Dead Dolphin ashore May 2016

Dead Dolphin ashore May 2016

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Digging the Pettman bathing station site.

In the last week of January 1996 a series of strong Northerly gales hit our coastline with such ferocity demolishing the wartime Tongue Fort on the Tongue Sands and running aground a ship called the "Argus". The Tongue Fort up until that point was one of the oldest concrete structures in european waters, built during the second world war as a gun platform as part of a defence system. Very often visitors to the town would often mistake the structure as a oil rig seeing it boldly on the horizon on a clear day.

The "Argus" had run aground due to a power problem and was soon refloated with the aid of a tow. Within days of the "Argus" being refloated wooden planks from a wreck started to appear on the strand line. Indicating the "Argus" had past through a wooden inshore wreck.Each plank heavily iron stained which is a indicator that the carvel (wooden pegged) built vessel was carry quatities of iron.

There was a short period of calm, then came another north easterly gale. This time I was prepared and set out to follow the debris trail from Foreness Point to the Margate Jetty site looking for shipwreck planks. It was a bitter cold day and snowing when I took my son who was ten at the time for a treat to show him the ropes. The gale had blown strongly during the night and we expected to find some good finds.

We had done pretty well until we came to Newgate Gap, the site of the Pettman bathing station which once stood on the site as seen in the postcards. The sand had been stripped away down to bare chalk and protruding from the chalk was the stumps of the steel posts that once supported the bathing station. When the steel posts were driven into the chalk during construction the chalk shattered leaving a small crater like hole around the cut off stump still in the middle. The crater or hole, had filled up with sand and due to wave action metal items ended up being drawn into the hole. Using a trowel my son and I dug out the hole and found many coins in layers as we dug down to about 3 feet. Most of the coins were pre first world war and were more than likely lost by people using the bathing station at the time. In total we found 176 coins, the oldest being a 1889 Florin. Unfortunately finding coins do not have a historical significance, but the Pettman key fob I found did. The Pettman & Co Bathing at the time would hire out chalets and lockers for people to put their items in. The keys issued would have a fob attached offering the finder 2 shilling reward if found and returned. The fob pictured obverse and reverse is the one I found at the time which has been recently returned to me from the Margate Museum.

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