Margate Tourist Guide
Margate is a town in Thanet with a population of about 40,000. Today it lies at the junction of the A28, A254 and A255.
Its name was recorded as ‘Meregate’ in 1264 and as ‘Margate’ in 1299, but the spelling continued to vary into modern times. The name is thought to refer to a pool gate or gap in a cliff where pools of water are found, often allowing swimmers to jump in. The cliffs of the Isle of Thanet are composed of chalk, a fossil-bearing rock.
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 was the first resort to have donkey rides, in 1890, and the first to introduce deck chairs, in 1898. Today Margate's seafront moves to a different beat and surf boards and sail boards set a quicker pace than the bathing machines that trundled and rumbled their way to the water's edge all those years ago. Seafront arcades beat and throb with music.
But although times have changed, the magic is still there. There are still donkey rides, cockles and whelks, the unalterable rhythm of the tide and the enduring glory of the sands. And, of course, there is the winning combination of sea and sand that has been wooing Margate visitors since the qualities of its seawater were recognised by Thomas Barber back in 1736. Step off the train at Margate Station and all Margate's magic is there to savour. The hidden corners of the Old Town and the Cultural Quarter are waiting to be explored and a bright future beckons.
About 1816 The Times reported that the introduction of steamboats had given the whole coast of Kent (and) the Isle of Thanet in particular, "a prodigious lift". So popular were the steam boat excursions that in 1841 there were six different companies competing for the Margate passenger traffic. Even with the advent of the railway in 1846 the steamboats continued in service until their final withdrawal in 1967.
The railway came to Margate via two separate companies. The South Eastern Railway (SER) was the first to reach the town when its branch line from the main line at Ashford, having opened to Ramsgate on 13 April 1846, was continued to a station called Margate Sands on 1 December the same year. The SER had the rail monopoly until 5 October 1863 when the London, Chatham and Dover Railway completed its North Kent coast line and opened a station at Margate West. Once the Southern Railway had been formed, in 1923, there was a major rationalisation of the Isle of Thanet railways: the old route from Ramsgate was closed completely and a new railway connection, looping round the Isle of Thanet, meant that trains could pass through the town from either direction. Margate West (renamed simply Margate) Station became the only railway station in the town. The Railway is now run by London South Eastern Trains, which is connected to the Gov-ia group which also runs the South Central lines.
Margate is well known throughout the UK's deaf community because of England's first public institution for deaf children known as 'The London Asylum for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb Children of the Poor' which was started in London in 1792. The School had opened its branch in Margate in August 1876 and later on moved the entire operation from London to Margate.
The storm of early March 1949 caused widespread damage in Margate and along the North Kent Coast. Kent Fire Brigade estimated that it took 1,550 man hours to fight the floods which had devastated Kent in the previous two weeks. The high tide caused flooding at various points between Margate and Crayford. The tidal surge swept down the North Sea, into the Thames Estuary and up the river valleys, reaching 15 miles inland. So bad was the flooding that Chatham, Rochester, Strood, Upnor, Gravesend, Sheerness, Sittingbourne, Faversham, Herne Bay, Whitstable, Dover and Margate were declared one incident.
Margate’s many attractions:
The museum is situated in the historic Old Town Hall. The museum houses many exhibits relating to the history of Margate and the surrounding area, including the town's background as one of the first seaside resorts. The main theme of the museum is the history of Margate from the 18th century to the middle of the 20th century. Display material charts the evolution of the town from a small fishing village to one of the premier resorts on the south coast. Original paintings, prints, photographs and memorabilia are used to illustrate this progression. Paddle steamers, bathing machines, Victorian seaside souvenirs and Edwardian bathing costumes all help to give the visitor an insight into those times. Margate Museum can be found at The Old Town Hall, Market Place, CT9 1ER
Tel: +44 (0)1843 231213 or visit www.margatemuseum.org.uk.
The Shell Grotto
Her you will find 4.6 million shells, 2000 sq ft of mosaic and one big mystery! In 1835 Mr James Newlove lowered his young son Joshua into a hole in the ground that had appeared during the digging of a duck pond. Joshua emerged describing tunnels covered with shells. He had discovered the Shell Grotto; 70ft of winding underground passages leading to an oblong chamber, its walls decorated with strange symbols mosaiced in millions of shells. Is it an ancient pagan temple? A meeting place for some secret cult? Nobody can explain who built this amazing place, or why, or when, but since its discovery visitors from all over the world have been intrigued by the beautiful mosaic and the unsolved mystery.
The Shell Grotto is on Grotto Hill around five minutes’ walk from the seafront and a 20-minute walk from Margate Station. Tel: +44 01843 220008 or visit www.shellgrotto.co.uk.
Located in King Street Margate's oldest domestic building dating from the 16th century or even earlier who knows? - the investigation continues. External viewing only except by prior arrangement. Contact Margate Local History Museum - +44(0)1843 231213 - on a Friday or Saturday only.
The mill can be found in St Peter's Footpath off College Road Tel: 01843 291696. The smock windmill has a tapering tower faced with weatherboard on an octagon base of brick. It is the last surviving of three on site. It was built in 1845 by John Holman of Canterbury and was recently restored by KCC and D M Trust. The Mill is able to grind barley using Derbyshire peakstones and wheat using French Burr stones.
Winter Gardens Theatre in Fort Crescent Tel: 01843 292795 or visit www.margatewintergardens.co.uk. The Winter Gardens has a long and fascinating history dating back to 1911. The building itself is a fine example of Edwardian architecture and has retained its charm and atmosphere. The venue has always been an important attraction to Margate and has adapted itself to meet the changing needs of its customers over many years. The Winter Gardens is now looking forward to its 100th birthday on 23rd August in 2011. Plans are already well under way for the complete refurbishment of the Winter Gardens. This means it will remain as the largest and probably the busiest conference, theatre and banqueting facility in the area.
The Theatre Royal in Addington Street Tel: 01843 293397 or visit www.theatreroyalmargate.co.uk
Fancy a film?
Dreamland Cinemas in Marine Terrace Tel: 01843 227822
Or maybe some exercise?
Hartsdown Sports & Leisure Centre is in Hartsdown Park in Hartsdown Road. Tel: 01843 226221
Westbrook Bowling Green, Royal Esplanade Tel: 01843 220185
Prefer a quieter time?
East Northdown Farm and Gardens Tel: 01843 862060 or go to www.botanyplants.co.uk. Three-acre gardens with herbaceous borders and mixed plantings of many unusual species of coastal and chalk- loving plants. Specialist nursery and garden centre with interesting selection of trees, shrubs and perennials. There is a self-service tearoom. There’s something different about this nursery at East Northdown Farm. For a start there are no massed pots of tender plants hot off a lorry from Holland here. Instead there are more resilient plants propagated from stock that has been proven to suit chalk soil, low rainfall and drying north easterly winds - conditions they face in the farm's garden, a mere salty breeze from Margate, Kent.
Here are the main beaches in Margate:
Minnis Bay, Birchington, near Margate.
Blue Flag and Seaside Awards. Long, rural, countryside bay with sandy beach, rocky areas and shingle areas. Promenade and paddling pool.
West Bay, Westgate, near Margate.
Blue Flag and Seaside Awards. Sandy bay with rocky areas and cliffs.
St Mildred’s Bay, Westgate, near Margate.
Blue Flag and Seaside Awards and First Aid Station. Sandy bay with promenade, cliffs and tidal pool.
Westbrook Bay, near Margate. Blue Flag and Seaside Awards. Sandy beach approximately 200 metres long with promenade.
Margate Main Sands, Margate. Blue Flag and Seaside Awards. Resort’s main bay, sandy and approximately 200 metres long with promenade and tidal boating pool.
Walpole Bay, Margate. Walpole Bay includes Palm Bay, Hodges Gap and Foreness Point. Blue Flag and Seaside Awards. Popular watersports bay approximately 400 metres long with sandy beach, promenade and tidal swimming pool.
Just in case…
Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital
St. Peters Rd
Margate, CT9 4AN
The Limes Surgery
Margate, CT9 1QY
Margate Station, Station Approach, Marine Drive. Managed by South Eastern Trains.
Route: London Cannon Street or Victoria or Charing Cross to Ramsgate
For local bus information please contact: Traveline – 08706082608
Arrow Taxis 01843 226688
Central Cars 01843 228888
Chauffeur Hire Cars 01843 292929
My Fayre Lady Taxis 01843 231331
Allens Of Kent 01843 294466
Anchor Cars 01843 226100
Abbey National, 158 Northdown Rd, Cliftonville 0845 7654321
Abbey National, 110-112 High St Margate 0845 7654321
Barclays, 64-66 High Street, Margate 0845 755 5555
Halifax, 56-58 High Street, Margate 0845 739 4959
HSBC Bank, 244 Northdown Rd, Cliftonville 0845 7404404
HSBC Bank, 12 The Centre, Margate 0845 7404404
Lloyds TSB Bank, 218 Northdown Rd, Cliftonville 0845 3030109
Lloyds TSB Bank, 1-3 The Centre, Cecil Square, Margate 0845 3030109
NatWest, 160 Northdown Road, Margate 0870 240 3355
Woolwich, 84-86 High St, Margate 0845 0718075
Check for details
Margate Visitor Information Centre, 12-13 The Parade, Margate. Fax: 01843 292019. Visitor Information Centre Call Centre Tel: 0870 264 6111
Disclaimer: The information in this Tourist Guide has been researched from a variety of sources including books, articles and online information. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information the reader should check any specific facts for themselves before making any decisions based upon the said information.
Last Updated: 28 Apr 2015