Margate in Maps and Pictures

compiled by Anthony Lee

Margate Prints: Introduction

Click on pictures for a larger image

Types of Print
Relief prints - Wood engraving
Intaglio prints
Planographic prints- lithography
Coloured prints
A History of Margate Prints
The period to 1780
London publishers 1770-1860
Local publishers
Steel line-engraved vignettes, 1840-1875
Coloured prints
Late Victorian Leporello View Albums
Books and magazines


Prints of Margate show us what Margate was like in the period before photography. Prints come in many types, wood prints, engravings, etchings, mezzotints, lithographs, and aquatints, coloured and uncoloured. They also come in many sizes, from magnificent prints with images 24 inches by 19 inches, such as that of the Victory Steam Yacht entering Margate Harbour, or 20 inches by 13 ½ inches, such as the two aquatints Margate from the Pier and Margate with the Arrival of the Hoy by Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg, all the way down to books of simple steel engravings with images 4 inches by 3 inches. The impact of these prints on a computer monitor cannot, of course, match that of looking at an original, large, hand-coloured print on handmade paper. But seeing small woodcuts and engravings at more than life size on the computer, we must marvel at the skill and patience of the craftsmen who produced them.

Although some prints are dated, the dates do need to be treated with caution; plates were sometimes modified at a later date, without any change to the date on the plate.

A good example is provided by the steel-line engraved vignette The Fort, from the Jetty, Margate published by Rock and Co., and dated 27 May 1868.

Fort, from the Jetty, 27 May 1868
Fort, from the Jetty, 27 May 1868

The problem is that a second version of the same print exists, with the same date of 27 May 1868, but this time showing the impressive “Aquarium and Marine Polytechnic” building to the right of the print, on a site that, until recently, was the Rendezvous Car Park.

This building, designed by Alfred Bedborough, went through several changes of design and name, but by 1877, when this illustration of the proposed building was published in The Builder, [The Builder, Sept. 8 1877] it was known as the “Margate Skating Rink, Baths, and Aquarium.”

THE MARGATE  SKATING-RINK,  BATHS, AND AQUARIUM, as proposed  - Mr Bedborough, Architect 1877

In fact none of these grand buildings were ever built, the final Marine Palace built on the site actually being a single brick building flanked by rather flimsy galvanised iron structures. It seems that Rock, trying to keep up to date, simply added the building to their existing prints, taking the picture from a plan of the proposed building.

The accuracy of a print also relied, of course, on the artistic skills of those involved in its creation. An example is provided by one of the sights of early Margate, the unusual horizontal mill on the Fort. This appears in the background of a number of prints of Margate but, as shown here for two prints, The Pier Head, Margate, and Margate, from the Kingsgate Road, with significantly different shapes.

Detail from The Pier Head, Margate

Detail from Margate, from the Kingsgate Road

There is also the matter of artistic license. In 1859 Florence Anne Claxton produced a watercolour-over-pencil sketch of the lower Jetty, Margate, as a study for the larger work engraved for The Illustrated London News of October 1 1859. Comparing the two shows that the group on the right in the published engraving is a mirror image of that in the original sketch.

Watercolour by Florence Anne Claxton

Prints are invaluable for the picture they give us of early Margate, but they are not totally to be trusted.

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