Dead Dolphin ashore May 2016

Dead Dolphin ashore May 2016

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Beat to pieces

In Cornish folk lore there is a little rhyme which is as follows.


"The Eliza of Liverpool came ashore
to feed the hungry and clothe the poor"

I am not sure the origins of this Cornish rhyme but it could easily have come from any coastal community during the 18th and 19th century. It is very much a fact of life that throughout that period in the British Isles, coastal communities were able to get through the harshness of winter as a result of a ship being wrecked at sea. In some cases local economies benefited from shipwrecks, either from the salvage operation or just the flotsam and jetsam coming ashore. Thanet is no exception with the Goodwins, North Foreland and Margate offshore sandbanks accounting for many shipwrecks on our doorstep. In the case of large vessels going down or those owned by companies like the English East India Company, agents were appointed to manage the salvage operation and the full force of the law applied. Examples being the "Active" owned by the British West India Company being driven ashore on the Nayland Rock in January 1803 and the salvage operation was coordinated by a agent operating from India House. The same applied to the "Hindostan" lost in the same month in the same year. The "Hindostan" was owned by the English East India Company and was outward bound to Madras. The "Hindostan" broke its back on a offshore sandbank off Birchington after its pumps become clogged with sand, this resulted in the cargo being lost and washed ashore on the North Thanet foreshore. As this was a high profile wreck most of the cargo was officially recovered and sold at auction.

In the case where a ship has been "beat to pieces" and there is no salvage operation or the wreck is unknown, then flotsam and jetsam washed ashore then became fair game for the impoverished local community. There are very local few records as such a bounty was almost as secretive as smuggling, an example being in November 1854 where there is a entry in the coastguard return which reads as follows "A portion of the hull with the name BORE, Gelfe on it washed onshore at Epple Bay. The Coastguard Officer reports that nothing more is known, but supposes the vessel to have been lost on Margate Sands in the late gale." It can be assumed anything else that came ashore would have been utilised by the locals.

When the "Northern Belle" was wrecked of Kingsgate in January 1857 the timber from the wreck was used to refurbish the Watermans Arms which was renamed the Northern Belle". This was a common practise in all coastal communities to salvage wood for house repairs and refurbishment. In some coastal towns where old buildings still exist evidence of salvaging ships timbers for house refurbishment can be found in roofs and under the flooring of old buildings. One example in the 1970's was when I came across a raised floor in a fisherman's store in Fort Mount, Margate. The floor had been raised using salvaged ships timbers that had been covered in pitch.

In most case however, wood from the foreshore was generally used as fuel. I also mentioned in the previous posting dead animals were hacked to bits and stripped of their hides on the foreshore. Another practise was to burn the copper nails , fittings and any other metal from timber. Evidence of this was found in the early 1980's when metal detecting on the foreshore coming across areas of melted metal. One example was below the promenade where the Turner Center is today, this happened after a storm in November 1993 when I found a area where there had been a fire and recovered partially melted hand made ships fittings that had been in a fire.

Today we live in a different type of society plus shipwrecks are a rare occurrence. However, today there are still many people who search the foreshore for wood or anything they can lay their hands out of necessity or leisure which does make our coastline interesting.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Stormy weather.


Over the last fortnight I have been researching Fort House , Broadstairs from 1801 to 1901 when it became Bleak House at a great personal cost to the then owner James Barry. As predicted all and everything points to the period when Charles Dickens spent time their.However, I have purposely tried to avoid Charles Dickens until a later date in order to remain focused at pulling together facts about Fort House. Then I came across a interesting piece quoted in a 1981 edition of Bygonne Kent that Charles Dickens wrote to his friend Frank Stone .
It reads as follows "this day fortnight a steamer laden with cattle going from Rotterdam to London, was wrecked on the Goodwin. Yesterday the shore was strewn with hundreds of oxen, sheep and pigs in every state of decay. Hovering among the carcases was every kind of plunderer pulling the horns out, getting off hides, chopping the hoofs with poleaxes, I have never beheld such a demoniacal business."
I found this account very interesting as there a very few accounts of salvaging of wreckage on the Thanet coastline in the 19th century as most salvaging was kept very quite by the poverty stricken locals as this business of salvaging was on par with smuggling. However, it did throw some light on something that I have not found a answer to in all my years of beachcombing. That being , where did all the animal teeth and crudely butchered bones found on the beach come from ?
Over the past 30 years on beach digs I have come across teeth and bones that have been subject to considerable force and I couldn't think of a explanation. The only theory I could come up with was perhaps they came to be in the sea due to coastal erosion and in the sub soil from a cliff fall. Thinking on it, I suppose it stands to reason if a dead animal is washed a shore and someone wants a piece of it they are going to hack a piece off.
This weekend looks very promising for interesting finds on the strandline with the wind hitting the North side of Thanet full on off the sea. So far this year has been a good year for finds and this weekend will definitely add to the list.
Last night was the coastal wardens annual meeting and it was a bit of a get together of wardens with a excellent talk by a representative of Vattenfall about the wind farms. Talking to Tony Sykes the Westbrook warden we have both decided that as from this weekend we are going to monitor the Velvet swimmer crab deaths on the foreshore as the water gets colder in order to collect data and be more prepared for the mass deaths we experienced last year.
Above is pictured a ox yoke that was washed up in Viking Bay in 1911 from the former Bleak House maritime collection.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Brinks Matt - The Margate connection ?

After the storm of January 1978 which destroyed Margate Pier, metal detecting on the North Thanet coastline went through a golden era quite literally. This was down to fact that coastal erosion along the coast led to many beaches losing sand each winter thanks to the changes to the sea defences. For many metal detector users this led a bonanza of metal finds and this went on each winter well into the 1980's. Top of the list was the amount of gold found in the sand in the form of broken, worn and damaged scrap jewellery. Even though it was not worth anything as jewellery it could be sold as scrap and at the end of the season this could amount to a fair bit of money. The problem was where on earth could we get rid of it ?
At first we would sell it locally, then we tried Hatton Garden. We found the only problem with Hatton Garden even though it was a good price was it cost money to take it up on the train and the time off work . Then by chance at the time I was reading a national newspaper and found this advert for a company called Scadlynn Ltd who bought scrap gold , the original postal gold company for sure. They paid good money for the scrap and I even recommended them to other beachcombers who used them. Eventually our supply ran out and the advert also disappeared from the papers. I was later told the company had been done, something to do with Brinks Matt robbery and to be honest I didn't think much of it. Then a few days ago I was watching the Brinks Matt heist on Youtube and up popped the name Scadlynn Ltd. It appears Scadlynn Ltd was buying scrap gold and melting it with the pure Brinks Matt gold so it can be laundered.
I must admit it did make me smile to think that gold found on Margate beach was used to launder gold from the Brinks Matt robbery.

I have posted the Youtube clip and Scadlynn Ltd is mentioned at 2:23.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

There she blows


Margate Museum certainly has got a few surprises like this Harpoon Head for a hand held wooden shafted spear.From the information on the display card this harpoon was used aboard the British Whaler "North Britain" circa 1840. Definitely an item which I am sure has a interesting history behind it including the biggest mystery of all, how it got to be in the Museum Collection in the first place ?

Margate Harbour 1779

A few posting back I made the comment that the history of
Margate is going through a period of rediscovery or a rennaisance as I like to call it. The reason I believe this is because of the amount of enquiries I now receive through my blog for information. Something I believe is due to the Turner Centre as I can see no other reason for it.
Some time back a television company researcher emailed me for info on Margate and the bathing machine for a programme they are making they even offered me a small fee. Obviously I was flattered, but I just told them copy what they like and if I can help I can see what I can do. Which is what I tell everybody because to be honest a large percentage of the articles and photographs on my blog archive came from Mick Twyman and it was always Mick's wish that all his work posted on my blog is for Margate.
Sorting through my postcards I came across this postcard purchased from the Margate Museum called a view of Margate Harbour from the "Shipwrights" which I am sure a lot of people have. However, there was a little piece written by Mick to accompany it and reads "This engraving was made by J .R Smith in 1779 and shows the Harbour crowded with coastal raders. As well as the Hoys there are two square rigged Barks, in front of the central one of which is a pointed stern barge with a spitsail rig, the earliest such depiction known of this type of craft this far south of the River Thames. Note all the bathing machine at work"

Every little bit helps.

This past fortnight I have relied heavily on the Internet for leads on a research project I am working on. In some cases I have found the odd interesting snippet of fact or artifact thanks to google. All because someone somewhere has made something that is a little fact known. Each little fact helps towards the bigger picture and without doubt somewhere in Thanet we have something that is useful to someone elsewhere.
I have recently been trawling through some pictures I took in the Margate Museum many years age that may be of interest. This shipbuilders plate is such an item and it is from the London Belle built by William Denny & Brothers Dumbarton. So for anyone researching Denny ship builders with have a ship builders plate in the Margate Museum. Unfortunately the Museum is closed so here is the picture.

The whole truth and nothing but the truth.


For many years now I been absorbed into the coastal history of Thanet . Before the formation of the Margate Museum in 1987 I would visit the Maritime collection at Bleak House many times in the course of each year during the eighties. During that period I took almost everything in at the Bleak House maritime museum and with my maritime links and knowledge of the coastline this broadened my coastal knowledge. Then in the 1990's I played a role like many others in the development of the Margate Museum collection and the museum became a sort of base from which I worked from. From there I was able to incorporate new knowledge and news finds into the Margate Museum collection and archives.

Then came the formation of the Margate Historical society which was the brainchild of Mick Twyman and John Williams. The society was set up to seek and conserve the History of Margate through new research . Taking on board researchers like Alf Beeching and Chris Sandwell the maritime archives were soon to grow and in many cases some horrendous errors in the "established" archives were corrected. Furthermore every article published by the society was thoroughly researched and accurate.

The closure of the Margate Museum and the Ramsgate Maritime Museum a few years ago was a blow but never a disaster. However, when Mick Twyman died in September this was a tragic day for anyone with a interest in local history. Fortunately most of Mick's work has been published and the society has been revamped but somehow things do not seem the same. Today many of us are now working on our own pet projects and in some cases we are back to our roots. So when Richard Hilton asked me to research into Bleak House I jumped at the opportunity.

A few years ago I did some work identifying the Maritime collection when he bought Bleak House, so it was just a matter of reopening the file. This time I have used contacts and with the help of the Internet I have came up with some very interesting leads. However all was not as it seems and I am now starting to find errors, very much in the same way when the Margate Historical Society set out in earnest to research the history of Margate. A fine example being a Broadstairs Pier fact sheet naming Captain George Gooch the guy who had Bleak House built as Captain George Gough.

I have always admired Louis Longhi for the way he started and the way he built up the Bleak House Maritime Museum. Also I like reading the works of Bill Lapthorne however some of his work does carry a warning which I quote,

"The East Kent Maritime Trust published a booklet in 1998 entitled 'Maritime Heritage of Thanet' and it contains an article by the late Bill Lapthorne. Bill researched extensively but never cited his sources and although it doesn't appear against _this_ article, other articles written by him do carry a warning by him which effectively means that if he couldn't find out, he made it up! Unfortunately he doesn't tell us which bits he found, and which he made up!"


So as you can see it is not going to be easy. I have already identified a couple of gems at Bleak House and I have found Captain Gooch's grave in St Peter's cemetery. Also I have forwarded some research on George Gooch to the English East India Company Archives. I am currently looking into the North Cliff battery which was commanded by Captain Gooch when Napoleon threatened invasion from 1803. The postcard I have posted is the site of the North Cliff Battery. According to some arcticles I have read the gun powder store was situated in the clifff face to the right of the picture.
Also considering the Battery was constructed to defend Broadstairs Harbour I am thinking were the guns 18 pounders ? like those used on Martello towers and are the gun platforms still there today or even buried ?

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

I am defecting.


Well it had to happen, sooner or later I would be paying some attention to the coastal history of Broadstairs. So all this week I have been reading up and researching Fort House and the transition to Bleak House to the point where I feel I almost have square eyes.
Fort house was built in 1801, and this week I have been researching Captain George Gooch of the English East India Company the man who had it built, I have found his grave in St Peter's churchyard and I am currently looking up info on the North Cliff Battery that defended Broadstairs Harbour under his command during the Napoleonic wars when invasion was looming in 1803.
However, like all research it is so easy to get side tracked especially when I come across one of my passions. In this case it is anything to do with the Maritime Museum that was once housed in Bleak House, and the work of Louis Longhi and Bill Lapthorne in setting up the Museum. This newspaper cutting from the Isle of Thanet Gazette was sent to me by Suzannah Foad of Margate Local & Family History and is from 1982 when divers working three miles off Broadstairs found a wreck of a Spritsail barge. Amongst the cargo they found Miller's item including six large mill stones and a large copper bowl engraved Joshua Shears. The bowl weighs half a ton and is half an inch thick.
Louis Longhi is pictured holding Hamilton Mineral Water bottles that were also found on the wreck.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

A Edwardian view of Cliftonville


Over the past few months I have been collecting data from ebay and other sources on the web to put some together some sort of catalogue of Margate artefact's excluding printed matter. Most of these items are seaside souvenir items and represent a chapter in our seaside heritage. What has become noticeable by following ebay is how many serious collectors there are of Margate memorabilia and just how much some items have increased in value in the past year. I have mentioned Margate Butlins badges in previous postings and to be honest I am really amazed how much people are prepared to pay for them. After tracking most of them after a few months there does seem to be a scale and this must be based on rarity. For example the 1955 badge featuring a crab depending on the colour of the background can fetch a average of anything from £75 to £50, whereas 1958 is about £40, 1960 £30, 1961 £20 and 1967 £5 all depending on how much people are prepared to pay at auction. However some items have gone into a decline like crested china and postcards. At any one time on ebay there can be anything up to 1,000 postcards of Margate listed and it has become a buyers market. Admittedly they do tend to be of general views like the clocktower, seafront, main sands, harbour and jetty. This postcard I have posted is a gem, it is Edwardian and it is looking west along the Cliftonville cliff top before the Walpole Bay hotel was built. It cost me 50 pence with 50 pence p&p.