Saturday, 21 January 2017

Out of the harbour and into the high street, Margate and Ramsgate around 1904

A bit of an experiment here to see how well these will expand in blogger and facebook, the long ones I mean and particularly how much facebook cuts off. I am on one of my social media learning curves. 

A long Saturday in my bookshop, lots of local history questions and books sold so no complicated blog post from me.  

Friday, 20 January 2017

No plan, no good and some Ramsgate fishing industry circa 1900 pictures.

I have had the Thanet Local Plan follow-up email, of course like so many things related to local politics I only have a vague idea of what the plan is and how it impacts on our lives here in Thanet.

The local plan sets out local planning policies and identifies how land is used, determining what will be built where, says IT. So this is an important document. Here in Thanet I think part of the plan has been that we should have air and sea transport hubs. To a greater or lesser extent this hasn’t entirely worked out and the tangled web goes on, both with The Port of Ramsgate and Manston Airport.

I think the vision here was a busy passenger ferry with day trips and European holiday business combined with a busy passenger airport with holiday and business flights, both employing lots of local people and enhancing the local economy.

The down side of this is it opens the door to the side of the transport business that no one else wants, animal exports being the most high profile. Airport and port activity where the local environmental damage, reduction in local people’s life expectancy and so on coming a close second.  

So the reality has been bankruptcies, unpaid debts to councils, people losing their holidays, much less positive impact on the local economy than one would have hoped for. 

Underlying all of this was the tangle the council got into over Manston Airport and trying to buy it using a compulsory purchase order financed by a third party, complicated by many of the current councillors getting elected on the remit of saving the airport.

Anyway the council commissioned an “independent” report which concluded the airport was a non starter. This leaves the council with the Parkway Station and The Port of Ramsgate, which I though all integrated with the airport in some sort of transport plan.

I think the other very big factor in all of this is that central government have told our local government that they have to allocate parts of Thanet for building 17,140 dwellings.

This produces a bit of a strange edge to the “not in my back yard” approach, inasmuch as they have to go somewhere in Thanet.

Anyway I did have a bit of a go at responding to the local plan consultation so may have a bit of a go at responding to the revisions. I suppose theoretically doing my civic duty could stop at voting in the council elections, which I did although I am not sure now if anyone I voted for got elected, or if I have any councillors who would represent – or even listen to my views.

The first council consultation page is, which has lovely picture of – local people engaging in their civil duty.

It tells me that there will be public engagement session in, Thanet Gateway Meeting Room x, which I think means the council at Cecil Square Margate, Kent innovation centre Broadstairs, which I think means near Asda on Northwood Road and at Ramsgate Town Council, which I know means the Custom House in Ramsgate.

The next page seems to be the hard one with lots of documents to consider and the option of filling in online boxes with text.

A tricky business these online consultations as one lacks confidence that what one is filling out is going somewhere and unlike a physical form, it’s difficult to run through it first to see where it is leading.

Here is the table showing where the council think the seventeen thousand flats and houses should be allowed to go, or is it go.

Strategic Sites (sites of 500+ dwellings)

Birchington on Sea
Westgate on Sea
Manston Green
Land at Manston Court/Haine Road
Former Airport Site
Other Housing Sites/Areas

Land at Manston Road/Shottendane Road
Margate & Cliftonville
Broadstairs & St Peters
Birchington on Sea
Westgate on Sea
Rural Settlements
Windfall Sites (based on 225 units per year, discounted for years 1-3 to avoid double counting)
Completed since 2011
Extant planning permissions
Empty Properties

So do I try to persuade blog readers to take part in the consultation? Will it make any difference to the outcome?  The whole business of local council consultations is a strange one, for one thing I don’t think you have to live in the area, be a council taxpayer or business ratepayer to contribute to them.

I have never been able to find out from the council if and how locals input to their petition scheme and consultations are weighted. The national government seems to think local council’s will consult local people and it’s the local’s views that should be important. The council seems to think anyone anywhere in the world should be able to take part and the internet makes this very easy. 

I have sneaky feeling that the council are looking for anything to justify the way they think they want to go and a lot of this is more about them keeping up appearances than improving the lot of Thanet.

I think on the whole the answer is yes please have a go at the council consultations, I think local government is slowly moving towards consulting and while they have a long way to go in making the online consultation work effectively and properly, but I also think we the locals need practice with this consultation process. So if you come away from doing the online consultation with the feeling that you messed it up I wouldn't worry too much and see it as part of the learning curve. 

My own feelings are that we are probably in the very early stages of something to do with the way what we call democracy works. We have had what we now regard as democracy for a relatively short time, remembering that it is less that 100 years since the right to vote was granted to women over the age of 30 who were householders, the wives of householders, occupiers of property with an annual rent of £5 and less than 90 years women were granted votes on the same terms as men and most of the property qualifications were dropped for both sexes.

This is all down to various bits of representation of the people legislation, which is in some sense to do with us not being able to have a referendum about every issue, but with the internet there is also some sense that we don’t need representatives to engage in the decision making process particularly at a local level.

Apologies if necessary, I often find writing things down helps to clarify them. On to the world of bookselling, where I have spent my day, here is the link to the books that went out in my bookshop today

I find that apart from the ongoing conversations about local history in the bookshop, there is much more interest amongst my customers about the whole business of physical books and bookshops.

I think there is a certain amount of concern that leisure is becoming so focused on either social media or eating and drinking. I also think I am detecting another shift in what people are choosing to read on the screen and what people are choosing to read on paper. It’s a subtle business and certainly not one I understand that well but it does nonetheless exist and I think it will be years before it settles – if it ever does. If nothing else the attempts mimicking paper by technology are an indicator of where I am coming from.

On the whole my bookshop is doing fairly well at the moment, with non fiction I think the focus is on areas where the information just isn’t easily available online, this is partly a wood from the trees thing but the main issue is still here. The main issue being the browse followed by buying the information. With books in a bookshop this is straightforward, you decide to take up woodturning, so you go to the bookshop, look at the books on woodturning, where you can see the whole content of each book by looking through it, you then either decide to buy one of the books or you don’t. with the internet there is the information which is just there for free, which you can just look at, then there are the e-books and other downloads for technology and of course you can’t look at all of them – the whole book – or it wouldn’t be possible to sell them. With the fiction it’s much more a lose toys in the attic thing, some people’s brains only being able to handle some things in some formats and paper is very much still one of the formats. As most people are still learning to read using paper books I see this one running and running.         

It was a long old ramble wasn't it, so here are the old Ramsgate fishing industry pictures

 Ramsgate from the West Pier with fishing smacks I think this is about 1900
 Ramsgate Clockhouse with the buildings still on the back but the Millitary Road arches showing in the distance so again around 1900
once again Ramsgate sailing fishing smacks and not steam trawlers but the Military Road arches that were built in the 1890s so around 1900

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

More old Ramsgate fishing smack pictures and the complicated art of commenting on blogger.

The internet is a funny old place, it seems impossible now that only a very few years ago nearly all of the comment happened on the local blogs and that open and anonymous comment was the norm.

Nowadays the vast majority of local comment seems to happen on the local Facebook groups, on the plus side it is possible to moderate comment on these groups by excluding commentators. A difficult job for group administrators, but not impossible as it became on blogger.

The problems with Facebook though are different one being it handles images very differently to blogger making it difficult to view larger images and difficult to publish a lot straight from your phone. Another problem is that the google search engine seems to be blind to Facebook and the search Facebook box, well just try putting in, Ramsgate fishing smack. 

So with yesterday’s blog post most of the comment wound up here but of course you can only see it if you are a member of We Love Ramsgate Facebook group.

It’s all rather difficult and honestly I don’t know what the solution is, the crux of the problem is that the law is very vague about where the responsibility for third party comment lies.

On to the pictures of the Ramsgate fishing industry around 1900

 I think what is going on here is a process called tanning the sails, my guess is some sort of concoction containing linseed oil and probably ochre giving the distinctive yellow brown colour. I think the idea is to preserve the cotton sails for as long as possible.

And finally the books that went out in my bookshop today

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Ramsgate fishing fleet around 1900 photos, some thoughts about Ramsgate as a natural harbour, minor Manston update, out and about and getting to grips with the internet.

I am coming to terms with the fact that there was a time when the Ramsgate fishing industry was worth about £8m per year in today’s Mars bars.

My feelings are that Ramsgate must have been a natural harbour and used by the inhabitants of the village of St Lawrence for some sort of fishing activity for as long as there have been people here. 

I suppose looking at the 1791 engraving of Ramsgate before most of the development of the town makes it easiest to see the natural features or the lie of the land and I would think the chalk valley formed in the last ice age must continue down into the sea. At the end of the last ice age the big meltdown meant the sea level rose by about 120 metres.

Here are some of my fishing fleet photos which give you some idea of what the industry developed into.

I haven’t really been keeping up to date with the Manston DCO as it seems to me to be pretty much dead in the water at the moment, but there is a fairly new batch of documents relating to RiverOak representatives getting permission to go onto the site at and something that did interest me was this is an official document that has given a registered address for RiverOak, obviously you can download the document yourself, but here is what it says.

“"Applicant” means
RiverOak Investment Corporation (Delaware Company No. 3028870)
whose registered office is at
1209 Orange Street, Wilmington, Delaware DE 19802, USA.”

My own take on this is that it probably means they are a Delaware LLC. A complex issue, but if you want to take it further you have all the internet resources to hand.

No post yesterday as I have mostly removed myself from the day to day bookselling, local history book editing, blog and Facebook posting and been trying to see how the internet has changed in terms of the people who want to find the things I put there finding them.

With running a bookshop and publishing local history, neither of which are really profitable there is a sort of grey area where advertising and promotion merges with the people using the internet finding what they want to find.

I think art galleries, museums, libraries and theatres find themselves in this area too. The physical books has changed its place in the world. With a novel the experience of reading it on various types of technology and the experience of reading it from a paper book well they are all different. With paintings and drawings, the experience of going to an art gallery, looking at an art book or looking at the pictures online, these are all different too.

The visit to art galleries, museums, libraries and bookshops is becoming a leisure experience outside of the head immersed in the phone, tablet or computer. 

I try to use the internet to enhance what I do for people, not so much advertising, which normally takes you to the buy it now button, but something a bit different.

But once I have done this the tricky bit is making it so that the people who want it can find it in an increasingly commercialised internet.

A good example of this is the pictures in today’s post, you put, Ramsgate fishing fleet into google or you put Ramsgate in the 1790s in you want to be able to find the pictures and possibly even what I have to say about them. From my end this is a tricky business which I have been trying to improve.     

As for the books that went out in the bookshop today, see I think it’s a case of no chance without knowing the web address. 

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Watercolour, Canterbury Cathedral Crypt, following the footsteps of JWM Turner.

Once again today I found myself drawn to painting the inside of Canterbury Cathedral, I am not really a superstitious person but to me it feels like the cathedral somehow wants to be painted and I find myself drawn from sitting in a comfortable café sketching the view or the people inside and today sitting on a very hard pew trying to sketch from a crazy angle.

Several watercolour sketches down in the crypt but this one today I am fairly happy with.

When I got home I googled watercolour of Canterbury Cathedral Crypt the only one that I liked more was the pencil and wash by JWM Turner.

This is nothing to do with the quality of the paintings, which were all much better than my attempt the problem was that the others didn’t look or feel like the crypt at Canterbury Cathedral.

The main thing I have been trying to paint down there are the wall paintings that are about a thousand years old in Gabriel Chapel, you aren’t allowed to photograph these although plenty of photos come up if you google them. The entrance to this chapel was bricked up about 900 years ago and wasn’t discovered until around 1880 so wasn’t there in Turner’s time.

As you can see my attempt at paining this bit isn’t going too badly but then it isn’t going that well either.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

A very disappointing day at Turner Contemporary Margate

I can’t help this, you understand it’s like a wobbly tooth I just can’t leave it alone, what am I talking about here? This is about our fairly new local art gallery here in the corner of Kent. What corner? Well right at the bottom on the far right or as far southeast as you can go in the United Kingdom or England.

With a contemporary art gallery you would expect a fair amount of jokes about packed lunches and fire extinguishers being taken for exhibits, but this, well it’s a different type of kidney.

You see most art galleries have a permanent exhibition and then have visiting exhibitions as an add on, but our gallery, Turner Contemporary Margate only has visiting exhibitions. The last one “JWM Turner, Adventures in Colour” was a cracker, about as good an exhibition as you would get outside of London.

But now, at the moment, they are changing the main exhibition and for visitors to the gallery who turn there isn’t much to see. Now this combined with the whole business of visiting a contemporary art gallery, well it produces an atmosphere which as I say, I have to keep going back to experience.

There is the art crowd, bald, bearded, bespectacled, intent – the gallery staff who have to do the explaining – and of course the people who just turned up to say how emperors own clothed contemporary art is.

You will probably soon see the comments on tripadvisor, but the fact remains that the exhibition times are well advertised on the gallery’s website, so visitors who turn up at the wrong time only have themselves to blame.

Anyway my attempts to express this in paint are not so good as you can see from today’s.

I would like to produce something expressive like “Caïn venant de tuer son frère Abel” by Henry Vidal, but obviously visitors to TC are not Cain and presumably haven’t just killed their brothers, so something a bit toned down,

Anyway I turned around and started painting the view of Margate, but this all went wrong when I got to Arlington as you see.

It was the light which so inspired JWM Turner, it just got in my eyes.

The real disappointment though was it seems we are not going to get a look a Turner’s stud book, I posted about this last month, see

Oh actually easier here is the quote of the relevant bit from that blog post.   

“The next Turner exhibition there is called Liber Studorium on the gallery’s website, vide and starts on the 28th January, this translates from the latin as – the stud book with the edge.

To begin with I thought this would be an exhibition of Turner’s erotica, see I had hoped that some of the Turners Ruskin allegedly burnt had appeared and there would be a first and possibly only showing in Margate.

However it seems this is to be an exhibition of prints of his work, and as his erotica – bonfire or no bonfire, never made it into being engravings, I am beginning to wonder if the gallery really meant to write Liber Studiorum which translates as – studies book.

Anyway it’s either a book of sharp studs or a book of studies and as I am in the book business I will have to look into this one.”  

I was sad to note that this has now been changed to “Liber Studiorum, which translates as – studies book.” So it will be all about the introduction of the rocker, unfortunately not in Margate but in fine art engraving where it produces halftone.

Or to put it another way mezzotinto engravings, here is one from my shelf as I am anticipating spring.


Friday, 13 January 2017

Old Ramsgate Pubs, a new edition, the moon goddess at Tesco Westwood Cross and a sort of out and about with me.

Old Ramsgate Pubs by Michael David Mirams first came out in about 1980 as a fairly primitive booklet, I think the print run was in the high hundreds, about 8, now it is a very scarce local item changing hands for about £40, the second and revised edition was a limited edition of 200 copies, also now a very scarce local item.

The new 3rd edition priced a £10 is a smart well illustrated good quality large format paperback. It’s now the best source of information on Ramsgate Pubs. This isn’t one of my own publications but I do have it in stock in my bookshop in Ramsgate, I am pointing this out mainly because I did have stock of the 2nd edition back when it came out and fairly soon after it couldn’t be got easily or cheaply. 

If you are interested in our pubs I strongly recommend coming into the bookshop and having a good look at while it’s still about and if you want it mortgage the mother-in-law or cat – although I probably can’t say either for reasons of political correctness (I will take other books in part exchange), in case it suddenly runs out.

I have been enjoying it today, my favourite quote is " the reign of Henry VIII it became known as the Red Cow, after an Auburn-haired girl that worked in the tap-room.” Something that is giving me pause for thought about whether we always have the right illustration on modern pub signs, especially where old pubs are concerned.

The snow today didn’t come to much here in Ramsgate and by early afternoon the sun was shining so I went for a short walk to the seafront, not much to report really, The Waterfront/Jazz Room bar wosisname seems to have closed again, lots of building work noises coming from The Royal Victoria Pavilion, Pleasurama still a deserted building site, the slipways working away, the beach still washing away.

We had to go to Tesco at WC this evening and went to The Range first which is showing signs of looking a bit sad and denuded, mid you so was Tescos, it’s hard to nail really but I always used to find a bargain in the artist’s materials range at the Range and used to get extra large packs of stuff like cooking oil and tea in Tesco, but it wasn’t just that, perhaps not as busy as shops of that size should be was part of it.

This may be just me being over sensitive to the feel of these stores, but then I have concerns about UK retail being a shop assistant.

Outside Tesco the moon looked amazing afraid the mobile phone photo just doesn’t do it justice.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Reginald Whistler – muralist for the Aero Café at the Granville Marina, Ramsgate - guest post By Ben Kelly.

Reginald Hector Whistler was born in 22 January 1905, in St. Clement, Jersey, Channel Islands, of parents Frederick Herbert Whistler and Blanche Whistler.  He was recorded in the 1911 census as living at Rouen House, St Saviours along with his parents and his younger sister Dorothy.
He studied at the Slade School and also in principle art centres throughout Europe. Much of his work has been done in Jersey, where he was responsible for the decorative panels in the Council Chamber and a decorative map of Jersey which was presented to the Duke of Windsor.  He is particularly well known for his works on glass, including those at the concert hall at Scarborough.
He married Hilda Marjorie Buller (nee Ward-Price) in 1956.  Hilda was born in about 1898.  She was originally married to John Archibald Redvers Buller in 1922, but they divorced in 1927.  Reginald Hector Whistler was the first cousin of Reginal John (Rex) Whistler, the well-known British artist, designer and illustrator.
In 1934 he was commissioned by Tomson and Wotton to decorate the Granville Marina dance hall known then as the Aero Café.  The Granville Marina was completed by Edmund Davis in 1877.  He painted the design directly onto brick and plaster using cheap distemper colours and worked for a weekly wage whilst undertaking this work.  The mural includes, amongst many others, scenes of: Queen Elizabeth visiting Sandwich, the Marina in 1880 and views of Old Ramsgate.
He was asked again in 1937 by Tomson and Wotton to create a design for the arched ceiling of the Lounge Bar of the Licenced premises at the Ramsgate Marina.   The whimsical design is characteristic of Mr. Whistler's work.
He travelled frequently between England and Jamaica in later years, and is reported to have died in Jamaica in 1978.
The image is a reproduction (specially drawn for the "East Kent Times") of the artist's design for the ceiling of the lounge bar of licensed premises at the Ramsgate Marina.  It is to be carried out in green, gold, black and red.