Dead Dolphin ashore May 2016

Dead Dolphin ashore May 2016

Monday, 2 January 2012

Margate sea defence works a ramble

Today I got my kit together for the start of six months intense digging in the Margate Harbour area. I even dug out my metal detector from the mass of junk we keep in the loft, I dusted it down and gave it test run which is a sure sign I mean business as I haven't used a metal detector in years. It may sound a bit cocky but I have never felt the need to use a metal detector, simply because I know where to find things and always relied on experience, patience and graft. This time things are so much different as there will be so much going digging going on that it will be a case of picking up everything as quickly as possible and sorting it out later.
One of the reason of the under pinning of the stone pier is not to complement the Turner Centre or create a work of art it is about strengthening the stone pier itself. The stone pier was constructed to replace the pier that was destroyed in the storm of 1808 that also flooded Tivoli. Part of the stone pier is constructed on chalk bedrock and the other part including the square head is constructed in sections on wooden piling over the old creek, the reason for the underpinning work.
Before the arrival of the railways the stone pier was the lifeblood of the town along with other constructions that previously stood in the same vicinity. The three main trades being agriculture going out and coal and visitors to the town coming in , not forgetting all the maritime trades that also worked the harbour. It will be from this activity that I will focus most of my finds.
So far I have mentioned the rich finds of the more generic items that are going to turn up and these finds are starting to mount up.
One subject I haven't touched on is the evidence of wartime activity and the results of storms that have hit the harbour. During the second world war the defended area was bombed , the original droit house was destroyed and then there was the Dunkirk arrivals. All offering a great potential for some great finds.
Over the years storms have hit the harbour with devastating effect and as I write there is a small boat all bashed up against the sea wall by Manning's shellfish stall. This small boat is made of fibre glass with stainless steel fittings a far cry from when boats were made of wood by craftsmen and the fittings were hand worked copper. However, buried under the sand there are many remains of wooden boats and recently I came across part of a wrecked boat and I was even able to identify it.
During the 1970's there was a Margate fisherman who I won't mention by name who would buy cheap floating wrecks for fishing. One boat he bought was a clinker built double ender about twenty foot long, this boat was built in 1910 and was the first fishing boat that former Margate life boatman Alf Manning fished from as a boy. The boat was lost in a SW gale in the 1970's moored by the slipway and a piece of it still lies buried there today.
Many years ago at margate after a storm weather bound fishermen would gather up boat wreckage flotsam and burn it in piles to retrieve the copper fittings to sell as scrap, so for anyone digging the harbour this could well be the source of copper nails that will be found concentrated in some areas.
In fact the whole harbour area will be a mine of scrap metal of maritime origin for anyone looking to make a bob or two. There are boat engines, lead, copper, brass , phosphorus and stainless steel that can be found. Maybe not in large quantities by at today's current scrap prices it is something that cannot be ignored


ascu75 aka Don said...

Scrap prices as they are I image someone will have a go. I hope you are successful with your digs.

Fiona S said...

I'm following your digging and hope you find some interesting stuff before the end of the flood defence work.

Anonymous said...

Tony I am a Geography Teacher and interested in your views on the sea/flood defences, as I spoke to a Margate local and they said that the steps will reduce the energy of the waves and the area behind the pier will silt up. Do you agree?

Tony Beachcomber said...


I think the sea defences will reduce the energy of the waves in most storms. But the real issue has to be tidal surges like the storm in 1953 should the weather pattern be repeated. On the Margate and family history facebook site there are some pictures of the effects of the 1953 storm and the damage sustained in that area. So I suppose the construction has these pictures to take into consideration.

My interest will be the erosion and silting effect in the area, especially the erosion as this will uncover layers of seaside history. For years I have followed up the after effects of newly constructed constructions of sea defences on the coastline as the erosion uncovers seaside history. I expect that the effects of this construction will last decades with many interesting finds.