ramsgate Residents it 
would be much appreciated, this would gather a more general outlook 
within Ramsgate.

Link for survey is below:

Bathgate Soda Water

Following from previous posting I have photographed the Bathgate Soda water bottle  retrieved from the seabed off Broadstairs. I have photographed the bottle especially for the benefit of internet search engines. The bottle has the "EX" duty mark that dates it between 1817 to 1834. Other websites indicate that Bathgate was a chemist in Calcutta India. So I am working on the assumption this bottle may have English East India connections as it was retrieved from the sea bed.

This bottle that has a striking similarity to the one above. It was found this year in Margate Harbour. It was found after all the spoil from the digging arising from the under pinning of the stone pier had washed down. It has no potters mark or any other impressions that does make accurate identification and dating impossible. However I am interested in the similarity to the bottle above, plus I also know at what depth it was dug and the location in the Harbour. In the same location I did find remains of English squat cylinder bottles from the 1780's to 1820's period.

This is earthenware shard no 2 on my records. It is part of a flagon lent by E G Wastall who were wine and  spirit merchants. The shard was found as result of the sea defence works at Margate this year.Even though the shard is impressed Ramsgate the company had premises in both Ramsgate and Margate trading from 1874 to 1914. The Ramsgate store was in Queen Street Ramsgate and the Margate one was at 19 High Street Margate.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

There's plenty more fish in the sea.

Today (13/10/12) I had a good look at all the items I have on loan in the Margate Museum including all the  items I have found on the beaches. It has been my intention for some while to donate a large part of my collection to the Margate Museum for display , for hands on and for the permanent collection. Considering that everything of mine in the Museum has been found within a half mile radius of the Margate Museum or has a strong Margate provenance I am sure it will be a historical asset to the town.
Since last week my find rate is back to the level as it was in late spring . So I decided now is the time to donate most of the collection to the Museum should they want it. The only exception being all the earthenware as I need to go through the earthenware bottles and  shards as  I am making dating and collecting earthenware my winter search project in the Margate harbour area. In the past I have found pieces of Bellarmine Flagon in Margate Harbour dating from the latter half of the 1600's so I am confident this will work.

My other project is Georgian Margate, and the intention is to from a portable collection of finds dating from 1714 to 1830 of items found in the Margate area including Georgian items of local origin with a weak provenance. I have started to record  the few Georgian items I have so far, I have brought label holders and printed display labels to go with these items. The items once recorded are going to be boxed up with the labels and stored. The intention is to have a collection that can be readily displayed at short notice. It will take time to build the collection and it is early days but in theory I would eventually be able to kit out one or even two of the rooms of  a building like the Tudor House within an hour providing they have display cabinets.

As for Victorian, Edwardian and the rest of the 20th Century finds.Most of the finds this winter from these era's will go direct to the Museum  as I find them, that is providing the Museum will accept them .However, I will keep a small token collection of duplicates of what the Museum already has for my own pleasure.

Friday, 12 October 2012

The Margate sea defence diaries - identified earthenware shards No 1

Following on from my previous posting I am now going through the process of checking all the earthenware shards I found this year in Margate Harbour during the sea defence works.
This piece found in Margate Harbour is impressed with part of a word that contains the lettering "RWEILER". The complete bottle is either a ceramic gin bottle or a water bottle and dates from around the 1850's.The full lettering on the bottle would read GEORG KREUZBERG AHRWEILER RHENPREUSSEN and the origin is German.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Another interesting discovery.

Recently I brought a salt glaze earthenware bottle from a shop in Broadstairs it is impressed Bathgates Soda Water and has the 1817 to 1834 duty mark. The bottle had come off the sea bed at Broadstairs and this was evident as parts of the salt glaze had been affected by its time on the sea bed.  But other than that the bottle was in very good condition.
I was attracted to the bottle because it carried the 1817 to 1834 earthenware duty mark and also in June this year I found an earthenware bottle of identical same shape and size in Margate Harbour.  

My first piece of research on the internet was to establish who Bathgates was. On a bottle diggers website I was surprised to find that Bathgate & Co were chemists in Calcutta India who produced soda water, possibly linking the bottle to English East India Company origins considering the bottle was found at sea. On the same link another bottle of the shape and size found in the Thames was featured having a striking similarity to the two bottles I own.

The bottle on the link is unique because it is one of the oldest dated soda water bottles in the country dated  as 1802 to 1805. This is identified by the details impressed on the bottle and backed up by research.
It is the detail on the 1802 to 1805 bottle that has now put me on a new lead on my Margate finds because it is impressed with the abbreviation M W which I would assume would mean mineral water. In fact M W at the early part of the 1800’s meant Mephitic Water and not Mineral Water something I have always assumed when picking up earthenware shards. During the underpinning of the stone pier at Margate I picked up every single earthenware shard that was uncovered by the deep digging and I still have them.  So I am now going through them working to a theory that there is every possibility that buried in Margate harbour there is evidence of the oldest dated mineral water bottles in the country.

 In 1767 scientist Joseph Priestly invented soda water and published his findings in 1772. From that date there were many modifications to his invention and eventually put to commercial use. In 1792 J.J. Schweppe set up a company in London to manufacture and sell soda water. London Chemists even manufactured soda water for retail. All manufacturers did have one thing in common and that was that all soda water products were sold in earthenware bottles due to the volatile nature of soda water.
During that time period Margate was a visitor destination for the Thames sailing hoys and then in later years was the first commercial routes for paddle steamers. Now considering that most of oldest salt glaze mineral water bottles in the country have been found in the Thames which is an embarkation point. Then what are the odds that Margate Harbour being a destination point could have the same dated bottles drank on the journey buried deep in the Margate Harbour like in the Thames 
At present I have one bottle found in Margate Harbour of the design of that period but it is cannot be accurately dated. So at present my only chance I have of putting this theory to the test is by the examination of the shards I have and the ones I keep finding. Unless I am lucky enough to find a complete impressed bottle.

Tony Ovenden

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Another Georgian Margate find.

One of the finds from last week on Margate main sands was this broken bottle neck from an English squat cylinder bottle. It dates anytime from the 1780's to the 1820's . This is the first one I have found with the cork still intact at Margate. It was found in an area on the main sands where the sand  had washed down to the clay bed of the old creek last winter.
The discolouration to the glass is consistent to other finds from the same period that have been laying in silt for around two hundred years or more. During the underpinning of the stone pier earlier on this year many discoloured glass fragments of the same period were also found where the deep digging took place close to the wall of the stone pier. However the main feature of this find is not the discolouration of the glass it is the way the lip has been applied after the bottle has been blown as it is consistent with the generic wine and spirit squat cylinder bottles of the 1780's to 1820's period.
From the 1820's the design of lips did change and the length of the collars changed so the contents of the bottle would identify a particular wine or spirit. I suspect this change came about due to the end of the Napoleonic wars as imported bottled wines would have freely entered the country from all over Europe. Each bottle having different brand designs which forced a design change in England as generic designed bottles would have been no longer fashionable.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

100 to 1

In Friday's Isle of Thanet Gazzette (5/10/12) on page 26 I got a write up on some of my beachcombing finds in the Margate area that are currently on display in the Margate Museum. Reading through the article I couldn't help thinking what a difference a year makes. As this time last year I was planning for the start of the sea defence works at Margate. My target was to pick up everything I could that was man made and over one hundred years old.  Anyone who knows the Margate main sands and harbour area well  would know that this is not as much of daunting task as it sounds. Simply because  finding items over one hundreds can be done on an industrial scale due to silting nature of the bay that has time locked so many items in the anaerobic layers of silt and sand.
On another point  I expect many readers of this blog are thinking that everything I do is about Margate and Icover very little about the rest of Thanet.
Being Ramsgate based I do put as much effort into finding things around the Ramsgate coastline as I do at Margate. But the problem is that finding anything old and man made (over 100 years) on the coast  at Ramsgate is very difficult and I would certainly applaud someone who has managed to build up a collection of coastal finds from the Ramsgate foreshore.
It is unfortunate that the  most frequented piece of beach at Ramsgate by the Victorians just happens to be the most volatile and unsettled piece of sand on the Thanet coastline that changes it shape almost on a weekly basis. So therefore finds are almost none existent as there has never been a silting process to bury and conserve anything.
Inside Ramsgate  Harbour on the other hand is the complete opposite and it does make the mind boggle as to what lies buried deep in the harbour. Reading through  the accounts of the shipping that sank in the harbour entrance trying to find a safe haven during the nineteenth century I guess there is a strong case for some good finds. However, the problem is none of it can be accessed.
So the only remaining option for accessible finds is the walk from the foreshore from the Western Undercliff to Pegwell Bay and into the bay itself. Over the years I have made Ramsgate finds in this area and it does appear that for every single items I find at Ramsgate I do find one hundred items in the same time period at Margate which is unfortunate trying to build a Ramsgate collection.
Above is a recent Ramsgate beach find and it is part of a Philpott ginger beer bottle and like every glass bottle produced by Stephen George Philpott there is a date, with this piece dated 1895. This piece is by no means rare and neither is the complete bottle. In fact S G Philpott glass bottles from the 1890's to 1920 are the most well known and easy to obtain bottles in Ramsgate. All are dated along with the stopper and some bottles can fetch as much as £40. I know Ramsgate Town Council has a dated Ginger beer bottle in their collection because I gave it to them and the Margate museum has one along with other Ramsgate bottles.
I have been following the local bottle (1880's to 1920's) market for some time and there is a huge price difference paid for a Ramsgate bottle compared to a Margate bottle with Margate being far cheaper overall. My Margate bottle collection is mostly finds from the Margate area and I have spent around £100 + to fill in the gaps and this collection is currently on loan to the Margate museum for display at present. As for a Ramsgate collection I am now planning on building an entire new collection.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

First dig of the Autumn

This morning was my first dig of the autumn and the objective was to finish off what I started in late spring, recording old bottle remains on the Margate main sands. It was low water and it was a familiar sight of shingle breaking through  the sand mixed with fragments of glass and earthenware.
Most of the bottle bases throughout the year have now been removed with myself being the main culprit . I must have exceeded 200 + most dating from the 1780's to the dawn of the twentieth century. However today I did manage to find a dozen ranging from the beginning to the end of the 19th century.
In the photograph the pontil scarring on the bottles can been clearly seen and that helps date the bottles. The top three on the left are fine examples of where the iron pontil rod has been attached so the bottle could be finished off and the lip applied. These bottles more than likely dates  in the 1820's to 1840's bracket.
The remaining bottles date from the later  Victorian period . Representing a Victorian day at the sea side of which the evidence is still in abundance on the foreshore at Margate.

Friday, 21 September 2012

The new season

Within a few weeks Autumn will be well and truly set in as the effects tidal of changes make an impact on the coastline. I have even noticed my pet seagull who flies down to see me everyday has even got his brown winter feathers on his head.
All attention once again will be the Margate sea defence works. Throughout summer which is generally bad for beachcombing I have been researching  the items I have found during the previous spring and winter.  I have started to record all my finds from  the Margate Harbour area from the Georgian era (1714 to 1830) and identified almost all of my Victorian finds.
 In the photograph above is a shard alongside a five pence piece with the initials GJK in blue. There have been a number of other pieces found with these initials . I have been reading through many local directories from the 19th Century and have so far drawn an absolute blank, so this piece does remain a mystery. Maybe I could have read the initials wrong and they could be GSN and if that is the case then I could be looking at General Steam Navigation.
Other discoveries have been lumps of wrought iron that suggests iron was once imported into Margate harbour. Many years ago I did find a Priestfield iron and coal one penny token dated 1812 on the rocks below the promenade where the Turner Center is today and it could be that both are linked, but that really is a long shot.
Prior to 1750 Margate was a port of call for Dutch and Flemish traders and I have good reason to believe that glass fragments I have been finding may have links with the low countries. Same applies to some of the  the pieces of clay pipes I have been finding in the harbour area. Internet search engines can provide all the information to identify the age and designs of clay pipes. From this information I have found that most of the clay pipe bits are Victorian and a few date from the 1700's and one I suspect is Dutch , dating around the late 1600's.

Once the sea defences are completed I am sure the real beachcombing will begin and it will be very interesting to see what happens we we get a set of strong North Westerely Gales as the back wash from the revetment will churn up the sand. The same will happen in westerly gales inside Margate Harbour as the build up in the past year from the digging is only soft silt.This process of storms and erosion will last years as the harbour and main sands will change shape to accommodate the sea defences and this promises some interesting finds for years to come.

Finally I see on the Thanet life blog I seemed to have earnt the name Militant Beachcomber on his sidebar which really does come across as old school paranoia.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

The luxury of being down the political order.

I suppose in the local political order of priorities the local artwork and artifacts belonging to the towns and villages of Thanet are pretty well down the list. It is something I am not complaining about as dealing with social deprivation  in Thanet is a must and does top the list of priorities.
As an elected member who is very much near the  bottom of the list of the local political who's who I do have this luxury of picking out an obscure local issue and just work on it, very much like a back bencher  does in the house of commons. Mine just happens to be the whereabouts all the art and artifacts that once belonged to Margate, Ramsgate, Broadstairs and the not forgetting the villages.Recently KCC have been caught out by some clever research that leads to the Kent History & Library Centre "acquiring" items that once belonged to Margate that are now in their collection at Maidstone. Once known as the Parker collection belonging to the people of  Margate it now has become fragmented into the KCC system.Fortunately when the items in the collection were taken away from Margate someone just happened to leave the volume detailing the collection on the shelf in Margate reference library. So you can imagine the fun at present picking out items in the volume and asking KCC where are they ? The silence is deafening.

Recently I went into Ramsgate library and asked if they had records of all the art and artifacts that were in the Ramsgate library museum that once belonged to the old Borough of Ramsgate. Obviously most of it was lost in the fire at the library but I know for a fact that things did survive and that some items are at Maidstone. The answer was there are no records as they were lost in the fire and there were no duplicates. I was told that they do have a few items at the library that survived the fire that are being cataloged by volunteers.
Bearing in mind what happened at Margate with the Parker collection being absorbed into the Kent History & Library Center  collection and KCC losing  the provenance to items. It has made me very suspicious that KCC has in its collection Ramsgate items that has no record or provenance, that is if the information I received from the library is true.
I do find it interesting that the few surviving items from the Ramsgate library fire in the public domain just happen to items that are obviously once the property of the Borough of  Ramsgate like a Borough of Ramsgate badge for example or Dame Janet's casket.. Whereas anything like a print, painting etc. that have a generic provenance to Ramsgate are nowhere to be seen and there are no records. It does make you suspicious ?

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Wond'ring aloud - digging up Georgian Margate

Digging up Georgian Margate.

Finding any item apart from coins and tokens relating to Georgian Margate is a very difficult task due to the modern development of the Margate. Even though many fine Georgian buildings remain in the town today it is very difficult to find any items relating to life in Georgian Margate apart from the artwork and archive records in the local Margate museum.

 Since the construction and opening of the stone pier in 1815 and the construction of the sea wall that forms Marine Terrace there has been a continuous build up of sand and silt in the area.  This in turn has buried some evidence of life in Georgian Margate under layers of silt and sand in the harbour and main sands area. With items remaining buried and only accessible when there is sand erosion due to storms or during sea defence construction and repair works.

In the past there have been opportunities to find Georgian items like the aftermath of the storm of 1978 that destroyed the Jetty. The demolition and clear up that followed and the construction of a new sea defence behind the Droit house in 1985 did lead to a few finds. Most of the finds being George II, George III and George IV coins and tokens that were found using a metal detector as this was the only search option because of tidal conditions. Other items made of lead and copper were also found but it was difficult to date these items and establish a provenance from the Georgian period because of the abundance of Victorian items in the area originating from the Jetty and the Victorian Marine Palace site at the Rendezvous car park.  Examinations of all old non metallic items found in the area at the time were found to be all Victorian, Georgian items like ceramic and glass were found to be nonexistent in these areas.

The under pinning works of the Stone Pier in the spring of 2012 provided another  window of opportunity as the excavations that were to take place would lead to some deep digging in the Harbour area. Digging took place close to base of the stone pier wall and sheet piling was driven in and then capped with concrete. Old underpinning from the 1953 reconstruction work was also removed from around the square head area and the lighthouse and replaced. During the 2012 underpinning works a few Georgian items were found during excavation and these items were spread over a wide area, this was probably due to the fact that dredging took place in the Harbour in the 19th century for the paddle steamers and later in the 20th Century for the colliers removing items from the area.
 In one area around the square head remains of the balustrade that surrounded the base of the lighthouse that was lost in the February 1953 storm were found, this included some lead work used in the construction of the stone pier. Inside the Harbour easily identifiable finds like clay pipe stems and bottle necks were found, unfortunately no complete bottles or clay pipe bowls were found. Behind the Droit House on the sea ward side digging unearthed Georgian coins and some shattered remains of the original Droit House bombed during the Second World War which is consistent with the finds found when the cold harbour sea defence was constructed on the site of the Jetty entrance in 1985.

Every year since the summer of 1998 there has been erosion on certain parts of the low tide mark at Margate main sands on a regular occurrence. On some occasions small areas of sand will shift leaving evidence of the clay base of the old creek and brooks that ran through Margate. When this happens large quantities of ceramic and glass items can be found on the surface including intact items. Most items generally date from the 1840’s to the present day. When this occurs there is always an abundance of Victorian and Edwardian items and on some occasions identifiable Georgian items can be found. I have listed Georgian items that have been found in this area along with items found during the sea defence digging and items found in the town. The list is small but each item does have a genuine provenance to Margate.

Friday, 24 August 2012

The beachcomber exhibition

Tomorrow (Saturday)  the Beachcomber exhibition opens at the Margate Museum.

Saturday 25th August 2012.

" Remember that date! Yes I know that is this Saturday, Tomorrow or Today if you are reading this tomorrow. WHY??? At 11 am on Saturday 25th August 2012, The Beachcomber Exhibition opens at Margate Museum. Come and see what has been found in the sea off of Margate, All the flotsam and jetsam, all the artefacts, see if you can spot The Mermaid’s Hydro Electric Guitar, see a piece of the Old Harbour, a piece of Droit House even some masonry from the famous Hotel Metropole, where Sidney Fox Killed his mother in 1929.
It still only cost £1,50 for adults and free for children under 16 years of age, be one of the first to see this brand new, unique, never been seen before Exhibition – The Beachcomber from 11am Saturday 25th 2012. Also open Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday." Margate Museum Facebook page.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

A Margate exhibition

All being well this Bank Holiday will see the start of a new exhibition at the Margate Museum. It will be based around flotsam,jetsam, storms and the history of the coast. To be honest I not sure of the exact format the exhibition will take as my role has been just to submit all the items I found during the sea defence works and other finds I have found along the coast over the years for the exhibition. The theme of the exhibition  will be the area around the Harbour and the Jetty and a display team has been set up to work with researchers from the Friends of the Margate Museum to set the whole thing up using Margate Museum resources.

As I gathered up all my finds together and explained where each item came from it occurred to myself that I have no records to the provenance of each item and should I happen to walk in front of a bus the whole collection apart from a few items would then be meaningless.
So giving the collection some thought I will after the exhibition  photograph and list every single item with a special emphasis on the area of the main sands, the harbour and jetty area where Margate's seaside history all began. However I will give the Margate Museum first dibs on any item for their permanent collection once the exhibition ends.This will include all future finds I will make when I resume the digging once the tidal changes next month have a significant effect on the coast. My list of catergories will be (a) Georgian Margate (b) Victorian and Edwardian Margate up until the end of First World War and (c) The 20th century after WW1.

Above is one of my listings found last week. It is a bottle base found in an area where the sand has eroded to the clay base in the bay of Margate main sands. When the effects of sand erosion take place in the bay, glass bottle bases are one of the first things to appear as the sand moves. In a way it does look horrendous to see so much broken glass on the beach. However, I do take two buckets with me and I do pick them all up checking the age of each one. One thing I look for is scarring on the base that is caused when the glass rod used in the blowing process is snapped off, this is known as a pontil mark. Pontil scarring can easily help identify the age of old bottles along with other features like the thickness of the glass and the style of the bottle. Taking all these factors into consideration this bottle base dates between the 1780's and the early 1850's something that is a common find at Margate.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Spermaceti Oil

This time of year things can be very quiet on the Thanet coastline which is probably a strange statement to make considering the diversity of  the 22 miles of  Thanet coastline.
So this time of year I tend to go back on old ground re examining old finds  including  following up unfinished research.
This week I have been going through everything  I have associated with the stranding of the Sperm Whale in Pegwell Bay Ramsgate in 2011. As followers of my blog may recall the stranding of the Sperm Whale was very much a public affair and the clear up operation did leave us with a bonanza of natural history "finds".
In the UK anything to do with endangered or protected species is heavily regulated especially when someone  decides to collect pieces of them. Therefore I had to apply for a licence from Natural England to possess items form the Whale. At the time I built up a collection of Sperm Whale bone fragments of which a gave a large chunk of the collection to the Monkton Natural History collection. I am now going through the process of donating the rest to the Natural History Museum at the Wingham Wildlife Park for scientific and educational purposes.

At the time of the stranding, the Sperm Whale was cut up on the the disused  hoverport slipway. Amongst the debris left over from the Whale were lumps of a white waxy substance that appeared on the strandline over a wide area. At first I thought it was Ambergris from the Whale but when picked up my body temperature in my hand started to turn the white waxy substance from solid to liquid , so that ruled out the Ambergris theory.
 I kept a sample  it in a sealed container and left it for well over a year. Over that period of time the sediment and impurities that had attached itself to my sample had settled to the bottom of the jar and I was able to dispense the top layers into a jar. It soon became clear that my sample was Spermaceti oil  because of the way it reacted to temperature change as it would start to solidify at the slightest drop in room temperature. When put in the fridge it would turn almost solid and at room temperature it became liquid again. This is something consistent with the oil in the spermaceti organ in the head of the Sperm Whale as these changes to the oil in the spermaceti organ gave the Whale buoyancy when diving at great depths diving for squid. The unfortunate thing is that  this Whale oil is one of the reasons why  commercial  explotation of the Sperm Whale  almost led to its extinction.
Due to international regulations this recent sample in the UK is unique and I have notified Natural England I have the sample and I am in the process of donating it to the Wingham Natural History Museum.
In the meanwhile I have the sample beside my computer and watching it act like a crude thermometer until the paperwork and licensing arrangements are sorted out.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

More on Margate bottles.

 Recently I have been expanding my collection of Margate mineral water and ginger beer bottles to coincide with a future exhibition at the Margate Museum. Also on a more personal note I am looking at the Margate Museum collection with the intention of helping to  improve the quality of the collection.

 It is a well known fact that during  the late Victorian era up until the start of the First World War that many varieties and designs of mineral water and ginger beer bottles circulated in Margate, a  lucrative market that was dominated by the big three M J Harlow , Reeve & Co and Barrett & Co. 
In these days of information technology the information regarding the many mineral water and ginger beer manufacturers is coming together and a like most research we can be awash with detail and very little in the way of a tangible artifact.
Margate at the moment is going through this heritage renaissance supported by a network of people that are good at what they do. So my contribution in all of this is to seek artifacts for display  either  trawling through the internet, going to auctions or even digging them up myself.
This year I have acquired a few bottles, some I have dug up at the sea defence works and listed on my blog and others that have originated elsewhere.
The two green aqua bottles I have photographed on the top left are M J Harlow mineral water bottles. The one on the right is a Codd's bottle and was found under floorboards in a house in Eaton Road Margate by an electrician. It is embossed M J Harlow High Street Margate and that dates the bottle as pre 1898 when M J Harlow moved from the premises at 94 High Street Margate to a purpose 
built manufacturing premises at Addiscombe Road Margate or Chaucer Road as it was known then. Next to the Codd bottle is flat bottom Hamilton with a  crown cap this bottle would have been used for table water. This bottle has an embossment  that was adopted by M J Harlow when they moved into the Addiscombe Road premises and has a similarity in design to one of Harlow's rivals Reeve & Co.
Below the two bottles is a M J Harlow screw top ginger beer bottle from the same Margate High Street premises. This bottle is molded in a mold that came in four sections , this enabled the bottle manufacturer to use the same mold for other client's by simply changing the name plate which in turn kept  costs down. The bottle is  embossed "Homemade Ginger Beer"  a local industry that was very popular with the Victorian visitor.The next bottle below it is a crown cap olive green bottle and had a generic use, it dates  from the 1920's and was a common design used up until 1924 when the M J Harlow ceased to trade and sold out to Barrett & Co.

                                                                            The stone ginger beer bottle to the left  is one of the many designs used to sell ginger beer brewed  at the Reeve & Co premises at Hawley Street Margate. The company was established in 1849 and had the largest share of the ginger beer and mineral water market supplying the hotel trade. This bottle commemorates the company being in business for over 60 years. All Reeve bottles were well made and most  had makers marks. However this bottle  has staining  in the glaze  the transfer print is weak plus there are no makers mark. Therefore I have now this feeling that this bottle was more than likely made during the later years of the first world war.  When I bought this bottle it did not have a Reeve &; Co stopper, fortunately I was able find one during the excavation that took place construction of  the Margate  sea defence works and it fits perfectly.                                                                                     

Finally, this bottle to the left is another Reeve & Co ginger beer bottle. This bottle also has no makers mark and was origanaly manufactured as a plain bottle and was later acid etched. 
Reeve & Co also supplied soda syphons to the hotel trade in Margate. The soda syphons were also acid etched and those supplied to the more upmarket hotels carried some stunning designs on coloured glass.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

The Parker Collection

In last Friday's Gazette  (06/07/12) there was an interesting article on this vast collection of art and artifacts held by Kent County Council at Maidstone. It appears that the KCC collection is so over whelming that some KCC members are proposing that perhaps they have  far to much in the collection and perhaps some items should be sold off that are under used or irrelevant to the collection.Obviously a debatable point with many pros and cons. However, my first thoughts when reading the article was how did KKC manage to accumulate such a large collection in the first place and what is the origins of this valuable collection.
Thirty eight years ago on the 1st April 1974 local government changed and district councils came in to being and many assets of the former borough councils in Kent became property of KCC. This included library and museum collections that were soon to become centralised by KCC. In some cases this was good as old items could be stored and conserved in monitored conditions.In other cases this resulted in many old borough collections being "looted" and their whereabouts unknown and centralised.
Take the Bourough of Margate collection for example, part of the Borough collection had a sub collection known as the Parker collection that consisted of 10,420 items of which there were 7,406 prints and 1,136 illustrations.
One local researcher recently went into the Margate library and asked to see anything from the  Parker collection only to be presented with a box with a few brown envelopes of items that gives some idea of what has happened to Margate Parker collection.

Now if KCC should even consider selling anything off that originated from Thanet, then perhaps it should as a gesture of goodwill return anything back to the Town of origin.

Finally, I should add that the Parker volume has now been traced and the research will continue and I will keep you posted.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Captain Scorpion

It does make a change exploring a different coastline even though it may be thousands of miles away from home. In this case my chosen destination was the Playa del Carmen  beaches Yucatan province Mexico.
I have done this area before so I was eager to add my collection of previous finds, plus for once I had a decent camera so I could photograph larger finds.
I was even fortunate that there was a hurricane passing through  the  Gulf of Mexico and that had a dramatic effect on the sea. In turn all the weird and wonderful started to appear on the strand line. including this piece of driftwood I photographed. It was fascinating watching these barnacles move as I picked up the lump of wood.
These barnacles were on everything coming ashore including pieces of plastic. Other finds included many sea shells and there was enough coral to fill a skip.
I did venture into the Mayan Jungle the objective was to snorkel part of the under water system of caves in the area. These caves have magnificent stalactites and the depth is darkness and  overall the site is awesome. While I was changing into my harness to abseil down a cave shaft I trod on a scorpion and the little sod stung me. I could feel this adrenalin rush and our Mayan guide told me that my tongue will start to feel numb as he prepared this ball of mud and leaves to apply on the area where I had been stung. I was not bricking it as my thoughts reflected back to the days of British India when a Brit was bitten by a snake the cure was lashings of Gin and Tonic. Therefore I could be in for a couple bottles of tequila on the house.
Fortunately or unfortunately the Mayan cure of mud and leaves worked and I just carried on and had to forgo the Tequila. However, the rest of our group were Americans and for the rest of the day they named me Captain Scorpion something that seemed to stick for the rest of the holiday.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

What a rip off.

On the A299 Thanet Way past the Whitstable round about on the road to Faversham there is a Shell garage. On the slip road leading from  the garage there is  a Freight terminal that has a small car lot, the address is on the invoice above, Herne Hill Motors Limited trading as Car Heaven.

From this business my son bought a used car something he had been working and saving up for. He went along with a mate who checked a light green Renault Clio registration V631 KLC. The car seemed okay after a test drive in the lorry turning area. My son bought the car and the guy selling the car said it will be ready in the morning with all the paperwork etc., In the meanwhile my son got some car insurance.

Next day my son  turned up to collect his car. The guy who sold him the car was not there and the only person on site was an "associate". He told my son there was no log book because the car was an accident write off. Something that was not made clear when he bought the car also there was no certificate to say the car had been checked out as road worthy which was needed to apply for a log book. He said the car was now my son's responsibility and it has to be off the site in seven days and after that they will charge ground rent and after a fortnight they will resell the car to recover there costs. My son asked for his money back and this was refused.

My son then went to citizens advice and trading standard's for help.

Since then the company has changed its name and it appears a name change is something that happens on a regular basis. Just google the address and company  and see what turns up.

My son has tried ringing the company and sent numerous emails none have been answered. When he went back to the site it was trading  under a different name and his car had gone. Finally my son did make contact and the person on the end of the phone said the car had sold to recover their "costs" which I suppose is a parking fee for a piece of waste land.

My son has proof of ownership and he went to the Police. Surprise, surprise there was not much help there "it is a civil matter".

The case is back with citizens advice and trading standards.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

The sea defence diaries- the final chapter

Today I took into the Margate Museum everything single item I have found during the sea defence works at Margate. All in all it represents about seven months work of photographing and digging  in and around the Margate Harbour area.
The final phase of the sea defence works has been a bit of a disappointment as I never realised that very little digging would be taking place around the Kings Steps area where the revetment is to be constructed. However this has been out weighed by all the information gathered and items founds during the underpinning of the Stone Pier since the end of December.
This morning I took full advantage of the effects of the recent strong South Westerly winds that have scoured the through the silt in Margate Harbour from earlier the digging. Today I found three old bottles, one complete clay pipe and part of an animal jaw bone.
One of the bottles was embossed Weavers Plumstead which just happened to be a small company once owned by the Grandfather of  John Williams (curator of the Margate Museum). So on those credentials I let him have the bottle.The other bottles were a Weston's dairies milk bottle and the other was an early coke bottle.
From now until September beach combing  finds do fall sharply because  everything  is either covered in green sea weed making it hard to see and the weather is not as volatile like in the Winter months when the sand can easily erode on one tide.
In summing up, I have found clay pipes and stems dating back to the early 1700's , fragments of bottles also dating back also the the 1700's and many shards dating back to that period. Unfortunately nothing is complete except a few clay pipes.
From the 1800's to the 1900's  I have found a whole range of items that represent Margate as tourist resort during that period, plus items relating to Margate Harbour as a working harbour. In this category I have found complete items like bottles both glass and earthenware.
The finds that interest me most and have 100% provenance are pieces of the stone pier constructed between 1812 to and 1815 that were lost in the February storm of 1953 when the lighthouse on the end of the stone pier collapsed into the sea.

In September the exhibition at the Margate Museum will be about History of the area in and around the Jetty in including the Harbour area, I suppose the entire area as seen in the  the view of the Webb painting in the Turner Centre . Many of my finds found during the sea defence works will be on display, but not all as the exhibition will not be about items found during the sea defence digging. Once the exhibition is finished the Museum can take whatever they want for their collection and I will keep the remaining items to form another collection of the finds found during the underpinning of the stone pier to accompany the photographs I took.I hope to have something in place for the 60th anniversary of the storm in February 2013.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Collecting Ramsgate items for Ramsgate Town Council and Margate items for the Margate Museum.

One job I have managed to talk myself into on Ramsgate Town Council is chairing an art and artifact working party and over at Margate I have joined the friends of the Margate Museum and sit on the disposal sub committee.Both jobs or should I say tasks are poles apart and I do find it strange that on one side of Thanet in Ramsgate there are hardly any items of art and artifacts in the public domain yet over at Margate they have so much they have to downsize. In lay man's terms the solution does seem simple but in reality as in both cases a good knowledge base needs to be built up as public assets are involved. The trouble is this is not something that can be plucked out of thin air and a great deal of research needs to be undertaken.
One area I have been researching and looking at recently is valuations to ensure that in both cases  that value for money will be obtained. I am pleased to say the TDC  is in no hurry to get rid and RTC are not going flat out to fill an empty cabinet because it is empty.
Since the beginning of this year I have been researching all Ramsgate artwork on the internet and visited most antique shops on the south coast. I have attended auctions, followed auctions on the internet and have kept a very long watch list on ebay. At present Ramsgate items do seem to have a higher premium than Margate items, one example being this Philpott bottle I have posted, the buyer ended up paying £41 for the bottle including P & P. Recently some scarce bottles from Margate were on ebay and I picked three of them up for £8 each which is an absolute bargain. I know for a fact that they have none of these in the Margate collection. and I suppose eventually I will give them to the Museum.
In the past decade the value of crested china has suffered a collapse  similar to an earthquake and can average £2.99 on ebay which is a far cry from a time when a lot of items went for £10 + each. I have bought a few pieces for RTC but I am waiting for a large collection of Ramsgate crested china to appear on auction.
Some time back a painting of Ramsgate was featured in the Isle of Thanet Gazette that was being auctioned in Scotland, RTC put in a sensible bid but did not get it. Elsewhere, I came across a print of Ramsgate dated 1863 published by the marine library Ramsgate it was up for £58 and I am still thinking on it. A lot of small Ramsgate prints do seem to average out at £18 each and once again I am not in a hurry to buy.
In the Margate museum all the lower value prints are going to be taken out of their frames and are to be stored in acid proof paper and stored in controlled conditions. From there I expect valuations and decisions are going to be made especially in the case of duplications.
Overall the market in art, prints, ceramics, glass and seaside souvenirs is straight forward. It is rare documents, awards, medals and metal ware with provenance that is the real wild card . A fine example would be anything associated with Sir Moses Monitfiore.

Friday, 25 May 2012

At last real progress.

In today's Isle of Thanet Gazette there is some excellent coverage on the Ramsgate Maritime Museum, the Margate Museum and the Tudor House in Margate. Something I am sure would have been unthinkable four years ago.
I like the fact that the Ramsgate Maritme Museum has had record attendances and that they have really got their act together, plus I like the fact that two visitors have so much faith in the Margate Museum they have given £20,000 of their own money to allow the Museum to flourish. It is all good news.
However, it is the the progress on the Tudor House at Margate that is so pleasing and reading through the article in the Gazette it did make me smile that the fact that they are seeking European money towards restoration. Which is a completely different picture a few years ago when Mick Twyman and other historians where reminding TDC of their obligations to maintain and conserve the Tudor House.
 TDC are the owners of the Tudor House and whenever they were pressed over its condition the reply was along the lines that it was a 1950's restoration and the house was a fake as they dragged their feet ,   which is a complete load of tosh. Yes part of the house was restored in the 1950's but a great deal of the house is original and TDC have neglected the building because of a myth. Funny that now someone on TDC  has got a whiff of European money that the building has been recognized  for what it is, a 16th century building. Perhaps I may be a tad cynical but I have a great belief that within TDC there are people that do know heritage and know their stuff are willing to push it which is a vast improvement from the stagnation of  four years ago.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

The Sea Defence Diaries 21/05/12 - The search continues

I haven't posted much on the sea defence works in recent weeks because no real digging has been taking place in the historic areas. Also the low tides have not been that good.
However, my quest to find items relating to the history of Margate still continues and my recent scout inside the harbour area (21/05/12) has turned up a few bits.
I am no longer finding items on an industrial scale and my latest find of a earthenware salt glazed bottle is a bonus. The bottle is in remarkable condition as found in the  harbour silt, it has no makers mark and the cork is still inside.
Of the other items found was a bottle stopper dated 1926 and was issued by George Beer & Rigden Faversham. The company was formed in 1922 when brewers George Beer of Canterbury and Rigden of Faversham merged.
I also found many shards and I have photographed the ones that are significant like the piece from the refreshment Pavillion on Margate Jetty. The other two pieces are from a design I call Letherby and Christopher as that is the logo on other pieces of the same pattern that I have been finding. These pieces are my most common finds and I do know that the company are caterers. Originally it was believed they were sea front caterers and to date I have found no evidence of that. Following another lead the pieces could have come from the paddle steamer trade, to add strength to this theory I have been finding a fair number of pieces in the mouth of the harbour. One piece does have a makers mark "Copeland" "York" England and  that has given me something further to go by.

I jumped the barrier around the current sea defence works to take a photograph (above) of the deep digging. As you can see the contractors are digging deep and even by my standards I would find jumping in that hole risky if I was on my own.
 For some reason there is very little turning up within the barrier area, my only recent finds being a 1920's/ 30's Sharpes Dairies milk bottle from Ramsgate, a plain bottle stopper and many clay pipe stems. I expect this is due the fact that as soon as holes are dug they are refilled once the job is done.

Monday, 21 May 2012

"Friends of the Tudor House" a proposed new group.

During the most recent Margate Community Heritage Federation meeting on April 23rd, the future well being and plans for the Tudor House were discussed; a suggestion was made that a "Friends of the Tudor House" group needed to be formed.

The Margate Civic Society has kindly agreed to host a public meeting at the Walpole Bay Hotel on Thursday 14th June at 7.30pm in order to form a "Friends of  the Tudor House" volunteer organisation that will work with residents, visitors, Councillors and TDC officers, to ensure that the Tudor House can be opened to the public on a regular basis to safeguard the Tudor House as one of Margate's heritage treasures.

Councillor Iris Johnston has agreed to Chair the meeting.

Everyone is welcome and the group would appreciate it if you could circulate this message to anyone whom you think might wish to attend.

An agenda for the evening will be forwarded before the meeting.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Ramsgate Town Council and museums ramble.

I do not often get political on my blog and I doubt if I will ever get politically obsessive and opinionated like some of the other blogs . But occasionally I do have to remind myself that I am a Ramsgate Town Councillor for the Labour Party.
I suppose the point I am getting across is that on Ramsgate Town Council it is not really all that political as there is such a strong Labour presence and that all Ramsgate Town Councillors really  just get on with it. Like most Councillors  I would like to look back after my four years as a matter of pride and think what did I do for the benefit of Ramsgate bearing in mind that I only beat Ralph Hoult (Mr Ramsgate) by 40 odd votes.. As I am one of the few that Councillors that do not sit on more than one authority it does narrow down the options a bit for individualism. So my aim is work on heritage issues, something I must admit in Ramsgate I have started from a blank piece of paper plus I am self taught on everything regarding Ramsgate's past. I admit I still have to refer to anything regarding Ramsgate from the pile of books I bought at Michael's bookshop but I am getting there.
Sometime ago through research I worked out just how badly Ramsgate was treated during local government re organisation in 1974 regarding art and artefact's and made a report to the Town Council. Following another report I wrote, the Town Council has now adopted a collections policy that is fit for purpose and everything collected will keep to an centre of excellence standard. I should also add that the Town collection policy will not clash or rival the Maritime Museum or the Tunnels project.
In the past month there has been a few developments that could be of great benefit to Ramsgate however nothing has been set in stone yet. As mentioned in other postings the Margate Museum has failed an audit on the collection it holds in reserve which I must add is an asset of TDC. During the latter years of the East Kent Maritime Trust management  period at the Margate Museum the collection went completely off the rails. The Museum is found to be overstocked, it has duplicated, many items are unrecorded, misidentified and some items are missing along with paperwork. It is hard to pin point where the fault lies but behind the scenes something is to be done about it.
One of the options being looked at is to dispose of items in the collection and stream line the Margate Museum with a new collections policy based on the history of Margate that in turn will make the Museum a center of excellence as a sea side Museum. Bearing in mind every single item is an asset of TDC this will have to be handled with caution how this is to be carried out.
By disposal I do not mean thrown away and I expect items that have no relevance to the history of Thanet will be sold off. However as the Margate museum will be all things Margate, items from Ramsgate, Broadstairs and elsewhere in Thanet are set to be transferred to other public or trust collections within Thanet. This will not include the premier items in the TDC collection of art that is of high value.
From this Ramsgate will benefit and if the proposals are accepted Ramsgate Town Council will benefit. Plus as the Town Council has a collection policy with a criteria, Maritime items will go to the Steam Museum Trust at the Ramsgate maritime museum.
To achieve efficient disposal supervised volunteers at the Margate museum will audit the entire collection looking to a new numbering system, a sub committee of which I am a member will review items recommended for disposal and the final decision will rest with TDC.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Margate beach finds from the 1998 summer erosion

 During the summer of 1998 the demolition of the last remains of Margate Jetty took place.
For some unexplained reason at the same time part of Margate main sands below the high tide line started to erode. It was a small area and like any erosion on Margate main sands it is an open window to find many items related to the Victorian seaside. At the time large quantities of glass appeared in the area and being the height of the summer season it was the last thing we needed.
So a group of volunteers myself included led by Brian Smith Stewart under the beach watch banner with TDC blessing set about to clear the entire area of  broken glass            

 To make the task interesting we collected thousands of shards and soon built a very large collection. Most were patterned and other carried logo's or advertising. Many were Victorian and some bore the emblems of paddle steamer companies or originated from caterers from the sea front or jetty. After a while I was able to identify many finds by date, pattern and design, something that has now came in very useful  as I assess  finds found during the recent sea defence works.
The piece photographed  above was found by myself, it is exceptionally rare and a complete bottle is even rarer. It is part of a ginger beer bottle from Church Street Margate and was used for homemade ginger beer produced by a baker named George Kirby who traded in Church Street..
Even though George Kirby was a baker he also manufactured mineral water from 1897 to 1900 on his premises to sell in his shop, something that was very common practice at the time by  traders especially chemist proprietors.

The second piece above was found by one of the volunteers on the main sands in the same location and the name Dreadnought is certainly a name associated from an era long gone when Britain ruled the waves.

The photograph on the bottom to the right is a selection of finds found by the volunteers. As you can see the selection is the same as the finds that are being found as a result of the sea defence works today. Those photographed originate from the Margate Jetty Pavillion, some are from South Eastern Railway Refreshment department and the other two pieces in the bottom right bear the initials GJM. Something that will need further research as I have found similar pieces 14 years later during the recent sea defence works.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Sea defence diaries a ramble about concretion.

In the previous posting I mentioned this fine specimen  of concretion I found around the square head of the stone pier.
Concretion found in the sea is a mass of metal that is generally ferrous that has fused to other items in its immediate vicinity and mixed with sand forms this mass that resembles something one would expect to find on a building site. All around the Thanet coastline concretion can be found in the areas where the tidal action has deposited metal . This can also include coins and precious metal, known locally  as glory holes. A term  also used by gold prospectors in  America looking for gold deposits in rivers and streams that is deposited in the same manner. In my time I have come across some really interesting glory holes and one in particular produced 176 coins mostly Victorian to the 1930's. My list of finds, found in this manner is a long one. But now days I do not reflect on what I have found in the past as   I am using all my knowledge and experience to recover as much history as I can during the sea defence works. So my next target will be to recover concretion that has been dislodged during the under pinning of the stone pier and  break it up with a hammer to see what I can find.  I like this piece I have photographed because of the Victorian Hamilton mineral water bottle fused to a mass of iron and other items. I like it because the embossment  suggests the bottle came from Camberwell which confirms this link between London and  Victorian seaside Margate which I have been finding amongst many items found during the sea defence works.

Last Saturday I was reunited with a box of shards at the Margate Museum,  found in 1998 by myself  and a few others during the summer of that year.
In the box were many associated Victorian items found on our historic beach beach. One item in the box that was an absolute gem was a part of an ash tray with the word Dreadnought in  this lovely Victorian design . I know for a fact I did not find this item but I am not sure who did. But it will feature in the flotsam and jetsam display.