A former school, now offices and Registry Office, designed by Alfred Robert Pite in 1881 for the Reverend George Simmers.
Reasons for Designation
Aberdeen House, 68 Ellington Road is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* the building is well-designed both functionally and aesthetically to provide a boarding school which has many of the qualities of a domestic environment;
* the alterations that have occurred do not disguise its original plan and form.
* an interesting example of a purpose-built boarding school with integrated accommodation for the staff and students.
Ramsgate is situated on the east coast of the Isle of Thanet, facing France and the Low Countries. Originating as a fishing village within the medieval parish of St Laurence, Ramsgate’s development from the C16 was driven by the strategic importance of its coastal port. Ramsgate became associated with the Cinque Ports as a limb of Sandwich from the C14. Late C17 trade with Russia and the Baltic resulted in a wave of investment and rebuilding in the town. In 1749 the construction of a harbour of refuge from storms in the North Sea and Channel was approved, and a cross wall and inner basin were completed in 1779 to the design of John Smeaton. Later improvements included a lighthouse of 1794-1795 by Samuel Wyatt and a clock house of 1817 by Wyatt and George Louch.
From the mid-C18 Ramsgate became increasingly popular as a seaside resort, its expansion being accelerated by road improvements and faster sea passage offered by hoys, packets and steamers. An assembly room, warm water baths, subscription libraries and places of worship were joined by new streets such as Effingham Street and speculative crescents and squares on the East and West Cliffs such as Albion Place of around 1791-1798 and Nelson Crescent of around 1800-1805. During the Napoleonic Wars Ramsgate became a busy garrison town and a major port of embarkation. Ramsgate’s importance in the 1820s is attested by its patronage by the British and European royal families and the creation of a separate parish by Act of Parliament, served by the large Church of St George (1824-1827). The harbour is the only one in the British Isles which has the designation ‘Royal’, granted by George IV.
The arrival of the South Eastern Railway’s branch line in 1846 opened up Ramsgate to mass tourism and popular culture, bringing a range of inexpensive, lively resort facilities intended for the sorts of middle- and working-class holidaymakers depicted in WP Frith’s painting ‘Ramsgate Sands’ of 1854 (Royal Collection). Wealthier visitors were accommodated at a respectable distance from the town in developments such as E W Pugin’s Granville Hotel of 1867-1869. Competition with other Kentish resorts stimulated a series of large-scale improvements in the late-C19 and early-C20 including the construction of Royal Parade and landscaped stairs and pathways at the eastern and western ends of the seafront to join the upper promenades to the Undercliff walks. New schools, hospitals and services were also built. The thriving town attracted diverse faith communities; Moses Montefiore founded a synagogue and a religious college at East Cliff Lodge, while AWN Pugin St Augustine’s Church and the Grange as part of an intended Catholic community on the West Cliff.
In 1940 the harbour was the point of return for many of the small boats involved in the evacuation from Dunkirk and war-time precautions included the digging of extensive air raid shelter tunnels in the chalk beneath the town. Ramsgate remained a popular holiday destination until the advent of cheap foreign travel in the post-war decades. Falling visitor numbers were exacerbated by the decline of the town’s small trades and industries, fishing and boat-building. However, a ferry and hovercraft port and the large marina created in the inner harbour in the 1970s have continued to bring life to the area.
Aberdeen House was built as a school to the designs of Alfred Robert Pite for the Reverend George Simmers. He continued to be its head until his death in 1918. Simmers was a licensed preacher who led services at St Luke's Ramsgate and was honorary curate to Christ Church, Ramsgate. The Builder records that 'The instructions given to the architect were to provide a school house so thoroughly domesticated in its arrangements that the dominant ideas to the boys should be that of a comfortable home with all its accessories. The general distribution of the rooms was therefore made on the basis of a gentleman's house with all its comfortable appurtenances. The billiard room, fairly proportioned, was appropriated for the school and classroom, with cloistered approach and lavatory adjoining. The spacious bedrooms became small dormitories with bathrooms and water closets located in each wing.' The house was constructed by the local builders, Martin of Ramsgate for £2,900. The building was converted to a registry office in 1936 and continues as that.
A former school, now offices and a Registry Office, designed about 1880 by Alfred Robert Pite for Reverend George Simmers and constructed by Martin's of Ramsgate, in a vernacular revival style.
MATERIALS and PLAN: bands of Gault and red brick laid in Flemish bond with a tile roof and stone and timber dressings and decoration. The building has two storeys with basement and attic. The site turns the corner between Ellington Road and South Eastern Road. Plans published in The Builder in 1882 (see SOURCES) show no clear divide between the master's house and the boys' accommodation, except for the cloister and lavatories adjacent to the schoolroom on the eastern side. The service areas were to the west of the entry and the dining room, drawing room and staircase hall formed the centre of the building.
EXTERIOR: the entrance front faces south west and has a projecting portion to the left and a lower, recessed portion at right which connects with the earlier terrace of houses to its south east. The left-hand portion has a prominent gabled bay to its centre with a canted bay window at ground floor level with a stone surround. Above this are two, first-floor sash windows and there is a three-light casement to the attic. The gable has prominent, carved bargeboards with a sceptre finial. Immediately to the left is a gabled porch with a moulded Gothic arch and timber bargeboards and above this is a two-light casement with gabled head and fishscale hanging tiles. At left again is a projecting chimney stack which has a moulded brick head and a stone, shield-shaped plaque at first floor level reading: ‘ABERDEEN / HOUSE / 1880’. To the right is a bay with a square bay window at ground floor level with stone surround and hipped roof. Above this are two sashes with segmental heads. The half-hipped gable roof has decorative bargeboards. The recessed portion at right has brickwork to the ground floor and an overhanging, timber-framed first floor. An arched doorway with moulded stone surround is at left of centre and flanked by three-light windows with arched tracery heads. The first floor has small framing with arched braces and casements.
The north-western flank has a gabled wing at right with timber framing and decorative bargeboards to the gable. At left is a projecting wing with central chimneystack rising into the gable. The projecting ground-floor outshut, which covers two sides of this wing, has a hipped roof and tile hanging to its upper walls.
The rear has three, gabled projections at left and a two-bay block to the right. Ground floor sash windows have cambered heads and the gables are timber framed with decorative bargeboards, as before.
INTERIOR: the plan of the school building appears to remain as originally designed, but with inserted fire doors and the removal of some fireplace surrounds. The dogleg staircase has chamfered newels with inset quatrefoil panels and knops and pendant bosses. Balustrade panels to the lower flights have quatrefoil and trefoil cut-outs and chamfered balusters with a moulded hardwood handrail. The attic flights have heavy, turned balusters. The back stairs have similar newels with stick balusters. Six-panel doors at ground floor level and four panel doors to the first floor all appear to be original. Deep fitted cupboards in the attic corridor also appear to date from the period as a school.