Dead Dolphin ashore May 2016

Dead Dolphin ashore May 2016

Sunday, 31 March 2013

A very familiar story and the Ramsgate situation.

I am slowly but surely building up a network of people who share similar concerns regarding missing art and artifacts in Thanet. The problem is not just confined to TDC as KCC are also displaying signs of appalling neglect.Recently I received an email and have listed bullet points for the reader to consider.

  • "I spent a lengthy time in Ramsgate Library. I was told at Ramsgate that the photographic archives had only recently been categorized by volunteers, sounds great I though. There were many folders that had titles but were empty, strange that. I asked - why are these folders empty? I was told that these must have been stolen recently and happens a lot/no surprise. For example a folder marked "Billie & Florrie Hamilton" under the people section ( ballroom dancers and proprietors of Granville House 1950`s ) was empty. Where had they gone! Who would take it? Nothing has cropped up on Google images or ebay as yet.  Well, folder after folder are now empty, and since nothing is scanned its gone forever.   The "Ramsgate, John Le Mesurier" folder contents have gone walkies. Also, I found a reference to an oil painting of Edward Buss, Chief Constable of the Ramsgate Borough Police Force for 25 years (1880`s) being held in the Ramsgate library collection. I fear that it was destroyed in the fire but nobody knows for certain on that, and no photograph was ever taken of it."
  • "It`s now not possible to use Ramsgate Library for research, as they have so little material. The Kelly`s guides are incomplete in both Ramsgate/ Margate libraries. Microfiches for certain years have gone. As Margate Library is a Gateway Centre, the world and his wife now enter the place, and chancers go upstairs (people who wouldn`t typically use libraries) to try the cabinets to find an open one in a sort of lucky dip."
  • "The maps in Ramsgate library are permanently unlocked and in a mess. The worst part is that the staff have an indifferent attitude in Margate/Ramsgate, for they no longer employ an archivist since the death of Penny Ward, but volunteers with learning difficulties etc. "  (Penny Ward died in 1998 )                                                               
  • At Margate  " Last year in Margate library I found an envelope containing WW1 soldiers medals and letters on the floor of the glass cabinet - tossed in.  To be sure, anybody could have taken them if they desired.  I was very shocked and even angry that people donate artifacts and bequeath documents to KCC in good faith and they treat them with disregard. 
  •  I have found many books in Margate library that have had engravings sliced away with a sharp blade " That sounds familiar as the same thing has happened at the Margate Museum. Perhaps I may be a bit cynical but could this be the work of the "someone" who in the past has unrestricted access to both archives in the past and there are not many people who have had that luxury.
All this makes grim reading and it does vindicate my position on art and artifacts in Thanet. Most of my recent posts do highlight Margate and though the situation is bad it can be rectified. All is needed is for Councillors to accept there is a problem and do something about it. It may mean admitting there were some bad decisions made in the past, it could also mean admitting to loses. But once the problems have been sorted and the collection has been stream lined into a controlled manageable collection what is left would still will be one of the best sea side history collections in Europe and a first class cultural visitor attraction.

Sadly to say the real problem is at Ramsgate and I think the situation is dire. Like the author of the above text I have been in Ramsgate library and I have also enquired about items lost in the fire like records etc., and what went up in smoke and what was salvaged. The staff I have spoken to have not been at all helpful and I get this feeling they like to keep certain people at arms length. But then I have been down this road before and I do find some areas of Ramsgate's heritage very aloof.

I think the situation at Ramsgate is dire because if Ramsgate Maritime themed items are taken out of the equation and left for the Maritime Museum to deal with you will find there is very little on anything else in the public domain relating to the history and heritage of Ramsgate. I know there are some very good private collections in Ramsgate and some really clued up historians but that is far as it goes and the Ramsgate public have no real access. Michaels's bookshop does produces excellent books which is a god send.

The key to a public collection really does come down to what Thanet District Council has on it's books and I think the first port of call has to be what has happened to all the TDC items taken from Albion House that are in storage at Margate.

To the left is the numbers of all the prints and pictures that were once in Albion House and removed by TDC. Once again this was another reason why I put a FOI request into TDC in 2006 so I could identify the prints to the numbers. But it was refused.
I have identified print 7094 as Ramsgate Sands, 1800's view J & E Howard, print 7095 as Eastcliff Lodge drawn by Vernon K Hood December 1805 for the Beauties of England and Wales collection and engraved by W.Cook and print 7103 as being "The town Quay at Ramsgate" drawn by Joseph Fussell produced for the English topographer series of Kent 1828 - 1831 and engraved by E.Duncan.
If any of the Margate auditors are reading this they are in the Custom House so you will not find them in TDC storage.

Another TDC list I have are the loans of prints and paintings from TDC to RTC in 2011. On the list are a number items that have no list numbers and the description of some items is very poor. I am really amazed at this description.

"Coloured print in gold frame

Vulcan paddle tug towing lifeboat out of Ramsgate harbour
58H x 83W cms
Some damage to frame
picture is in fair condition, some damp and dirt
backing in poor condition."

Actually I think this description alone really does sum up neglect at TDC. This is not a print but a oil painting on board, it is by William Broome and it is well documented on Google as the Vulcan towing the Bradford to the wreck of the Indian Chief 1881.It has no list number and when it arrived at Custom House it was still damp. 

One thing I have noticed about the RTC custom house collection is condition. This small collection excluding three oil paintings with provenance and a few modern repro prints given to the Mayor came from the Borough of Ramsgate then passed onto the Ramsgate Charter Trustees then became the property of Ramsgate Town Council. In this collection only one print has no visible defect. So what does that tell me, neglect or poor storage. No, what it tells me is that at sometime in the past someone has sorted through the collection leaving the poorer condition ones behind.

Finally this one is for Ramsgate watchers archives, this print is in the RTC collection.

Ramsgate from East Pier

Drawn by J.Styles surveyor 61 High Street Ramsgate
Couloured by Baldwin
Engraved by R.G Reeve
3 Gough Square
Printed by P.R Tomkins
Published September 24th 1830

feel free to download it is public property


Anonymous said...

Well done Tony - sterling work and this should be urgently raised by the Cabinet and KCC councillors.

Tony Ovenden said...

Annon I must give credit to the person who supplied me with the information regarding his experiences at both the Margate and Ramsgate libraries.