Margate before Sea bathing: 1300 to 1736

Anthony Lee

Chapter 2: The Pier and the Harbour

Chalk cliffs on either side of the creek at Margate formed a small natural harbour with a mouth just wide enough to allow in small vessels. The harbour was used to ship corn and barley grown in the fertile lands of the Isle of Thanet to London; as far back as 1225 a licence had been given to Ricardus (Richard) of Margate and Sandwich to transport corn in his ship along the coast.1 Unfortunately the cliffs were vulnerable to erosion by the sea and the gradual loss of the cliffs and the protection they provided meant that steps had to be taken to defend the harbour and prevent flooding of low lying land close to the shore. From the later thirteenth century it had been possible to compel local landowners to work together to tackle threats of flooding by issuing a Commissions de walliis et fossatis (of walls and ditches). In December 1331 a Commission de walliis et fossatis was issued to ‘Master John de Rodeswell, Thomas de Faversham, Nigel de Wheteacre, and William de Reculvre’ to protect ‘the coast between the towns of Sere and Mergate in Thanet Island, co. Kent’.2 In 1369 another Commission was issued, this time specifically to protect the harbours of the Isle of Thanet:3

Commission to John de Cobeham, Robert Bealknap, William de Horne, Simon de Kegworth and Thomas de Garwynton to survey the coasts of the isle of Thanet and to have all places in which ships or boats can put in defended by walls and dykes where possible, and all other necessary measures taken for defence of the island.

In 1377 steps were taken to protect a sea wall near Sarre:4

Appointment of William Tidecombe and John Fraunceys to take in the county of Kent labourers and workmen for the repair of a wall standing by the sea-shore in the isle of Thanet, called Saint Nicholas by Sarre, by the breaking and ruin of which great damage to the people of the adjacent country is feared, and to put them to the works at the king’s wages.

In 1380 the problem was a more general one with all the ‘walls of earth and the dykes’ protecting the Isle of Thanet:5

Appointment of Robert Bealknap, Stephen de Valoynz, Thomas Fog, William Septvauntz, Nicholas atte Crouche, William Makenade, Thomas Garwynton of Well, Thomas Chiche of Balnerle and William Tytecombe, as the king’s justices, to survey the condition of the isle of Thanet, the king being informed that divers inhabitants daily withdraw therefrom, that the walls of earth and the dykes formerly constructed for defence against hostile invasions are weak and in ruins, and that divers persons of that island, bound to find and maintain boats and other vessels for the passage and carriage of men and animals to and fro, have neglected to do so. They are to enquire who are so bound and to compel them thereto, as well as to repair the walls and cleanse the dykes, and those who are withdrawing to remain or find others in their place, with power to hear and determine the premises.

The reference to ‘hostile invasions’ suggests that the walls of earth were there to protect against foreign forces as well as against the sea.

Eventually the inhabitants of Margate were forced to construct a pier to provide protection for shipping and to construct walls or jetties of timber along the shore line to prevent the buildings around the creek from being flooded. These precautions were of limited success; John Leyland in the famous quotation already given said of Margate when he saw it in 1535-43 that ‘there is a village and a peere for shyppes, but now sore decayed’.6 From the time of Elizabeth I, if not before, the costs of maintaining the pier and the other sea defences were met by dues, or Droits, levied on corn and other merchandise shipped and landed at the pier.7 In charge of collecting the Droits were two Pier Wardens and overseeing the whole process was the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports because Margate was a ‘member,’ or administrative part, of the Cinque Port of Dover (Chapter 5). As described by Lewis in 1723:7

These rates were confirmed by the Lord Wardens of the Cinque Ports, who from time to time renewed and altered the Decrees made for Ordering and Management of this little harbour. The oldest we now have, are dated September 1615, and confirmed by Edward Lord Zouch, St. Mauer, and Cantelpe, Lord Warden, Chancellor and Admiral of the Cinque Ports.  In these orders &c it is said that they have been usually confirmed by the Lord Warden for the time being, and Time out of Mind, used by the inhabitants of Margate and St John’s in the Isle of Thanet.

Membership of the Cinque Port system had many advantages for Margate, the principal one being that the town was exempt from many of the taxes and regulations governing the rest of Britain, as described in Chapter 5. Sometimes, though, exemption from regulation proved to be a disadvantage, as was the case with exemption from the regulations governing sea defences. Sea defences were normally the responsibility of the Commissioners of Sewers, a body concerned with land drainage and the prevention of flooding, not with the removal of sewage in the modern sense. The authority of the Commissioners dated back to the Statute of Sewers 1531, passed in the reign of Henry VIII. This gave the Commissioners, appointees of the Crown, the power to levy drainage rates on the occupiers of land benefiting from any drainage or sea defence works carried out on behalf of the Commissioners. The problem was that it was uncertain whether or not the Commissioners were responsible for flood defence work in the Cinque Ports.

 Harleian map Margate Pier| Margate History
Figure 23. A sketch of the Pier in 1646 based on the Harleian manuscript in the British Library.

In August 1621 the Commissioners of Sewers for Kent wrote to Lord Zouch, the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, enclosing a report on ‘the loss of eighteen houses at Margate, and the peril of seventy-four more, and of 350 acres of land, by the building of the pier and jetty’.8 Here, ‘jetty’ is used as a term for simple breakwaters and, more commonly, for retaining walls, or revetments, built along the shore line. As to the ‘pier’, this at the time was a simple wooden structure following a semi-circular course from south-east to north-west, with a breakwater called the New Work running northwards from the pier head (Figure 23).9 It seems that this breakwater, although protecting the pier, caused considerable damage along the shore line around the creek. The Commissioners suggested that this damage could be prevented ‘by erecting two jetties to preserve the houses; the expense to be met by a tax on the pier, which is the cause of the mischief and on the houses and land.’ Although the Commissioners felt that ‘the business of Margate Pier admits of no delay’ they were not sure if their powers as Commissioners of Sewers for Kent actually extended to Margate as it was part of the Cinque Port system.10 Whatever the exact legal position, Lord Zouch agreed to impose a tax on the Pier to pay for the necessary changes and repairs at Margate, but later in August he received a petition from some of the parishioners of St John’s arguing ‘against his decision that part of the profits of the pier at Margate should be employed to defend the houses against the encroachments of the sea, the pier being poor, and its funds needed for its own repairs or rebuilding, if swept away’.8 The petition bore 21 signatures, including those of Paul Claybrook, William Claybrook, Daniel Pamphlett, John Laming, Valentine Pettit, Edward Taddye, and Henry Sandford, some of the wealthiest of the local landowners and merchants. It seems that those living in safety up the hill did not see why they should contribute, through a tax on the profits earned at the pier, to the safety of those living around the creek at the bottom of the hill. Lord Zouch arranged for an inspection of the pier and, in September 1621, Sir Henry Mainwaring, the Member of Parliament for Dover, and Robert Garrett, the Mayor of Dover, wrote to Lord Zouch saying that they had ‘viewed the ruins made by the sea at Margate’ and had concluded that ‘the jetty [the New Work] built adjoining the pier is the cause of the danger’. They thought that ‘the pier wardens, though unwilling, should bear the charge of repairs laid on them by the Commissioners of Sewers’ and that ‘the commission should be renewed and strengthened, that the work may be well furthered before winter’.10 They also suggested that the jurisdiction of the Commissioners should be extended ‘and the whole of the Isle of Thanet inserted’ so that it would be clear that they had jurisdiction over the work at Margate.10

It seems that a compromise was reached in which some of the costs of the repairs were to fall on the users of the pier but some were to be bourn by those whose properties would be protected by the new defences. The Commissioners raised a tax of £223 0s 6d ‘ levied on the pier of Margate, and on the houses and lands endangered by the sea ’, but this proved to be insufficient and in April 1622 the Commissioners announced that ‘ a second tax, but less in amount, is to be raised, to pay the remainder’.11 A letter of January 1623 from Valentine Pettit confirms that this second tax was imposed: ‘The Commissioners of Sewers have imposed another scot on Margate, for the works against the sea’.12 In 1629 the then Admiral of the Cinque Ports, Theophilus Earl of Suffolk, made some ‘new additions’ to the decrees under which the pier was managed, but it is not known what these changes were.13

The sea-works, paid for by a tax, or scot, of two shillings in the pound on the houses and land at Margate that benefited from the work , together with £36 a year from the profits of the Pier, all overseen by the Commissioners of Sewers, continued to protect Margate until about 1640 when the argument about who should pay for repairs to the sea defences flared up again: ‘divers persons whose estates lies more backward from the Sea, and in lesse danger; aiming more at their private ends, than the publicke good, questioned the power of the Commissioners, alledging the said Seaworks were not in compasse of the Statute, on which their Commission was granted’ and pressed the Commissioners to end the scot.14 The objectors suggested that as an alternative ‘every man might defend himself against the sea ’. These arguments caused the Commissioners to doubt their authority in Margate and, as a consequence, they then ‘wholly rejected the said works’. The result was disastrous, and by 1645, ‘the Sea hath done about four thousand pounds worth of hurt [at Margate]; and threatens the destruction of the Town’.14 At this time the ‘Expenditor of Sea-works of the Town of Margate,’ an expenditor being an officer appointed to expend [spend] the money collected by taxes for the repair of flood defences, was John Smith, a wealthy draper at Sandwich with property in Margate worth some £1000. He borrowed £200 to pay for temporary repairs to protect his property in Margate, but the cost of a permanent repair of all the sea defences was ‘insupportable for himself alone’. It seemed to Smith that any long-term solution would require help from the appropriate authority, the Committee of Lords and Commons for the Admiralty and Cinque Ports, a committee newly established in April 1645 to oversee the navy and the cinque ports.15 This was, however, a bad time to approach parliament for money. War with the Scots, confrontations between parliament and Charles I, and religious arguments led to the first civil war, lasting from 1642 to 1646, and in the following years parliament was penniless and in disarray. Nevertheless, the condition of the sea defences at Margate were such that Smith went ahead and petitioned the Earl of Warwick, the Commander of the Fleet, for help in July 1646.14

In December 1645 Smith had obtained a report from the Mayor and Jurats of Dover confirming the dangers facing Margate:14

TO all Christian people to whom these Presents shall come: JOHN GOLDER Gent. Mayor of the Town and Port of Dover in the County of Kent, and the JURATS of the same, send greeting in our Lord God everlasting.

Forasmuch as we hold it the office of Magistrates, and the duty of all other persons, to certifie and declare the truth, in all matters and things doubtfull or suspitious, whereby wrongs and injuries may be avoyded, and truth take place and be manifested, especially being thereunto requested: Know ye therefore, that a great part of the Village of  Margate in the Isle of Thanet in the said County, a Limb of this Town and Port, is in danger to be overflowed and ruined by the Sea, (the Works and Jetties about 25 years past made at the great charge of the then Inhabitants there by Scots granted and allowed by the then Commissioners of Sewers for those parts having been of late, for want of repaire, subverted and ruined by the rage and violence of the Sea) and thereby divers houses overwhelmed, foot and horse-wayes diverted, and other houses likely to be carried to sea, to the impoverishing of divers persons, and decay of the said Village, if some speedy course be not taken for the repaire and making of other Jetties there. In witnesse whereof, We the said Mayor and Jurats of the said Town and Port, the Seale of Office of Majorality of the same Town and Port have caused to be set and put, the four and twentieth day of December,

Anno Dom. 1645.

Exam. per me Fra. Raworth, Com. Cler. Vil & Port Dover.

Then in January 1646 he had organized a petition signed by ‘near threescore hands’ requesting ‘an Order from the Parliament for some Tymber out of some Delinquents lands [delinquent was a term applied to royalists during the English Civil War], to make up the sea-works, and to have the accustomed Scot continued for the preservation of the Town of  Margate’. Smith submitted the petition to the Committee of Lords and Commons for the Admiralty and Cinque Ports and, Smith reported, the petition ‘upon reading, was very well approved of’. However, the Committee thought that the ‘200 Tuns of Tymber’ that Smith had requested would be insufficient and they decided that a survey of the jetties at Margate should be prepared. Given the nature of the times it is not surprising to hear that the inspection was not well organized: in Smith’s words14

The Gentlemen appointed for [the survey], promising to come to  Margate, I provided a dinner of my own charge for them, but two only came, who told me they could do nothing of themselves without another: Thereupon I intreated them, though they wanted one of their number, they would give way to some Workmen to measure the works, whereupon workmen were sent for, so I procured three Carpenters, who measured 55 rods of work, which they cast up, and they conceived every rod of work would take up five tun and a half of tymber for single work, and double work would ask as much more; It was two moneths before I could get them together, after I was forced to make severall journies to Dover-castle to procure Major Boys Governour thereof to Margate, and going often thither for that purpose, I hapned to meet with Sir Henry Heyman a Parliament man, with whom I made bold to lay open our grievance to him; whereupon he was perswaded to go to Margate with me, and at my request he desired and gained Major Bois to go with him: Upon view of the works, they found the same was gone to ruine, and that the Peer of  Margate was the cause of the destruction of a great part of the Town, and this Peere was accustomed to pay scot to the said works, but for these four years and upwards hath not paid one penny, yet some particular men make a benefit of the Peer mony, which can be proved by very able witnesse.

The sketch of the harbour at Margate shown in Figure 23 was produced at this time.16

In his petition to the Earl of Warwick in July 1646 Smith explained all this past history and the great trouble to which he had been put.14 He complained of ‘what trouble and charge I have been at, and how wearied and discouraged with attendance, often waiting on your Honour and the Committee, with Councel; but hitherto all I could do, ineffectuall, my travel lost, and the fees and monies given my Councel, hath served to no purpose. By which doings and slow proceedings (if your Lordship afford not help) I shall be utterly disabled further to prosecute this good work, and every one affected will be discouraged either to ingage or undertake the same for the future; and what mischief may ensue thereupon, and how Malignants and disaffected will be imboldned who have opposed us herein, I leave to your Lordships consideration.’ He gave an example of the problems he had with ‘Malignants at Margate’: ‘When Major Boys gave me his warrant for 24 Tuns of tymber, which came to £36, being the arreare for one yeare due by the Peere of  Margate, the same was slighted: when afterwards your Honour issued another warrant to the same purpose (you being then at Weymouth castle) confirming the Majors warrant, the same was likewise disregarded and disobeyed by the Peer wardens of  Margate, who would neither give us the tymber, nor mony in lieu thereof, but disposed the same as they thought good themselves, some to their private use, and selling some for signe posts, yea though we would have given them ready mony of our own for it, we could not have it, such is the malignancy and disaffection of these to this good and publike work.’ He concluded: ‘All which I hope your Honour will see timely remedied and redressed, and will not suffer us to be longer exposed to contempt, and such apparent destruction, nor further wearied and wasted with a long and fruitlesse attendance. Therefore my humble request unto your Lordship and the rest of the honourable Committee of the Admiralty, is, that you will be pleased to give your order and present direction for what you intend, and conceive fit to be done touching the whole business.’

In early 1647 the Commissioners of Lords and Commons for the Admiralty and Cinque Ports considered the reports on Margate pier produced by Sir Henry Heyman and by another parliamentarian, Sir James Oxenden:17

Whereas the Jetty-works of Mar’att, in the Isle of Thannett, according to Order of the Right Honourable Committee of the Admiralty and Cinque Ports, being surveyed by us, Sir James Oxenden and Sir Henry Heyman Knights, and others; and we calling Three sufficient Carpenters to measure the Works, it was found to be in Decay as followeth:

1. That there was Fifty-five Rods of Work measured, and found in Decay, each of which Rods was conceived would take up Five Tons and Half of Timber for Single Works, and for Double Works so much more; and the same requiring all Double Work, it will take up in the Whole Six Hundred and Five Tons of Oaken Timber.

2. That the Workmanship, for Carpenters, Sawyers, and other Workmen, will amount to as much or more Charges than the Timber to compleat the said Works.

3. That it will require a constant and continual Charge, in repairing, upholding, and keeping, the same Works.

4. That if the now Expenditor John Smith may be Yearly allowed Twelve Pence in the Pound upon all Houses and Lands, which for Twenty-five Years past paid Two Shillings in the Pound, as appears by Scot; and also if he may receive according to the Rates of and upon the particular Commodities set down and expressed in a Schedule hereunto annexed, and as this Honourable House shall think fit, and as is used in other Maritime Towns; he is willing to undertake to perform the said Work, being furnished with Timber sufficient as aforesaid; and will engage One Thousand Pounds, Lands and Houses in the said Island, for Performance and Keeping of the said Work for ever; he being the fittest Man for the same, as being already intrusted for by the said Town, and the said Town being now in most imminent Danger to be lost if not speedily helped as aforesaid.

Ja. Oxinden.

Having about Eight Months past, with the Lieutenant of Dover Castle and Mr Henry Crispe, surveyed the dangerous Condition of Margatt; I did find that there is Fifty-five Rods, or thereabouts, which of Necessity must be maintained against the Rage of the Sea; and did also find, by the Judgement of able Workmen then present, that the Premises will require the Timber here above-mentioned.

H. Heyman.

An additional report was provided by Major Boys, Governor of Dover Castle, Henry Crisp of Quex, and, again, Sir James Oxenden:14

Right Honourable,

IN pursuance of your Lordships command, The Peere at Margate, and the defence made by the Works at the Shore for the defence of the Town have been surveyed by Sir James Oxenden Knight, Major Boys Governour of Dover-castle, and Henry Crisp of Queeks Esq

And we find,

That about 25 or 26 years since, there was a peece of work added to the said Peer of  Margate, which had proved very advantagious for the Peer, but desperately ruinous for part of the said Town.

That before the making of the aforesaid new peece of Peerwork, it is not known to any man living that ever there was any work at the shore for the defence of any of the houses of  Margate, or that there was any need of any such work; but since the making of that new peece of Peerwork, there hath been as much Tymber-work set down by the Inhabitants at the shore for the defence of the houses there, as by credible relation hath cost them fifteen hundred pounds and upwards, the which is now wholly ruined by violence of the sea.

Whereupon we conceive, that if the Peer be continued as now it is, the Town must suffer; and if the Peer do not continue as now it is, the Peer will quickly fail, and the Publique suffer for want of trade.

The houses at  Margate now in danger, are conceived to be near the fourth part of the Town, and will require fifty five rods of new work, which wil take up five tun and a half to every Rod of single work (by the judgement of the best experienced workmen) For which, they are humble suitors to your Lordships.

James Oxenden, Kt., Major Boys, Esq., Henry Crisp, Esq.

Based on these surveys and the petition from John Smith, the Committee of Lords and Commons for the Admiralty and Cinque Ports produced their report, on 27 February 1647:17

On Consideration of a Petition presented to the Committee, by John Smith, Expenditor for Margett, in the Isle of Thanett, in the County of Kent, in Behalf of himself and the rest of the Inhabitants and Owners of Houses and Lands lying against the Sea at Margett aforesaid, the same setting forth the great Danger the said Town is in of being carried to Sea, and the great Losses already befallen the Estates of many of the Inhabitants, by the carrying of many of their Houses already to Sea, through the Decay of certain Jetty-works heretofore made for Defence thereof; and praying that Timber may be appointed for repairing of the same, as also that Money may be raised for the perfecting thereof out of the Arrears of a Scot of Two Shillings per Pound, heretofore charged upon the Houses and Lands there, and of another Scot of Thirty-six Pounds per Annum laid upon the Pier of Margett by the Commissioners of Sewers for the East of Kent, about Twenty-five Years ago, the Payment thereof having been for some Years discontinued; and that, for the future maintaining thereof, the said Scots may be confirmed; or that, in Lieu of a Moiety of the said Two Shillings per Pound, a reasonable Poundage may be set upon certain Commodities going into and out of the said Island, a List of which Commodities, and of a Rate proposed to be set upon them respectively, was now presented; and upon reading of a Certificate from some Gentlemen of the County of Kent (to whom the State thereof was referred by this Committee to be viewed and certified), they thereby setting forth that, the said Jetty-works being by them surveyed, and Workmen consulted, they found that Fifty-five Rods of Work is in Decay, which, requiring Double Work, will take up Six Hundred and Five Tons of Oaken Timber; that the Workmanship will amount to as much or more Charge than the Timber; and that there will need a continual Charge to keep it for the future: And for that this Committee is informed, by some Members of both Houses, that they have viewed the same, and find the Defects and Danger of the said Town to be very great; and forasmuch as the same is within the Jurisdiction of the Cinque Ports: This Committee doth therefore conceive it their Duty to represent it to both Houses of Parliament; and doth recommend it to them, That the present Defects may be repaired, and sufficient Timber for that End allowed; and that the Town may in Time to come be secured by a Scot upon the said Houses and Lands, or by a Poundage upon Commodities exported and imported from and to the said Island, or otherwise as they shall in their Wisdom think fit; as also that Consideration may be had of the Petitioner John Smith’s Disbursements for upholding of the said Works (which, by his Petition, is alledged to amount unto Four Hundred and Twenty Pounds), in such a Way as they shall think meet, he having offered (as by the said Certificate is mentioned), upon Allowance of a Moiety of the said Scot, and of a Poundage upon the said Commodities, to perform the said Work (being first furnished with Timber as aforesaid) and to engage an Estate of One Thousand Pounds Value to keep the same for ever: And it is lastly Ordered, That a Copy of the said Certificate, and of the Schedule of Rates upon the said Commodities, be annexed to this Report.

W. Jessop, Secr.

The Committee produced a detailed financial plan of ‘Monies to levy, to maintain the Jetty-works at Margate, in the Isle of Thannett, in Kent, against the Sea, for ever’.17 Some of the required money would come from the Pier Wardens: ‘That the Pier Wardens at Margate may pass over the Accompts to the Mayor of Sandwich and Dover; and, as they shall think fit, that Half the Overplus may be paid to the Expenditor, towards the Maintaining of the Sea-works at Margate for ever, the Pier having for Twenty-five Years and more paid Thirty-six Pounds per Annum, as by the Scot appears.’ The rest of the money would come from the houses and lands that would gain from the sea-works but, rather than the two shillings in the pound that had been charged on such properties for the last twenty-five years, only one shilling in the pound would be charged, the difference being made up by charges imposed on goods landed at the Pier, such as 7d for each quarter of wheat, malt and salt, 8d for every pack of wool transported to London, 5d for every hundred North Sea cod-fish, 2d for every hundred mackerel, 2d for every hundred weight of ‘Holland Cheese, Cheshire and Thin Cheese’, and so on, in great detail; a full list of these charges is given in Appendix V.

Meanwhile, the Committee had received an alternative proposal for the repair and upkeep of the sea-works at Margate, in the form of a petition denying Smith’s claim that the town was in danger and suggesting that no new taxes were required:18

Petition of gentlemen, freeholders, and yeomen, inhabitants in the Isle of Thanet, to the Committee for the Admiralty and Cinque Ports.

Petitioners and their predecessors have, time out of mind, shipped their corn at Margate, and have always been and still are ready to pay all ancient and accustomed duties for the maintenance of the pier and harbour. These duties hitherto have been, and still are, sufficient for the purpose, and the town is not in that danger which is falsely suggested in the petition of John Smith. The inhabitants will undertake to maintain the works now standing against the sea, with a moiety of the timber desired by Smith, and without any new imposition laid upon the country, which would compel petitioners and their successors to ship their corn elsewhere, to the utter ruin of the inhabitants. Pray that the old duties may be maintained, and that they may be collected and disposed of by pier wardens chosen as they have been accustomed to be chosen time out of mind.

Sir Henry Crispe and his son Henry Crispe wrote to the Earl of Warwick supporting the petition:18

Letter from Henry Crispe, sen., and Henry Crispe, jun., at Queakes [Quex], to the Earl of Warwick.

Having been directed by the Committee to survey the decays of the jetty works at Margate, they have made their report. They have seen both the petition presented by Smith, and also that from the inhabitants of Margate, who, for the real performance of the works and safety of the town, faithfully promise to give six times the security proffered by Smith. This the writers desire may be taken into consideration.

27 Mar. 1647.

The Committee were evidently convinced by these arguments and accepted the proposal, coming to an agreement with what Smith referred to as the ‘Island-men’:14

A true Copie of the Agreement which the Island-men, before the Committee of the Admiralty agreed on . . . Here followeth,

Upon debate before the Honourable Committee of Lords and Commons, for the Admiralty and Cinque-ports, of the matter in difference touching the repairing, sustaining, and keeping of Jetty-workes against the Sea at Margate, in the Isle of Thanet, for preventing the destruction and swallowing up of the said Town of Margate, by the violence of the Sea breaking in upon it. And upon hearing of John Smith, Expenditor for the said Town, and his councell on the one side. And of Sir Henry Crisp, Henry Crisp Esq., Richard Hartie, Jeffery Sandwell, John Broxland, Marke Ambrose, Tho. Smith Senior, George Somner, John Tomblin, Wil. Coppin, John Pannell, James Hannaker, and Richard Jenvey, and their Councell on the other side. Upon the whole businesse there arose two Questions. The first, How the said Jetty-works might for the present be repaired, and for the future maintained, so that the Sea might be kept from breaking in, and the said Town might be preserved? The second, How the said Smith, the Expenditor might be satisfied and reimbursed the monies and charges he had laid out, and been at in this publique and common businesse, for the time past? And as to the first, the said Sir Henry Crisp, Henry Crisp Esq., Richard Hartie, Jeffery Sandwell, John Broxland, Marke Ambrose, Tho. Smith, Senior, George Somner, John Tomblin, Wil. Coppin, John Parnell, James Hannaker, Richard Jenvey, and their Councell did offer, That if the repairing of the said Jetty-workes and the keeping thereof, might be entrusted to them, they would with 200 Tunne of Timber, to be allowed unto them for the said worke for the present sufficiently repair the said Jetty-works, and make them defensive against the Sea, and safe guard and preserve the said Town of  Margate, and every part thereof, and of the Lands thereto belonging, against the violence and breaking in of the Sea, as well for the present as for the future for ever hereafter, without any further tax, allowance or charge, to be yeilded, made, paid or imposed therefore, but only a scot, or tax of 12 pence in the pound, to be levied and paid out of the Houses erected against the said workes, and to be paid but once in the year and no oftner. And for the performance thereof in every particular, viz. as well for the present repairing, as future sufficient keeping the same for ever, upon the rate aforesaid, and without any further demand. The said parties before mentioned did by themselves and their Councell, make offer, to put in sufficient Security, as this Committee or the Honourable Houses should approve and like of; which being accepted and yielded unto by the said Smith the Expenditor; the Committee thought fit that the same should be subscribed by the said parties, to remain with this Committee, or be presented to the Honourable Houses, as should be requisite.

And as to the second Question, touching the charge and disbursments of the said Smith, for that the parties could not agree upon the same, nor how and in what manner they had been laid out. It was humbly praied, That a Commission might be ordered to issue out of the Court of Admiralty of the Cinque-ports, to examine witnesses upon such matters, interrogations, and questions, as the said Smith for his part might see cause for the better ascertaining of the said disbursments, and charges by him expended; And wherein the said other parties might joyn and counter examine likewise if they thought meet. That so examinations being duly taken, they might be returned to this Committee, whereupon this Committee might be truly informed of the true state of the matter; and so give such order for relief of the said Smith, as they should hold just and equitable.

While all these discussion were going on a storm on March 12 1647 made a breach in the sea defences at Margate, which, according to Smith ‘might have been prevented had the island men stood to the forementioned Agreement.’ A description of the damage caused by the storm was sent to the Committee by ‘the inhabitants of Margate’ on 13 March.14

To the Right Honorable the Committee for the Admiralty and the Cinque-Ports.

These are further to informe your Honors, That whereas the Jetties of  Margate, in the Isle of Thanet, and County of Kent; and the great danger of the said Town, have many times and late been discussed before your Honors, and whereupon your Honors out of a commisseration, and due consideration, of the danger of the said Town and Inhabitants there; have been favourably pleased to grant some convenient quantity of Timber, for the better defence of the said Town and Inhabitants there, against that raging and mercilesse Element, the Sea. And whereas it hath pleased God on Sunday last past, (being the 12 day of this instant March,) to send a most tempestuous tyde, against the said Town, (as at other places) by reason whereof, a great part of the said workes is broken down, and some part of a House of this bearer John Smith, is demollished; and whereas not only the estate there of the said John Smith, but of many other the Inhabitants of the said Town, are (if not very speedily secured) like to come to utter ruine and decay.

The premises considered, May it yet again please your Honors, to take the deplorable condition of the said Town and Inhabitants, into your speedy and mature consideration, and to afford such a quantity of Timber for the defence of the said Town and Inhabitants; and also to appoint and ordain some able man (whom your Honors shall thinke fit) to take care of the said workes, as in an exigence of so much concernment and danger is required.

In witnesse whereof, we your Honours humble petitioners have subscribed our hands (Inhabitants of the said Town) the 13 day of March, Non salutis, 1647.

Subscribed by the Inhabitants of Margate.

The Committee’s report was finally accepted by the House of Lords on 26 March 1647, who then passed it on to the House of Commons with the comment ‘that this house thinks fit that the Barons of the Cinque Ports do present to the Parliament an Ordinance for the repairing and preserving of the Jetty Works and Pier at Margett . . . and that it be speedily done, because of the danger which will else ensue to the Town of Margett’. Although not explicitly stated, it seems that the proposal passed on to the House of Commons was that of the ‘island-men’. Unfortunately, nothing was ‘speedily done’ and John Smith petitioned the Committee once again later in 1647 ‘on behalf of himself and the inhabitants of Margate’.14 He complained that ‘by reason of the Kingdomes more weighty businesse, your Petitioner as yet hath had no further order or redresse heerin, although the Sea hath done above five thousand punds worth of hurt within four years past, though in the interim, and for these six years past, your Petitioner hath defended a great part of the Town at his own charge, and expended the summe of four hundred eighty pounds eighteen shillings and eight pence, as by a particular accompt under the workmens hands appears; besides his charges in soliciting of the businesse, amounting to above three hundred pounds, and in the neglect, losse and hinderance of his trade, to at least six hundred and fifty pounds, without any peny recompence; which will be to his sudden ruine and destruction, if not relieved by your Honours.’ He stressed how important it was that something should be done: ‘that a place of such consequence where Embassadors and persons of great quality take shiping, and are landed, may not be quite overwhelmed, and the estate of your Petitioner, and many others quite destroyed, and their wives, children and families ruined’ and he requested ‘that sufficient Timber may be allowed, so as the present breaches may be timely repaired, and for time to come upheld, by Scots on the houses and lands there, and by a poundage upon commodities exported and imported from and to the said Island; That the Peer Wardens may be yearly accomptable to the Maior and Jurats of Dover, for the money by them received and expended about the same, a moiety of the overplus to be allowed yearly towards the said Works; and that your Petitioner may be speedily satisfied his said disbursments about the said Works. And Your Petitioner shall ever pray, &c.’

The Committee of Lords and Commons for the Admiralty and Cinque Ports considered Smith’s petition on 18 November 1647:14

18 November 1647. At the Committee of Lords and Commons for the Admiralty and Cinque-Ports

IN reading the Petition of John Smith Expenditor for the Works against Margate, concerning the deficiency of the said Works, his charg[...]s in attending that businesse of the Isle of Thanet, the delaies used by some that have addressed their Petition to this Committee in opposition of his; by their not standing to what had been mutually agreed before some of this Committee, and proposing away for repaire of the said Works, and keeping of them for the future.

Ordered that Henry Crisp Esquire, George Summer, William Coppin, Thomas Wheatley, Edward Brooks, and Stephen Bishop, doe attend this Committee on this day three weeks, by themselves or some of them, or some other on their behalf, sufficiently instructed to answer the said Petition, and failing thereof, this Committee will proceed to settle such resolution upon John Smith’s said Petition, as shall appear most meet, without further delay.

It seems that the ‘island-men’ had not delivered on their promises, but the outcome of any meeting with Henry Crisp and his colleagues is not known. The Admiralty Committee again reported to the House of Lords in February 1648 on the state of Margate and the House of Lords concluded that the report ‘be speedily taken into Consideration, and . . . be sent to the House of Commons’.19 The House of Commons duly considered the report in March 1648 and ordered ‘That the Commissioners of the Great Seal do forthwith issue a Commission, under the Great Seal; to able Persons in the County of Kent, to view and survey the Decays of certain jettie Works belonging to the Town and Port of Margate; and to take the usual Course for Remedies therein as by Law is provided’.20 Once again little seems to have been achieved. In June 1649 a new Admiralty Committee meeting in Whitehall considered ‘the great decay of the jetty works by the ravages of the sea at Margate’; they found ‘that the matter was often debated at the Admiralty Committee then sitting at Sir Abraham Williams’ house, and that several orders made for repairs, but nothing as yet done, so that the greatest part of the works are like to be carried away by the violence of the sea, and the town is likewise in danger of being swallowed up’. They wrote to ‘Rich. Jenvey, Jno. Smith and ten others’: ‘As the enclosed order is the last made by that Committee, and was consented to by counsel on both sides, we confirm it, unless you, who are concerned therein, attend and show to the contrary. You are therefore either to attend here, or authorize some able men to inform us of the whole matter by Thursday next, at Admiralty Committee Chamber at Whitehall’.21

On 23 July 1649 the Council of State again considered the ‘petition of John Smyth and other inhabitants of Margate, Isle of Thanet, that by reason of the rage and violence of the sea, the jetty made there for defence of the pier and town, and the pier, are in danger to be swallowed up without sudden reparation.’ As a result they requested the Lords Commissioners of the Great Seal to pass ‘a commission of sewers to the mayors of Dover and Sandwich, Sir John Williams, Bart., and other gentlemen, to see whether there be any defects in the said works, and if so, take speedy course for repair, as the statute for sewers provides, and appoint one or more able men to oversee the work, and give a yearly account thereof to the Commissioners of Sewers’.22 Three days later the Admiralty Committee reported to the Council of State that they also thought that the Lords Commissioners of the Great Seal should issue a Commission of Sewers ‘for inquiring into and repairing the breaches in the jetty works at Margate, so as to make the town defensible against the sea’.23 They also suggested that, before the commission was actually issued, a letter should be written to the commissioners of sewers on behalf of John Smith, ‘to reimburse him for his charges and expenses beyond his receipts; also to receive his informations and proposals for finding out which way the money may be lawfully raised for his satisfaction’.23 On November 22 1649 yet another petition from John Smith ‘on behalf of himself and the inhabitants’ was referred by the Counsel of State to the Admiralty Committee, ‘to consider what may be done for the safety of the harbour, and relief of the petitioners’.24 The following day the Admiralty Committee considered the petition, John Smith now being referred to as ‘late expenditor for the Jetty Works at Margate’.24 Having considered the petition ‘and upon conference with him [John Smith] touching the same’ they ordered that:24

the Commission of Sewers be desired to take the . . . charges and expenses he hath been at about the said Jetty Works beyond his receipts, into their Consideration and afford him all lawful manner and assistance for reimbursing his said moneys as by the law and their said Commission they may be enabled to do. And that the said Commissioners are further desired to hear and review such information and other fit proposals as the said Smith shall offer unto them for the finding out which way the said moneys may be lawfully gotten up for his satisfaction. And to certify their opinions thereon to this Committee.

 On November 28 the Council of State themselves wrote to the Commissioners of Sewers:25

The Council (having taken into consideration the enclosed petition of John Smith)  have thought fit to desire you to take the petitioners case with the charges and expenses he hath been at about the Jetty works at Margate in Kent beyond his receipts into your consideration, and afford him all lawful means [of] assistance for reimbursing his said moneys as by the Law of Sewers you are enabled to do; And you are further desired to hear and examine such witnesses and receive such informations and other fit proposals as the said Smith shall offer unto you for the finding out which way the said money may be lawfully levied for his satisfaction and to certify your opinions to us what you have done.

It is clear that there was considerable sympathy for Smith in the Counsel of State and at the Admiralty Committee, but it is unlikely that this resulted in any action, as in May 1650 it was recorded by the Council of State that ‘the order formerly given to the Commissioners of Sewers for the Isle of Thanet, upon the petition of John Smith, late expenditor of the works against the sea at Margate, be now renewed, upon the petition of Sarah, widow of John Smith’.26 The unfortunate John Smith had died still waiting for recompense, the Pier Wardens remained a law unto themselves, and the pier remained in a state of decay.

More than ten years later, in 1662, John Stroode, Governor of Dover Castle, wrote to the  Pier Wardens about a complaint made to the Duke of York, then Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, that ‘the Peere and Harbour of Margate is much ruinated and decayed, and that the monies formerly collected and received for the repair thereof, have not been duely improved for that end, and that for a long time past there hath been noe due Accounts given nor elections made of successive Peere-Wardens yearly, as by ancient customes and orders of former said Wardens ought to be; and his Royal Highness is very sensible of the great inconvenience that may ensue, if some effectual course be not taken to repaire and settle the affairs of that Peree’.13 Rather than simply ‘punish the offenders’ Stroode decided ‘to summon the parties to appeare and to produce the Writings and Orders touching the said Peere, and to give up their accountes concerning the same . . . at the signe of the Rose, being the house of John Bushell in Margate’. The late pier wardens, Edward Taddie, Thomas Wheately, John Franklyn, Jeffery Tomlin, and the Widow Bishop, were duly summoned but, as Lewis reported in 1736 ‘what was the Effect of this I don’t find; I suppose the Persons summoned obeyed . . . and did as they were required’.13 Meanwhile, the Pier continued to be damaged by storms. In January, 1668, a correspondent wrote that ‘the great storm carried away two small houses at Margate, broke into the chief waggon way adjoining to the pier, and made it impassable for wagons or horses; fear the destruction of the pier’.27 Following another storm in September 1671 ‘there is about £100 worth of damage done to Margate pier’.28

The first surviving book of Pier Accounts dates to 1678, suggesting that some reform of the management of the pier might have taken place at this time.29 The Pier Wardens in 1678 were Thomas Grant and Joseph Mackwith and their accounts show that in the year 1678-1679 the Pier had receipts of £145 11s and spent £90 19s 11½d mostly on small items, but including £1 4s 8d ‘for digging 148 loads of chalk’ and £3 14s for carriage of these loads of chalk ‘to fill up the new work’, showing that some work on the Pier was underway. The accounts were kept in the simplest manner and the profit (or loss) at the end of one year was simply carried over to the following year and added into that years accounts which, unfortunately, makes it difficult to compare the financial positions in different years.

The accounts record that in January 1680 ‘the pier-wardens and other inhabitants of the parish of St Johns petitioned Lord Sydney, Constable of Dover castle and Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports’ with a proposal for meeting the cost of repairing the pier:29

The petition of the pier wardens and other inhabitants of the parish of St Johns in the County of Kent whose names are here under subscribed

Humbly showeth that whereas the pier of Margate is very much beaten down and ruined by the general rages of the sea and the stock of the said pier is all expended towards the Maintenance of the same we therefore the said pier wardens for the time being with the assent  and consent of the other inhabitants of the said parish for the better maintenance of the said pier for the future have thought fit to propose some additions and alterations to be inparted in the dues of the said pier which we humbly desire your hand  would be  pleased to allow and confirm.

A memorandum of agreement in the Pier Accounts book gives more detail, although it is still not clear exactly what was being agreed to.  It seems that a proposal for a new cess (tax) to pay for Pier repairs would be dropped and that those that had been petitioning for the new cess, together with a group of other parishioners, would, respectively, contribute sums of £20 and £10 each, and if that was not sufficient, they would split the extra contribution required in an equal proportion. It was proposed that work would start by Michaelmas 1681, and that six out of the 32 persons involved in the agreement would be chosen to monitor expenditure, and that two of these six would be chosen as the two Pier Wardens appointed each year.

Unfortunately, the pier accounts for the year 1680-1681 are not sufficiently clear to identify what was spent on maintenance that year. However, it is clear that expenditure in the following year, 1681-1682, was relatively high, with total receipts of £128 2s 4d, including carryover from the previous year, and a total expenditure of  £126 17s 10½d. The accounts for the year 1682-1683 included £14 for ‘expenditure on Iron Works’ and £23 for ‘expenditure for plank and timber’, suggesting some significant rebuilding of the Pier. The following year, 1683-1684 was worse, with total receipts including carryover of £109 14s 9d which, with a total expenditure of £168 8s 7d, meant that the following year the Pier wardens started with a debt of £58 8s 10d; the accounts for the year included large sums spent on the purchase of timber. Luckily this debt was paid off the following year as in 1684-1685 the total expenditure was only £49 0s 9d, with a positive balance of £21 3s 2d at the end of the year. The balances at the ends of the years 1685-1686 and 1686-1687 were £12 17s 11d and £15 15s 9d, respectively. However, a statement at the end of the accounts for 1686-1687 confusingly states: ‘It appears . . . that the pier was in debt by £64 4s 1d less £15 15s 9d gives £48 8s 4d debt’ suggesting that the Pier at some stage had taken on a significant level of debt, possibly from the arrangement of January 1680 described above.

The year 1687-1688 was not a good one as it was necessary to ‘repair the breach at the Pier’ made by a bad storm. In January 1688 the ‘poor inhabitants of the parish of St John the Baptist in the Isle of Thanet’ petitioned the King ‘showing that by a storm and tempest a great part of the pier of Margate was beaten down, the repairing thereof will amount to £250, for raising which they have made an assessment, and praying his Majesty to confirm it and empower the collectors to collect it’.30 The King apparently was ‘willing to give all fitting encouragement and assistance’ but there is no report of anything actually being done.30 The accounts for that year show total receipts of £107 9s 3d but a total expenditure of £284 4s 8d, leading to a debt of £176 15s 5d at the end of the year. The total cost of repairing the breach in the Pier was £176 17s 4d, a noticeably smaller sum than the initial estimate of £250; a detailed breakdown of this expenditure is given in Appendix VI. The accounts confirm the picture of the pier as a rickety structure, taking the form of a box of wood, packed with chalk. No payments are recorded for any survey of the damage, or for anyone to oversee the work. For long periods of the year there are payments for nine or ten labourers to work on the pier, with large numbers of payments ‘for bread and beer’ for them. Old timbers and planks were saved, presumably to be reused in the repairs; ‘old plank’ was bought at Chatham, ‘1164 foot of ships plank’ was bought for £12 3s, and ‘new plank’ was bought from Maidstone, but there is no mention of the purchase of any stone. Twenty two pounds fifteen shillings and one penny were spent on ‘spikes and nayles’ to hold the planks together. Payment was made for 154 loads of chalk and for baskets, probably to be filled with the chalk and used to pack the pier; 7 labourers were paid 16s 6d for ‘1 day and a half work to fill the pier with baskets’ and 3s 11d was spent ‘for ropes to draw up the baskets’. The accounts also include a charge of £4 1s for the costs incurred in January 1688 when ‘the Deputy and I [one of the Pier-wardens] went to London, our charges for 11 days for our selves’; this was to present the petition to the  King described above.

In 1691 Margate again suffered storm damage and again petitioned the King:31  

On the 10th and 13th days of October and the 8th of December last, by the violent blowing of the north-west wind, part of the pier called the “New Pier” was carried away, and that part of the town which is guarded by the pier and jetties, is so laid open that it is expected to be washed away if the wind should blow fresh at north-west. The repairing of this will cost £2,500 as appears by oaths taken before the Mayor and Jurats of Dover, and by the opinion of Sir Christopher Wren, who viewed the same in January last; and the townsmen, being already so much in debt, are not able to do these repairs without some help from their Majesties, and without such repairs, their town will be entirely destroyed by the storms which usually happen in winter.

The petition was passed on to the Lord Committee of the Admiralty but the outcome is not known. However, the Pier wardens Thomas Underdowne and Roger Laming actually spent just £13 6s 10d in the year 1691-1692 on repairing the pier, including 5s spent in June 1691 ‘for Vincent Barber, John Smith, James Yeoman for taking their oath’s before the Mayor and Jurats of Dover what the repair of the pier would cost and a certificate upon the same.29 Full details are given in Appendix VII.

In March 1693 twelve inhabitants agreed to lend the money required to rebuild the pier:29

Know all men by these accounts that we who are undertakers for rebuilding the pier of Margate did on the 12 day of March 1693 assemble ourselves together and made and equall proportionally [ . . . ] out in paying the pier debts and for the timber and it is agreed between us who are undertakers that any of the persons which the parishioners shall choose pier wardens shall pay each man or his heirs or assignees their equal and proportionable share of what money the pier shall [ . . .] at any time and of them being pier wardens if anything other be cleared until the principal and interest is paid of all such sums or sum of [ . . . ] of money which shall be laid out by us in witness whereof we have set our hands

Francis Diggs                          Thomas Grant                         Roger Laming

Valentine Jewell                      Roger Omer                            Thomas Baker

Dudly Diggs                           Vincent Barber                        Richard Lister

John Brooman                         Stephen Goldfinch                  Daniel Basdon

The gist of the agreement is clear even though some of it is now illegible. Fortunately, a covenant entered into with 55 of ‘the inhabitants of St John Thanet’ fills in some of the missing detail.32 The covenant makes clear that the ‘undertakers’ had agreed to rebuild the pier and pay off its debts, on the understanding that they would receive 5 % interest on their loan until the loan had been paid off, the money coming out of the profits of the pier, and that the two pier wardens chosen annually by the inhabitants would be chosen from among the twelve ‘undertakers’.

In June 1693 the inhabitants of Margate once again petitioned the government, complaining that ‘Margate Pier has been broken down, and pray an allowance of £20 per annum towards the repair of it, now paid to a gunner of that place, and that a deputy of their own may supply the place of gunner’.33 The Queen was ‘graciously pleased to refer the [petition] to the Rt. Hon. Sir Henry Goodrick, Lieutenant General [of the Ordnance] and the rest of the officers of the Board of Ordnance, to consider thereof, and report their opinions what may be fit for Her Majesty to do in it’. It seems likely that this request was turned down as there is a report that the Government only ceased to pay for a Gunner at Margate sometime after 1697.34

Dissent continued in the town over pier charges, and Henry Lord Viscount Sydney, the Admiral of the Cinque Ports, felt it necessary on 7 February 1694 to confirm the decrees under which the pier was managed, publishing his ‘Orders, decrees, and rates, time out of mind used by the inhabitants of Margate and St John’s in Thanet . . .  for and towards the perpetual maintenance and preservation of the pier and harbour of Margate . . .  newly revised, ratified, confirmed and allowed, by his Excellency the Right Honourable Henry Lord Viscount Sydney . . .’ (Appendix VIII).

The regulations start with a clear statement of what was expected from users of the pier:35

THAT all and every person and persons which do dwell or at any time hereafter shall dwell in  Margate and the parish of  St John’s aforesaid, or any other person or persons whatsoever  which shall have occasion to use or harbour in the said Pier at Margate with their boats or vessels either lading or unlading of any kind of victual, goods, or any other kind of merchandize whatsoever, or in any other sort or manner do use or have any trade, traffick or dealing in the said Pier, shall well and truly stand to, pay, obey, discharge, observe, fulfil and keep, all and singular the ancient cus­toms, orders, decrees, payments and agreements, whatsoever there used, and all other hereafter in these presents contained, upon the pains and forfeitures hereafter mentioned.

The eleventh paragraph explains that the inhabitants were expected to be able to buy ‘durable commodities’ such as salt, butter, cheese, coal and wood directly from the ships in the harbour. Any ahip coming into the harbour with such commodities for sale had to get the town crier to announce in the town that a ship had arrived with goods for sale, and for the first three days after the arrival of the ship only private individuals could buy the goods for their own, private use. After three days the goods could be sold to shopkeepers and others, to be put on sale:

Item 11. That every person or persons whatever, that shall bring into the said Pier or Harbour any quantity of salt, salt-fish, butter, cheese, coals, wood, or any other durable commodities, to the intent  to sell the same there, shall first give public notice thereof tothe country by the common cryer there appointed, and shall lie the space of three days after such public notice given, to the intent that the country may buy for their needful provisions, upon pain to forfeit 10s and that no inhabitant of Margate and St John’s, or any other person or persons whatsoever, shall buy, forestall, or ingross the same com­modities, or any part thereof, to sell out by retail again, until the said three days be expired, upon pain to forfeit the commodity or commodities, so bought contrary to this article, or the value thereof; after which time it shall be lawful for any towns-man, or other, to buy the same commodities. And that no inhabitant or ports-man shall take upon him to own the goods or merchandizes belonging to any foreigner or stranger, to the prejudice of the Pier or Harbour, upon the pain above specified in this article.

The thirtieth paragraph made it clear that all money raised by the Pier could only be spent for the ‘benefit and maintenance’ of the Pier and Harbour, preventing Pier money from being used, for example, for work designed to protect the town:

Item 30. It is further ordered, decreed and appointed, that all the sum and sums of money before mentioned, either to be levied, paid or forfeited, shall wholly be used, employed and bestowed, to the use, benefit and maintenance of the Pier or Harbour aforesaid, as need shall require, by the direction of the Pier-Wardens for the time being.

Paragraph 32 makes it clear that in the case of damage to the pier, for example by a storm, the Pier Wardens and inhabitants should either use a tax (cess) to raise the money required to pay for the repair of the pier, or do the repair work themselves:

Item 32 . . . And if it should chance (as God forbid it should) that either, by tempestuousness or rage of weather, or any other casual means whatsoever, the said Pier or any part thereof be overthrown and beaten down to the ground, then the Inhabitants and Pier-Wardens aforesaid shall within twenty days next after the beating down of the same, assemble themselves, and make  a cess, either to discharge the Pier-Wardens of all such sum and sums of money as they stand bound for, to any person or persons, for and towards the use and behoof of the said Pier and Harbour, or else shall build and make up the said hurts with as much speed as maybe.

Fortunately, the ‘undertakers’ stood by their agreement to provide funds for rebuilding the Pier, and the Pier accounts for 1693-1694 include receipt of a sum of £20 from each of the 12 undertakers named in the agreement, ‘towards rebuilding the new pier head and paying debt.’ The reference to ‘rebuilding the new pier head’ is obscure, but at least it is clear that the Pier wardens had it in mind to improve the pier, and not simply patch it up one again. With a sum of £9 16s 8d ‘left in our hands of the last years accounts’ the Pier-wardens were able to pass on £249 16s 8d to Roger Omer, ‘Gent’, and Valentine Jewell, Pier-wardens for the following year. Expenditure in the year 1694-1695 was high, £312 5s, including large amounts for workers’ wages and loads of chalk, leaving a deficit at the end of the year of £8 15s 2d. The Pier Wardens for the following year, Valentine Jewell and John Brooman were, however, able to turn this into a small positive balance of £21 5s 8d, and receipts and expenditure seem to have remained pretty much in balance for  the rest of the century. Up until the year1701-2 the two Pier wardens were chosen from the list of the ‘undertakers’, in accordance with the agreement made with them, but in 1702-3 Walter Tomlin and William Norwood were chosen, possibly because the loan from the ‘undertakers’ had by then been paid off.

In May 1696 the Pier Wardens took the opportunity of William III’s passing through Margate on his way to Holland, to present him with a petition asking for payment of a grant of £100 that had been awarded some time earlier for the repair of the pier. The King was sympathetic and, it is recorded, ‘recommends the payment of the hundred pounds . . . formerly granted for the repair of the said pier, which has been already laid out on that service’.36 It is unclear whether or not the £100 was forthcoming.

Unfortunately, with the start of the new century problems reappeared in the town. In November 1700 the two Pier-wardens, Roger Omer and John Turner, had to obtain a bond of indemnity from the inhabitants of Margate, to allow them to proceed against two hoymen, William Payne [Paine] and Valentine Hogbin, who refused to pay their dues:37

Whereas William Payne, gent, and Valentine Hogbin, mariner, do refuse to pay towards the maintenance of the pier of Margate . . . according to the decrees of the said pier – Now know you that if the said William Payne or Valentine Hogbin or either of them of any other person do or shall bring a cause to be brought . . . against Roger Omer or John Turner present Pier wardens for executing the office according to the decrees of the pier . . .  That we the parishioners of the parish whose names are hereunder written do hereby promise in the behalf of the parish that we will . . . indemnify Roger Omer and John Turner in defending the suit if it commenced by William Payne and Valentine Hogbin.

The petition was signed by 40 of the inhabitants.

In the year 1702 the argument with William Paine and Valentine Hogbin came to a head when, with others, they objected to the way in which the annual election of the Pier Wardens had been carried out.38 The system for electing Pier wardens was laid down in Viscount Sydney’s orders of 1694 (Appendix VIII):35 

That the Deputy of St John’sfor the time being shall yearly, the Sundaybefore May-daycause public notice to be given in the parish church of St John's, immediately after divine service in the forenoon, to the inhabitants that shall be there present, that they shall assemble themselves together upon May-day next following, at some convenient place and hour, to be appointed by the De­puty: And there the Deputy with the greater number of them which shall be there present shall make choice by voices (and the Deputy to have a double voice) of two Wardens, commonly called Pier-War­dens, and also two Deputy Pier-Wardens, chosen to execute the said office when and so often as the said Pier Wardens shall be absent, or otherwise not able to execute the office of Pier-Wardenship; upon pain the Deputy neglecting his warning of the inhabitants of Margate and St John’s shall forfeit 10s.

In 1702 the Deputy had duly announced that the inhabitants should meet in the church vestry on May day at nine o’clock in the morning to elect the Pier Wardens and deputy-Wardens.38 It appears that one group of inhabitants met in the vestry on that day, at some time before nine ‘and for that reason because they were not willing to proceed to an election before the hour they stated, it was agreed by all those present that it was past nine, and then proceeded to an election – as the first company were going out of the church they met another company going in to the election who pretended the first election was before the hour and so was not legal, and so they went into the vestry and made  an election by themselves and chose other men to be Pier wardens’. Both groups immediately appealed to the Mayor of Dover to sort out the mess, and on May 7 he made an order in the Court of Chancery at Dover that both parties should appear before him at Margate on May 8. This they did and the Mayor having heard ‘the several allegations of both sides and the matters alleged for and against the several elections’ decided that both elections were ‘null and void’,  because it appeared to him that  there had been ‘artifice and trick on both sides, at their last pretended elections’. He asked both sides to get the opinion of legal counsel on their cases and he told them that he would consider these opinions and make a final decision. Much to his annoyance, however, the group that included the current Pier Wardens, Walter Tomlyn [Tomlin] and William Norwood, and the current deputy Pier Wardens, Daniel Baseon and Valentine Jewell, together with Roger Lamming, Roger Omer and Thomas Grant ‘on behalf of the inhabitants of Margate’ sent a petition to the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, his Royal Highness Prince George, setting out their case. Presumably Prince George simply passed this on to the Mayor of Dover to deal with. In a letter the mayor complained that ‘my only aim was to compose matters between them, and not to favour any side, being equally a stranger to them all’ and he was worried that now the Prince had been ‘troubled’ over the matter. In the letter he went on, ‘I fear preferring a private interest, before the good of their harbour’, and he explained that those who had sent the petition to the Prince ‘told me themselves, they would not insist on the validity of their first election, provided the contending party would agree with them, in choosing the same person to gather the Harbour Droits as they had before, and desired me to recommend him for them, which I  did, but the Right of Naming him by Ancient Custom, is in the Pier wardens. This I understand is a place of profit to the person that has it, and the fear of losing it, is the cause of all this contention’. The Pier Wardens finally appointed for the year 1703-4 were Richard Stoakes [or Stookes] and John Jarves.29,39

To add to all the town’s woes the pier was damaged in a storm on 26 November 1703. The storm actually damaged much of the town:40

The following account is what I can  give you, of what damage is done in this Island in the late great storm; in this town [Margate] hardly a house escaped without damage, and for the most  part of them the tiles  blown totally off from the Roof, and several Chimneys blown down, that broke through part of the Houses to the Ground, and several Families very narrowly escaped being kill’d in their Beds, being by Providence just got up, so that they escaped, and none was kill’d; the like Damages being done in most little Towns and Villages upon this Island [Thanet], as likewise Barns, Stables and Out-housing blown down to the Ground in a great many Farm-houses and Villages within the Island, part of the Leads of our Church blown clear off, and a great deal of Damage to the Church is felt.

As to the pier:41

At Margate the Sea made a free passage over the new pier-head, beat down the light that guided vessels into port, threw down the gun-battery, and forced the can­non into the sea; some shops and ware­houses on the shore were washed away, and a great number of small craft were dashed to pieces. 

The problem of non-payment of pier dues continued. In 1705 Ralph Constant and Robert Smith called a meeting of the parishioners to consider what steps should be taken:29

Memorandum: That whereas the parishioners being met together 13 November 1705 to consider what measures to take to collect some arrears due to the harbour from refusing to pay the same, we whose names are under written, do hereby empower the present pier wardens Peter Sackett and John Turner to go to Counsel and have advice and take such measures as the law shall direct in that case for to recover the same.

The memorandum was signed by 10 people. Immediately following the memorandum in the Accounts Book was a further memorandum showing that the threat had worked:

Memorandum that at the same time as above that Mr Tho. Grant did affirm that he had but thirty six tun of  Kelp in arrears for which said Kelp he then paid eighteen shillings, and forty three quarters of barley and ½ for which he paid four shillings, in all one pound and five shillings in full for poundage to May day last past.

Paid at the same time of Val. Jewell — 6s

Received of Jn. Pegdon — 4s

Received of Paul Hart — 2s

Received of Higgins — 6d

Received of Mrs Sarah [ . . .] that was left in arrears in the year 1705 — 10s

The accounts of the pier remained positive until 1707-8 and, at the end of that year, had reached £40 17s 4d.29 This tempted John Brook [Brooke] and Roger Whitehead, the pier-wardens for the year 1708-9 to carry out some necessary improvements to the roadway leading to the Pier:

Memorandum: that on the 11th day of August 1708 at a public vestry being lawfully called it was then and there concluded and agreed by us whose names are under written (being the majority of voters) to build and set up a Jetty and make a sufficient way for the use of the pier where the sea hath washed away the same being near the pier and joining to the land and premises of Joseph Jewells heirs and David Austins heirs which Jetty and way so to be built and made. We do hereby authorize and appoint Mr John Brook and Roger Whitehead present pier wardens to so make such a Jetty and convenient way to the pier at the discretion of the said pier wardens as shall be for the best advantage and conveniency for the use of the pier. Witness our hands dated the day and year first above written.

In that year the expenditure was £165 16s 1d against receipts of £173 2s 9d so that John Brook and Roger Whitehead were able to pass on only £7 6s 8d to the following year’s pier wardens.

In 1717 a petition was presented to the House of Commons asking for Margate to be exempt from the Dover Harbour Bill then going through parliament. In 1698 a bill had been passed whose aim was to raise money for the repair of the harbour at Dover.42 The bill decreed that ‘there shall be paid by the Master Owner or Skipper of every English Ship Vessell or Crayer of the Burthen of Twenty Tons or upwards and not exceeding the Burthen of Three hundred Tons for every loading and dischargeing within this Realme for from to or by Dover or comeing into the Harbour there not haveing a Cocquet testifying his Payment before that Voyage towards the Repaire of Dover Harbour the Summe of Three Pence for every Ton’. What this meant was that every vessel of over 20 tons passing by Dover had to pay towards the repair of Dover harbour, a reflection of the important role played by the harbour in protecting shipping in the Channel. There were, however, a few exemptions, including one for fishermen allowing them to make payments only once a year, and one exempting ships belonging to the ports of Weymouth and Ramsgate from having to pay, because of the poverty of these towns. The exclusion clause for Ramsgate reads: ‘That all Ships and Vessells belonging to the Port of Ramsgate in the Isle of Thanet and County aforesaid having a Pier of their owne (which by reason of their Poverty at present they are not able to maintain) shall be exempted from contributing and paying any thing towards Dover Harbour aforesaid’.42 The fact that Ramsgate was exempt and Margate was not might have been because Ramsgate was in a worse financial state than Margate, but was more likely to have been because Ramsgate had thought to petition parliament for an exemption whereas Margate had not. The 1698 act was due to run out in 1709, but in 1703 an extension was obtained until 1718, and in 1717 Dover applied for a further extension of the bill until 1727 since it had become obvious that there was still much work to be done at Dover.43 It was now that Margate, belatedly, applied for an exclusion in the new bill, along the lines of that enjoyed by Ramsgate, on the grounds of the poor state of the Pier at Margate:44

A Petition of the Pier-Wardens, Masters of Ships and Vessels, and other Inhabitants, belonging to Margate, in the Isle of Thanet, in the County of Kent, was presented to the House and read; setting forth, That, there being a Bill depending for continuing a further Term for repairing Dover Harbour; That the Petitioners, by way of Contribution, have expended very great Sums of Money for repairing the Pier and Harbour of Margate, over and above the Income thereof; and must, every Year, on account of the Sea’s lying harder on it than usual, lay out more than the Revenue therefore will amount unto; without which the said Pier or Harbour of Margate must fall to decay; to the great Prejudice of the Estates and Inhabitants of that Island; And praying, That the Ships and Vessels belonging to Margate may be exempted from Payment of any Duties towards the Repair of Dover Harbour.

In the event the new Dover Harbour Bill was passed with no exclusion terms for Margate.45

The year 1720-21 was another bad year for the Pier with a large expenditure on chalk and timber, presumably used for necessary repairs. Problems with the hoy-men also continued. In 1736 Lewis wrote: ‘the Hoy-men having agreed with the Farmers to carry their Corn at a certain Rate, and they, the Hoymen, to pay the Pierage &c some of them pretended to pay even what they pleased, on a Supposition that the Pier Wardens had no legal Power to compel them to pay the Droits assigned by the Pier Decrees’.13 In Lewis’s words ‘this obliged the Pier Wardens and Inhabitants to petition parliament’, complaining:46

That there has been built, time immemorial, a Pier of Timber, for the De­fence of the Town of Margate from the Sea, and a Harbour for Merchant Ships and Boats, and for Corn Hoys, to carry the Produce of the Isle of Thanet to London  Market: That on the Preservation of the said Pier depends not only the Safety of the said Town, but the In­terests of the several Estates in the Isle of Thanet: That the said Pier has hitherto been supported by certain Droits or Duties, paid for several Commodities landed, or put on board, in the said Pier; the Payment of which Droits or Duties have been confirmed by Orders and Decrees of the Lord Wardens of the Cinque Ports, under whose Jurisdiction the Town of Margate is; but that, of late, the Payment of the said Duties has been disputed by several ill-minded and contentious Persons: And praying, That the Petitioners may be enabled more effectually to recover the said several Duties, for the keeping  up, and preserving, the said Pier.

On December 1 1724 the petition was considered by the House of Commons and it was agreed to refer the matter to a Committee with the power ‘to send for Persons, Papers, and Records’ who would consider the petition and report back to the House. The report of the committee was duly considered on December 14:47

Sir Edward  Knatchbull reported from the Committee, to whom the Petition of the Inhabitants of St John Baptist, and Town of Margate, and of the neighbouring Parishes of St Peter the Apostle, St Laurence Minster, Monckton, Birchington, and St. Nicholas, at Wade, in the Isle  of Thanet, and County of Kent was referred, the Matter, as it appeared to them; and which they had di­rected him to report to the House; and he read the Re­port in his Place; and afterwards delivered it in at the Clerk’s Table: Where the same was read; and is as fol­lows: viz.

That the said Committee, pursuant to an Order of the House have examined the Matter of the said Petition; and do find, upon the Examination of several Witnesses, the same to be as follows; viz.

John Laming said, that the Timber Pier of Margate had been erected and built, Time out of Mind, for the Defence of the said Town from the Sea: That he has known the said Pier upwards of Sixty years; That he is Master of a Vessel; and always paid certain Droits or Duties on landing or putting on board, within the said Pier, several Commodities; which Droits have constantly been applied to the Support and Repair of the said Pier; and which Droits or Duties have been, Time immemorial, paid once a Year to the Pier-wardens of the Town of Margate, who are yearly elected to that Office;

That the Pier of Margate is the most commodious Place to ship off the Corn, and other Produce of the Isle of Thanet, to London Market, and that the several  Estates in the said Isle would be much less in their Value, and the Town drowned, should the said Pier be let go to ruin;

That several Inhabitants of Margate, who are Hoy-men, have lately disputed, and refused to pay, the said accustomed Duties, which have been confirmed by several Orders and Decrees of the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports; One whereof was produced to the Committee, bearing Date in 1613; under whose Jurisdiction the said Town of Margate is, although the said Duties are paid them by the Farmer;

That about 34 Years ago, the said Pier was almost lost, and it cost about £500 to repair the same;

That they do not collect the said Duties of any Vessels, but such as lade and unlade at the said Pier; and that if the old accustomed Duties were paid, as usual, they would be sufficient to support and keep the said Pier in Repair;

That he never knew any Suits commenced for any of the Duties that are in Arrear;

That the said Pier is a great Preservation and Safe­guard to Merchant Ships, in time of War, from the Ene­my’s Privateers lurking about the North Foreland; who take them as they sail from the River to the Downs.

Valentine Jewell produced the Book of Account of the said Pier; whereby it appeared that, one Year with another, for seven Years last past, the Duties amounted to about £140 or £150 a Year.

Mr Brooke said, That several of the Inhabitants, which are Hoymen, have refused to pay the said Duties, alleging there is no Law to compel them to it.

And the Petitioners produced many other Witnesses to prove the Matter of the said Petition; but the Committee did not think fit to trouble the House with the Report of any further Examinations.

Ordered, That Leave be given to bring in a Bill, to enable the Pier-wardens of the Town of Margate,in theIsle of Thanet, more effectually to recover the ancient and customary Droits for the Support and Maintenance of the said Pier: And that Sir Edward Knatchbull, Sir Robert Furnese, Sir George Oxenden,Mr Attorney General, Mr Milles, and Mr Onslow, do prepare, and bring in, the same.

The bill went through quickly. It was read in the House of Commons for the first time on 16 January 1725, had a second reading on 20 January, and, after some minor modifications, a third reading on 5 February; it was then passed to the House of Lords and received the Royal assent on 17 February.48 The bill was entitled An Act to enable the Pier-wardens of the Town of Margate, in the County of Kent, more effectually to recover the ancient and customary Droits, for the Support and Maintenance of the said Pier.49 The preamble to the act summarised the reasons why the act was needed: that the ancient town of Margate ‘time out of mind, had a pier and harbour very commodious, and of great benefit and advantage to the trade and navigation of this kingdom, in the preservation of ships and mariners in storms and stress of weather, and from enemies in times of wars; and also very convenient for the exporting and importing many sorts of commodities’, that ‘the safety of the town of Margate, and of all the neighbouring country depended on the preservation of this pier and harbour’, and that the maintenance of the pier had depended on ‘certain droits, commonly called poundage, and lastage, and other rates or duties’ paid to the Pier Wardens. The preamble ended with a warning that without payment of these droits the pier would inevitable fall into decay, ‘to the utter ruin of the inhabitants of the said town, and of all the neighbouring country, and to the great prejudice of the trade and navigation of this kingdom.’ To prevent this it was necessary ‘to make more effectual provision, as well for the recovery of the said droits and rates, or duties aforesaid, and for enforcing due payment thereof, in case of refusal or non-payment.’

The Act then stated that the ancient droits should continue to be paid, and that to this end the pier-wardens should choose men to act as collectors of the droits, who would be allowed ‘for their pains in the collecting of them’ a sum not exceeding one shilling and sixpence in the pound. These collectors were required to provide ‘good and sufficient security’ in case they were tempted to abscond with any of the pier’s money , and to keep accounts in writing of all the money they received and spent. The accounts of the collectors were to be audited each year by the Pier Wardens, and the accounts of the Pier Wardens were, in turn, each year to be laid ‘before the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, for the time being, or his Deputy’. Anyone suspecting a Pier Warden of ‘concealment, imbezzlement or misapplication of any monies collected or received’ was free to complain in writing to the Court of Admiralty of the Cinque-Ports, and the Judge of the Court would then issue a summons for the Pier Warden to appear before the Court to answer the complaint.  If found guilty, the Court would issue a fine ‘not exceeding treble the sum so concealed, imbezzled or misapplied’ and the Pier Warden, if unable to pay, would be committed to prison ‘there to remain without bail or mainprize [effectively another way of being bailed for an offence], until payment of such sum as aforesaid.’ 

To carry out the task of collecting the droits the Pier Wardens and Collectors were authorized to go on board any ship ‘belonging to the said town and port of Margate, making use of, or being within the said pier or harbour of Margate’, calculate what was due ‘in respect of any goods, wares, or merchandise then on board’, and then collect this money. If payment was not forthcoming, they could seize goods and ‘guns, tackle, furniture and apparel’ belonging to the ship, and then, if payment was not received within ten days, sell them.

Finally, the Act stated that all sums of money collected should be paid to the Pier Wardens, to be ‘laid out and employed in and towards the  repairing,  improving and continually keeping in good repair, the said  pier and harbour of Margate, and shall not be applied or disposed to any other use, intent or purpose whatsoever.’ This final requirement confirmed the previous restrictions on using the droits to maintain the jetties along the shore line. The Pier rates established in 1693 were still in use in 1784 and are listed in Appendix VIII, and the Pier and Harbour at Margate were maintained under this Act until 1787 when Margate’s first Improvement Bill was passed.

The receipts of the Pier for the year 1733-34 were £253 5s 2d, to be added to the sum of £224 15s 10d carried over from the last year (Appendix XI). The total expenditure for the year was relatively modest, £98 8s 10d. This included a number of minor items such as ‘work upon the crane’, ‘a new crane rope’, and ‘paint and work upon the new crane.’ There were payments for ‘painting the lamp’ and ‘looking after the lamp’; £1 11s 3d was spent upon five and a half dozen candles, but it is not clear if these candles were for ‘the lamp’ or not. A number of loads of chalk and flint were purchased, together with 12 shovels costing 10s, presumably for running repairs on the pier. A sum of £5 5s was spent ‘at the choice of Pier Wardens at May Day 1733’, which sounds rather like a celebration. A sum of £1 11s 6d was paid ‘for the journey of the Pier Wardens and one of the Deputy Pier Wardens to Sir Basil Dixwell’s for passing the accounts’; Sir Basil Dixwell was the Governor of Dover Castle and had, once a year, to pass the accounts of the Pier Wardens. The accounts for 1732-33 explain that this sum covered ‘horse hire and expenses.’ A sum of £12 12s 3d was paid to the Droit Collector for collecting the Pier Droits, at a rate of 1d in the pound.  The Pier continued to be damaged by storms: In January 1737 ‘so wide a breach is made in Margate pier that a first rate man of war may enter therein; but the damage cannot be easily guessed at’.50


The Harbour

The harbour at Margate played a vital role in the economy of the Isle of Thanet. Local produce, particularly corn, was exported from the harbour to London and a wide range of goods were imported, mostly from London, although large amounts of coal came from Newcastle. The harbour was also used by passengers travelling to and from London and the continent. Nevertheless, the harbour was small; in 1723 Lewis described it as ‘a small harbor for ships of no great burden, and for fishing craft’, and in 1769 it was described as ‘pleasant, but not much frequented, for want of depth of water sufficient for ships of heavy burden’.7,51 Making things worse, the pier, as we have seen, had been much damaged by storms  and, as a consequence, ‘the harbor of Margate has gone very much to decay, and the masters of ships which used to live there are almost all removed to London for the sake of their business’.7

 An early eighteenth-century English hoy Pier| Margate History
Figure 24. An early eighteenth-century English hoy, from William Sutherland, 'Britain’s Glory or ship-building unvail’d', London, 1717.

Most of the corn shipped from Margate to London was carried in hoys, ships of cutter-rigged design that had been developed at the estuary port of Faversham (Figure 24).52,53 The hoys had to be sturdy enough to weather rough seas, shallow enough to enter an estuary, and fast enough to make regular passages.52 They originally had open holds but by the early eighteenth century these had been ‘decked-in’, and their tonnage had increased from between 20 and 30 tons to sixty tons burthen (the method of calculating the cargo capacity of a ship in terms of its burthen is described in Appendix IX).54 Other ships such as the slower brigs and other square-riggers were used on the coal trade to the north, and for the Baltic timber trade. 

One measure of the importance of a port was the number of ships ‘belonging’ to it, although it has to be remembered that a ship might trade anywhere but ‘belonged’ to the place of residence of its owner.55 In 1366 Edward III raised a fleet of ‘eleven hundred sail’ to transport 100,000 men to France, and of these ships 15, with 160 mariners, came from Margate. This compares with Dover which provided 16 ships and 504 mariners, so that the vessels from Margate were obviously relatively small.56 In 1544 Layton [probably Richard Layton] was requested by the Privy Council to ‘prest 200 hoys’ and reported that he had managed to press ‘18 for Dover, 18 for Sandwich, 6 for Ramsgate, 10 for Margate, 8 for Rye, 6 for Winchilsee, 5 for Hythe, 10 for Folston, 43 for Ipsewhich’.57

In 1564-5 the French and Spanish ambassadors had cause to complain about the actions of English pirates in the Channel, and it was decided to undertake a survey of ‘all portes crekes and landing places’ along the coast (Chapter 6). The survey, dated 18 March 1566, showed that at the time Margate had 108 houses  and 8 ‘persons lacking proper habitation’ and 15 ‘boats and other vessels’ involved in carrying grain and fishing, four of 18 tons, one of 16 tons, one of 5 tons, one of 4 tons, and eight of 1 ton, employing 60 men.58 In 1584 a survey was made of all ‘barques and vessels belonging to the peere or harbour at Margate’, probably as part of the preparation for the abortive expedition sent to Flanders to oppose the Spanish forces under Parma (Appendix X). Margate was credited with 14 ships: one barke (70 tons), one crayer (a small sailing cargo ship, 28 tons), five fishing vessels (10-25 tons) and seven hoys (25-60 tons). There were 32 ‘common sailors and fishermen’ and 8 pilots at Margate, and the ships were owned by 2 joint owners and two sole owners (Appendix X). In 1623 a list of Margate mariners aged between 18 and 60 included 67 names.59 By 1665-66 there were nine hoys registered at Margate and eleven by 1699-1700.60

In 1701 the total numbers of vessels belonging to Margate and other Kentish ports were as follows:9


























<>Andrews has estimated the extent of the coastal trade of the Thanet ports in the period 1676-86 as follows:9

Number of Coastwise Cargoes per year, 1676-86





















The outward coastwise trade of Thanet was largely in corn and, at the end of the seventeenth century, Thanet exported, per year, 7,000 quarters of malt, 3,500 quarters of wheat and 500 quarters of barley, shipped in small cargoes of two to three hundred quarters each.9 Most of the corn grown in Thanet was handled by the harbour at Margate because it was closer to London than any of the other harbours on the Island; Harris reported in his History of Kent of 1719 that 20,000 quarters of barley were shipped each year to London.61 Although the major market for Thanet corn was London, Margate was also an important port for the export trade to Calais, especially before 1558 when Calais was still an English outpost. A letter of 1391 reports on a contract to supply Calais with ‘wheat, barley, malt, beans, pease or other victuals’ from the Isle of Thanet, a contract which, from some confusion at Calais, was never actually issued:62

To the treasurer and the barons of the exchequer. Writ of supersedeas in respect of their demand against Peter Popr and John Jory of the isle of Tanet or either of them to render account of wheat, barley, malt, beans, pease or other victuals needful for furnishing the town of Calais which, by Letters patent of 20 April  II Richard II, they were appointed to buy and   purvey from time to time for the king’s moneys wheresoever within the realm within liberties and without, the fee of the church excepted, and order to discharge them, releasing any distress made for that cause; as Roger de Walden the king’s clerk, treasurer of Calais, has borne true witness in chancery that the commission was not delivered to them, neither did they meddle in aught therein contained, having no knowledge thereof.

Providing provisions for Calais was particularly important at times of war with France. In May 1449 an order was issued that no food should be exported from the Isle of Thanet except to Calais and to Dover Castle:

Grant, pursuant to the ordinance of the king’s progenitors that no purveyor should take victuals or grain from Canterbury to the sea-shore to wit, from the shore extending 12 miles inland in breadth and in length from Sandwich to Apuldore, but that those parts should be reserved for the victualling of Calais and the marches there and Dover castle and the officers and ministers there, — that no purveyor take oxen, sheep, calves, swine, capons, hens, chickens, corn or other victuals of any person within the said precinct, nor in the Isle of Thanet, the hundreds of Maydeston, Hayhorn and Twyford, save the victualler and purveyor of Calais and the marches there and Dover Castle, Calais and the marches being  now in great need.

In January 1582 French troops marched into Bruges, and Francis, Duke of Anjou, supported by the English, was installed as Duke of Brabant. Margate and Sandwich then became important suppliers of food to Bruges: in February 1581 it was reported from Bruges that from ‘Sandwich and from the Isle of Thanet and from Margate comes daily great store of wheat and malt to these parts. Within these four days there is come to Sluys from those places eight ships laden with wheat and malt, some to this town, and more are coming’; the worry was expressed that ‘if this be suffered, it will occasion some great dearth in England’.64 This worry was not new. London had a constant demand for grain from the southern-eastern counties but these same counties also had a ready market for their grain in Calais and Flanders. To prevent the creation of local shortages Commissioners for Restraint of Grain and Victuals had been appointed to monitor the stocks of grain in England and, by regulating grain exports, avert the risk of famine.65 At the end of February 1581 the Commissioners were asked to investigate the export of grain from the Isle of Thanet:66

A letter to the Commissioners for the Restrainte of Graine and Victualls within the countie of Kent signifieing unto their Lordships that notwithstanding the Generall Restrainte made as well within that countie as in other counties of the Realme againste the transportacion of graine beyonde the seas, there are of late viijt [eight] shippes with wheate and maulte laden within the Isle of Tennette and at Sandwich arrived at Sluce in Flaunders, and that sundry other shippes to be laden with graine in Kent are expected to come unto the place aforesaid and other parties in that cuntrye, they are therfore required fourthwith not onlie to examyn what shipps have departed from those places laden with anie kynde of graine, what quantities have ben shipped by them, by whom and by what licence, and theruppon to certifie the personnes and their doinges accordingly that order maie be taken for the meeting with their offence, and hereafter to have a more vigilant regard to the execution of her Majesties Commission addressed unto them in that behaulf.

A report from Bruges in 1582 suggests that the investigation had little effect: ‘The Dutchmen of Sandwich and London send daily into these parts great store of wheat out of the Isle of Tennett, and from Margate, laden in English ships . . . Bruges, 17 February, 1582’.67

In 1588 the worry returned to the trade with Calais:68

There are certain here [Calais] who have obtained licence to transport beefs, muttons, wheat, oats, malt, beer and other victuals, "under a colour for the Lords [Commissioners] provision," which are being passed over for the Prince of Parma, and there are now great provisions of such things shipped from Margate, Ramsgate, Sandwich and Dover, "whither to be transported God knoweth . . . The enemy will be glad of victual, and will stand in as great need as before, if they were not so plentifully every day resorted unto. — Calles, the last of March, 1588."

Unfortunately there is rather little information available about the inward foreign trade at Margate because this trade was recorded in the Sandwich Port books and no attempt was made to distinguish between the foreign trade of Sandwich itself and that of Margate and the other Thanet ports.9 The Sandwich Port books show a variety of imported goods including wine, timber, and general cargos from Rotterdam and Ostend, with exported goods including corn and herrings. Margate itself counted only as a ‘creek’, with no legal quay (see Chapter 5) and so its trade was usually limited to corn, fish and timber although, in fact, some wine, linen and fruit were also imported at Margate.9 Ships arrived in Margate from Venice and from the Low Countries, but in small numbers. In the year 1513-1514 there were just 6 recorded arrivals of ‘alien’ ships at Margate.69 In 1555 the Venetian Ambassador in England reported on the arrival of two Venetian ships at Margate: ‘The ships “Barbara” and “Vianuola” have arrived safe at Margate, so that there will be much business to transact on account of these vessels, besides the many disputes of daily occurrence with the crews’.70 In 1563 the arrival of another two Venetian ships at Margate was recorded, one carrying a load of currants from Zante; in 1566 there are records of a ship that, having sailed from Venice via Malta, Majorca, Cadiz, and Lisbon, finally reached Margate where its cargo of raisins was unloaded to be sent to London.71,72  In 1587 a Venetian ship carrying wine for London was unloaded at Margate but ran into problems with the Customs:73

A letter to Customer Smith that whereas of the number of  two hundred and fouretene buttes of swete wines lately brought by an Argosie [a type of large Venetian merchant ship] lieng  presently at Margett, and sent by one Lewes Erizzo, a Venetian, there was by order from our  verie good Lord the Erle of Leicester unladen threscore and thre buttes and fower carettalles (sic), the rest of the same wines, being afterward for verie good reasons stayed from being landed, remayning at this presente on boarde or in divers hoyes upon the ryver of the  Thames, amounting togither, with the quantitie yet remaining in the Argousie, to one hundred and fifty buttes or thereaboutes; forasmuche as it hath bene declared unto their Lordships that the furder contynuance of the said wines on boarde the hoyes and Argousie might bringe greate hurte and daunger of spoile unto them upon peticion made in that behalf, their  Lordships have thought good to requier [him] to take order that the same wines maie be landed, and to take the same into his custody and so to remaine unsolde and well looked unto without any diminishing thereof (at the charges of the said Erizzo), untill their Lordships shall have taken furder order for the same.

Other imports into Margate included silks and cloth. In July 1628 a parcel of silk was imported from Dunkirk on a Shallop carrying prisoners, but was detained by ‘Customer Smith’:74

An order concerning a fatt [a fatt was  a measure of capacity; one fatt held 9 bushels, and one bushel held about 9 gallons] of Silks brought from Dunkirke belonging to Robert Cudenor of London, Marchant.

Whereas there was this day presented to the Boarde a Peticion of Robert Cudenor of London, Marchaunt, wherein he doth remonstrate that there was landed at Margat in Kent one small fatt of silke, which came in a Shallop that brought English Prysoners from Dunkerke, which saide Fat of silke doth belong to the Petitioner, and were sent over lande from Italy, and now is at Margat and there deteined by one Smith, upon no other pretence then because it came from Dunkerke, the same having beene deteined in his Custodie about twoe monethes alreadie, to the Petitioners greate hinderance for which Cause he doth humbly sue that in paying all due charges of Custome he may have his goods delivered unto him: Their Lordships having taken this his humble Sute into consideration doe thinke fit to graunt the same, the rather in regarde that Phillip Burlemachy, Marchaunt, doth undertake for the truth of that which is alleagcd in the said Petition. Hereof the Lorde Treasurer is prayed and required to take notice, and to give presente and effectuall order to the Officers of the Porte of Margat for the delivery of the aforesaid Fat of silke to the Petitioner or his Assigne without dilay.

On the same day there was another complaint about the Customs at Margate impounding some silks and lined cloth imported from Dunkirk, possibly brought in on the same ship:74

An order concerning foure bailes of Silke, Lined Cloth belonging to Samuel Alderson, John Bowater and others.

Whereas a peticion was this day presented to the Board by Samuell Alderson, John Bowater, John Parker and William Burley, all Natives and Subjects to his Majestie, in which they remonstrate, that they have foure bailes and twoe trunkes of Silke, linin Cloth, and other commodities not prohibited landed at Margat, which goods doe belong unto them, as may appeare by oth and otherwise, some of the said goods being come out of Italie over lande, and others having bene taken for debts long forborne; all which goods being landed are stayed by his Majesties Officers, because thay came from Dunkerke; whereas the peticioners had no other meanes to have them brought, seing they cannot come through France without danger of confiscation, whereupon the said petitioners doe humblie sue that the said goods may be delivered unto them, paying his Majesties Customes. Their Lordships having taken this their humble suite into consideration, doe thinke and order that if they can make sufficient proofe of this which they alledgc, before the Judge of his Majesties High Court of Admiralty, all the aforesaid goods shalbe delivered unto them. Whereof the Lorde Treasurer is hereby prayed and required to take notice and upon the said proofes being sufficient to give order accordingly.

From an early date the Margate hoys carried passengers as well as goods. John Taylor’s The carriers cosmographie of 1637 listed ‘where the ships, hoighs, barkes, tiltboats, barges and wherries, do usually attend to carry passengers and goods to the towns of England’ and reported that ‘a Hoigh from Rochester  Margate in Kent, or Feversham and Maydston doth come to St Katherines Dock’.75 In the eighteenth century there was a weekly hoy service between Margate and London.13,76 Even before Margate’s development as a resort for sea bathing the numbers of passengers carried by hoy could by quite large, as is clear from the report of the overturning of a hoy in 1731:77

On Tuesday last a Hoy, bound to Margate in Kent, turning to windward under a hard gale of wind, was unhappily overset between Erith and Woolwich, by which accident about 30 passengers were all lost.

A useful source of information about shipping at Margate is the collection of Pier Wardens Accounts that have been preserved for 1678-1724 and 1732-1749.29,78  For the year 1678-9 the Pier receipts totalled £145 11s 0d, including £59 2s 5d for shipments of corn, £23 9s 6d for shipments of coal, £7 5s 7½d for ‘small duties’, including items such as butter, cheese, tombstones, iron, faggots, tiles, and anchors, and ‘overseas voyages’ that included voyages to Norway and France. For the year 1679-1680 we have more details about the payments for corn voyages, giving the numbers of voyages and those involved:

Booorman 14 voyages to London

£5 0s 6d

Stevens 40 voyages to London

£5 2s 6d

Roger Laming 22 voyages to London

£11 19s 6d

John Laming 13 voyages to London

£7 15s 0d

Valentine Hogbin 22 voyages to London

£12 6s 0d

Adrian Moys 13 voyages to London 

£9 16s 6d

Adrian Moys and Son 8 voyages to London

£4 17s 6d

Particularly informative are the payments received for ‘succor’, which was defined in item 15 of the Orders of Viscount Sydney (Appendix VIII):

That every other ship, crayer, hoy, or any other vessel that doth come into the said Pier or Harbour only for succour, and not to lade or unlade, shall pay according to their burthens, viz. of ten tons and under 4d, of twenty tons and under 6d, of thirty tons and under 8d, of forty tons and under 12d, and those of greater burthen to pay accordingly; and for aliens double the rate.

The accounts for 1679-1680 list 96 payments for succour, of which four are for ships from foreign ports, with payments of 1s and 2s ‘from a Spaniard’, a payment of 2s from ‘John Lumas of Ostend’, and one payment of 1s for a ship from a port whose name is illegible. The total number of ships using the Pier for succor and their sizes were as follows:

Size of ship

Number of ships

10 tons and under


10 to 20 tons


20 to 30 tons


30 to 40 tons


Over 40 tons


These numbers agree with Lewis’s description of the harbour in 1723 as a harbour used by ships ‘of no great burthen’.7

The Pier Accounts for the years following 1732 give a lot more detail and a typical set of accounts, that for the year 1 May 1733 to 1 May 1734 is given in Appendix XI. The accounts clarify how the finances were handled. On 1 May each year the old pier wardens handed over any cash remaining from the previous year to the two new Pier Wardens. The new Pier wardens were allowed to keep up to £100 of this cash as a ‘stock of running cash’ to fund repairs and improvements to the Pier, and, it seems, were allowed to keep for themselves any interest they might receive on this money; this would be some recompense for the time they devoted to the job, which was unpaid except for a sum 5s a year paid to them ‘according to custom.’ The first item of income listed for the year 1733-34 was the sum of £224 16s 10d received from the Pier wardens for the previous year. The next item, and the largest source of income for the Pier, was for shipment of ‘corn’ from the pier. The shipments were divided into ‘heavy grain’ and ‘malt’. Wheat and corn were classed as ‘heavy grains’ when transported by sea as they stowed more closely than barley or oats, which were termed ‘light grains’; the rate charged for transporting light grain was higher than for heavy grain because the  rate was calculated on weight rather than on volume. The total shipments of wheat and corn were 19,040 quarters with 8013 quarters of malt. The grain was shipped by eleven men, the greatest quantities by Stephen Baker, John Simson, John Stoacks, Stephen Swinford, Richard Laming, and Daniel Pamflett.

Receipts for colliers for the year 1733-34 show 19 shipments of coal in the year, totalling 1087 chaldrons. Nine men were responsible for this trade, eight of whom were probably from Margate. Fish landed at Margate were mackerel, herring, whiting, and red herrings, mostly by Margate boats, with red herrings bringing in the largest income for the pier, £10 6s 10d. Small items included wine, butter, timber, salt, sugar, hemp and kelp, although there is no way of knowing from the accounts whether these were imports or exports. The number of ‘town ships’ going on longer voyages were small. In 1733-34, Capt. Brooks paid £1 for ‘four voyages’ and Mr Bowman 10s for ‘two voyages’. The accounts for 1732-33 give more detail, with Mr John Tibb paying 15s for three voyages ‘to the East Country’ and Richard Bowman paying 15s for three voyages to Portugal.

Item 21 of the Orders of  1693 (Appendix VIII)  established that half the value of any wrecked goods saved by a vessel coming into the harbour, or half the value of any saved anchors, would be taken by the Pier Wardens. In 1733-34 fourteen anchors were saved, adding £1 3s to the Pier accounts. For wrecked ships the pier received 2s 6d in this year from John Randall ‘for getting the sugar out of the ship upon Girdle sand’, 6s from ‘William Ladd and others for getting the sugar ship off the said sand’ and 19s from ‘William Ladd and others for ½ a share of their saving sugar out of the said ship’. In the previous year Capt. Brooks had paid £7 12s 6d to the pier ‘for 166 bales out of a Turkey ship’, and Stephen Swinford, John Staner and John Harison had paid 10s 6d, 5s and 2s 6d respectively ‘for an half share [of their] earnings out of the Turks ship upon the Woolpack Sand’.

Saving goods from wrecked ships was part of the trade called foying which included several maritime functions, including servicing and provisioning passing ships, helping vessels in distress, and rescuing crews.79 Boats involved in foying were generally referred to as hovellers or luggers, and were kept in readiness all along the coast, at Ramsgate, Broadstairs, Deal and Dover, as well as at Margate. As described by William Camden in 1586: ‘when there happen any shipwrecks, as there do now and then, for those shallows and shelves so much dreaded by seamen, lie over and against it; namely the Godwin, etc. . . . they [the seamen] are extremely anxious to save the Lading’.80 Of course, the line between saving and pilfering would not always be clear and this worried Lewis: ‘it’s a thousand pities that they [the seamen] are so apt to pilfer stranded Ships, and abuse those who have already suffered so much’.7

The accounts for 1733-34 include amongst the receipts from tenants of the Pier, £8 from ‘the Collector of Sandwich for a year’s rent’; the Collector of Sandwich was head of the Customs establishment at Sandwich, which covered the harbour at Margate (see Chapter 5), and the accounts for 1744-45 show that the rent of £8 paid by the Collector was for ‘the storehouse and Watch house.’ The next highest rents received were rents of £3 10s received from H. Swinford and John Stoacks. Just three years later, in 1737, we hear that John Stoacks ‘late of Margate . . . Mariner or Hoyman’ was in prison in Dover Castle for debt.81 Also imprisoned in Dover Castle for debt in 1737 was John Simson, ‘late of Margate . . . a Hoyman’;82 it is not known if the problems faced by Stoacks and Simson were linked or not.  

The receipts for the year 1733-34 show that considerable quantities of coal were landed at the harbour (Appendix XI). The import of coal had long been an important part of the trade of the harbour. Over the period 1676-86 the average annual import of coal at Margate was 579 chaldrons, compared to 427 chaldrons at Ramsgate and, in the years 1702-4, 24 vessels were involved in the import of coal from Newcastle, importing 1,001 chaldrons.9 The import of coal was particularly important because of the lack of timber on the island. A correspondent from Deal wrote to Joseph Williamson, Under Secretary to the Secretary of State, in July 1672 about the dangers posed to the supply of coal by enemy privateers during the Dutch wars:83

Richard Watts to Williamson. We heard last night from Margate that a Dutch fleet of capers appeared in sight of the North Foreland, and had both English and French colours. They took within these four days four Margate vessels, one brand new that had not been twelve hours out of Margate pier. Another from Bradster (Broadstairs), in the Isle of Thanet, reports that this morning the Dutch capers took the boldness to fetch three ketches from Broadstairs pier mouth. So that several vessels that yesterday and to-night resolved to go to Newcastle, have laid up in the several piers of Thanet and Sandwich, and if speedy care be not taken our people will starve for want of fuel in the winter.

As already described, the accounts show that significant amounts of fish were landed at the harbour, predominantly red herring with lesser amounts of mackerel, herring and whiting (Appendix XI). There was also an active trade in salt fish at Margate, sufficient to require an officer to deal with the salt duties.84 Duty was charged on salt as a way of raising money for the Government, but the duty paid on any salt used on board ship to cure fish caught in the North Seas or around Iceland could be reclaimed when the fish were landed in England. The duties were collected by a Salt officer, one of whose duties was to cut off part of the tail of any salted fish on which the salt duty had been repaid, to prevent the duty being reclaimed more than once.85 There was, in particular, an active trade in exporting fish to Italy, where there was a great demand for it. In 1720 an Act of Parliament was proposed to protect the clothes trade in England, ‘An Act for prohibiting the importation of raw silk and mohair yarn, of the product or manufacture of Asia, from any ports or places in The Straights or Levant Seas’.86 Unfortunately, this had a knock on effect on the fish trade with Italy, as the fishing boats, after unloading their fish in Italy, would often return with a cargo of Asian produce. Petitions against the bill were presented from London, Exeter, Totnes, Great Yarmouth, Falmouth, Penryn and Plymouth, with a joint petition from ‘the merchants, owners and commanders of ships of the towns of Ramsgate and Margate in the Isle of Thanet’, signed by forty seven petitioners from Margate and fifty two from Ramsgate:87

the inhabitants of the towns of Ramsgate and Margate are become owners and proprietors in a great number of ships using the Levant Seas and are considerably concerned in the fishery of these Kingdoms, which fish is for the most part consumed in Italy, and your petitioners observe with great grief that there is now depending in your Lordships House a Bill to repeal so much of the Act of Navigation as permits the importation of goods of the growth of Asia into Great Britain, by which restraint your Petitioners will lose a part of the freight of their ships in their return to England and the burthen will lye wholly on the outward bound cargo, which will render the same delivered at market very dear and hinder the consumption of fish and other manufactures of these Kingdoms. Wherefore your petitioners humbly hope that the said Act will not pass which in its consequences must be very detrimental to your Petitioners and the navigation of these Kingdoms.

Unfortunately, for Margate, the Bill received strong support from the West Country clothiers and received the Royal Assent on June 11 1720.88

According to Lewis a lack of fish in the local waters was causing problems for the fishermen by the 1720s:7

The Fish generally caught here are Whitings, (which are often no bigger than Smelts) Wraiths, Wilks, Red and White, Lobsters, Pungers, Oysters, and Eeles. Of these last (I have been told by the old Fisher-men) such Plenty has been caught here formerly, that they used to measure them by the Bushel; but for these many Years past they have been very scarce.

Fishing in the North Sea was also in decline and ‘the little success they [the fishermen] have met with of late Years, has very much discouraged them from following that Employment’.7 The result was that the fishermen ‘were forced to sell their large Boats, or let them run out. So that now the Boats in which they fish are so small that they dare not go far off to Sea in them, nor venture out of the Peer in a fresh gale of Wind’.7 Nevertheless Margate was still known for its fishing; in the New General Atlas of Mr Senex of 1721 Margate was said to be ‘chiefly inhabited by Mariners and Fishermen’ and even in 1754 Richard Pococke described Margate as ‘a fishing town’.89,90

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries Margate enjoyed some renown as a port of embarkation and disembarkation for the Low Countries. In 1721 Senex noted how passengers from Holland frequently disembarked in Margate, ‘when the wind does not serve to carry them up the Thames’.89 Lewis made a similar point in 1723:7

as the passage from England to Holland is reckoned the shortest from this place, it has had the Honour of being often visited, of late Years, by great Personages who have gone over thither. Thus, in particular, that Noble Asserter and Defender of the Rights and Liberties of Mankind, and particularly of those of Great Britain, K. William III of glorious memory often came hither in his way to and from Holland. His present most excellent Majesty has twice landed here. Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales came first on shore at this place, and that successful and victorious General the late Duke of Marlborough used to choose this for his place of going abroad and landing when he went and came to and from the several Campaigns he made.

In 1636 the Earl of Arundel sailed from Margate to the continent to visit the emperor in Prague, as recorded in the diary of one of his servants:91

The seventh of April being Thursday, 1636. His Excellency departed from Greenwich for Germanie, tooke Barge about three of the clocke in the morning, and landed at Gravesend, from thence by Coach to Canterbury to bed, the next day to Margate where wee dined, and about three of the clocke in the atternoone, hee tooke shipping in one of the Kings Ships called the Happy Entrance, and landed the tenth day being Sunday at Helver-sluce.

William III's return from Holland in 1691, when he landed at a ‘wretched village called Marguet’ was something of a disaster:92,93

Oct. 20. Last night King William came to town from Margate, having had a mighty favourable wind to bring him from Holland thither in 24 hours and so home that day. He took shipping upon Sunday in the morning, about 7 o’clock, all his guards and retinue who went to bring him home were disappointed, thinking he would have come by Harwich; but coming the other way he was forced to send to the country gentlemen, and the people to conduct and guard him home on his journey. A gentleman’s coachman turned over the coach wherein was himself, Lord Churchill, Lord Portland, and Mons. Overkirk, or the Duke of Ormond, I am not certain which, but I do not hear that any great damage was done, only Churchill complained of his neck being broken; the King told him there was little danger [of that] by his speaking.

Details of William III’s journey from Margate to Holland in April 1697 show the level of protection provided for the King: ‘The King designs to set out tomorrow if the wind is fair, and in the meantime a Detachment of the Marcuis de Fuizar’s Regiment is ordered to Margate to keep Guard at Mr Ball’s House in case his Majesty tarry there for a wind.94 Mr Ball’s house was, in fact, Quex Mansion at Birchington, then the property of the heirs of Thomas Crispe, but in the occupation of John  Ball.95 On his return to Margate on 14 November 1697 ‘this evening the Towne guns, etc., fired and bells rang for news of the King’s Landing’.96 The King again travelled to Holland via Margate on 20 July 1698 and also on 3 June 1699.97,98 A description of the latter journey makes clear makes clear the size of the royal party: ‘His Majesty left Kensington about 10 last night, in order to embark at Margate, in which road the yachts and men-of-war, which attend His Majesty, are ordered to be: The Earl of Romney, Lord Albemarle, Monsr. d'Auerquerke, Lord Raby, Lord Selkirk and Mr Blathwayt, and other persons of quality, accompany his Majesty’.99

Often the King, having landed at Margate, would leave immediately for London. This required a good deal of organization, and expense, as teams of fresh horses need to be supplied along the route to London. In July 1701 William III had embarked at Margate for Holland, expecting to return to England in October, but ill-health delayed his journey and he did not get back to Margate until 4 November.100,101 This delay meant that the horses that had been sent to towns along the route on October 13 to be ready for the King’s expected return journey had to be kept there until November. Details exist in a document, ‘Hackney coachmens bills that lay on Margate Roads to waite for his Majesty October 1701’.102 A total of 37 horses had been sent to Margate for the King’s body coach, which needed a team of 7 horses, for three other coaches each needing a team of 6 horses, and for 2 sashmares, also needing six horses each; a sashmare was clearly a type of coach, but the exact meaning of the name has been lost. On 4 November these horses took William III and his party to Canterbury, where a further 37 horses took them to Sittingbourne, where yet another 37 horses were waiting.  The King stayed at Sittingbourne overnight, and then travelled on to Northfleet where another 37 horses took the party to Blackheath; at Blackheath all the coaches except that of the King returned to London but the King went to Hampton Court.102,103 The total cost for the horses was £1026 10s, of which the bill for the horses held at Margate was £265 5s, made up as follows:

Stapler with seven horses for the Body Coach to Margate went out October the 13th returned

Nov 6th both inclusive being 25 days at 40s per diem — £50

Whitehart with 6 horses for the Leading Coach the said journey at 35s per day —   £43 15s

Long with 6 horses for the following Coach the said journey at 35s per day —   £43 15s

Browne with 6 horses for one of the Sashmarees at 35s per day — £43 15s

Haslome with 6 horses for the other Sashmare at 35s per day — £43 15s

Bulmer with six horses for another Coach to Margate went out October the 15th returned

November 6th being 23 days at 35s per diem — £40 5s

The hackney coachmen who provided the horses were most probably all from London; of the men named in the account, one, Richard Ketchlove, is known to have been a licensed hackney coachman and two, Searin [John Searing] and Blunt [Thomas Blunt] are likely to have been two of the London hackney coachmen named in a pamphlet of 1716, The case of Thomas Blunt, John Searing, Charles Sewell, Thomas Holland, Thomas Storey, Cornelius Rose, and the rest of the eight hundred licensed Hackney Coachmen.104,105 Others of the gentry landing at Margate would also ensure that they had onward transportation. In November 1718 ‘A Coach and Six Horses are gone to Margate to meet the Earl Cardogan, who is hourly expected there from Holland’.106

The arrangements were particularly complex when it was uncertain where the King would land. In December 1736 it was reported that ‘Tomorrow the Horse and Grenadier Guards march to the Margate and Harwich Roads, to escorte his Majesty, from which of those Places he shall land at, to Town. Mr Ashburnham and Mr Lee, two of his Majesty’s Pages of Honour, are gone, the one to Margate, and the other to Harwich, to wait for their Royal Master’.107 Of course, the arrangements would sometimes go wrong. In October 1740 the King again landed in Margate:108

Monday October 13, his Majesty landed at Margate in his return to his British Dominions; and as there were none of his own coaches there waiting for him, he was received from the Boat, which brought him to the shore, into a chaise belonging to Mr Carr, Collector of the Customs at Deal, which carried him to Capt. Hercules Baker’s, and in his Chariot his Majesty was carried to Canterbury, where he was taken up by his own Coaches, and about nine at night arrived safe and in good health at St James’s.

In September 1729 George II had a bad passage from Holland: ‘the king landed from the William and Mary Yacht, after a Passage of eighteen Hours, by which his Majesty was greatly fatigued, having been very Sea-sick’.109 This time the decision was made to stay a while at Margate: ‘he went to the Mayor’s House, and walk’s to it from the Sea-side, refusing the Use of a Chariot which was offered his Majesty, and continued there about an Hour, and then with the Marquess Le Foret set out for Kensington’.110 A further report tells us that the King ‘refresh’d himself at the House of Capt. Brooke’.111 These reports are confusing in that Margate did not have a Mayor, and, although it had a Deputy, the Deputy in 1729 was Henry Petken and not Capt. Brooke (Appendix I).112 All that we can be fairly certain of is that the King visited the house of Capt. Brooke who was a major figure in the town. To celebrate the King’s landing at Margate ‘the Guns fired there, and from thence all the Forts and Ships in the River to the Tower took the Signal from one another’.113 However, all did not go well: ‘We hear from Margate, that the Day the King landed there, a poor Man who was a Guide to one of the Chaise Marines [a single-horse carriage with one pair of wheels, seating one or two passengers], was hurt by its being overturn’d, has received ten Guineas by his Majesty’s Order’.114 Finally, ‘his Majesty finding the Roads to be well furnish’d with Sets of Horses, set out from Margate about noon, and arrived at Kensington between ten and Eleven at Noon in good Health’.115

The story of this event recalls the legend of George II’s visit in 1745. According to the London Magazine the journey was uneventful: ‘On Saturday, August 31, about four in the morning his Majesty landed at Margate from his German dominations, and having passed thro’ the City [of London] at one in the afternoon, amidst the repeated acclamations of his people, arrived at Kensington Palace in good health’. The local version, as reported in a letter to Notes and Queries in 1881 is more colourful: ‘His Majesty once landed here in the middle of the night, on some crazy steps — which have lately disappeared — and was taken to a house, still standing, in King Street, to sleep. Local tradition further states that an old lady preceded him with a tallow candle in a lantern, and said at the corner “Oh, please, Mr King, mind the puddle”’.117 Some doubt the veracity of this tale. 

Sometimes the King and other members of the aristocracy would choose to stay the night at Margate. ‘Persons of quality’ including William III, the Duke of Marlborough and the Duke of Shrewsbury stayed at the Mansion House in Margate (see Chapter 1), the Glover’s house, ‘for which they used to make presents or other gratifications to the said Susannah Glover’.118 For example, in May 1709: ‘London, May 6. On Tuesday last, at 7 of the Clock in the Evening, the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough arriv’d at Margate, and lodg’d at the Widow’s House, where the late K. William us’d to do’.119 Following Susannah Glover’s death in 1713 the Mansion House stood empty and people of quality no longer stayed there ‘but went to the house of Mr Jewell [the White Hart] and lodged there’.118