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Margate Clock Tower Oast House Archive.jpg
Margate Clock Tower
Grid reference: TR355705
Location: 51°23’6"N, 1°23’2"E
Population: 57,008
Post town: Margate
Postcode: CT9
Dialling code: 01843
Local Government
Council: Thanet
North Thanet

Margate is a seaside resort town on the Isle of Thanet in Kent. It is found 38 miles east of Maidstone, on the coast along the North Foreland, and contains the areas of Cliftonville, Garlinge, Palm Bay and Westbrook. It is a town forever struggling with a down-market reputation.


Margate was recorded as "Meregate" in 1264 and as "Margate" in 1299, but the spelling continued to vary into modern times. The name may come from an Old English Meregeat or similar and if so my mean "Sea-gate" or "Lake-gate". A local theory is that it refers to a gap in a cliff where pools of water are found, popular with swimmers.

The town's history is tied closely to the sea and it has a fine maritime tradition. Margate was a "limb" of Dover in the ancient confederation of the Cinque Ports. It was added to the confederation in the 15th century. Margate has been a leading seaside resort for at least 250 years. Like its neighbour Ramsgate, it has been a traditional holiday destination for Londoners drawn to its sandy beaches. Margate had a Victorian pier which was largely destroyed by a storm in 1978.[1]

Like Brighton and Southend-on-Sea, Margate was notorious for gang violence between mods and rockers in the 1960s, and mods and skinheads in the 1980s.[2]

The Thanet Offshore Wind Project, completed in 2010, is visible from the seafront.


Margate Clock Tower and buildings on the sea front

For at least 250 years, the town has been a leading seaside British seaside resort, drawing Londoners to its beaches, Margate Sands. The bathing machines in use at Margate were described in 1805 as:

four-wheeled carriages, covered with canvas, and having at one end of them an umbrella of the same materials which is let down to the surface of the water, so that the bather descending from the machine by a few steps is concealed from the public view, whereby the most refined female is enabled to enjoy the advantages of the sea with the strictest delicacy.[3]

Margate faces major structural redevelopments and large inward investment. Its Dreamland Amusement Park (featured in "The Jolly Boys' Outing" extended episode of the television series Only Fools and Horses) was threatened with closure because of the increase in value of the site. In 2003, one of the arcades on the seafront was destroyed by fire. This has created a new potential entrance point to the Dreamland site. In the following years, 2004–2006 it was announced that Dreamland (although somewhat reduced in its amusements) would reopen for three months of the summer; a pressure group has been formed to keep it in being. The group is anxious to restore the UK's oldest wooden roller coaster,[4]

The Scenic Railway, which is Grade II Listed and the second oldest in the world,[5] was severely damaged in a fire on 7 April 2008.[6][7]

It was planned that the Dreamland site would reopen as a heritage amusement park with the Scenic Railway at the centre. Classic rides from the defunct Southport amusement park have already been shipped in as well as parts of the now-demolished water chute at Rhyl. Today the Dreamland roller coaster is one of only two early-20th century scenic railways still remaining in Britain; the only other surviving is in Great Yarmouth, built in 1932. If the Dreamland Scenic Railway is not rescued, the Great Yarmouth coaster will become the last of its kind in the country.

The Turner Contemporary art gallery occupies a prominent position next to the harbour.

There are two notable theatres, the Theatre Royal in Addington Street - the second oldest theatre in the country - and the Tom Thumb Theatre, the second smallest in the country, in addition to the Winter Gardens. The Theatre Royal was built in 1787, burned down in 1829 and was remodelled in 1879 giving Margate more national publicity. The exterior is largely from the l9th century.[8] From 1885 to 1899 actor-manager Sarah Thorne ran a school for acting at the Theatre Royal which is widely regarded as Britain's first formal drama school. Actors who received their initial theatrical training there include Harley Granville-Barker, Evelyn Millard, Louis Calvert, George Thorne, Janet Achurch, Adelaide Neilson and Irene Vanbrugh|Irene and Violet Vanbrugh, among others.

An annual jazz festival takes place on a weekend in July.

Sights of the town

Tudor House

Margate Museum in Market Place explores the town's seaside heritage in a range of exhibits and displays, and is now opened at weekends by a team of volunteers.

First discovered in 1798, the Margate Caves (also known as the Vortigern Caves) are situated at the bottom of Northdown Road. They are currently closed to the public.

The Shell Grotto, which has walls and roof covered in elaborate decorations of over four million shells covering 2,000 square feet in complex patterns, was rediscovered in 1835, but is of unknown age and origin. It has been designated as a Grade I listed building.[9]

There is a 16th-century 2-storey timber-framed Tudor house built on a flint plinth in King Street.[10]

Draper's Mill

Draper's Mill is a smock mill built in 1845 by John Holman.[11] It was working by wind until 1916 and by engine until the late 1930s.[12] It was saved from demolition and is now restored and open to the public.

Margate in literature and popular culture

Victorian author William Thackeray used out-of-season Margate as the setting for his early unfinished novel 'A Shabby Genteel Story'.

Margate features as a destination in Graham Swift's novel Last Orders and the film version of it. Jack Dodds has asked to have his remains scattered at Margate. The book tells the tale of the drive to Margate and the memories evoked on the way. It also features at the start and as a recurrent theme in Iain Aitch's travelogue A Fete Worse Than Death. The author was born in the town.

T. S. Eliot, who recuperated after a mental breakdown in the suburb of Cliftonville in 1921, commented in his poem The Waste Land Part III - The Fire Sermon:

On Margate sands.
I can connect
Nothing with nothing.

In a Dud 'n' Pete sketch, two builders read Coleridge's Kubilai Khan as a contract specification and conclude that where: "Alph the sacred river ran Through caverns measureless to man Down to a sunless sea", it must exit near Margate.

The town was the title of a minor hit song by Chas & Dave in 1982.

Margate, most notably the railway station and Dreamland, featured prominently in the 1989 Only Fools & Horses episode 'The Jolly Boys' Outing'.

'Margate Fhtagn' is a song by UK steampunk band The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing. The story of the song combines the Victorian tradition of the seaside holiday with the works of H P Lovecraft, specifically the Cthulhu Mythos. It tells the story of a Victorian family going on a seaside holiday to Margate, which gets interrupted by Cthulhu rising from the sea. This is not a normal day out at the seaside, even in Margate.


  • Football: Margate FC
  • Yachting: Margate Yacht Club.
  • Beach volleyball: National beach volleyball competitions are often held on the main sands.
  • Quadbiking: The Margate Big Sky Beach Race.[13]

Local media

  • Newspapers:
    • The Isle of Thanet Gazette
    • Thanet Times
    • Thanet Extra
  • Radio:
    • KMFM Thanet
    • Academy FM (Thanet) (community radio)

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Margate)


  1. National Piers Society (retrieved 6 January 2011)
  2. There is an unflattering portrait of skinheads and a Cockneyfied Margate in Paul Theroux, The Kingdom by the Sea, 1983:24-26.
  3. Oulton, W C (1805) The Traveller's Guide; or, English Itinerary, Vol II, p. 245. Ivy-Lane, London: James Cundee.
  4. "Dreamland campaign is stepped up". BBC News. 2006-04-01. Retrieved 2008-04-08. 
  5. Aitch, Iain (2002-03-26). "Seaside special". The Guardian.,3604,674033,00.html. Retrieved 2008-04-09. 
  6. "Dreamland rollercoaster blaze 'probably started deliberately'". Kent Messenger. 2008-04-07. Archived from the original on 10 April 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-08. 
  7. "Fire rips through rollercoaster". BBC News. 2008-04-07. Retrieved 2008-04-08. 
  8. National Heritage List 1341519: Theatre Royal
  9. National Heritage List 11145546: The Grotto
  10. National Heritage List 11145561: Tudor House
  11. National Heritage List 11145603: Draper's Windmill
  12. West, Jenny (1973). The Windmills of Kent. London: Charles Skilton Ltd.. pp. 54–56. SBN 284-98534-1. 
  13. The Margate Big Sky Beach Race


Oulton, W.C. Picture of Margate, and Its Vicinity [1820] Paternoster Row, London: Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy. (2005 reprint) Ramsgate, Kent: Michaels Bookshop, ISBN 1-905477-20-1.

The Cinque Ports
Cinque Ports Antient Towns Limbs

Hastings  • New Romney  • Hythe  • Dover  • Sandwich

Rye  • Winchelsea

Lydd  • Folkestone  • Faversham  • Margate  • Deal  • Ramsgate  • Brightlingsea  • Tenterden