Margate Caves and its origins is another one of Margate's Historical mysteries, as to who created it and what was its origins and who used it. Recently a group has been formed to save Margate Caves and they have a website campaigning to have the caves reopened which I have posted on my sidebar.
I do not have a in depth knowledge of the caves outside the general facts we all know. However, I do have some snippets of information relating to the time it was rediscovered in 1798. Like most of my sources the information is what I have obtained through years of conversation with Mick Twyman relating to some of the research he and Alf Beeching have come across at the Whitfield archives.
Margate at the time of the discovery of the Margate Caves was fully engaged in smuggling and being no different than anywhere else along the coast the local establishment were suspected of being involved. Obviously there is no direct evidence to prove this but Mick and Alf were researching Cobb documentation when they came across information that Francis Forster the owner of the land where the caves were discovered became a rich man very quickly before the caves were "rediscovered". He was so rich he was able to have Northumberland House built and was able to deposit a strong box at the Margate Bank owned by Francis Cobb II with the strict instruction that only Forster and his wife posses a key and are the only people to view the contents in a private room.
Francis Cobb II at the time was a very powerful man in Margate he was a Cinque Ports deputy , owned the Margate Bank had huge business interests in the town earning the title "King" Cobb by the local population. Smuggling was rife at the time and was only able to operate thanks to large sums of money put up by unknown people which reaped them huge dividends. This proved to be be a successful enterprise which rarely went wrong, yet on one occasion it did.
On September 2nd 1821 a smuggling operation at Marsh Bay (St Mildreds Bay Westgate on Sea) went badly wrong. This resulted in a large gang of smugglers being ambushed by men attached to the coastal blockade resulting in many arrests ( see Marsh Bay incident on google). this resulted in four men being hung and fifteen being transported to Australia. However, the paymaster Stephen "Carver" Lawrence was never bought to book even though there was testimony to say he was involved. Even when he declared to "several persons of the most respectable rank and character at Margate" when testifying to defend a innocent man that he was there. Yet he was allowed to leave town unmolsted even though it became clear he was the leader of the gang and paymaster. In fact according to legend "Carver" Lawrence continued smuggling unmolested. In 1831 Francis Cobb II died and in 1835 Francis Forster died . Then in 1836 after a lifetime career of smuggling "Carver" Lawrence was tried for smuggling and transported to Van Dieman's Island never to return. Margate had a new order.
I do have every reason to believe Francis Forster and the Margate Caves may have been involved in smuggling.