Tuesday, 17 January 2012

The sea defence diaries 17/01/12 and a ramble

Today work started on pile driving the back wall of the stone pier from behind the droit house to the groyne that can be seen in the photograph. This should prove very interesting when the ground has settled as this area has a lot of history or should I say potential. Where the blue vehicle is parked the bricked up entrance to the sluice can be seen in the harbour wall and this should be interesting as the entrance to the sluice had a granite pathway. I expect the power of the equipment used for pile driving will cut through the pathway like a hot knife through butter. But it will be interesting to see the pathway that has laid buried since the mid nineteenth century. The pathway was used for carts that were used to transport the silt from the harbour as a cheap form of dredging.
Beneath the base of the back wall are layers of debris from the Jetty that have banked up from the many storms that have hit the outer wall of the harbour. Most of the debris has fused into concretion that has been very difficult to dig into and I am hoping the mechanical activity will loosen some of it up so I can have a good look.
To get to the site the pile driver and digger are having to go around the square head of the stone pier which has given them a small window to work in because of the tide. The area around the square head is soft sand, clay and shingle, the pile driver and digger are churning it all up as they go around the square head which is great. This has really loosened up the ground and the tide is moving things about and causing other areas inside the harbour to scour out.
Today, I carried on as from yesterday paying less attention to the stone work plus I left my metal detector and spade at home and concentrated on walking the area.
Years ago up until 1958 there was a coal trade at Margate when 50,000 tonnes of North East coal was brought into Margate Harbour by coasters annually for the gas works in King Street. As a result of the unloading there are many pieces of this North East coal that can be found within the harbour. I normally pick a bit of coal up for research and some for my neighbour who has a coal fire, while I was picking up a few bits of coal out of the freshly churned up clay I came across a bottle stopper and embossed on it was the words W B REID & CO NEWCASTLE . It may be wishful thinking but considering Margate had a sea going coal trade with the North East I do think this stopper may be connected.
Other finds today included a Tizer bottle stopper, a very worn copper coin, lead weights, clay pipe stems and shards of different descriptions. Scrap metal from maritime activity is abundant around the outside of the square head and I have been picking it up . The other day I weighed in 4 Kilo of mixed brass and copper like boat fittings etc., at Kent Metals which now goes towards paying my car park fees.

Casting my mind back to the mid 1980's when the area around the back wall was washed out for brief period in places I did make many finds and observations. I can remember finding a battered silver plated bowl with two handles engraved GRAND HOTEL . Other finds included world war two live ammunition the entire length of the wall, a grenade, plus many coins. The oldest coins being George III copper issues. There are masses of concretion around iron objects and there also water logged timbers from the jetty at the base of the wall and alongside the groyne. Some timber could also be boat remains as there are many copper boat nails of all sizes in the vicinity.

Back to the subject of the sea coal in Margate Harbour. During the unloading of coal there was spillage and coal ended up in the harbour. However, even though the coal was "lost" overboard it still belonged the ship as it is part of the cargo and had a legal owner. At the time the area within the Harbour belonged to Margate Pier and Harbour Company so the public couldn't take any coal out of the harbour. Any coal that ended up outside the MPHC boundaries and on the main sands was flotsam and it would have been difficult to prove the origin of the coal as it could have been jetsom so people would take it and there was very little anyone could do about it.
I do know that one person had the legal rights to the coal lost overboard in Margate Harbour but I cannot remember his name or what the arrangement was. All I know was that this person had the full consent of the MPHC and the owners of the Cargo to salvage coal.
Following a harbour revision order the rights of MPHC were transferred to TDC which was a long winded legal affair. So technically TDC do own the rights to the deposits of coal laid buried in Margate Harbour and anything salvaged within the Harbour boundaries which does sound quaint. Ramsgate Harbour has strict rules and people cannot do as they please and I suppose the same would apply to Margate Harbour as rules do not change because the tide is out. Anyway I do not think TDC will flex its muscles at Margate but it is something I feel should be taken into consideration if a valuable find is made.

Finally, everything I find that is historical or special interest I will give the TDC owned Margate Museum first option to add it to their collection if they so wish and this has already been established with the Museum.

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