Dead Dolphin ashore May 2016

Dead Dolphin ashore May 2016

Friday, 11 February 2011

Margate Caves , Smuggling and "Carver" Lawrence

As mentioned in the previous posting Stephen "Carver" Lawrence was a notorius smuggler and by all accounts was a ruthless smuggler as the nickname "Carver" may suggest. His end came as a result of a smuggling incident on the 15th February 1836 when one of Daniel Gougers mills was burnt to the ground as a diversion while contraband was being brought ashore. The mill in question was situated on the site where Woolworths in Northdown Road Cliftonville traded before it closed. Daniel Gouger put up a reward and Stephen Lawrence was turned in. The account of this incident can be found on page 87 of Historic Margate by G.E Clarke.

On my previous posting I mentioned that a James Taylor protested his innocence of having anything to do with the Marsh Bay incident. In his defence he produced witnesses and affidavits that he was involved in a smuggling incident elsewhere along the coast. He and three accomplices Robert Harman, Charles Winch and James Saunders were engaged in a smuggling operation at Hubbard's bathing house Margate Harbour at the time of the Marsh Bay incident.

Margate Caves were documented as being "rediscovered" in 1798 and I am not sure if anyone has put this on the Internet, but the well was discovered in 1910 and it had been concealed. Which by all accounts is a strange thing to do as a well is for access to drinking water. So why conceal it unless it was used to hid something ? Anyway in old publications it is referred to as a smugglers well and the depth of the well is recorded at being 46 feet deep. I do know the well has been explored in recent times and some earthenware ginger beer bottles were recovered, probably pre 1920 as that was the time when they ceased being used. There were other items but I cannot remember what they were plus I did hear that fragile remains of barrel hoops were found but this could be hearsay and needs confirmation.
I must admit I am surprised at the momentum of people power campaigning for the reopening of the Margate Caves as I see this as a breathe of fresh air. Especialy the way TDC is being held to account with a cabinet member having to justify the Councils position.
Whichever way you look at it Margate's heritage has suffered serious neglect and it is not a recent thing as it all began with the so called "slum" clearance plans in the 1930's that ripped out the heart of old Margate. I know that some things do not last forever but I do believe in this mixture of old and new, but unfortunately the pre war and post war planners thought differently regarding most things Georgian as a slum. Even recorded history went through a revision and it is almost as if some things never happened . It is thanks to research in archives outside Thanet that historians are able to find out more and more about the history of Margate especially during the George III period 1760 to 1820. It is around that period that the real history of the Maritime Margate, the Old Town, the Harbour, Hawley Square etc., was born. I could never understand why Smuggling and Maritme Margate was never capitalised as more Smuggling went on around our shores than Cornwall.
Margates History and Heritage is going through a renaissance thanks to the Turner Center, love it or hate it that is fact. Unfortunately there is absolutely nothing in place to complement Margate when the Turner Center opens. The Margate Museum is closed, the Tudor House is closed and Margate Caves are closed. The will of the people is there as there is no shortage of volunteers, the ideas are there and so is the enthusiasm.
We hear so much of the big society and £200 million up for grabs perhaps the people of Margate should put it to the test and see what it can do for us or is it going to be hot air like everything .else.


Retired said...

Interesting stuff Tony but, as always, in Thanet the matter of seeking enthusiasm is a hopeless task.

Anonymous said...

A few years ago I helped with the Kent Underground Research Group when the well was excavated and cleared of about 20ft of rubble. It rapidly refilled with water !!

Amongst things found were hundreds of coins dating back to the 1880s, old oil lamps, lots of thick green glass and various bits of pottery and glass.

Unfortunatley no secret tunnels were found !!

Tony Beachcomber said...

Annon, thank you so much for that information. I knew about the excavation and being a ex bottle digger all I could remember was ginger beer bottles.

Do you have any knowledges of the items found in the cave that can be accessed from the beach at Kingsgate Bay and goes back as far as the Captain Digby Car Park.

Anonymous said...

No problem Tony.

Rings a bell about that Cave, what era was that excavation ?

Tony Beachcomber said...

There was a collapse in 1978 when part the roof went at the back of the cave, then again 1998 and a hole appeared in the Captain Digby carpark . In both cases Victorian bottles etc.,appeared in the rubble at the back of the cave.