Dead Dolphin ashore May 2016

Dead Dolphin ashore May 2016

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Its back to the beaches

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

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

Thursday, 28 October 2010

The Ghost of the Market Place fire ?

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

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

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

Best wishes,
Alison Munday

Thanks Alison

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Margate and comic postcards

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

Saturday, 16 October 2010

The Mayor of Margate's silver spoons

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

Monday, 11 October 2010

Roy Ford

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

Thursday, 7 October 2010

The renaissance ?

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

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

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

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Margate Butlins badges.

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

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Margate seaside memorabilia - Butlins badges

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

Saturday, 2 October 2010

A Georgian gift

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

Friday, 1 October 2010

RamsgateTown Council antique sale.

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

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

Margate Beatles poster up for sale

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