Today’s news is centred around this area of Ramsgate, so starting with the tunnels, here are some pictures of the inside of The Ramsgate Tunnels http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/Blogpicts1210/id14.htm
About seven years ago I published a book about The Ramsgate Tunnels http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/catalogue/the_ramsgate_tunnels__main_line_public_airraid_shelter___scenic_railway__.htm and of the 150 or so local history books I have published about this area it is this one that that sells the best.
I guess in terms of people putting their money where there mouth is, then this is likely to be a major visitor attraction when it opens next year.
There is a relationship between the Pleasurama site and the tunnels that goes back to 1860 and so it is interesting that they should both come up in the local news at the same time.
The railway first came to Thanet in 1846 the station being at the top of
Street and very soon after this the line was continued
station there being on the seafront. Margate
In 1860 one of the rival railway companies extended their line from
London to Herne Bay,
Broadstairs to a station on Ramsgate seafront where the derelict Pleasurama
site is now. Margate
Prior to 1860 the beach had extended to the cliff where the Pleasurama site is now, although part of it had a primitive wooden sea defence with the coastguard station on it.
To get the railway to the seafront an inclining railway tunnel was dug from Dumpton to Ramsgate seafront, the chalk spoil from the tunnel being used to build up the level of what is now the Pleasurama site to above the high tide mark so the station could be built there.
Although the tunnel was dug in 1860 the actual opening was delayed until 1863 as parts of the civil engineering works were initially condemned and had to be rebuilt, however on 5th October 1863 having been passed by the government inspector (Captain Rich) Perhaps the 150 year anniversary in about a months time should be celebrated in some way.
During the First World War Ramsgate was bombed more than most places in the UK, mainly because the zeppelins and primitive aircraft of that time couldn’t get much further, so at the beginning of the Second World war the townspeople, lead by ABC Kempe (the mad mayor) and dick Brimmel the borough engineer, were keen to have a substantial system of public air raid shelters.
The railway station on the seafront and the associated railway tunnel had been closed in 1926 in 1936 a spur tunnel had been built to Dumpton Park Station enabling a narrow gauge link railway to tunnel from that station to the tunnel entrance on the seafront.
So we already had a substantial tunnel system to use as an air raid shelter and in 1939 this was extended under most of Ramsgate.
There was a plan to reopen the tunnels as a tourist attraction in the 1980 but at that time the entrance was on the Pleasurama site which was leased to Jimmy Godden, my understanding is that he wouldn’t allow the council access to the tunnel entrance unless the council sold him the freehold for the rest of the Pleasurama site.
This information is mostly hearsay so may not be exactly true, trying to unscramble even recent local history isn’t easy.
Going on to The Royal Sands development on the Pleasurama site, the council have finally published the secret cabinet papers relating to the 2009 decision to grant the developer an time extension and financial concessions, here is the link http://tdc-mg-dmz.thanet.gov.uk/documents/s32682/Un-exempted%20by%20the%20Pleasurama%20Site%20Development%20Review%20Task%20Finish%20Group%20on%2029%20August%202013.pdf this is the much leaked and discussed document that I first received a copy of just after the cabinet meeting where the cabinet decided to grant these concessions against the advice of the offices.
I endeavour to stay within the law so have never published this document in full before, although I was able to publish the parts I was sent under my foi request, the parts that made me so concerned about the cabinet doing this were not included.
The one on the page numbered 186 being a prime example of a Mickey Mouse aspect of the documentation that concerned me greatly, it’s the reference to star rating that clinches it for me.
I will endeavor to continue this post if i get time.