Dead Dolphin ashore May 2016

Dead Dolphin ashore May 2016

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

No choice but to resign

This evening I emailed the chairman of the Friends of the Margate Museum to tender my resignation from the executive of the Friends of the Margate Museum as this is seen by TDC officers as a conflict of interest if  I am to sit on a working party to look at TDC art and artefacts. I didn't want to resign but in a way I had no choice if I am to push my concerns over the appalling way Thanet District Council have treated our heritage. The only consolation I have from my resignation is that it does harden my resolve to remain focused researching into this issue.

The way TDC looked into my background really is an eye opener how council officers work. For example if someone is elected to serve on TDC they have to make a declaration, well in fact they are asked to provide details. Unfortunately it does appear that Joe Public co opted onto a working party does not have that privilege of being asked, as from my recent experience council officers will check out someones background without them knowing, then ring them up with the verdict. If they had been courteous to ask me I would have gladly given them the information.

In order to save council taxpayers the cost of officer time looking into my background I will provide details free of charge for future reference.

I have been a  member of the Labour party for nearly thirty years, I have been a member of TDC from 1995 to 2003, I am currently a member of Ramsgate Town Council. I work for Southeastern Railway and belong to the RMT and I am a rep for platform staff.
I am a life member of the Margate Civic Society and a member of the Margate Historical Society and the Friends of the Margate Museum. I am also a volunteer TDC coastal warden for the Western Undercliff and I am a licensed collector with Natural England.
I research local coastal  history and dig things out of the ground, record the provenance and collect them. I also buy historical things at auction (keeping the receipts) to either collect or to donate items to the Margate Museum or to the Ramsgate Town Council collection. I do not sell any historical item for profit.
My long term objective is to be part of the movement to set up a town Museum in Ramsgate.

Monday, 27 May 2013

TDC - Why are they investigating me ?

A few days ago I received a telephone call from a Thanet District Council officer that really alarmed me. He was ringing to inform me that because as I am a member of the Friends of the Margate Museum executive it would be a vested interest and it will prevent me from sitting as a co opted member on the working party set up by the scrutiny committee to look into TDC art and artifacts. I must admit I was staggered because for one I am not a member of Thanet District Council and I do not have a vote on the working party. He suggested that if I resign from the friends of the Margate Museum then I could sit on the working party.

What really surprised me was how on earth did he know I was on the executive of the friends group unless they are checking me out. Then I received this email from the chairman of the friends group of which I will quote the first sentence. 

"My reason for contacting you is that I have had a call from Democratic Services, re your post on Exec. Committee of Museum, it appears that they will not let you serve on the Scrutiny panel if you are still an exec member" 

So the the only conclusion I can draw from this is that they have been investigating my background. So what is the motive and why the heavy handed attitude from council officers ?

I welcome any comment.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

The will of Dr. Arthur Walton Rowe.

Pressing ahead with my investigation into the TDC art & artifact collection I now have the benefits of the Margate Historical Society research engine. I have now drawn the conclusion that no individual or group of individuals are responsible  and the problem is entirely due to the fact that this entire mess is down to TDC giving the collection such a low priority for thirty nine years.
Surely someone at TDC must have realized when they embarked on art, culture and heritage as a regeneration project that they themselves are sitting on a collection once described in their own reports as a "seaside history collection of national importance".

 One of the get outs I am expecting from TDC is that the problems are "historic" and I have had early indicators that this maybe the case for the defence . However it is by research as far back to the very roots of the collection that a full understanding of the provenance of the collection needs to be established something that has never been done.   So with the benefits of the Margate Historical Society research engine we are looking into the will of Dr. Arthur Rowe  whose bequest in 1926 formed the very roots of the collection.We already have a list of items from Dr. Rowe's notes of  72 pictures and prints  he bequeathed to the town of Margate in 1926. So what does the will have to say ?

The trustees of the will were Dr. Rowe's son in law Francis Lamont Cassidy and Margate solicitor Cyril Collingwood Maughan.  Given the amount of the items given to the Corporation of Margate there is not a lot of detail.
 On page 2 of the will  items 6 & 7 read as follows;

"I direct my trustees to offer my collection of Fossils to the British Museum (natural history) through Dr. F A Bather F R S Keeper of the Geological Department for a sum of no less than five hundreds pounds and if this offer is not accepted I give this collection to the Sedgwick Museum Cambridge . My Trustees shall also offer  to the British Museum my collection of local pottery"

"Should the Corporation of Margate wish to have my collection of books pictures and prints and are in a position adequately to house them but not otherwise I bequeath these articles to the Corporation"

Dr Rowe also had a shell collection in cabinets but these were bequeathed to "my faithful and  trusted  scientific colleague Miss Gladys Tansley". This does rule out that any of the 17,000 sea shells owned by TDC are part of the Rowe bequest. However it does state clearly that Dr. Rowe's collection of books,pictures and prints  were bequethed to the Corporation of Margate. In 1934 it was published that the Borough of Margate had 2075 items from the Rowe bequest and that is the start of the paper trail that will eventually lead to local government changeover in 1974. There is no mention of archaeological items.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Stoney ground.

If you was to position yourself on the high water tide line on Margate main sands in line with Godden's gap on Margate seafront. Then take 200 paces towards the sea you would be standing directly over some  very interesting layers of local sea side history. However between  you and this layer of history there is layers of golden sand. Pictured on the left is what the ground would look like if that sand was to suddenly wash away like it has done occasionally over the past three years. This photograph taken during the winter of 2012  is a perfect example of the clay bed that lays under the sand and when the sand washes down to clay.
As in the photograph the surface is littered with everything solid from the upper layers including as much historical evidence you can pick up. Most of the finds do tend to be from the golden age of Victorian and Edwardian sea side tourism that spanned from the late 1880's up until the outbreak of the First World War. Typical finds would be broken clay pipe stems and bowls, remains of earthenware ginger beer bottles or even a complete one.Then there are shards from broken plates of which many are patterned or carry logo's from catering outlets and steamer companies.The glass that can be found from small pieces to almost complete bottles is also interesting as samples of every type of design of bottle from that era can be found, many local and a great deal from London. In each case every item is in some stage of breaking down in the environment that will turn the item into a small beach pebble.
On the 26th May I will be having a mini exhibition of finds and photographs taken during the Margate sea defence works at the Monkton nature reserve open day. This will also include many of the small items that will be hands on that I have featured over the past year.

Sunday, 12 May 2013


Recently I had a discussion with someone who has some degree of knowledge of conservation of water colour paintings, ink drawings and prints. All I can conclude from the conversation is that Thanet District Council has really got a  serious problem with the conservation of it's water colour and prints collection. Some time ago I mentioned that there were over 680 paintings and prints in storage, well it appears that a large amount of the collection in storage is suffering from a condition called foxing. Foxing is a condition that can be easily looked up on the internet and I came across this definition ;  "Foxing: Describes scattered spotting and browning on prints, most likely due to storage in a poor environment. Light, isolated foxing is typically not a serious flaw; however, any widespread or heavy foxing can substantially decrease print value and quality.  Foxing can be ameliorated through a combination of restoration techniques such as laser or diluted liquid solutions, but this is a time consuming and expensive process, and can potentially damage a delicate print if done incorrectly. "
Removing foxing from a print is expensive and I can recall in the late 1990's  the Margate Charter Trustees paid to have a print called "A view of Margate from the Dane" from the Rowe bequest to be restored. It was suffering from foxing due to metal particles being present in the paper during the paper making process. The cost of restoration did exceed over £300 and the restored print is currently hanging up in the mayor's parlour and is now a worthwhile investment. For the record TDC also owns a copy of the same print and that is from the Parker collection and that print is in Northdown House. However when this print in Northdown House was handed over to TDC in 1974 to 1976 by KCC it was already in a poor condition. Which does raise a question of how many prints did KCC had over to TDC that were already in bad condition, something we will never know. 
TDC were made aware in 1983, 1989 and 1990 in reports that something needs to be done regarding conservation and storage. Following more research and a witness account from 1985 when the collection in the cells was first audited, I now concede that some of the items were already in a bad condition when TDC received them from KCC and perhaps KCC did  a bit of cherry picking taking the best. However it still does not excuse the fact that they continued to be stored in grotty conditions along with everything else and warnings were ignored until know.
I think the cost to remove the foxing is totally out of the question  except for the most valuable of prints. For many of the more generic prints I think in reality this situation is irretrievable as replacements would cost less than restoration . Adding this to the fact that there are missing items it does make grim reading.

Friday, 10 May 2013

The Margate Donor and Ramsgate items.

Latest find - Faversham & Thanet milk token
I am now receiving emails regarding items donated to the Thanet District Council collection at the Margate Museum prior to the closure in 2007 and I am appealing for any information on any donations to the Museum.
 I am also appealing for any recollections of the collections held at the Victoria Road Margate library and the Tudor House museum. Especially  the 17,000 sea shells unlisted in the TDC collection and the Cobb butterfly collection  Also I am appealing to anyone who donated Ramsgate items to the East Kent Maritime Trust that are lodged in the Margate Museum to let me know what they donated.
Today, I met someone who donated two uniforms to the Margate museum prior to 2007. The reason I state prior to 2007 is because I am stating quite clearly that the current set up at the Margate museum and TDC have nothing to do with what I am looking into.
This  person informs me that one uniform is similar to the uniform worn by a Bow Street runner and the other a red band uniform tunic . He can give a good description and he informed me that when he went back to the museum a year or two later to see if they were on display, he was told the Museum have never received such an item. However, I can confirm they were at the Museum because I saw them when they came in and I remember commenting how small the person must have been who wore them. The good thing about old Margate and old Ramsgate is when it comes to historical items  people do have such good memories and that should not under estimated .
 I am now chasing up an old Borough of Margate catalogue of museum items that I now know where one is in existence   These items were housed in the Victoria Road Margate library and were passed onto TDC during local government reorganization in 1974.

Other gossip of merit, I have contact with someone who collected the 20 prints and oil paintings from the Maidstone Judges quarters in 2007. I am hoping on getting a written account.

I now have information on a number of TDC  prints that shouldn't have been be where they are and they are being returned to TDC so that is one little secret that cannot be kept from me.

On Tuesday this week I donated a pre first world war plate to the Margate Museum and a 1950' / 1960's comb holder bearing the Margate coat of arms. I have also given the museum an album identical to the one that went missing that was full of comic postcards. With the album I also gave a number of comic postcards and under the new regime at the museum the items were booked in under the new TDC guidelines.

Finally above is a Faversham & Thanet Co op milk token that I came across today at an antiques fair dates 1933 to 1965.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Old gold and silver.

Out of all the people  who I know that dig the coast I am probably the only one who has any trust in authority when it comes to disclosing finds .One reason I do that, is because I am well aware that any found historic artifact  without a provenance is  meaningless.
Personally,  I just cannot bear the thought of a proven historical item found on the Thanet coast being relegated as if it is nothing just because the find has not been recorded or documented somewhere. During the 1970's to the mid 1990's this was a major problem on the Thanet coastline especially with the availability of metal detectors and the after effects of storm of 1978. So many items were found and very little recorded. I know that today things have changed thanks entirely to the internet as there is the portable antiquity schemes and there is self publicity like blogging that enables people  to share finds. But I still often reflect back on the missed opportunities in the past.

One story I know is about a wreck discovered on the very low water mark at Birchington. I have never visited the site and  I not entirely sure of the location but I do know enough to tell a story as told by the finder in the early 1990's
The site of the wreck was once a bank covered in mussels and shingle and for some unexplained reason it just eroded away when the mussels disappeared in a storm.There was very little wooden structure but there were scattered items over an area. There were many small flat bricks on the site that must have been a cargo acting as ballast.I had one of these bricks and it is now in the Margate museum. The interesting thing about this brick it that is identical to the type used around the base of the chimney stack around the Tudor House which looks like a repair.On the site three items were found that helped to date the site, one was a musket stock that still had the trigger guard intact. When the trigger guard was removed 1714 in roman numerals was found to be carved in the wood alongside a broad arrow. Six Half Crowns, one shilling and one sixpence were found bearing the head of William III (1690's) they were found almost in a straight line suggesting that they may have came out of an object rolling along on the sea bed. Then there was a complete onion bottle found full of solidified silt I examined the bottle  and it was definitely an onion design and not a mallet transition design. The finder also retrieved a bucket of shards of Dutch delftware tiles many with Dutch  windmill and barge scenes.Clay pipes were found along with buckles and buttons. The clay pipes were thick stems with small bowls and when I checked them out from memory in later years and I am convinced they are to the styles as recognized from the early 1700's. The finder also had a bucket full of musket balls that were still joined as moulded. Other finds included shards of earthenware and thin glass. There were no cannons on the site or anything large as I expect at the time of the vessel going aground as much as possible was salvaged as it was in shallow water.
Eventually in the 1990's the site was to silt over and only the finder knows the exact location.
The finder did give me some pieces of Dutch delftware tile and some musket balls still moulded together of which I gave to the Margate museum along with the brick I mentioned earlier.
Along the coast shoreline down to the low water mark single finds from the late 1600's to the late Georgian era 1830 are extremely difficult to find. This story is and represents a gold mine of history unfortunately none of it has ever been recorded.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Margate museum friends group agm and more investigation into the TDC collection.

I started off this afternoon  attending the friends of the Margate museum agm which happened to start after my shift at 14:30 at the Margate museum. The meeting was well attended and elections of officers took place of which I was elected to the executive committee.
The meeting was very business like and was all about the running of the margate museum over the past year and is totally divorced from the problems I have flagged up over the TDC collection. In bullet points I have listed some of the key points raised.

  • Overall it has been a good year with attendance and ticket sales up. Income has been buoyant thanks to some large donations that will go towards conservation and project work.
  • The collections are going to be revamped with items coming out of storage.The maritime room will be moved and the spiral staircase leading from the cells to the old court room will be reopened.
  • The museum collection of photography will be online by 2014 as part of the South East Archive of Seaside photography project. The collection will also be in every academic library in the country.
  • This years exhibition will be "A day trip to Margate 1920's to the 1960's" opening 1st June 2013.
  • Mick Tomlinson will be giving a talk on his life and times working at  Dreamland , with the date to be announced.
  • TDC officers are working on a Heritage lottery fund bid.
  • The Audit of the museum is still on going with volunteer help.
There was a general discussion on the state of the grade 2 listed building and on the Heritage lottery funding bid for the Museum. I did join in the debate expressing the view that regeneration of the area is heritage based tourism and the museum is part of the package. I also believe that the collection is very under rated and the profile of the collection needs to be raised. It was also mentioned that the collection is the largest seaside collection owned by a local authority.The reason being was during the 1970's and 1980's most seaside local authorities sold off their collections so TDC's incompetence during that period seems to have some advantages.

Following the meeting I met up with a Margate Historical Society researcher for a catch up and a exchange of information. In bullet points I listed some of the direction I am going and some further information.

  • We are going to retrieve the will of Doctor Aurthur Walton Rowe and his bequest of items to the Borough of Margate looking for further clues.
  • Two Parker collection items have been seen sold recently at auction we are going to follow that up.Parker collection items are property of either TDC or KCC.
  • Auditors at the Margate museum have come across boxes of items that are unlisted.
  • TDC items according to records are still on loan to the judges chambers at Maidstone. I thought they all had been returned ?
  • We are doing a private investigation into who had access to the Margate  museum during the closure period. Some good info on that one !
  • More information on the "T" list has come to light.
  • The thief, the fence and the buyer.
Finally when the TDC working party  is set up to look into the collection and proceedures of which I have been co opted I  will see  if I can get total unrestricted access to the entire TDC collection as a working party member.

Monday, 6 May 2013

The "T" list

Tomorrow (07/05/13) at 14:30 pm is the AGM of the Friends of the Margate Museum to be held at the Margate Museum and with all the publicity I have generated over the status of the Thanet District Council collection I think it will be a very interesting meeting. I have not seen the agenda but I suspect the audit of the collection will get a mention as it is the Friends group that is providing TDC with the volunteer support to undertake the task.
On my last visit to the museum I noticed many of the prints hanging on the wall have been audited/catalogued as they have number stickers on them and in most cases they have three numbers a "MM" number, a 4 digit number which I assume is a TDC catalogue number and there is another 4 digit number which I assume is a acquisition number. Checking through my archive when I got back home I have lists of items that have a number starting "JJ" and even some items having three different 4 digit numbers or even a Parker collection number from 1 to 10,422. To make the system even more confusing there are numbers starting with an "E" and there is what is known as the "T" list with the number obviously starting with a "T".
The "E" and "T" are the lists of donated or loaned items from 1974 to 2007.. The "T" list opened in 1974 and it was found in 1985 that most items in the "T" list had been inadequately recorded and some had " no antecedent history". I do know for a fact that every single "T" item as from 1985 to 1994 donated or loaned to the museum were recorded in great detail and that included sketching many items. The acquisition books from that period are still in the museum and all the details are handwritten and are probably the most accurate records in the museum. In 1994 the East Kent Maritime Museum took over the management of the collection and they used a different system for loans and donations using carbon copies hand written and with numbers starting with an "E" . They were listed on a computer as they entered the museum. The carbon copies where then kept in lever arch files of which I think there are five. It was this system in 2005 that started to fail as items were entering the museum without being recorded or a receipt issued. I have looked at the "E" list files and it is noticeable that some pages are missing from the years 2005 to the 2007 closure period, as to whether they are on the computer I do not know. However there could be a perfect explanation as they were the records of returned loans, but this is an area I think should be vigorously investigated.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

More detective work - indentifying TDC Sunbeam photographs

In the Thanet District Council Museums acquisition statement dated 13th June 1990 there is a reference to Sunbeam Photographs. It reads as follows ; "approximately 3,000 to 5,000 glass plate and cellulose negatives, many in a extremely poor condition, together with approximately 200 "copy proof" photographic prints were taken over. These had previously been housed in the Winter Gardens loft until 1984/85. In October 1985 and May 1986 , Mr Milton the donor,donated a further 250 glass plate negatives that had been stored in his house attic- on moving house. Most of these were in poor condition and the glass was silvered or broken in many cases. No records of the content of the photographs or negatives has ever been held" .
Following this report  many Sunbeam photographs and other photographs were cataloged  by Manpower Services Commission  staff and later by East Kent Maritime trust staff . Further photographs were later added to the collection from the original donor. All photographs were then numbered  but many were not listed In many cases there were also duplicates and each duplicate carried the same number as others of the same identity. They were then stored in large envelopes and kept in boxes that were marked up.However there was something very distinctive with some of the prints as they were stamped "Record Print" and these featured on many of the photographs. Along with the negative and duplicate photographs these items were donated to TDC and are property of TDC especially the "record prints". This can be confirmed by the current status of the collection that is currently being scanned, listed , identified and put online as part of the SEAS (South East Archive of Seaside Photography) project.
Unfortunately  there is reason to believe that some photographs from the Museum collection are out in the public domain and how they got there is a mystery but then none of us are that naive that we cannot work out how they really got there. During the Museum closure period I did see Sunbeam photographs at auction plus someone selling "copies" on the internet but even with that level of suspicion there is always that element of doubt. However there is one fool proof way of identification and that is Sunbeam photographs stamped "Record Print" and these are from the Sunbeam archive donated to Thanet District Council . Above I have  inserted a "Record Print" stamp on a photograph  I have managed to get my hands on at an auction, this without doubt  is definitely TDC property.

Below is the Sunbeam stamp for publicity and advertising photographs of which TDC often had commissioned by Sunbeam.

Missing items again and again.

 As always the research continues into the Thanet District Council art and artifact collection of which I am totally focused.
To the left is a 1970's retro postcard album that is identical to the one I donated to the Margate Museum that has gone missing. Inside were many comic postcards that were all sourced locally either from Margate and Ramsgate shops. Most originating from the flower shop at the top of Margate High Street about ten years ago. The collection consisted of about 50 to 60 postcards of which the majority were Bamforth postcards by  artists Arnold Taylor, Brian Perry and Chas. Artwork of other postcard artists like Donald Mcgill, Pedro and Prof also formed part of the collection.Some even originated from "Dirty Dick's" shop in the Market Place from around the 1960's.
There were no rarities as each card had print runs of ten of thousands and I was fortunate to build the collection from duplicates I had in my own collection. To the left are examples of some of the missing postcards. They are not expensive as many can be picked up on eBay for less than a pound and to rebuild a significant collection does not cost the earth. To kick start a new collection I will donate those featured to the Margate  Museum and this time I will make sure that this time each one is individually listed.

I have been going through my research records and have come across TDC records of loans items to the Theatre Royal Margate. I find these records interesting because in the list two items are listed as missing, one item being a Playbill Theatre Royal Manchester 1859 and the other item being a programme from the Royal Theatre Wakefiled - gold pen on blue silk. Also in the list are 14 items that even though they have a museum number, they have been flagged as not listed in the catalogue. One example being a 14 inch x 16 inch water colour of Mr W.H. Powell as Shacabac (Bluebeard) painted 1893. Sounds an all to familiar story.

Also why I am at it I would like to say thank you to the person who left the carrier bag on the Margate Museum doorstep. I would like to reassure the person that the said items have now been returned to the Museum collection.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

The detective works begins.

Over the past year I having been watching eBay , the internet and auctions like a  hawk just waiting and watching for any item that may have Thanet District Council collection connections.
I must admit there hasn't really been anything going through that is of real concern. However when this potrait postcard appeared on eBay I felt this excitement. Without any hesitation I knew who it was, who took it and where. The subject being Una Hoare taken by her father George Philip Hoare at Goodman's studio Fort Road Margate.
The reason I now this is because in 1998 the Margate Charter Trustees  donated an old photograph album and wartime scrap book to the Margate Museum.. The album once belonged to a former Mayor George Philip Hoare (1940). George Hoare was a commercial photographer and the album was full of family and local photographs including wartime views.
Unfortunately as it stands today most of the photographs including family portrait postcards are missing. So when this photographic postcard appeared I bought it and then asked the seller for any provenance. The seller was very helpful and explained it came from a job lot of mixed photographs she bought in Norfolk this included views of the villages on the edge of the Norfolk Broads. She mentioned one village called Acle and that was when I realized that in the album at the Museum are holiday photographs of the Norfolk Broads taken by George Hoare  and Acle has a mention. So with this connection I am assured that this photograph is legit and has not originated from the TDC collection.