Margate before Sea bathing: 1300 to 1736

Anthony Lee

Chapter 3: The People of Margate

William Harrison, writing at the end of the sixteenth century, was very clear about how society was structured: ‘We, in England, divide our people commonly into four sorts, as gentlemen, citizens or burgesses, yeomen, and artificers or labourers’.1 Of gentlemen he said ‘the first and chief (next the king) be the prince, dukes, marquesses, earls, viscounts, and barons; and these are called gentlemen of the greater sort, or (as our common usage of speech is) lords and noblemen: and next unto them be knights, esquires, and, last of all, they that are simply called gentlemen’. There were few men in Thanet that Harrison would have classed as gentlemen. Topping Thanet society in the fifteenth century were the Manston and Daundelion families, both of whom were armiger esquires, gentleman just below the rank of knight but entitled to bear arms and wear armour; the Queyk and Parker families at Birchington were of a slightly lower status.2 The Conyngham family, important in the history of Thanet because of their land holdings, were finally ennobled to Earl in 1780, but seem never to have lived in Thanet. Thanet men who became High Sheriffs of Kent all came from one family of the squirearchy, the Crispes of Quekes.2

At the next level of society were the ‘citizens or burgesses’. Since there were no cities or large towns in Thanet, there were no burgesses. However, Harrison classed merchants amongst the citizens, noting that ‘they often change estate with gentlemen, as gentlemen do with them, by a mutual conversion of the one into the other’. These merchants exported goods such as ‘broad clothes . . . of all colours, likewise cottons, friezes, rugs, tin, wool, our best beer, baize, bustian, mockadoes (tufted and plain), rash, lead, fells, etc.’ which would be taken ‘into all quarters of the world, and there either exchanged for other wares or ready money, to the great gain and commodity of our merchants’. Harrison might have included in this category the ‘Masters of Ships’, the wealthy owners of hoys, living in Margate.

The third of Harrison’s classes were the yeomen:

This sort of people have a certain pre-eminence, and more estimation than labourers and the common sort of artificers, and these commonly live wealthily, keep good houses, and travel to get riches. They are also for the most part farmers to gentlemen  . . .  or at the leastwise artificers, and with grazing, frequenting of markets, and keeping of servants (not idle servants, as the gentlemen do, but such as get both their own and part of their masters’ living), do come to great wealth, insomuch that many of them are able and do buy the lands of unthrifty gentlemen, and often setting their sons to the schools, to the universities, and to the Inns of the Court, or, otherwise leaving them sufficient lands whereupon they may live without labour, do make them by those means to become gentlemen. These were they that in times past made all France afraid. And albeit they be not called "Master," as gentlemen are, or "Sir," as to knights appertaineth, but only "John" and "Thomas," etc., yet have they been found to have done very good service.

The chief families of Margate probably fell into this category, including the Norwoods discussed in Chapter 2, and the Lamings, Omars, Claybrookes and other families to be discussed later in this chapter.

Finally, ‘the fourth and last sort of people in England are day-labourers, poor husbandmen, and some retailers (which have no free land), copyholders, and all artificers, as tailors, shoemakers, carpenters, brick makers, masons, etc.’ Margate was not a wealthy town and had few wealthy inhabitants, and so most of its inhabitant’s would have fallen into this fourth group. Harris wrote of the Isle of Thanet in 1719 that ‘there is not one Gentleman that now lives on this Island’ and that the former gentry had left and their estates were ‘sold off from the Mansion Seats, and the houses converted into farm houses’, although he did concede that the local yeomanry and farmers were ‘many of them men of good estates . . .  and accordingly live in a very handsome and gentleman-like manner’.3 Lewis wrote in 1723 about a decline in the fortunes of Margate: ‘Mergate was on account of its harbour, and trade to London, the only place of business [in the Isle of Thanet], and whose inhabitants were wealthy and lived in plenty. But time has made a very great alteration in these places. By the Sea’s falling so heavy on the North part of the island, the harbour of Mergate is 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. So that the place is in a manner deserted by them. Whereas the Town of Ramsgate has all this while been growing and encreasing, being almost half of it new built, and their Peer being considerably enlarged; so that there are many wealthy persons among them’.4

One of the chief Margate families, the Norwoods, has already been described in Chapter 1. The Parish Church contains two brasses for members of the Norwood family, one for William Norwood who died in 1605 and one for Alexander Norwood who died in 1557, Alexander his son who died in 1583, and Joanna his wife who died in 1605.5 The prominence of the family in the sixteenth century is clear in the Parish registers where on several occasions the baptism of a Norwood child is recorded in a large embossed hand so that it is the most conspicuous entry on the page.6 Members of the Norwood family and of another important family, the Claybrookes, enjoyed privileges not extended to others, such as eating meat at Lent:6

Mrs Mary Claybrooke licensed according to the statute to eat flesh the 1 of March, entred this 8 day. And likewise Rich. Norwood both licensed and entred upon the same first and 8th of March 1619.

Another local family of note is the Laming family, notable not least because of the network of marriages linking the Lamings to other families of significance in the development of Margate. Roger Laming junior, who died in 1743, was the ‘owner of several hoys’ and ‘reputed to be worth £30,000’.7,8 His father, Roger Laming senior, was the son of John Laming, the Margate Deputy in 1651,9 and Joyce Grant, and was born in Margate in 1612; in 1633 Roger Laming senior marred Joan Omer of Minster and the couple had eight children, of whom the last was Roger Laming junior, born in 1653.10,11 Roger Laming junior’s wife was named Mary but, unfortunately, we know nothing about her; it is likely that Roger Laming junior married late in life as their only child was baptised in August 1721, when Roger Laming was 68. The child, also named Roger Laming, died in February 1739, at the age of 18. At the time of his death Roger Laming junior therefore had no surviving children, and his will leaves all his considerable wealth to his wife, to his various nephews and nieces and their children, and to other relatives and friends.12 One niece, Joanna Culmer, received £700 in the will, with her son Roger and her three daughters each receiving £500. The Culmer’s were an established family of Margate mariners, owning property on what was to become the Parade at Margate, including the Ship Inn.13 Rowe reports that Roger Culmer was a cooper who died a rich man and owner of Hartsdown.14

A kinswoman of Roger Laming junior was Rachell, the wife of Captain Daniel Pamflett; Rachell received £500 in the will and Daniel Pamflett £200. Daniel Pamflett was a hoyman and at one time an Overseer of the Poor for the parish.14 A kinsman was Valentine Jewell junior who received £500, a number of other Jewells receiving a total of over £1500. Valentine Jewell senior, born in 1659 and dying in 1730, was the son of Joseph Jewell and Elizabeth Laming, Elizabeth Laming being one of the sisters of Roger Laming junior. Valentine Jewell senior and his son Valentine Jewell junior were important figures in the development of Margate. In 1693 the list of Margate inhabitants who contributed to the repair of the Pier included, as well as Roger Laming, Valentine Jewell senior, Roger Omer and Thomas Grant. Valentine Jewell senior was married twice, first to Martha Grant who died in 1698 and then, in 1699, to Anne Prince, the first child of that marriage being Valentine Jewell, junior. Joseph Jewell issued a halfpenny trade token in 1669 showing a cheese-knife on the reverse, showing that he was a grocer, and Valentine Jewell senior was a witness in a court case in 1716 concerning the sale of the Mansion House in Margate, in which he also was described as a grocer, aged 58.15 Valentine Jewell senior must have been a man of some wealth as he was able to lend money for the rebuilding of Margate Pier; at various times he was a Pier Warden, an Overseer of the Poor, and a Churchwarden. His son, Valentine Jewell, junior, married the daughter of Abraham Hudson, the Mayor of Deal, and, in 1729, purchased the White Hart Inn which was to become one of the town’s most important hotels.16,17

Roger Laming senior had, in 1633, married Joan Omer who was the daughter of Roger Omer and Elizabeth Sayer, a Minster family, one of whose brothers, Richard Omer, married Sarah Henneker.11 Richard and Sarah’s son, Roger Omer senior, born in 1657, married Mary Tomlin in 1680 and one of their children, James Omer, married Anne Jewell in 1717. Ann Jewell was one of the daughters of Valentine Jewell senior and Martha Grant. Roger Laming junior left £150 each to three of the children of James Omer and Anne Jewell, Roger Omer, James Omer and Ann Omer. Roger Omer senior was one of those contributing to the cost of rebuilding Margate Pier in 1693 and served as an Overseer of the Poor, as Churchwarden, and as the town Deputy on two occasions.18,19 The Poor Accounts for 1716 show a Captain Omer at Northdown paying £1 0s 7½d towards the poor rates, suggesting that Roger Omer senior was both a mariner and a farmer.14 The children of James Omer and Anne Jewell born after 1720 were all baptised at St Dunstan, Stepney, suggesting that James Omer could  have been one of the ‘masters of ships’ referred to by Lewis in 1723 who used to live in Margate but are now ‘almost all removed to London for the sake of their business’.4 The 1789 will of Richard Sackett of East Northdown speaks of a house and farm at West Northdown ‘lately purchased from heirs of Roger Omer’, so that Roger Omer junior was a farmer and landowner.20

Roger Laming junior also left money to two other relations who were part of the maritime community at Margate. Mary, the wife of Edward Robson, and her children were left a total of £1000; Edward Robson appears in the Pier Wardens accounts for 1732 and 1733, Robson paying 10s for 2,500 fish caught in the North Sea and £1 10s for six voyages delivering 180 chaldron of coal to Margate.21 The other relation with maritime connections was Peter Swinford, left £100 in Roger Laming junior’s will. Poor House Accounts suggest that Peter Swinford was a coal merchant, but this probably included the shipping of coal from Newcastle. He was a Churchwarden in 1685 and signed the Poor House accounts for that year with his mark, a simple P; this was unusual since the great majority of the Churchwardens were sufficiently literate to be able at least to sign their own names.18 Swinford was a relatively common name in Margate, many of the Swinfords being mariners, and Stephen Swinford, for example, was one of the major owners of hoys, shipping large quantities of grain from Margate to London (Appendix XI). 

A number of properties are mentioned in Roger Laming’s will. These include the Bull Head inn, in the occupation of William Brown, a Windmill with outhouses, buildings and yard, presumably Mill Lane Mill, his farm and lands at Harts Down and his land at North Down.12 Roger Laming’s involvement in the farming as well as the maritime worlds was not unusual in Thanet, both the wealthy and the poor often being involved in both, as described by William Camden in 1586:22

Neither must I passe over heere in silence that which maketh for the singular praise of the inhabitants of Tenet, those especially which dwell by the roads or harboroughs of Margat, Ramsgat and Broadstear. For they are passing industrious, and as if they were amphibii, that is, both land-creatures and sea-creatures, get their living both by sea and land, as one would say, with both these elements: they be fisher-men and plough men, as well husband-men as mariners, and they that hold the plough-taile in earing [tilling] the ground, the same hold the helme in steering the ship. According to the season of the yeare, they knit nets, they fish for cods, herrings, mackarels, &c, they saile, and carry foorth merchandise. The same againe dung and mannure their grounds, plough, sow, harrow, reape their corne, and they inne [store] it, men most ready and well apointed both for sea and land, and thus goe they round and keepe a circle in these their labours. Furthermore, whereas that otherwhiles there happen shipwrackes here (for they lie full against the shore those most dangerous flats, shallowes, shelves, and sands so much feared of sailers, which they use to call The Goodwin Sands, The Brakes, The Four-Foots, The Whitdick &c, these men are wont to bestir themselves lustily in recovering both ships, men, and marchandise endangered.

This same pattern of working still existed at the start of the eighteenth century:4

They who live by the sea side are generally fishermen, or those who go voyages to foreign parts, or such as depend on what they call foying, i.e. going off to ships with provisions, and to help them in distress &c. . . .  When they are boys they go to catch whitings and herrings, and to the North Seas whither they make two voyages a year, and come home the latter one soon enough for the men to go to wheat season, and take a winters thresh; which last they have done time enough to go to sea in the Spring. Besides this, there are here two seasons for the Home-Fishery . . . The first of these is the macarel season, which commonly is about the beginning of May when the sowing of barley is ended. The other is the season for catching herrings which begins about the end of harvest, and ends soon enough for the wheat season, the time of sowing which here is about November.

This dual employment probably resulted in what, for the time, was a more than averagely comfortable life for the farm labourer and, indeed, farmers would sometimes have problems getting men to work on their farms because of the rival attractions of working on a fishing boat.4    

Examples of land owners in Margate with an interest in the sea include William Lucas, described in a Patent Roll of 1442 as the master of a ship, the Nicholas:23

Grant to the king’ servants Henry Rosyngton, yeoman of the crown, John Trevelyn, yeoman of the chamber, and Henry Wareyn, groom of the chamber, of the goods and merchandise of John Daundelion of the Isle of Tenet late in a ship called the Nicholas of Mergate, whereof William Lucas was master, within the port of Mergate, and carried and placed in a house uncustomed and without licence and so forfeit to the king.

His land holdings were described in a deed of 1440:24

Richard Raven of Northdowne, in the par. of St John, Isle of Thanet, grants to John Basele and Thomas Cosyn of the same 3 acres of land with appurtenances lying separately in the said par. in the tenure of the Lord of Menstre, of which half an acre and half a rood lie at Seler’ between the land of John Daundelyon on the S., the land of Edward Ropkyn on the N., another  half acre and half rood at Hor’downe between the land of William Lucas on the N. and the land of John  Cowpere on the S., another half acre at Steuene Steyr’ between the land of John Noyl on the W. and E., another half acre at Steuene Steyr’ between the land of Nicholas Lucas on the E. and the land of the heirs of John Curlyng on the W. and another half acre and half rood at Helmnesse between the land of William Lucas on the E. and W. and another l½  roods at Westdowne between the land of Richard Lederer’ on the N. and the land of William Crowe on the S.

Warranty. Witnesses: Richard Lederer’, William Lucas, Nicholas Lucas, Stephen Kempe, John Crosse and others.

Unfortunately the locations of most of the places mentioned, such as Hor’downe and Steuene Steyr’, are now lost (the apostrophes in these names are referred to as ‘scribal suspensions’ and correspond to one or more letters left out by the scribe; the missing letters are unknowable unless the equivalent modern place name is obvious), but William Lucas was clearly the owner of significant amounts of farm land. It is possible that the area of Margate formerly known as Lucas Dane was named after a member of the Lucas family (see Introduction).

A later example of a farmer-mariner is Daniel Faireman who was described in 1685 as both a seaman of St John’s parish and as a labourer who had worked regularly for William Payne, a local farmer, ‘in harvest time about two or three yeares since for the space of five years’.25 Indentures also confirm that many farmers had interests in the sea, owning shares in fishing vessels and considerable amounts of fishing tackle. 25 An inventory of the goods of Robert Bennett, a husbandman who farmed near Margate, taken in 1692, shows this combination of farming and fishing: ‘In the outhouse and loft. - Item one woollen wheell, one bushell [measure], one skrye, one fan, five and twenty sax, certaine herring netts and shott  [mackerel] netts, certaine harvest tooles, stake, ropes, one grindstone, fower bushells of wheat, two bushells of beans and other things there’. 25

Farms in Thanet were described by Lewis in 1723 as being ‘generally large’ and ‘the occupiers of these farms, especially of the larger ones’ as being ‘generally . . .  men of good substance’.4 The farms were productive and profitable, the soil of Thanet being renowned during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries for its thin, light, and chalky texture, fertilized by an inexhaustible supply of seaweed manure.26 The farmers also benefited from being close to the expanding London food market, supplied from Margate by the hoys passing up and down the Thames, as described in Chapter 2. John Evelyn was particularly impressed with the farms in Thanet. During his journey from Margate to Rochester in 1672 he reported: ‘I came back through a Country the best cultivated of any that in my life I had any where seene, every field lying as even as a bowling greene, & the fences, plantations, & husbandrie in such admirable order, as infinitely delighted me . . . observing almost every tall tree to have a Weather-cock on the top bough’.27 During another visit to Margate in 1672 he reported how ‘I was carried to see a gallant Widow, a Farmoresse [ie a female farmer], & I think of Gygantic race, rich, comely, & exceedingly Industrious . . . her house was so plentifully stored with all manner of Countrie provisions, all of her own groth, & all her conveniences so substantiall, neate & well understood: She herselfe so jolly & hospitable, & her land, so trim, & rarely husbanded, that it struck me with a kind of admiration at her Oeconomie’.

An inventory of the belongings of Nicholas Sayer, a farmer in the parish of St John’s, in 1548 gives a clear picture of the life of a local farmer (Appendix XII). As described by Edward White:28

There is no great difficulty in realizing the personal appearance of the man himself. His doublet, a close fitting garment with skirts reaching a very little below the girdle, was either of worsted or canvas. The jerkin was usually worn over the doublet, either of them with or without sleeves as the wearer pleased. There was but very little, if any distinction between the jerkin and jacket. He possessed two petticoats; this garment being during the reign of Henry VIII and Edward VI an article of male attire, and is still worn by the boys of Christ’s Hospital, who retain the precise costume of lads of the time of Edward VI. Nicholas Sayer was probably, however, too homespun to have adopted the fashionable yellow stockings of the period, and his hose were, no doubt, of white or grey yarn. His ordinary garments were of frieze; his best apparel of violet cloth; and over all, in rough weather, he wore a long loose gabardine. This name is still given in some parts of Kent to the “smock frock”. A flat cap or bonnet upon his head completed his costume. His weapons, whether of offence or for sport, were a bow and sheaf of arrows, which, like most English yeomen, he probably knew how to make right good use of.

In the hall he and his farm servants ate in common. The table was a board laid upon trestles. Quite as late as the 15th century the halls of the gentry were furnished with similar tables, which were only adjusted preparatory to meals; hence is derived our modern phrase to “spread the board”, which once had a more practical signification. But Nicholas Sayer had also a counter, table, and chairs. His dinner service consisted of wooden platter and pewter dishes. The culinary utensils were of brass or latten; and these durable vessels were usually bequeathed by will from generation to generation.

His “occupation” was rather small, inasmuch as it required only four horses, one plough, two harrows, and a roller. The more interesting items are the prices of stock and grain. The horses were worth rather less than 15s each; cows and heifers rather more than 26s; a weaning calf could be bought for 2s 4d; a ewe for 3s 4d and a young sheep was worth less than 1s. Wheat was worth 6s a quarter — one parcel rather more — and barley 4s. Considering the relative value of money the sum total of Nicholas Sayer’s property would be about equivalent to £350 of modern currency [written in ca. 1920].

An analysis of inventories produced for probate suggest that barley made up about half of the crops grown in Thanet at the end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th centuries, that wheat made up about a third of the crop, and that oats, beans, peas, tares [a kind of legume], and dredge [usually a mixture of oats and barley] made up the rest. 25 Barley was grown largely to make malt and, by the early seventeenth century, malt had become an important export from Margate. A group of prosperous Thanet barley farmers sent their annual crop to London to be sold for them by city factors, at a fee of 2d in the pound; not only were these farmers related, but the factors were their nephews and cousins.29 With time these close family connections weakened, and Lewis reported in 1723 that farmers were ‘obliged to trust to the [corn] factors and others in selling their corn, who, if they are not honest men, have great opportunities of defrauding them’.4

The actual process of selling malt through factors was described in some detail by Daniel Defoe in his The Complete English Tradesman, published in 1732:30Defoe complained that ‘maltsters . . .  are now no longer farmers, and, as might be said, working labouring people, as was formerly the case, when the public expense of beer and ale, and the number of alehouses, was not so great’. Whereas in the past farmers had malted their own barley, the demand for malt had grown so much that the larger farmers had started to purchase barley from local, smaller farmers, until eventually the malt trade ‘came out of the hands of the farmers; for either the farmers found so much business, and to so much advantage, in the malting-trade, that they left off ploughing, and put off their farms, sticking wholly to the malt; or other men, encouraged by the apparent advantage of the malting-trade, set it up by itself, and bought their barley . . . of the farmers  . . . and thus malting became a trade by itself.’ In turn, this led to the growth of corn-factors, ‘many of [whom] sell no other grain than malt’ and who acted as ‘agents for the maltsters who stay in the country, and only send up their goods [to London].’ Defoe than reported that the factors ‘developed a new way of buying and selling corn, as well as malt’, which was the ‘buying of corn by samples only’:

The farmer, who has perhaps twenty load of wheat in his barn, rubs out only a few handfuls of it with his hand, and puts  it into a little money bag; and with this sample, as it is called,  in his pocket, away he goes to market. When he comes thither, he stands with his little bag in his hand, at a particular place where such business is done, and thither the factors or buyers come also; the factor looks on the sample, asks his price, bids, and then buys; and that not a sack or a load, but the whole quantity; and away they go together to the next Inn to adjust the bargain . . .

The farmer inquires where he must deliver it, which is generally agreed to be either to such or such Hoys or Barges, or Vessels, as the nearest navigation to the place; or at such and such Mills, if it be wheat, as are nearest to be ground at . . . The next demand is the payment, and that is adjusted to be at the delivery, or perhaps the factor will be so kind to the farmer as to bring it to his house, if not far off; upon this the factor gives earnest, and so the whole barn, or stack, or mow of corn is sold at once; and not only so, but ‘tis odds but the factor deals with him ever after by coming to his house, and so the farmer troubles the Market no more.

This kind of trade is chiefly carried on in those Market Towns which are at a small distance from London  . . . such as Rochester, Maidstone . . . and particularly at Margate and Whitstable. At these Markets you may see, that besides the Market house where a small quantity of corn perhaps is seen, the place mentioned above, where the farmers and factors meet is like a little exchange, where all the rest of the business is transacted, and where an hundred times the quantity of corn is bought and sold, as appears in sacks in the Market house . . . Towns and Inns are throng’d with farmers, and samples on one hand, and with meal-men, London-bakers,  millers, and corn-factors, and other buyers on the other; the rest of the week you see the wagons and carts continually coming all night, and all day, laden with corn of all sorts to be deliver’d on board the Hoys, where the Hoy-men stand ready to receive it, and generally to pay for it also.

Pier accounts such as those for the year 1773-4 given in Appendix XI, together with the report by Daniel Defoe just quoted, suggest that the barley trade was very active in the early eighteenth century, although Lewis in 1723 suggests that by then malting, the conversion of barley into malt in malt-houses, was in decline:4

Malting is another Branch of the Trade of this Place [Margate], which was formerly so large, that there were about 40 Malt-houses in this Parish. But this trade is now gone much to decay; tho’ certainly here might be made the best Malt in England, the Barley which grows here being so very good, and the land naturally so kind for it. The Malt, it seems, here made, having formerly been very coarse for the Use of the Distillers, it has so much lost its credit, that the present Maltsters find little encouragement to make their Malt fine for a London Market, where they are almost sure to be out-sold by the Hertfordshire and North Country Malt-men, whose Malt bears a better Name.

The ale brewed in and around Margate, especially at Northdown had once been very popular. In 1636  John Taylor reported ‘there is a Towne neere Margate in Kent, (in the Isle of Thanett) called Northdowne, which Towne hath ingrost much Fame, Wealth, and Reputation from the prevalent potencie of their Attractive Ale’.31 Northdown Ale had even been praised by Robert Herrick in a poem published in 1646, of which the relevant part reads:32

For gladding so my hearth here,
With inoffensive mirth here;
That while the Wassaile Bowle here
With North-down Ale doth troule here,
No sillable doth fall here,
To marre the mirth at all here.

During the second Dutch war Sir Joseph Williamson, Under Secretary to the Secretary of State, was sent quantities of Northdown ale by several of his contacts in Margate. In December 1666 John Smith, a Margate doctor, sent Williamson ‘some country ale, good to drink this cold weather, which if bottled, will be the better the longer it is kept’.33 In 1668 Richard Watts wrote to Williamson from Margate saying ‘I intended to send you a barrel of ale which has since been staved, but understand Mayto of Margate has brought or sent you a 10 gallon runlet [a small barrel]’.34 Northdown ale was praised by John Evelyn, who visited Margate on March 27 1672 to make arrangements for the treatment of the wounded from the second Dutch war; at Margate he ‘was handsomely entertained’, probably with the local ale, and then ‘lay at my deputy’s Captain Glover’.27 He visited Margate again in May 1672, and his diary entry for 21 May reads: ‘This towne much consists of Brewers of a certain heady Ale, and deale much in mault etc’.27 Samuel Pepys was also a fan of Northdown ale; in his diary for 1660 there are four entries mentioning the ale, three of which describe its effects:35

May 7 1660: This morning Captain Cuttance sent me 12 bottles of Margate ale. Three of them I drank presently with some friends in the Coach. . . . After I was in bed Mr Sheply and W. Howe came and sat in my cabin, where I gave them three bottles of Margate ale, and sat laughing and very merry, till almost one o’clock in the morning, and so good night.

August 27 1660: This morning comes one with a vessel of Northdown ale from Mr Pierce, the purser, to me.

September 13, 1660: Old East [a porter] comes to me in the morning with letters, and I did give him a bottle of Northdown ale, which made the poor man almost drunk.

October 26 1660: My father and Dr Thomas Pepys dined at my house, the last of whom I did almost fox with Margate ale.

In 1678 Henry Teonge, a naval chaplain, wrote in his diary about a dinner he had enjoyed on board ship: ‘we are fain to make shift with an excellent salad and eggs, a fillett of veal roasted, a grand dish of maccarell, and a large lobster; so hard is our fare at sea; and  all washed down with good Marget ale, March beer, and, last of all, a good bowl of punch’.36

Unfortunately, by the 1720s the trade in Northdown ale was one of the many trades in Margate in decline:4

About 40 Years ago, one ---- Prince of this place drove a great Trade here in brewing a particular Sort of Ale, which, from its being first brewed at a Place called North-down in this  Parish, went by the name of North-down Ale, and afterwards  was called Mergate Ale. But whether it is owing to the Art of brewing this liquor dying with the Inventor of it, or the humour of the Gentry and People altering to the liking the Pale North Country Ale better, the present brewers vend little or none of what they call by the Name of Mergate-Ale, which is a great disadvantage to their Trade.

The Mr Prince referred to by Lewis was probably John Prince, who is listed in the Parish Burial register as ‘brewer’. He died in 1687 and his probate inventory included ‘a hopp house’ with two bags of ‘hopps’.37

Although ale and beer were both brewed from malted barley, ale originally contained no hops and so was sweeter and fruitier than beer to which hops was added to balance out the sweetness of the malt, and to extend its life. Herbs or some other additive were frequently added to ale instead of hops to reduce its sweetness, but gradually hops came to be added even to ale, so that by 1773 the Encyclopaedia Britannica defined ale as ‘a fermented liquor obtained from an infusion of malt and differing only from beer in having a less proportion of hops’.38 The presence of hops in John Prince’s inventory suggests that Northdown Ale had at least some hops in it.

Despite the problems reported by Lewis, maltsters and brewers were amongst the wealthiest inhabitants of the town. An announcement in 1755 describes the advantageous marriage made by one brewer, Thomas Boreman:39

On Thursday, last, Mr Thomas Boreman, brewer at Margate (who succeeded the late Mr William Simmons, an eminent Brewer of that place) was married to Miss Ann Matson, daughter of Mr Robert Matson, farmer and grasier, a gentleman of known probity in East Kent, a very agreeable young lady, indow’d with the most valuable qualities for making them happy in that honourable state, with a fortune of £2000.

An advertisement of 1766 records the sale of the estate of a maltster, William Jarvis:40

To be sold . . . at the New Inn.

A freehold estate, lately the Property of Mr William Jarvis, Maltster, deceased, consisting of a large good Dwelling House containing three Parlours, three Chambers, two Shops, two Kitchens, two Cellars, &c. together with a large Malt-house, that [illegible] 20 Quarter per Week, also a Brewhouse, Stables, and other Out-houses, Yards, Gardens, &c. situated at the upper End of High-street, near the Church in Margate, very commodious, and capable of great Improvement.

As described in Chapter 1, many of Margate’s malthouses were located at Church hill, at the upper end of the High Street, where the Petken’s also had a brewhouse, and along King Street. The brewhouse in King Street owned by the Petkens was of particular significance as the purchase of this brewhouse by Francis Cobb in 1763 was the start of the family brewery which played such an important part in the rise of the Cobbs to wealth and power in Margate.

The development of Margate in the 1750s led to the gradual selloff of many of the malthouses located in prime positions in the town:41

For sale – a malthouse (with a cellar under it) and land of ca 14 perches, situated with a good prospect of the sea, being very convenient for a gentleman or tradesman to build on.

Particulars from Richard Henneker, at Margate.

The memory of these malt-houses survived for a long time; in 1793 Zechariah Cozens described how the High Street was originally ‘but a long dirty lane, consisting chiefly of malt-houses, herring-hangs, and the poor cottages of fishermen’.42 The reference to herring-hangs points to another industry which, together with fishing, was in decline in Margate in the 1720s: ‘As to the North-Sea Fishery, it has formerly been much used by the inhabitants of this island; but the little success they have met with of late Years, has very much discouraged them from following that Employment’.4 The shortage of fish, in turn, hit the trade in curing herrings:4

The Hanging and Drying of Herrings is of great Use to the Poor of this Town, a great many of whom are employed, in the season for them, to wash, salt, spit, and hang them. But this is a trade that would be still more beneficial to the Place, were these Herrings caught by the Inhabitants. Because there would then be more imployment for the Poor, many of which have little to do but in spinning and twisting of twine to make nets with, and knitting the Nets, &c. But about 40 Years ago, the fishery here went so much to decay, that they who depended on it, 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.

Unfortunately, the alternative jobs of spinning, twisting and knitting the fishing nets were poorly paid; in 1736 the rates of pay for spinning and twisting were, by the pound, 2d and 1d respectively, and knitting a herring net earned 1d per awine, a unit corresponding to 5 feet and 7 inches.43 Mending the nets earned 1s per day with victuals or 1s 3d per day with breakfast only.

Arthur Rowe estimated that there were about two dozen herring houses surviving in Margate at the end of the nineteenth century.44 Many of these herring houses were probably small as even in the seventeenth century only a few appeared in the Parish rate books, suggesting that many were private hangs, belonging to individuals, not in the trade. For the period 1716-1721 lists of herring hangs charged to the Poor Rates were kept in the Rate Books, as follows:44

[House = herring-hang]

1716    Thomas Huffam — for a house

            R. Prince — for a house

1717    Thomas Huffam  — for a house

            Brooman and Jewell — for six houses

            Richard Prince —  for a house

1718    Thomas Huffman — for Digge’s house

            Brooman and Jewell — for six houses

            Jarvis — for Richardson’s house

            Roger Whitehead — for ditto

1719    John Salter — for Mrs Digge’s house

            Thomas Huffam — for Digge’s house

            Thomas Huffam — for Norwood’s house

            Brooman and Jewell — for six houses

            Jarvis — for Richardson’s house

            Roger Whitehead — for Richardson’s house

            Thomas Sprackling — for Mrs Grant’s house

            Thomas Barker — for Mrs Jewell’s house

            John Stanner — for Grant’s house

1720    Thomas Huffam — for Skinner’s house

            Henry Sprackling — for Robert Smith’s house

            Thomas Sprackling — for Grant’s house

            Robert Gore — for Digge’s house

            Roger Whitehead — for Richardson’s house

            John Stanner — for Richardson’s house

            Valentine Jewell — for Mrs Jewell’s house

1721    Thomas Huffam — for Skinner’s house

            Thomas Huffam — for Digge’s house

            Henry Sprackling — for Robert Smith’s house

            John Stanner — for Digge’s house

            John Stanner — for Richardson’s house

            Valentine Jewell — for Mrs Jewell’s house

Lewis attributed the decline in fishing at Margate to the large amounts of sea weed (sea waur) taken from the sea for use on the land and for burning to make kelp, used in the glass making trade and for dyeing cloth.4 Collecting and burning sea waur had, in fact, been prohibited in May 1594 by the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, because the inhabitants ‘are thereby much annoyed in their health and greatly hindered in their fishing’.4,45 However, there were problems in enforcing the ban. In June 1616 John Thurloe of Margate petitioned Lord Zouch, Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, ‘that whereas his Lordship has prohibited the sale of a certain weed called kelkes (kelp) he may have licence to dispose of some which he has on hand, under certificate from the clothiers that it is good for dyeing cloth’.46 The same month Lord Zouch received an order from the Privy Council ‘for Sir Art. Ingram and others, contractors for the alum works, to have permission to burn and carry away the ashes of kelp or sea oare, anywhere within the Cinque Ports’.46 The following year Lord Zouch also received a petition from the inhabitants of St John’s requesting that ‘the burning of sea oare into kelp be continued among their poor neighbours, and beg permission for them [the poor neighbours] to sell the same, without limitation of price, and without the intermeddling of strangers’.47 The petition bore 23 signatures including those of the Deputy, William Fanting, and other local men of standing, including William Coppin, Paul Claybrook and Valentine Pettit. Whether or not the ban was ever formerly removed, it is clear that the collection of sea weed and its burning continued. Hasted reported in 1800 that ‘the same custom of taking it away at the free will of those who have a right so to do, has continued (and indeed there can be no reason why it should not) to the present time. The first Lord Conyngham, as Lord of Minster manor, brought an action against the inhabitants of the part of the island within that manor, for taking away this sea-woose from the shore without his licence; which claim was tried at the county assizes, but his lordship failed in the establishment of it’.45

Lewis described the process of burning the sea weed as it was practised in 1723:4

The poor Men, who get their Summer’s Livelihood by it, make several large Holes in the Ground either on the Sea Beach, or the Top of the Cliffs in which they burn the Waur, after having thoroughly dried it for that Purpose in the Sun, and made it fit for the Fire. In burning, it becomes a liquid Substance, which the Burners stir well together in the Holes wherein they burn it, and when they have done, they let it stand, cover’d over with dry Waur, till it is quite cold, when it looks very much like the Tallow-Chandlers Cakes of Greaves. By the Smoke of this burning Waur, which is very nauseous and offensive, is this Island rendered less pleasant than it would otherwise be in the Summer-time.

The ash produced by burning the sea weed, kelp ash, was used in the manufacture of glass; the availability of a local source of kelp ash could explain why a building for carrying on the glass trade was constructed in 1723.48 The production of kelp ash for the glass industry was continued in Margate until the 19th century, in Alkali Row.49

The main source of employment for seamen at Margate, other than in fishing, was on the hoys. The owners of the hoys were amongst the wealthiest of the Margate residents. The ownership of a hoy was frequently shared, as a form of insurance, limiting loss if a hoy was lost at sea. For example, in 1689 Thomas Bax left a ‘messuage, herring house, outhouse and garden’ in King Street to his nephew Thomas Bax together with ‘my sixteenth part of the Hoy or vessel whereof he is now master’, to his nephew John Bax ‘my sixteenth part of the Pinke or vessel whereof George Garling of Romansgate is master’ and ‘my sixteenth part of the Ketch or vessel whereof the said John Bax is now master’, to his nephew George Bax ‘my sixteenth part of the Pinke or vessel of which Ralph Constant is master’, to John Hawkes ‘my sixteenth part of the Pinke or vessel whereof John Brook is master’, and to John Lister, son of John Lister, ‘my sixteenth part of the Fisher Boat of which John Lister is master’.50 A Pinke, or Pink (derived from the Dutch word pincke), was a small ship with a narrow stern, square rigging, and a large cargo capacity. Their flat bottoms resulted in a shallow draught making them ideal for short-range voyages in protected channels. In 1743 George Bax left to Jeremiah Simmons ‘his eighth part of the yawl whereof John Calmer of Margate is now master together with my half part of the rowing boat whereof John Alderstone of Margate is now Master’, and to Henry Simmons, the son of Jeremiah Simmons, ‘my twenty fourth part of the Ireland fishing vessel whereof Nathaniel Bayly of Broadstairs is now master’.50

Seamen were also employed in foying, the ‘going off to ships with provisions, and to help them in distress &c’ and, for the less scrupulous, there were, of course, the opportunities presented by shipwrecks and smuggling.4 Shipwrecks were a significant source of income for the poor of Margate. The Margate Guide of 1770 described ‘the Acquisitions arising to the Common People, from what they consider as the greatest Blessing of Providence - a Shipwreck’.51 The Guide continued:

They call it a God-send, and, as such, make the most of it, and are thankful. Misfortunes of this kind happen so frequently, that they become a good Revenue to the Fishermen and Peasants who live along the Coast, and who seldom fail to improve them to the utmost advantage. This, however, must be owned in justice to them, that, whenever there is a bare possibility of preserving a Ship-wrecked Crew, they act in Contempt of Danger, and do readily often save the lives of Others, at the most imminent hazard of their own.

Smuggling was also a popular activity, and The Margate Guide described the importance of the many gapways along the Thanet coast:51

which bear the Name of the Gates or Stairs . . .  it may be necessary to say, that they are no other than sloping wagon-ways, which are cut through the high perpendicular Cliff, to the level of the water’s edge. Through these are brought up Sea-waur [sea weed] for Manure of Land, Flint, Gravel, Chalk, Pebbles, not to mention now and then a few Articles in the Way of private Trade.

Smuggling and the efforts of the government to suppress it are described in Chapter 5.

All in all, by the 1720s, with the old trades of malting, brewing and fishing in decline,   the fortunes of Margate were at a very low ebb. Lewis tells us that the pier had been washed away by the sea and that merchant vessels were being constructed of a tonnage too large to lay up in the harbour:4

The Trade of this poor Town is now very small, and would be considerably less, was it not for its being the Market of the whole Island, where the Inhabitants bring their Corn to send it to London by Hoys which go from hence every Week. By this Trade the Pier and Harbour are chiefly maintained . . . The Shipping Trade, (which once was pretty considerable, before the Harbour was so much washed away by the Sea, and the Ships built too large to lay up here) is now all removed to London, where the few Masters who live here lay up, victual, and refit their Vessels.

Lewis attributed the depressed state of the town and the high level of destitution largely to the loss of fishing: ‘It seems owing a good deal to this decay of the Fishing here, with the falling off of the foreign trade, and the removal of so many of the substantial Inhabitants on that Account, from this place to London, that the charge of the Poor is so much increased within these 80 Years past’.4

A clearer idea of the state of the town can be obtained from the records of the Overseers of the Poor as these show both the numbers of the poor and numbers of those wealthy enough to contribute to the parish poor rate. The poor rate was generally levied on property within a parish ‘from which a profit is derived’, including houses, land, and commercial properties such as herring hangs and malthouses, the rate being assessed on the basis of the rental income that would be obtained from a property if it were to be rented out (known as pound rates).52 Rates were also charged on ‘stock in trade’ owned by an inhabitant of the parish, since this was property from which a profit could be made.52 In their accounts the Overseers distinguished between the area around the church, Church hill, that around the harbour, referred to as Margate, and the outlying parts of the parish, Nash, Fleet and Lidden, Westbrook, Garlinge, Dandelyon, and Northdown. In 1717 the accounts list 49 people subject to the poor rate in Church hill and 118 in Margate, with 40 in the outlying parts, making 207 in total for the parish; the accounts also include 4 ‘out dwellers’, who did not reside in the parish but who were charged rates for property they owned in the parish.53 Lewis estimated that there were about 600 hundred families in the parish in 1723,4 suggesting that only about a third of the families were wealthy enough to pay the poor rate. A discussion of those receiving poor relief from the parish is provided in Chapter 4.

It is not possible from the surviving records to estimate the number of pauper families in the parish, but national figures suggest that this is unlikely to have been more than about 20 % and was probably significantly less.54 What this means is that about half of the families in the parish occupied a kind of middle ground, too poor to pay the poor rates, but not poor enough to be in receipt of poor relief. Exactly how the overseers decided where to draw the line is not known, but it was obviously in no one’s interest to make a poor family pay the poor rate if this pushed them into penury so that they became a charge on the parish. A clearer picture is available for 1801 where a full list of rateable values for properties in the parish is available.55 Properties were listed as either ‘not rated’ or ‘rated’, corresponding, respectively, to properties not charged a poor rate and those paying a poor rate; typically the annual poor rate was about 1s per pound of the rateable value. Generally, those in houses with a rateable value of less than £3 were not charged poor rates, but there was considerable flexibility. For example, widow Malpus in a house rated at £7 10s paid no rates, whereas John Stranack, in a house rated at £5, did pay rates. In 1801 rates were paid on 9141 properties in the parish (including commercial properties) and 1563 were exempt, corresponding to a total level of exemption of 15%; the number of families exempt from paying the poor rate in 1801 would have been higher than 15% as almost all commercial properties had to pay a poor rate, and would have been considerably higher in the early eighteenth century as the proportion of families paying rates in all parishes increased markedly between the beginning and end of the century.52

The relative wealth of Margate, Church hill and the outlying parts of the parish becomes clear from the poor rate payments.53 For the quarter year starting October 1716 the total poor rate collection for the parish was £59 16s 3d, of which the contribution from Margate was £14 17s 6d, from Church hill £5 19s 2d and from the outlying parts £38 19s 7½d. Clearly, the wealthiest families in the parish lived in the country parts, including Mr Covell who paid £8 2s for ‘Parsonage and Glebe Land’, Mr Taddy at Garlinge, who paid £1 8s 1½d, Mr Mockett at Dandelyon, who paid £2 3s 1½d, and Captain Omer at Northdown, who paid £1 11s 10½d. At Church hill the payments ranged from 9s for both Mr Lewis, the Vicar of St John’s, and Thomas Sprackling, a carpenter, to the 4½d paid by Mr Prince and by Robert Smith for two clover fields. At Margate individual payments were equally modest, one of the largest being the 9s 4½d paid by Roger Laming, a hoyman. The three chirurgeons [doctors] listed, Nicholas Churney, George Hammond and Edward Jarvis, paid 1s 10½d, 2s 3d and 3s, respectively. Henry Petkin, maltster and brewer, paid 6s, the same as paid by Thomas Lansell at Mill Lane Mill, Richard Prince paid 9d for his herring house and Thomas Huffam paid 4½d for his, but John Sackett had to pay 3s 9d for his malthouse. Rather surprising are the small sums paid by the local innkeepers, Mr Constant paying 1s 5d at the White Hart and Mr Wheatley 5s 3d at the Five Bells, with Mr Jarvis paying 4s at the King’s Head in 1719.

Helpfully the Overseers’ rate books have been annotated at some later date, possibly by Arthur Rowe, giving the occupations of about half of the inhabitants listed in the accounts.53 As an example, in 1717 the occupations listed for Church hill and Margate combined are as follows:




















Carter and Carrier









Coal Merchant















Herring House Keeper






Inn Keeper






Malster and/or Brewer















Rope Maker



Sail Maker









Tailor and Draper



Yeoman or farmer






Although only about a quarter of the families in Margate at the time are covered by this list, a number of points are clear. The first is the importance of brewing and malting, the hanging of herrings, and the trade of mariner and hoyman, with a total of 34 employed in these trades. It is noticeable how few are involved with food, with no baker and only one grocer, a reflection of the fact that most families baked at home and most houses had a garden attached where vegetables could be grown; the presence of three butchers in the list shows that most families bought their meat but the absence of a fishmonger suggests that fish were bought directly off the boats. Other foods not produced in the average house would include cheese, hence the presence of a cheesemonger in the town; the absence of dairymen suggests that milk was bought directly from local farmers. Those in the clothing trade include four shoemakers and five tailors and drapers; those offering more specialist services such as dress-making or wig-making only appeared in the town when holidaymakers started to arrive. The building trade is small, with just two bricklayers, one glazier and one mason; the presence of six carpenters suggests that many of the buildings in the town were of wood, but some of the carpenters were likely to have been involved in boat building and, indeed, the presence of one rope maker and one sail maker suggests that some boat building or repair went on in the town. The two blacksmiths would have been busy keeping the local horses shod, but could also have been involved in producing ironwork for the Pier and for local ships. The presence of only one barber suggests that few in the town were obsessed with their hair. Professional people in the list include one attorney, three chirurgeons [doctors], and the vicar of St John’s, together with six yeomen and farmers and four ‘gentlemen’.

Of the early attorneys in Margate we know a little about one, Daniel Butler.56,57 He was the son of Daniel Butler senior, also an attorney, and was born in the city of Worcester, from where he moved to Rye in Sussex and married, on March 12 1723, Mrs Mary Morris, believed to be of Worcester. Three years later, in 1726, he moved again, this time to Margate, and, in November 1726 placed an advertisement in the Kentish Post announcing his arrival:58

This is to give notice: That Mr Daniel Butler, who is an Attorney and serv’d his Clerkship at Rye, and has since Practised for himself, is now settled at Margate: Where all persons may have all manner of Business, within the Practise of an Attorney, Diligently, Carefully and Effectually done.

He keeps a day at Mr John Holman’s, being the Sign of the Red Lion in Ramsgate; where he may be spoke with every Tuesday, from Ten till Four in the afternoon.

He lived in the High Street in Margate, became the father of nine children, and died on March 22, 1756, at the age of fifty-nine.


Margate Doctors

Members of the medical profession were an important part of any town. The medical profession at this time has been described as ‘ the physicians (those who advised and prescribed), the surgeons (those who cut into the body and attended to the outer skin), and the apothecaries (those who supplied medicines)’.59 A true, consultant-like physician would have a medical degree (an MD) from the Universities of Oxford or Cambridge or from one of the many European Universities offering medical degrees. He would only prescribe a treatment; the treatment would actually be carried out by the surgeons and apothecaries. Gradually, however, a new type of physician emerged, more like our general practitioner, who had trained as a surgeon or apothecary but then obtained a licence to practice and ‘kept his surgeon's or apothecary's shop, run by apprentices, and did all the treatment himself’.60 Licenses to practice could be obtained from one of the Royal Colleges in London or from a bishop or archbishop; the Archbishop of Canterbury issued licences to practice medicine and surgery within his diocese of Canterbury, which included Margate.61 An episcopal license, as it was known, gave permission to practice without the benefit of a university education, for anyone judged by the diocesan authorities to be ‘of sober life and conversation’, ‘conformable to the law and doctrine of the Church of England’ and ‘well-skilled in the art [of medicine]’.62 Although it sounds strange to us that the church was able to award licenses to practise medicine, in practice decisions were usually taken on the basis of recommendations from medical practitioners or by examination before a panel of surgeons.62

Although a medical practitioner was legally required to hold a licence or a medical degree before they could charge for performing medical services, it has been estimated that at least forty per cent of Kentish practitioners had no such qualification. 59One of the duties of the parish Churchwardens was to report unlicensed practitioners to the local Archdeacon on one of his visitations to the parish. There are only two records of such reports being made at St John’s, both Simon Fuller and Francis Carpenter being reported in 1609 ‘for practising surgery without licence’, the Churchwardens adding that Francis Carpenter was ‘a smith by trade’.63 Of course, questions about paper qualifications would have been of little importance to the average patient; what really mattered was whether or not a practitioner did well for his patients. Of even less importance would have been the distinction between a man licensed to practice surgery and a physician with a medical degree; both would be described by their patients as ‘doctor’ as, indeed, would the many apothecaries who supplied both physic and advice. For simplicity, in what follows all medical practitioners will be referred to simply as doctors.

At the start of the 17th century in Kent few except the rich sought the help of trained medical practitioners, even when seriously ill; most had to rely on family or local help, but, by the 18th century trained medical practitioners were accessible to all but the destitute.64 Ian Mortimer has identified doctors practicing in the parish of St John’s in the 17th and beginning of the 18th centuries from probate accounts showing the purchase of medical assistance, usually on behalf of the seriously ill and dying. 59 These probate accounts were typically drawn up about a year after someone’s death, and so the exact date of the medical treatment is not known.

In the earliest of these probate records the ill who could afford medical help often received it from a doctor living outside the parish. The first record, in 1579, is for William Norwood, one of the rich Norwood family living in the parish of St John’s, whose estate had a gross value of £217.59 His probate account shows that Edward Anderson, a surgeon of Sandwich, had been paid ‘for the healinge of William Norwood one of the saide Wm Norwood’s sonnes lagges [legs]’ and ‘for the heling [healing] of Mary Norwood’s leg one of the said Wm’s children’; one is left wondering why both children should need treatment on their legs at the same time. Stephen Tomlyn, whose estate was worth £33, was treated in about 1616 by John Jacob, a physician of Sandwich, and at about the same time John Cranbrooke, a maltster of St John’s with an estate worth £125, was charged by Jasper Wolman of the Cranbrooke region for ‘physick administered . . .  in the time of his sickness’.  In about 1674 Richard Langley, a tailor with an estate of £221, was treated by Richard Pistall, a physician of Sandwich; in about 1688 Anne Coppin/Davis, who had an estate worth £516, was treated by John Peters an MD and physician of Canterbury; and in about 1692 Edward Bilting, a cordwainer with an estate of £32, was treated by William Carder of Sandwich.   

There were, however, medical practitioners in St John’s parish itself. Thomas Smith, a surgeon of St John’s received his diocesan licentiate in 1620 and in about 1636 charged Richard Mills, with an estate worth £32, ‘for physic given him in sickness’; Thomas Smith was buried in 1668.10 John Smith, another surgeon of St John’s received his diocesan licentiate in 1638 and in about 1668 charged William Philpott, a yeoman of St John’s with an estate worth £178, ‘for physick when the said deceased lay upon his death bed’. In 1667-9 John Smith was one of the correspondents of Sir Joseph Williamson, Under Secretary to the Secretary of State, and was ‘Deputy Clerk of the Passage, Margate’ (Chapter 6).65The role of ‘deputy clerk of the passage’ was to collect customs and other charges on passengers, as made clear in an account of a voyage from Dover to Calais in April 1663:66

Before we entered the packet-boat, we pay’d to the clerk of the passage four-pence custom for a trunk, and two-pence a portmanteau, four shillings and ten-pence  for transcribing a pass for four persons, and three shillings and six-pence for transcrib­ing a pass for two persons. To the water-bailiff one shilling; to the master of the ferry one shilling and six-pence a man; i.e. one shilling town-custom, and six-pence for himself. To the searcher, six-pence a man for writing down our names, and we gave him two shillings and six-pence because he did not search us.

John Smith was active during the second Dutch war, treating the sick and injured landed at Margate but complained in October 1666 to Sir Joseph Williamson that he had not been paid for his work:67

Statement by John Smith that in September 1665, and since, many sick and wounded men were set ashore at Margate, and no provision made for their reception; the commissioners’ agents at Deal and Dover refused to meddle with them, so he took charge of them, and was paid therefore when the Deal accounts were settled six months ago, and desired to continue his care, but Mr Talbor, agent, and Mr Bullock, surgeon of Dover, now forbid this; desires continuance in the employment, as during the last thirteen months; has no pay unless there be sick and wounded men there, Margate not being in the list for a surgeon; only three have died under his charge; has been vigilant and careful; thinks Talbor and Bullock raise false reports about him, because they have no benefit from him, he having little for himself.

John Smith also provided Williamson with snippets of information and local gossip (Appendix III), and, as we have seen, with Northdown Ale. Unfortunately, the gift of ale was not enough to get Smith the money he thought was due to him:68

Dec. 13. Margate.

John Smith to Williamson. Still put off from one to another about his charge in looking after the sick and wounded seamen. Esquire Evelyn says that Mr Bullock and Mr Talbor have received the money to pay him, but such clerks do mischief in slighting their betters, and giving trouble in waiting on them so often.

‘Esquire Evelyn’ (John Evelyn), writer of the famous diary, was, during the second Anglo-Dutch war, one of the four Commissioners ‘for taking care of sick and wounded seamen and for the care and protection of prisoners of war’.

In May 1667 John Smith again complained to Williamson: ‘Will be obliged to come to London again to see Squire Evelyn, as neither Mr Bullock nor Mr Talbor will take the writer’s accounts for curing the sick and wounded, and he can get no satisfaction’.69 In July 1667 he wrote again that he wanted ‘satisfaction from Squire Evelyn for caring for sick and wounded seamen’ and yet again in December 1667: ‘I beg you to write a few lines in my behalf to Squire Evelyn, for satisfaction for curing the sick and wounded from the King’s ships, landed at Margate, in the Isle of Thanet, for 15 months’.70,71 This time he also asked for a job: ‘I want an order to the farmers of customs for a surveyor or waiter’s place at Margate’.71  Finally, a letter from John Evelyn to Williamson explains why Smith was not getting what he wanted:72

J. Evelyn to Williamson. I have promised you 40 times to do Mr Smith all the right in my power, but Smith is never satisfied unless he can be his own carver, which cannot be without injury to the other officer. Smith was employed by a surgeon at Margate, and was to receive his recompense from him, and not from the Commissioners, who could not constitute a new and independent officer, being bound up to certain numbers and places by their instructions. Smith, not being satisfied with what the surgeon allowed him, appealed to the Commissioners; as they could not satisfy him, they advised him to submit it to arbitration, which was consented to; on the determination being sent, the Commissioners gave his former antagonist two orders on the Exchequer, with an injunction to allow Smith to the full of his agreement. I cannot make out how he now comes to trouble you or clamour against me, who am only one of the Commissioners, after the great pains that have been taken, and the lapse of time that has occurred; the only thing I can do is to stop the orders in the Exchequer, until our surgeon at Dover has given him new satisfaction. This is really hard, after arbitration and a silence of many months about it till now; but as I said, this I will do: si violandum in jus, violandum est amici causâ, or if you please imperii; for qui amicum habet, habet imperatorem.

In 1672 Smith was again causing problems. On March 18 Williamson received two letters, one from John Smith, and another from J. Knight, Chirurgeon General of the Forces, giving two very different views of the same occasion:73

John Smith to Williamson. Yesterday came ashore here about seventy wounded by order from Mr Knight and Mr Peirse, who are committed to my care and cure, from the St Michael, Resolution, and Gloucester.

Surgeon J. Knight to Williamson. Having set on shore the wounded at Deal, I returned to Margate, where I got the wounded on shore from the Resolution and Gloucester. I have employed here your friend Mr Smith, but find him so weak in the affair that I dare not leave this till I have put these miserable wretches in so good a condition that scarce his ignorance can injure them. The number of wounded in all are few more than a hundred, whom I hope five or six days may put in the condition I mention.

Knight wrote again to Williamson on March 20:74

J. Knight to Williamson. I am here on the hardest duty I was ever engaged in, making brick without straw, not imagining to have found this place so ill provided with medicaments and those capable of applying them, your friend Smith having valued himself formerly so much to us both. He is a very dog in the manger, full of litigation and strife, and has, on account of not being approved of, put this whole place into a mutiny, and this under pretensions of non-payment formerly, which, if wholly true, ought not at this time to have been revived upon the Commissioner being absent and assured to be here within a week. I have been obliged to hear all to comply with the necessity of his Majesty’s affairs, and hope all their complaints will prove rather the effect of passion than well grounded. However, Mr Evelyn being absent, I have offered them moneys that have most doubted, which has for the present somewhat pacified the entertainers of the wounded, though not with the same alacrity as on the two first days. I have supplied what was wanting from adjacent places, and hope in a few days to be at liberty for London, when or soon after many here may be in a condition to be moved to the hospitals there, though, in my opinion, his Majesty had better continue the charge here than expose them to the sight of London in the very infancy of the war — the main reason, indeed, why I hazarded this present trouble here, when with almost as little I might have sent them to Chatham and Rochester, where I was certain of their very good entertainment and accommodation.

That is the final report on John Smith as a doctor, but, as described in Chapter 5, John Smith, presumably the same man, was waiter and searcher with the Customs at Margate in 1676.

Hopefully the other doctors in Margate were more capable than John Smith. Ludovic Leese, a physician of St John’s, son of Arnold Lees of Faversham, was admitted to Cambridge in 1650, aged 18, and obtained his diocesan licentiate in 1661.59 He administered to a number of the wealthy of St John’s, including Thomas May, a brewer (estate of £140) in about 1665, John Poole, a bricklayer (estate of £84) in about 1668, Henry Pettit, a gentleman (estate of £1,536) in about 1669, and Frances Brooke (estate of £390) in about 1673, although Henry Pettit took the precaution of also being seen by William Jacob, a physician of Canterbury. Nicholas Chewney, the vicar of St John’s (estate of £187) also took the precaution of being seen by two doctors when he was dying in 1685, William Jacob again and another doctor, George Chambers. (Nicholas Chewney’s probate is dated 1686, but the parish registers show that he actually died in 1685.)  George Chambers, originally a surgeon of Canterbury could have moved to Thanet given the number of his Thanet patients; he was awarded a diocesan licentiate in 1662. George Chambers treated, as well as Nicholas Chewney, Samuel Stevens, a mariner (estate of £353) in about 1674, John Wilkins, a blacksmith (estate of £815) in about 1679, James Samwayes, a salesman (estate of £100) in about 1681, James Fasham, a fisherman (estate of £17) in about 1683, and Mary Culmer, a widow (estate of £122) in about 1691. John Watts, a surgeon of St John’s who received his diocesan licentiate in 1670, was also active; he treated James Fasham, a fisherman (estate of £17) in about 1683, Anne Wood, a widow (estate £1) in about 1685, Thomas Foster, a cordwainer (estate of £78) in about 1691, and John Philpot (estate of £69) in about 1704.

Edward Jarvis, probably from Guestling, Sussex, became a diocesan licentiate in 1704, and practised in Margate as a surgeon and apothecary. 59 He was paid by Elizabeth Read (estate of £129) in about 1716 ‘for physick by him administered to the said deceased and for curing the deceased’s lame leg’ and by Elizabeth Sackett (estate of £194) in about 1720 for ‘a debt due and owing unto him by the said deceased at her death for physick’. Also practicing in St John’s, although his qualifications are unknown, was John Violett who, in about 1635, was paid by Hester West, a widow of Birchington, ‘for phisick ministred to the said deceased in the tyme of her sicknes’.  Similarly the qualifications of Nicholas Chewney, probably the son of Nicholas Chewney, vicar of St John’s, are unknown; in about 1691 he was paid by Mary Culmer who was also treated by George Chambers, and in about 1692 he was paid by John Wyatt a butcher (estate of £122) and John Baker. 

Most of these doctors’ names also appear in the overseers’ accounts for the poor between 1666 and 1716.18 John Smith has a single entry in 1666, when he received 19s 1d for ‘cureing John Fassam ye last yeare’. A Dr Lees also appears in 1666, and could be the Ludovic Leese referred to above; he was paid 12s ‘for his paines and for Phisick he gave to Widdow Beard and others’  and 8s ‘for looking to some poore people in sickness’. From 1680 the most active of the doctors in treating the poor was George Chambers who appears in the overseers’ accounts some 14 times up to 1694, just a year before his death in 1695.18 Like most doctors he was paid both for ‘physick’ as well as for treating patients, as in 1681 when he was paid 2s ‘for physic for Markett and his wife’ and in 1687 when he received 11s for ‘medicines for Joh Beard’, so that he probably produced his own medicines. His charges seem to have been rather modest; in 1687 he received just 6d for bleeding William Hall’s wife. John Watts first appears in 1687 when he was paid 9s 3d ‘for medicines for Widdow Beane and John Beard’, and appears 17 times in the accounts, largely taking over from George Chambers after about 1690. In 1689 he seems to have been the main supplier of medicine to the poor, receiving £2 17s 6d ‘for medicaments for the poore’; he appears in the overseers’ accounts until 1705 and died in 1706.10 Nicholas Chewney also appeared frequently in the overseers’ accounts from 1689 to 1718 for attending the poor; he died in 1718. Edward Jarvis first appears in the accounts in 1700 but only makes about five appearances up to 1714. A Dr Checoney makes a single appearance in 1688, receiving 8s ‘for Phisick for the poore’.

Four doctors’ names appear in the overseers’ accounts for the poor between 1716 and 1727, Mr Checoney, Nicholas Chewney, George Hammond and Edward Jarvis.14 Two of these, Nicholas Chewney and Edward Jarvis have already been mentioned. Mr Checoney is probably the Dr Checoney who received a single payment in 1688; he appears in the account books between 1717 and 1718, and nothing more is known about him. Nicholas Chewney was practising in the parish in 1691 and died in July 1718 and was buried at St John’s. 59 George Hammond, originally from Whitstable, became a diocesan licentiate in 1704 and was known to have treated patients in Whitstable, St Lawrence, Thanet, and St John’s. 59 In 1726 George Hammond first appears in the accounts as ‘Dr Hammond’, suggesting that he had obtained an MD, but it is not known from where. Finally, Edward Jarvis died in 1732, aged 64 and was buried at St John’s. His house and shop in Margate were advertised for sale in August 1732:75

To be let

A very convenient dwelling house, four rooms on a floor, a good shop, and cellars, with a useful garden, large stable and hay loft thereunto belonging, and well supplied with fresh water, situate in the best part of Margate town, where Mr Edward Jarvis, surgeon and practicer of physick, lately deceas’d, dwelt and succeeded in that business for many years. Also the furniture of the shop, drugs, medicines, distill’d waters, and instruments in surgery, to be disposed of. Inquire of Mr David Turner of Margate aforesaid, or Mr Richard Chilton of Ramsgate. 

An inventory of Jarvis’s possessions shows that he had significant money (£164) invested in South Sea bonds, with other bonds and money lent on mortgage, totalling £813 5s 8d (Appendix XIII).76 In comparison, his household possessions were rather modest, with six silver tea spoons, and two large silver spoons, but with plates and dishes of pewter; in his stable he had a horse, but no carriage. He had his own herring house, containing two pickle herring barrels and one hundred and sixty one red herring barrels. His final send-off was, though, rather expensive; his funeral charges were listed as follows:

To Elizabeth Adrions as per bill — 9s

To Matthias Mummery as per bill — 14s 10s

To William Norwood as per bill — £2 2s

To John Brooman as per bill — £27 8s 6d

To George Phillpott as per bill — £1 13s

To Samuel Marks as per bill — £1 6s 6d

To Henry Petkin as per bill — 2s 8d

To laying the deceased forth and to several persons watching the corpse and attending the funeral — 11s

To Mr How for preaching the funeral sermon — £1 1s

To a messenger to invite Mr How to the funeral — 1s

In the overseers’ accounts book running from 1728 to 1738 there are the names of six doctors, Dr George Hammond, who appeared in the ear;ier accounts, Dr Watts (probably Dr John Watts), who appears in 1729, Henry Wallis, appearing in 1730, Dr George Slater, appearing in 1733, and Walter Plummer and Thomas Wheatley both first appearing in the accounts in 1735.14 The last payment to George Hammond occurred in 1728, suggesting that he either died or left Margate at about this time. The last entry for Henry Wallis appeared in 1733 and a payment of 9s 8d in 1734 ‘To Wid. Wallis as per bill for Tho. Wheatley looking after the Poor’ suggests that Henry Wallis had died in 1733-4 and that his practice had been taken over by Thomas Wheatley. Thomas Wheatley died in 1745, at the age of 35.62 Nothing is known about the medical backgrounds of Henry Wallis, Walter Plummer and Thomas Wheatley. John Watts was awarded his diocesan licentiate in 1670 and was known to be practising in Margate in 1683.62 George Slater was the first in a long line of Margate surgeons. Many of these doctors sold medicines as part of their job. The overseers’ accounts in 1732 record that 1s was paid to Dr Watts ‘for salve and balsom’ and that Mr Wallis was paid £2 8s 8d ‘for physic and looking after the poor’. In 1737 Thomas Wheatley was paid 11s ‘as per bill for physick for the poor.’

Ian Mortimer has estimated that there was on average about 1 doctor for every 400 inhabitants in the Canterbury diocese in this period so that it is probable that most, if not all, of the surgeons identified in the overseers’ accounts for the parish of St John’s worked both with the poor and with patients able to pay for their own treatments.62 Death rates in the parish suggest that they did a good job. In 1731 the following report appeared in the Kentish Post:77

It having been reported that at Margate the inhabitants are very sickly and abundance of them die, it’s thought proper to give the following account of the burials there  this last year, which according to the Parish register, have been as follows:

Strangers                                 3

Aged from 80 to 90                4

Aged from 70 to 80                8

Aged from 60 to 70                3

Aged from 50 to 60                9

Children under 8 years old      34

Died of consumption              2

Died of the small pox             5

            In all                            68


Margate Schoolteachers

Most of the Churchwardens at St John’s were able to sign their own names in the Churchwarden’s account books, suggesting that at least the more affluent members of the parish were literate. Lewis recorded in 1723 that there was a schoolroom in the parish church created by partitioning off the west end of the south aisle, with the implication that this was done before Lewis moved to the parish in 1706.4 By an Act of Parliament in 1563 schoolmasters were required to acknowledge on oath the royal supremacy, and in 1571 it was laid down that ‘it shall not be lawful for any to teach the Latin tongue or to instruct children, neither openly in the schools neither privately in any man’s house, but whom the bishop of that diocese hath allowed and to whom he hath given licence to teach under the seal of his office’.78 The licensing of schoolmasters is recorded in the archiepiscopal registers from 1568 to 1640, and a list of schoolmasters licensed to teach at St John’s Parish School is given in Appendix XIV, the first name being that of James ‘Valensis or Duvale’, in 1589.79 The next to appear in the register is Robert Jenkinson, who had been vicar at St John’s for 22 years by the time he received his licence to teach in 1599. There were probably a number of teachers covering the period 1589-1599; in 1591 John Alsoppe was reported to the Archdeacon on his visitation ‘for teaching [school] without licence in the Church of St John’s’, and in 1598 the Churchwardens reported Margaret Cates to the Archdeacon ‘for a railer and scolder, coming into the Church and misusing the schoolmaster in evil words, and throwing a stone at him in the Church, among the children’.63 Robert Jenkinson died in 1601 and, after a gap of two years, John Ellfreth received a license to teach in Margate. It is not known when he left but in 1619 he is recorded as teaching in the parish school of St James at Dover. Three men were licensed to teach at St John’s between 1604 and 1607, all three going on to become curates in other parishes. The Canterbury licensing books for schoolmasters end in 1640.

Other teachers in the parish were private teachers. In 1580 the Churchwardens complained to the Archdeacon that ‘Thomas Deal keepeth in his house a schoolmaster to teach, and also being a victualler suffereth him to remain in his house and not frequent Divine Service on the Sabbath Day.’ When Thomas Deal appeared before the Archdeacon’s Court he explained ‘that one Thomas Sandu came out of Flanders and was at Mr Henry Crispe’s house [Quex], and came from there to the defendant with whom he remained, and taught his sons from twelfth time [6 January, the Epiphany] until middle Lent, and during that time he came to the Church about two or three times, and where he is now he ca’not tell, for when he went away he never took leave’.63 In 1594 complaint was made ‘that one Mr Johnson teacheth children and keepeth school in the said parish, having no licence in that behalf’, in 1608 the complaint was that ‘there is one teacheth in the parish upon request made to him, but not meaning to continue his teaching unless he obtain licence from the Ordinary’, and in 1662 John Hiddens was reported ‘for teaching school without licence’. Some private teachers did go through the proper channels: in 1672 there is a record of a ‘request by Peter Johnson, Presbyterian, for a licence to teach at the houses of Robert Smith at Romonsgate (Ramsgate), in the Isle of Thanet, and of William Petkin at Margate’.80

It is not known which children attended the schoolroom in the Church and if any charge was made for schooling. In 1731 the Parish Overseers started to pay for schooling for poor children in the Poorhouse, although this seems to have been by unqualified teachers (Chapter 4).14 In 1731 payment was made for schooling just one poor boy, although the overseers did buy a primer for him, at a cost of 1s 3d. In 1732 and 1733 a series of widows were paid ‘for schooling for the poor children’. Since schooling was provided for the poorhouse children, it seems likely that some schooling was also provided for other children in the parish, although children from wealthier families would presumably have received private tutoring or would have attended one of the public schools such as King’s School, Canterbury, re-founded with a Royal Charter in 1541.


Margate Shops and Shopkeepers

Margate had few shops before the middle of the eighteenth century. The regulations governing the Pier and Harbour at Margate laid down that any ‘durable commodity’ such as salt, butter or cheese arriving by ship at Margate had to be offered for  sale to private individuals for three days before being offered to any trader (Chapter 2). For luxury goods people would have had to travel to Canterbury or London. As late as 1763 John Lyon, in his Short description of the Isle of Thanet, and particularly of the town of Margate, said:81

As Margate is only a large village, you cannot expect that it should be so regularly supplied with shops, as a market-town; not but that there are several good ones, and many very respectable tradesmen. This deficiency is, in great measure, supplied by the numerous articles to be found in most of them, and by their ready and quick communication with London by the hoys.

Of course, not all makers and retailers of goods would have needed shops to sell their products. For example, many tailors and their female equivalent, mantua-makers or dressmakers, could have worked from home, visiting their customers’ houses for fittings. The shops that there were would generally have contained little more than a counter and a few shelves, although in London things were starting to change; Daniel Defoe reported in 1726 that in London the ‘modern custom’ was for tradesmen to ‘lay out two-thirds of their fortune in fitting up their shops’ with ‘painting and gilding, fine shelves, shutters, boxes, glass doors, sashes, and the like’,30 but the level of trade in Margate would not have supported such sumptuous premises until wealthy visitors started to appear in the town in the middle of the eighteenth century.

  Trade Token Joseph Mackrith| Margate History
Figure 25 The trade token of Joseph Mackrith, showing a loaf of sugar, so that he was probably a grocer.

Some information about early shop keepers in Margate is provided by 17th century trade tokens. The upheaval of the civil war had led to a dire shortage of coins of small denomination and shopkeepers throughout the country responded by issuing trade tokens. These were usually made of lead, tin or copper, about the size of a modern 1p or 5p piece, and most had a value of a farthing or a halfpenny (Figure 25). If a customer bought something to the value of half a penny and offered a penny in payment, the shopkeeper would give them a token for the other half penny, which could be exchanged for goods at a later date. The tokens were banned after 1672 when the Royal Mint finally produced enough coins to meet the demand. Eight men and one woman are known to have issued tokens in Margate; George Friend, Stephen Greedier, Christian Hogben, Joseph Jewel, Richard Langley, Joseph Mackrith, Sarah Read, William Savage, and John Skinner (Appendix XV).82 Of these Stephen Greedier’s token displayed the Fishmongers’ arms, so that he was a fishmonger, Joseph Jewell’s token showed a cheese-knife so that he was a cheesemonger or grocer, Richard Langley’s token showed the Tallow Chandler’s arms, Joseph Mackrith’s token showed  a loaf of sugar, so that he was probably a grocer, and William Savage’s token showed the Grocers’ arms. Compared to the nine examples of trade tokens known for Margate there are just three for Ramsgate and one for Minster,82 showing the importance of Margate as a trading centre for the Isle of Thanet.

The list of occupations already given shows that most of the retailers in the town were retailers of food and clothing. Early butchers in Margate included Matthew Smith in the future Mill Lane and John Barnett in the future Market Place.83 These early butchers did much more than just serve their customers in a shop; the butcher was responsible for slaughtering, cutting up and dressing a carcase, and for selecting animals from the local farmers or at market. Most butcher’s shops would have been next to a slaughter house and yard where animals could be kept until they were slaughtered. The presence of slaughter houses in the middle of the town resulted in a not insignificant nuisance, which was not solved until slaughter houses were removed to the outside of the town following the implementation of the Health Acts of the middle nineteenth century.84

Arthur Rowe identified two grocers in Margate at the end of the seventeenth century from the goods they supplied to the poor house but there might well have been others not supplying the Poor House.18 One, Stephen Greedier, issued a token with a fisherman’s arms (see above), but supplied ‘soape and other Commodities’ to the Poorhouse in 1680, and so was likely to have been a grocer as well as a fishmonger. The second grocer identified by Arthur Rowe was Valentine Jewell; in a court case in 1716 concerning the sale of the Mansion House he was described as a grocer, aged 58.15 He was a man of some standing and wealth in Margate. In 1693 he lent money for the rebuilding of Margate Pier and he was at various times a Pier Warden, an Overseer of the Poor, and a Churchwarden; his son, Valentine Jewell junior, was to buy the White Hart Inn in 1729.

At this time grocers sold most of the raw materials needed by a household. According to The London Tradesman in 1747, grocers traded in ‘Tea, Sugar, Coffee, Chocolate, Raisins, Currants, Prunes, Figs, Almonds, Soap, Starch, Blues of all Sorts, etc. Some of them deal in Rums and Brandy, Oils, Pickles and several other Articles fit for a Kitchen and the Tea Table’.85 Another commentator, describing country grocers in the seventeenth century, said:82

In country places a grocer comprehended a most extensive dealer in hardware, gingerbread, bobbins, laces, haberdashery, mouse traps, curling tongs, candles, soap, bacon, pickles and every variety of grocery; besides which they sold small coins for money changing. Tea, the staple by which grocers now make good fortunes [i.e. in the 1850s], had not then obtained its footing, for this . . .  must then have been beyond the means of most sippers, seeing that in 1666 a pound of tea cost sixty shillings, and money was then at a far higher value than in the present century. The multifarious ramifications of these traders justified the application of the term grocers . . .  because they sold by the gross. Their more ancient name was Pepperers, from the drugs and spices they sold, a branch which was mostly abstracted from them . . .  by a seceding party who were incorporated by James I under the designation of Apothecaries.

The term mercer-grocer is sometimes found. A mercer was a merchant or trader in cloth, often fine cloth not produced locally, but many mercers also sold the kind of dry goods sold by grocers. Although this combination may seem rather strange, the idea was that someone trained to buy and sell one type of commodity  could readily apply that training to the buying and selling of another, so that a mercer could act as a grocer and vice versa.86

The trades of the mercer and of the draper were said to be ‘as like one another as two eggs’, except that the draper dealt mainly with male customers while the mercer ‘traficks most with the Ladies, and has a small Dash of their Effeminacy in his Constitution’.85 The draper dealt in wool and linen cloth whereas the mercer dealt in ‘Silks, Velvets, Brocades, and an innumerable Train of expensive Trifles, for the Ornament of the fair Sex: He must be a very polite Man, and skilled in all the Punctilio's of City-good-breeding; he ought, by no Means to be an aukward, clumsy  Fellow, such a Creature would turn the Lady’s Stomach In a Morning, when they go their Rounds, to tumble Silks they have no mind to buy. He must dress neatly, and affect a Court Air, however far distant he may live from St James’s. I know none so fit for that Branch of Business, as that nimble, dancing, talkative Nation the French; Our Mercer must have a great deal of the French man in his Manners, as well as a large Parcel of French Goods in his Shop’.85 In Margate the distinction between a mercer and a draper was probably less obvious that it was in London.

The token issued by William Savage some time before 1672 showed the Grocers’ Arms, so that he was probably a grocer. However, the inventory of a William Savage of Margate, who died in 1662, describes him as a merchant tailor. The inventory lists his shop as having ‘Counters and certain shelves’ and ‘a hatte press’. The stock in the shop was extensive including ‘woollen, linen, cloth, silk, buttons, stuffes, serges, Bayes, stockings’, worth in total £666 4s  8¾d  (Appendix XVI).87,88 The inventory of another merchant tailor, John Savage of St John’s, who died in 1645, provides more detail of his stock and makes it clear that a merchant tailor of the period could be both a draper and a tailor (Appendix XVI).87,88 As well as a large quantity of cloth, John Savage’s stock included waistcoats, ‘sutes’, shirts, short coats, ‘gurdles for seamen’ and ‘gurdles for men and boys’, and a variety of hats; his shop contained a ‘paire of plaine glasses’ and ‘counters, shelves and bockes’. It is possible that William Savage the merchant tailor was the son of John Savage the merchant tailor since the Parish Registers describe a William Savage, son of a John Savage, being baptised at St John’s in 1629.10 The deeds for the Tudor House in King Street show that it was once owned by a member of the Savage family, possibly the son of William Savage, and so the shop referred to above could have been located in the house now called the Tudor House.88

It has been estimated that in the eighteenth century about half of the shops in a typical provincial town would have sold wearing apparel, not very different from the position today.89 This was probably also true of Margate, since the majority of the shops for which we have any detailed information were mercers or drapers shops. An advertisement in the Daily Post, a London paper, in May 1736 advertised for sale the goods of the recently deceased Mr Laming, a Margate mercer:90

For sale by the Candle,

At the Marine Coffee-House in Birchin-Lane [London] . . . by Order of the Executors of Mr Laming, late of Margate, Mercer, deceas’d,

A large Parcel of  Mercery, Drapery and Haberdashery, viz, broad and narrow Stuffs, Calamancoes, Camblets, Inckle, Lustrings, Norwich Crapes, Persians, Poplins, Allopeens, Sarsnets, Bombazeens, narrow Mantuas, broad ditto, 5 8th ditto, rich Silk Shagreens, Sargedesoys, Birds-Eyes, narrow Damask, broad ditto, rich Brocades,  broad Ducapes, Half-Ell ditto, water’d Tabbies, unwater’d ditto, black Alamodes, rich black Mantuas, white Sarsnets, black velvets, colour’d ditto, Shaggs, broad Camblets, Hair ditto, Everlastings, colour’d Fustians, printed Cottons, ditto Linnens, dy’d Linnens, Dowlasses, Sheeting Hollands, Cambricks, Muslins, Canvas, Buckrums, a large Parcel of Stays, Boddice, Stomachers, Silk Laceing, Ferrit Laces, Thread ditto, Maidstone Thread, Guilders Thread, whited-brown ditto, Inland ditto, Holland Tapes, Filleting, Gartering, Ribands, Silk Quality, Ferriting, Quality Binding, Silk Handkerchiefs, ditto Sarsner, Manchester Tapes, Boot-Strapings, Sealing Thread, Felliring Thread, Packthread, white Thread Buttons, Metal ditto, Belladine Silk, Mohair and Silk Twist, a Gold chased watch,  a Diamond Ring, &c.

The Goods above mentioned are to be seen in the Grand Sale Warehouse at Leathersellers-Hall in Little St Hellens, within Bishopsgate, from this Morning till the Time of Sale.

John Bell, Broker.

This advertisement probably refers to William Laming [or Lamming] who died in 1735, and who is described in the parish registers as ‘shopkeeper’.10 He is recorded as supplying goods to the poor of the parish, for example a ‘shirt and worsted for Wellens boy’ in 1723.14

Another local draper was Michael Traps, more usually spelt Trapps; in 1736 he advertised that he had received a fresh stock of material from London:91

Sold by Michal Traps in Margate.

All sorts of printed linens and cottons, strip’d Cottons and Hollands, and all sorts of Cotton and Linnen Checks, and white Linnens and Handkerchiefs, with all sorts of Broad Cloth, Druggets, Kerseys, Plains, Shalloons, Serges &c.

N.B. He has a choice Fresh Stock of the above-mention’d Goods from London.

A few weeks later he advertised that he could now rent out furnishings for funerals, a service previously provided by William Laming:92

This is to give notice that Michael Trapps of Margate has furnished himself for serving Funerals the same as Mr William Laming, deceased, of Margate did.

N.B.  He hath the three Velvet Palls and Cloth Palls as did belong unto the said Mr William Laming, &c.

Michael Trapp was later to become a Margate schoolmaster and Parish Clerk and, in 1747, the master of the Posthouse (Chapter 1).14

Not to be outdone, John Gore let it be known that he was also in the funeral furnishing business:93

John Gore of Margate in Thanett, undertakes to furnish Funerals with all sorts of Funeral Furniture at reasonable rates.

N.B. He has a new Velvet Pall, which he letts at six shillings; likewise a new fine Cloth Pall which he letts at two shillings.

John Gore, like many shop keepers of the time, had many other lines of business, including the sale of patent medicines:94

Dr ROBERTS’S Great Tincture.

Being the most Sovereign and Safe Medicine in the World for those dolorous Pains, the Griping of the Guts, whether the Dry Gripes, or accompanied with a Looseness and Vomiting . . . Also his most Famous Purging Sugar Plumbs.

To be had of . . . Mr John Gore at Margate.

John Gore was an Overseer of the Poor in 1735, and supplied cloth to the Poor House.14

More informative was an advertisement in 1739 for the stock of Stephen Bennet, a tailor and draper, with a shop ‘near the Pier’:95

To be sold under prime cost, at the shop late of Stephen Bennet, Taylor and Draper, near the Pier at Margate — stock of shop, consisting of broad and narrow cloths, drabs, serges, druggets, kerseys, fearnaughts, cottons, swan-skin and bays, flannels, shags, calimancoes, camblets . . . damask table linen, sheeting . . . men and women’s hats.

Arthur Rowe identified a number of others in Margate who, based on their supplies to the poor, were likely to have been mercers or drapers, including John Brooman who died some time before 1680, to be succeeded in the trade by his widow, and then by his son, also named John Brooman, and Dudley Diggs, a man of some wealth as he was one of those who lent money for the repair of Margate Pier in 1693.18,96