Tuesday, 28 February 2012

The sea defence diaires - some latest finds 27/02/12

These are some of the latest finds I have found in the past week all found inside the harbour where the deep digging has been taking place .
This item made of brass is one of the marine items I have found in the mud. It was attached to a piece of decomposing wood and at this moment in time I am not sure what it's purpose was.

This ginger beer bottle is the one that I found and mentioned in a previous posting. It is impressed H D Rawlings and is a cork top and I am dating it around the 1880's. I have also found a number of broken pieces of Ginger Beer bottles bearing logos or impressed with local names. I have kept the pieces because the information will help put together records of the different designs of ginger beer bottles used by local manufacturers.

Another Baluster from the Balustrade that surrounded the original lighthouse on the end of the stone pier. The design of the Baluster is of a different design and size to the other pieces I have already found. This could suggest that the Balustrade was altered when the lighthouse was replaced in 1829 or the Balustrade may have suffered storm damage in the storms 1877 and 1897. My only way to find out will be in the Mick Twyman archives.

This bottle is the one third of a pint Thatcher the milk snatcher type. The bottle distributed by Weston Bros Dairies as written on the bottle and contained orange juice. The character on the bottle is a Suki and I am sure many local people will remember these bottles.
I am donating this bottle to the Margate museum collection as the bottle represents an era in local history.

Finally, this is an observation. The Kings Steps in most places is made of concrete and repaired in concrete. However part of the structure is made of granite blocks and some of these granite blocks are curved. This could suggest these curved blocks were taken from an arch.
One fact for sure is these curve blocks that form part of the Kings Steps have been salvaged from another structure. The question is where from. I suppose I could now add this to the list Margate mysteries .
Anyway it is down there for all to see for those interested.

Monday, 27 February 2012

The sea defence diaries - 27/02/12 the finished product

It is almost certain that the underpinning of the Margate stone pier is to be finished on time, not that I ever doubted it for one moment.
So today I was able to see the finished product for the first time and what a neat little job it has turned out to be. As you can see in the photograph the new piling has now been capped with concrete and that is how it will look all around the stone pier even though most of the capped piling is out of view and will remain buried.
Within the next few days I expect mechanical activity in the harbour to finish and that will allow all the freshly excavated mud and clay to settle for the natural process of the tide to wash through it and reveal all the hidden treasures that have laid buried for years.

Around the square head this process has now begun and the metal detector guys are starting to work through the ground , but it is hard going as there is a lot of mineral interference that upsets the setting of most metal detectors. However, it does take patience and a few finds have turned up like nine live WWII bullets all found together wrapped up together in decomposing hessian. I expect in the coming weeks there will be many interesting finds to come.
Today being old school I took a garden rake with me and ran that through the shingle around the square head and came up with a few finds mostly lumps of lead and brass, the brass originating from the second world war including a spent detonator from a shell casing. Other finds included pieces of clay pipe, marine engine parts and another piece of the 1815 balustrade from around the lighthouse that went down in the 1953 storm.

Over on the other side of the bay by the clock tower work was being carried out rebuilding the last remaining wall of the old boating pool. This wall houses the Tivoli Brookes fresh water out fall pipe so it cannot be demolished and has to be rebuilt.
From what I could see as I took this photograph I would think the metal detector guys must be rubbing their hands with glee watching all that digging taking place in an area renowned for such good finds in the past.

Finally, today I heard some Harbour gossip and good gossip it is to. It appears that TDC do not own the sand within the harbour something I thought they did. This is because the Margate Pier and Habour Company majority shareholder still owns the Harbour revision order and this goes some way to explain why there are not many boats in the Harbour. I suppose a freedom of information request will confirm whether this is factual or not.
Also it appears that the piling around the stone pier need not had have been driven in that deep it was only done so under the insistence of TDC because they want to dredge the harbour at some time in the future which does contradict the Harbour revision order at bit. Anyway my source tells me that TDC will not now dredge Margate Harbour because of contaminants.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

The sea defences diaries - a mystery find ?

The guy on the left digging in the trench found this item. It is brass or bronze and it still operates like a small pump, the problem is what is it and what is its purpose ? Ideas please.

Friday, 24 February 2012

The sea defence diaries 24/02/12 - all hands to the pump

Today I just happened to be in the right place at the right time to witness the the final stages of the under pinning of Margate Stone Pier as a matter of historical record. For all the guys working on the site it certainly was a case of all hands to the pump as they were capping the piling as the tide came in, if that is the correct terminology to use. It did make me smile when I could hear someone say "where is that effing truck" as the tide started to move even closer to the spot where they must have spent the early part of the morning digging.
As for myself, today was a day for observation watching all that lovely mud being excavated. Instead of putting up with the smell I felt as if I could taste it as it was piled up inside the harbour in preparation for the capping to take place. It was impressive just to see how deep they have dug and where they were digging so close to the wall. Eventually my calculation and observation was to pay off as I could see a earthen ware ginger beer bottle in a pile of mud. The problem was how to retrieve the bottle as the mud was really thick heavy and soft. Observing the rule of not panicking if I get stuck I edged slowly to the bottle and only got stuck once before I could retrieve the bottle. The bottle certainly was a beauty, a pristine condition Rawlings impressed ginger beer bottle with cork top and probably dates around the 1880's.

The bottle ginger beer bottle was not the only find as I found many other finds of which I need to photograph and record in the next few days.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

The sea defence diaries 18/02/12

Over the past couple of days the contractors have been working on the south wall and they are not hanging about. Which is very good news for the metal detector users because the digging is taking place during a period of south westerly winds . As we will soon be back into spring tides I expect this will wash down where the contractors have been digging providing fertile metal detecting territory.
Today one of the metal detector users found an NAAFI embossed bottle of the crown cap variety in green aqua and he gave it to me for the Margate Museum. I didn't have any cash on me but when I see him next I will give him a drink for his generosity.

Today I continued as I have done over the past month concentrating on the freshly dug muddy areas in Margate. It is starting to get hard going as the finds are not as prolific as I originaly thought. So today I allocated myself three hours to do a complete end to end sweep of the harbour. As the finds are there to be found and it just takes a bit more work.
I did find two coins in the muddy area of the harbour, a 1806 penny and a 1983 one pound coin. I have scanned the two side by side to highlight that the more modern coin have suffered in the mud more than older coin. Probably because the penny is pure copper and the one pound coin is an alloy.

There was one find that caught me by surprise and that was a piece of Baltic Amber of which I have taken a photograph of in my hand. As you can see it is no baby.
Other finds included a Reeve & Co Margate bottle stopper, clay pipe stems, harbour coal, scrap metal and many shards of various description.

Today, I popped into the Margate Museum and they are now ready to take all my finds for the display team to assess. I have also told them that if they want anything for the town collection they can have it and take what they want.

Friday, 17 February 2012

The sea defence diaries 17/02/12 - Terracotta

For as many years as I can remember there have been lumps of Terracotta found out side the Margate harbour wall from opposite where the Turner Center stands today along the back wall of the harbour, through to the square head an onto the main sands. Each piece having some form of a visible marking and obviously from a fine building but the problem is which one?
I suppose the nearest similar building standing today in Thanet of that stylehas to be the Custom House in Ramsgate home of Ramsgate Town Council. So where in Margate did these pieces come from ?
At present I have no idea, but I am looking at three options. First there is the Marine Palace that stood on the Rendevous car park site and that was destroyed in the storm of 29th November 1897. Then there is the Hotel Metropole that stood where the Turner Center is today. The Hotel sustained terrible damage in the same storm. However, the Hotel was demolished in 1938 so could some of the demolition rubble ended up in the sea. Then there are the buildings that stood on the Stone Pier that were swept away in the 1953 storm. So as it stands there are many options and some research to do.
Today I came across three pieces, two as a result of the sea defence works and the other from the erosion that is taking place off the main sands. The photograph above is a piece I found just off the main sands of which I have taken home. The two photographs below were taken around the square head of the stone pier and where left as found. The photograph of the piece on the right has clear markings that is at present unidentifiable.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

The sea defence diaries - Mudlarking

It has been a very difficult week, not because of the weather but more to do with my shifts and the tides clashing. So it has meant seven days not being able to dig. However, the time has not been wasted as I have been going through my finds, researching and mapping out a plan of the entire area.
The internet has been a great research tool, especially you tube and the videos of the London Mudlarks . As I have said all along the silted area inside of Margate Harbour is so similar to some areas of the Thames even down to the smell. The unfortunate thing is that the finds are not prolific as the Thames going by the Mudlark videos. I would say that a one day worth of finds on the Thames would equal a month worth of finds at Margate, plus the chances of finding items at Margate older than the early 1800's is very very challenging.
One thing I like about the London Mudlarks is their code which means that everything they find is offered to a Museum first and everything the Museum does not need they keep for their own collections. In a way I have established myself as a Margate Mudlark and if the Mudlark code is to offer everything found to a Museum then I will do exactly the same and offer everything I find to the Margate Museum.
In my mapping out I have noticed an imaginary line from the square head of the stone pier to the shore. This has been defined by the conditions of the shards that I have found. On the main sands side of my line the shards are clean and in many cases worn smooth and there are more of them to be found. On the harbour side of my line the shards are darkened and have been permeated by the silt of the harbour. They also have the smell that has made Margate Harbour famous in the past which makes them genuine I suppose.
I suspect that most finds in the harbour have remained in the vicinity where they were originally lost whereas the finds outside the harbour have moved with the tide. An example being shards from the Margate Jetty refreshments pavilion often found.
Recently inside the harbour I came across a damaged ginger beer bottle and it was full of harbour silt and photographed above. Something I am sure in comparison to elsewhere is a very common find. As this is a 100% genuine Margate find and working on the assumption that the silt in the bottle got in there when the bottle was thrown over the side, then the contents would be an indicator of what the sea bed inside the harbour would have been like when the bottle was lost, probably in the 1890's as the bottle is a corked top and not a screw top. Well the answer is that the bottle was full of coal dust and fragments of coal plus there was a lot of it. So on this eveidence I would say this bottle is a relic of the coal trade that passed through Margate Harbour and the sea bed at the time was heavily silted in coal dust.
The coal trade that passed through Margate Harbour is well documented in the Margate Historical society archives thanks to many years of research by Mick Twyman and Alf Beeching. The Margate museum also has photographs and records of the coal trade that is mostly the work of Mick Twyman .
There are still many features on the stone pier or the harbour arm as it is known today that still can be seen, like the tracking that is still visible where the harbour crane ran on to unload the coasters that came from the North East.
So far I have found many lumps of coal about the size of small coconuts in the mud and it is as good as the day it went into the harbour. As mentioned in a previous posting I have found a very well preserved bottle stopper from a Newcastle brewery in the same area as the coal, something I am sure is connected to the coal trade.
In the Thames Mudlarking videos they do seem to find a lot of clay pipes on the banks of the Thames. Something I wish I could say the same about Margate Harbour because when the sea defence work started I was optimistic that I would make some decent finds. This assumption based on past finds. However, this does not seem to be the case as so far I have only picked up mostly pipe stems and broken pipe bowls spread over a wide area. The only consolation I have is that some of the stems can be dated to the 1700's which is my target area as there are very few 1700's items that have come to light that have been found in the Margate area as most of it still lies buried. It will take time but I am confident I can turn up items from the 1700's around the Margate area.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

The sea defence diaries (08/02/12) - at last, some real mud

This is how the back wall of Margate Harbour looked this morning (08/02/12) at daybreak. The sea was calm and this was the first opportunity to get round the square head in daylight hours for well over a week. Looking at the photograph the new piling is now in place waiting to be capped with concrete. The older piling put in after the 1953 was also visible along with the debris uncovered during the recent pile driving. Around the area of the 1953 piling there are large amounts of concretion that have fused together metal objects since 1953. As time was not on my side and the tide had turned I left the concretion for another day, even though I had bought a hammer along to break it up. Instead I dug up against the wall hoping to find more pieces of the 1815 Balustrade which turned out to be fruit less as the only find was metal, mostly Lead work from the stone pier and fishing weights of all ages and designs.

Around the square head the sand had settled after all the digging that had taken place as mentioned in the previous posting. As it was safe to walk on, I found the most visible find was stone work from the stone pier. However I did not
carry out a full search as a valuable prize lay around the corner in the harbour entrance. The prize being piles of freshly dug mud scattered over a wide area.

As you can see in the photograph some of the digging has been very deep. The mud was incredibly smelly even for a cold day, something I did not notice once I started finding things. Once I got stuck in did not take long to fill up a bucket with items.

One of the Breheny guys did come down and warned me of deep holes in the harbour that were filled with water and silt, so I knew I had to tread carefully.

All the finds were laying on the surface including this railing post from the stone pier.
Amongst the finds I found a neck of a broken glass bottle something I could easily date from around the 1780's, I found a necked Victorian ginger beer bottle and when I emptied out the contents I found the bottle to be full of coal dust which is a real indicator what the harbour bottom must have been like when the bottle was lost. Other finds also included bone, copper items, sea coal and pipe stems.

On these occasions I am entirely focused on the area I intend to search. However, out in the low water area of the main sands there has been a washout leaving large lumps of clay that originated from the old creek. It was so tempting I gave it a look, finding mostly patterned shards . One shard was from the refreshment pavilion Margate Jetty. The Jetty pavilion was destroyed in a fire in 1963 that pre dates the find. However, the font of the lettering does suggest that the shard is even older, possibly 1930's. Another shard had the words OXO in a shield. OXO and Bovril shards within a shield date from the Victorian and Edwardian era when hot drinks were served along Margate seafront for the early morning bathers using the bathing machines.

Finally, a mystery find found this morning on the corner of the square head and the back wall. It is a steel bar with a right angle bend with a blob of iron added to the end of the bent end. At first I thought it may be an arm broken from a fly press but I am not so sure. Any ideas ?

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

The sea defence works - recent finds (01/12)

It is going to take at least a week before the tide will go out far enough to allow any reasonable exploration around the square head and the north wall of Margate stone pier below the lighthouse. This in turn is ample time to allow the ground to settle after the recent pile driving and allow the tides to restore some form of natural order. Therefore any wind from the north will be welcome even if it does bring a bit of snow. In the meantime the part of the north wall between the back of the Droit House and as far as the Groyne will still be accessible at low water and should be good with the metal detector if the iron debris from the Jetty can be avoided. Towards the groyne a large amount of stone blocks have been uncovered, all remnants of the 1953 storm. Towards the other end behind the Droit House and the old sluice where I found the coins as in the previous posting, there is still every possibility of finding ammunition from the Second World War and iron nails from the Jetty wreckage of the 1978 storm. I have mentioned live ammunition being found in the area before and the two bullets in the photograph above were found in the past few days along with the iron nail from the Jetty, so it is always there to be found.

Amongst the recent finds from the past week is another piece of a Baluster from the Balustrade that surrounded the 1829 Lighthouse that was lost in the 1953 storm. I have taken a few photographs of the recent find and have posted them on the left.

Pictured is the joint that fixed the Baluster into the stone work and also present are traces of the original mortar.
The Friends of the Margate Museum in the near future will be staging an exhibition of all the storms that have battered Margate , along with photographs and accounts of the storms to coincide with the sea defence works. All my finds will be part of that exhibition and all the significant finds will be donated to the Margate Museum.