Dead Dolphin ashore May 2016

Dead Dolphin ashore May 2016

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.