'Postcards' from Ramsgate
A sneak preview of the historic area assessment behind the forthcoming publication Ramsgate: the town and its seaside heritage.
One of the first round of Heritage Action Zones to be nominated in 2017, Ramsgate’s HAZ aims to bring about the sustainable regeneration of the town using its rich and diverse historic environment as a catalyst.
One of Historic England’s contributions to the HAZ is a programme of applied research to help the HAZ team better understand the town and its historic makeup. It includes an historic area assessment of the town which will feed into an accessible publication, Ramsgate: the town and its seaside heritage, to be published in 2020.
Here architectural investigator Geraint Franklin and photographer Chris Redgrave talk about their behind-the–scenes investigation and photography at Ramsgate.
The Royal Harbour
Ramsgate’s royal harbour is its most significant single heritage asset and crucial to the town’s future prosperity.
This view shows a multi-phase maritime landscape including the 18th century inner basin; Military Road (built about 1805 to facilitate embarkations in the Napoleonic Wars); the Sailors’ Home and Church; Smack Boys’ Home; and the arches of Royal Parade. This image makes the point that it is still very much a working harbour: in great demand as a leisure marina and maritime hub.
Ramsgate is a very visually rewarding place to photograph and the harbour presents many chances to frame the architecture with the quayside infrastructure. The gantry crane in this picture is acting as a kind of portal to the Sailors' Church with Nelson Crescent just visible above the harbour.
Ramsgate boasts some spectacular and overlooked architecture. Here is East Court, of 1889-90 by Ernest George and Harold Peto, which takes the Victorian vernacular revival style on a trip to the seaside. It was upgraded from grade II to grade II* by Historic England in 2019. The letters 'WHW' on the rainwater head refers to their client, the businessman and philanthropist William Henry Wills, first Baron Winterstoke. He bequeathed the house to his adoptive niece, Dame Janet Stancomb-Wills, Ramsgate’s benefactor and first women mayor.
This beautiful house has an incredible colour and texture to the façade. It is of course important to photograph general views but sometimes the essence of a building can be conveyed in a detail such as this one, where we can see the texture of the tiles but also the quality and rhythm of the design.
St Augustine's Church
This was a challenging and mysterious interior to photograph. It is a very dark space, which is the way it is meant to be experienced. The challenge of the photographer is to light it enough to convey enough architectural information to the viewer but also maintain as much of atmosphere as possible.
St Augustine’s is a Roman Catholic church, founded, designed and funded by A W N Pugin (1812–52), the pioneering architect of the Gothic Revival. It was intended as the cornerstone of a Catholic community which included Pugin’s home, The Grange. Dilapidated and frequently closed, the church was restored over five years with a Heritage Lottery grant and today hosts a visitors’ centre and St Augustine’s shrine. Meanwhile The Grange and the neighbouring St Edward’s Presbytery was painstakingly restored by the Landmark Trust and are available all year round as holiday lets.
In the 1890s the newly-formed Borough of Ramsgate decided to construct two new carriageways between the harbour and the east and west cliffs. Shown here is the sinuous Madeira Walk which leads from Harbour Parade to Albion Place. The development incorporates Pulhamite artificial rockwork erected by James Pulham & Son, modelled to resemble geological strata. The colourful houses in the background front Albion Hill, the old route to the east cliff.
The Pulhamite fake stone structures all over this part of Ramsgate act as a kind of rugged plinth and foil to the Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian architecture that sits above them.
The Artillery Arms
The stained glass in this pub is really quite something and in photographing it I was keen to remove the usual modern beer mats and pub paraphernalia, so the windows could be seen with fewer distractions. This picture also reminds me of the kindness Geraint and I have experienced from helpful Ramsgate residents and businesses in having access to these wonderful buildings.
This is the family-run The Artillery Arms, at the end of Royal Road. Listed at grade II, it began life as a beerhouse and gained its spirit licence in 1869. Its attractive stained glass windows perhaps allude to Ramsgate’s military heritage as a port of embarkation during the French wars. They might have been installed in 1871 as part of a programme of alterations and additions made by the publican, J.D. Peal.
The Montefiore Synagogue
Ramsgate has been home to a variety of minority faith communities. Sir Moses Montefiore (1784–1885) settled in Ramsgate in the 1830s, and his residence on the east cliff became the focus for a thriving Jewish community. In 1831 he commissioned David Mocatta to design this Neoclassical synagogue.
This photograph is by former HE photographer Peter Williams. Just visible to the left is the mausoleum of Sir Moses and Judith, which was erected in 1864. The site has been chosen by Jewish Heritage UK as one of the top ten synagogues of Britain.
The Duke of Kent pub
It has been important to record all aspects of the historic environment in Ramsgate as part of the Heritage Action Zone work, and the condition of this pub illustrates how vulnerable buildings can be when they are vacant.
Whatever happens to the building at least there will always be a set of pictures of it at the Historic England Archive.
The historic area assessment documents the town at a transitional moment. This eclectic and rather forlorn building is the former Duke of Kent pub, of 1938 by W Everard Healey for the Ramsgate brewer Tomson and Wotton. It was described at the time as a ‘Dutch-cum-Tudor barn’ and an example of ‘a unique Continental style’. The pub, on a prominent site in King Street, has been derelict for several years and faces probable redevelopment.
About the authors
Architectural Investigator at Historic England
Geraint joined English Heritage in 2005, and has worked on a variety of thematic and place-based investigation projects. He is the author of Historic England’s Understanding Place: Historic Area Assessments (2017); Introduction to Heritage Assets: Post-Modern Architecture (2017) and Post-War Public Art: Protection, Care and Conservation (2016). Geraint specialises in British architecture after 1945 and his publications include Howell Killick Partridge & Amis (2017) and Post-Modern Buildings in Britain (2017, with Elain Harwood). He is currently writing a study of the architect John Outram.
Photographer at Historic England
Chris is an architectural photographer who has been with Historic England since late 2012. His work involves working across the organisation, visually supporting Listing and Planning cases, research projects, Heritage at Risk, Heritage Action Zones and numerous other projects including ‘I Am London’, which can currently be seen at five different London Underground stations. Published work includes many Historic England publications, the Twentieth Century Architect Series and Survey of London South East Marylebone, which recently won the Colvin Prize. Chris has also been a Visiting Lecturer at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL on the 'Surveying and Recording of Cities' course.
Franklin, G., Dermott, N. and Brodie, A. forthcoming Ramsgate: the Town and its Seaside Heritage. Historic England / Liverpool University Press