Tuesday, 3 December 2013

The Ramsgate Society

The Ramsgate Society have recently won a prestigious award for their work on restoring the Victorian Shelters on the Cliffs above the seafront.
Well done!! Laura Sandys said "So pleased to present The Ramsgate Society with their award for joint national Civic Society of the Year this morning"

The Society have their website here and have done sterling work in Ramsgate over many years.

What they say about Ramsgate's history:
Ramsgate's history on the Isle of Thanet goes back over many centuries. Early history saw the arrival of the Belgic peoples to this general area in the first 100 years BC during which period the Romans first arrived in 55 and 54BC. They later came to this area of East Kent to fully conquer Britain in the Claudian Invasion of 43AD setting up the huge gateway fortress and town of Richborough nearby - just 4½ miles (6km) in a straight line from present day Ramsgate.

Evidence of their presence has been found during excavation work around the town including in 1870 when Roman Burials were found in the area of the Granville Hotel on the East Cliff. Roman tiles and wooden piles sunk into the chalk beneath the site of the present slipway in the harbour have also been found, when the slipway was constructed suggesting the area was used as a small haven.

During the end of the Roman period the Vikings under the leadership of Hengist and Horsa with their mercenary force arrived at the invitation of the Romano / British leader Vortigern in AD 449. Vortigern gave them the Isle of Thanet - which was a true island at that time - as payment for their help. Landing at Ebbsfleet they were to stay long after the Romans had left, naming the country England.

It was during the Anglo Saxon period that St Augustin arrived from the church of Rome in 597 when he also landed at Ebbsfleet. A stone cross now marks the spot where this landing was said to have taken place. That location is now about half a mile (nearly a kilometre) inland as the mile wide Wantsum Channel - separating Thanet from mainland Kent - has long since silted up.

The towns earliest reference is as Hraefn's ate, meaning cliff gap, It later came to be known as Remmesgate, or sometimes as Ramisgate around the beginning of the 13th Century (1200 to 1230). Some 120 years later, perhaps 1360 or so, the area became known as Ramesgate. At this time this small area was little more than a fishing hamlet with some farms scattered about it as a part of one or more of the local 'Manors'. Then in 1483 Ramsgate was adopted as a limb of Sandwich and thus a part of the Cinque Ports confederation.

Of the local inhabitants William Camden wrote in the early 1600s...

Neither must I passe over heere in silence that which maketh for the singular praise of the inhabitants of Tenet, those especially which dwell by the roads or harboroughs of Margat, Ramsgat and Broadstear. For they are passing industrious, and as if they were amphibii, that is, both land-creatures and sea-creatures, get their living both by sea and land, as one would say, with both these elements: they be Fisher-men and Plough men, as well Husband-men as Mariners, and they that hold the plough-taile in earing [tilling] the ground, the same hold the helme in steering the ship.

Professor Sutton translation from the Latin original.

It was about the time of end of the Tudors and beginning of the Stuarts that 'Manors' lost control of their areas in favour of church parishes which became administrative units. Ramsgate thus came under the control of St Lawrence. Ramsgate began to grow after the Glorious Revolution of 1688 following the successful trade with Russia and the formation of the Bank of England and the East India Company, whose ships brought trade and prosperity to the local fishermen.
Early in the Georgian age - 1714 to 1740 - the Vestry and Overseers of St Lawrence still controlled day to day work in Ramsgate, including the building of a Poor House in Sussex Street. This opened in April 1726. By 1785 Ramsgate had established an efficient government sufficient for it to have an 'Act' to pave, light and cleanse the streets of Ramsgate and to build a market house and hold a public market. Records show that for the year of 1799 the cost of cleaning the streets amounted to 42/- ,42 shillings (2 guineas) or £2.10p.

Elegant Georgian houses with their beautifully proportioned sash windows were built throughout the 18th century, later evolving into the bow window fronted houses of the Regency Period, 1812 - 1820. Ramsgate also benefitted from the building of Nelson Crescent and Wellington Crescent with their fine Chinese Pagoda-style canopied balconies and 'delicate as gossamer' ironwork railings and supports, that further embellished these wonderful Regency properties throughout the period up to the Victorian era. The young Princess Victoria visited the town as a child in the 1830s

 The harbour was built as a result of the Great Storm of 1703 which saw the loss of much shipping, the worst disaster to befall the Royal Navy in peacetime, though work did not begin until 1749. It was in September 1821 that George IV departed from the harbour for Hanover. On his safe return to Ramsgate, he was pleased to bestow the title 'Royal' upon the harbour, the only one in the country to be so honoured. An obelisk in Pier Yard erected out of granite commemorates this event.

Around the turn of the century - and particularly 1792 to 1815, the Napoleonic War years - Ramsgate became a busy garrison town, with tens of thousands of troops embarking and disembarking through the harbour to take part in the many battles. This necessitated the town becoming fortified,though little trace remains today, with rifle shooting on the sands and Drill Parades in Spencer Square. Ramsgate Harbour was the only harbour available for such traffic as Dover and Folkestone harbours were not to be built until many years later.

The town continued to grow during the Victorian period, and Ramsgate is particularly well endowed with some fine buildings from this time, though many properties, particularly further out from the town centre, have suffered the ravages of so called 'modernisation'. Examples include heavy chunky plastic windowframes and doors, pebble dashing and artificial stone cladding, which prevent the walls breathing thus encouraging internal damp.

Ramsgate has had its share of both World Wars In WWI it had the dubious honour of suffering the first air raids, from Zeppelins, when much damage was suffered. It would also have acted as an 'out port' to the new 'secret port' of nearby Richborough, constructed from scratch to serve as a supply base for the army at the front in France.

In WWII Ramsgate acted as a main port for the rescue of troops from Dunkirk. As the conflict continued the harbour played a significant naval role in the protection of Channel shipping and rescue. Today the harbour is given over to small fishing vessels and yachting marinas in both the inner and outer harbours whilst a new port, constructed outside and to the west of the old Royal harbour, handles ferries operating daily sailings to Ostend in Belgium. (ed. slightly outdated)

 Ramsgate as a seaside town, like many around the country, no longer entertains the hordes of visitors who once came for a week or two beside the seaside. Instead, whilst Ramsgate still welcomes visitors, most come to enjoy the area as part of a wider touring holiday - or maybe for a long weekend. Many of these are genuinely surprised to discover what a wonderful town Ramsgate is with its architecture and history. The town is becoming recognised for its abundance of good Regency, Georgian and Victorian properties set around a variety of their own squares.

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