Ramsgate is formed by a natural valley meeting the sea through the chalk cliffs, the oldest picture I know of that shows Ramsgate shoreline viewed from the sea is the 1790s print based on a drawing from the newly completed harbour.
This natural feature means that there would have been some sort of sandy cove at Ramsgate since prehistoric times and it is likely sea fishing has taken place here for millennia.
The sand that built up in the inlet would have restricted the erosion by the sea, so the shoreline in the harbour area has probably been in the same place since well before Roman times.
We know from archaeological digs that there was some sort of pier, where the slipways are now, at least as far back a roman times, as they found roman coins there as well as the remains of a roman pier there.
Up until the 1720s there is very little written down about The Isle of Thanet and as the sea has eroded the shoreline cliffs, there aren’t going to many archaeological remains to dig up on most of the coastline. Back in prehistoric times there were probably other valleys leading through the Thanet cliffs.
Around a thousand years ago, when Thanet was a proper island and Sandwich was an important port on the coast facing Thanet, King Edward the Confessor (1042 – 1066) made Sandwich a founder member of the Cinque Ports (the main English ports).
The main port on the south side of Thanet was Stonar, which the Abbot of St Augustine possessed by edict of Cnut (King Canute 995 – 1035) from 1027. Sandwich was in the hands of the Prior of Christ Church Canterbury under a similar edict from 1023.
There was an ongoing legal battle between the two ports, for the trade, which attracted taxes, and although a jury convened by Henry I 1127 decided the Sandwich should get the trade and the taxes, Stonar continued to prosper until it was burnt to the ground by the French in 1365.
At the same time Margate was described as a port in a letter from King Edward III in the 1340s telling the bailiff there to arrest the ship owners there.
By 1422 when Ramsgate became a limb of the Cinque Port of Sandwich, the port of Sandwich itself was starting to silt up.