Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Margate sea defence works - research and theories

The Autumn changes of the wind and tide are now starting to have an impact on the eastern part on Margate sands with some noticeable changes. Which is enough to prompt me to walk the areas I have designated in preparation for the forthcoming sea Margate defence works. My objective to pick up anything that is over 100 years.
So far I have found pieces of mineral water bottle and shards of pottery dating no older than the 1880's. Which is hardly surprising because finding anything older than that around the Margate Harbour area both inside and outside the harbour basin is rare, simply because anything of interest dating back beyond the mid Victorian ear is buried deep beneath the sand. In fact over the past 30 years the incidences where items can be found beyond that era due to excavation can be counted on one hand and on each occasion I have managed to be there.
My experiences do lead me to believe that there is going to be some good finds when work starts, so what do we know on the research side ?
Shortly before he died last year local historian Mick Twyman produced an article on Hazard Row in great detail. Written by an historian for historians it does run into pages, however I have been able to break it down into lesser detail for those interested in the forthcoming sea defence works and potential finds.
Hazardous row spanned from the Imperial at the bottom of the High Street to St Andrews Place which is Henry's alley to us local's. Before the construction of Marine Drive in the 1880's the rear buildings at the at the lower High Street fronted the sea and access to the sea could be made from these buildings by wooden steps to the sea and this can be clearly seen in old prints.
In 1623 the area where the Imperial stands was known as Horn corner and from Horn corner to where Mannings stall is today was the entrance to the creek. To cut a long story short there were wooden Jetty revetments constructed around the creek entrance and Hazardous row from there Maritime trade took place during the 1600's.
With the popularity of sea bathing in the 1700's the lower high street became bathing rooms and access to the sea was by steps from a wooden Jetty at the rear of the buildings. From here the likes of Benjamin Beale operated the bathing machine. However, Hazardous row suffered in heavy storms and there are many recorded accounts throughout the 18th Century of loss and damage with the years 1755, 1763, 1767 and 1779 suffering the most damage. In fact the storm of 1767 caused so much damage it almost bankrupted Benjamin Beale at the loss of his bathing station.
After the storm of 1797 a stone construction was built from Horn Corner to the Harbour in 1803 to protect the old town this was was known as the Parade, leaving an arched opening opposite where King Street is today to act as a town drain.
On 15th January 1808 Margate was hit by a fierce North Westerly gale , the predecessor to the current stone Pier was almost destroyed and Hazardous Row was almost completely washed away with many buildings disappearing into the sea.
Following the 1808 storm the current Stone Pier was constructed and a sea wall constructed from where the Clock tower is today to the Nayland. Years later in the 1880's Marine Drive was constructed protecting Hazardous row forever.
Over the years Margate has silted up burying evidence from bathing machine operations, maritime trade, the town drain, the creek and the effects damage by severe storms and from some of these facts the excavation for the sea defence works does look interesting.

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