Monday, 13 April 2015

A tourist guide to Thanet, published today after 250 years out of print.


As a publisher I guess I should get straight into the hard sell, so here is the link to the page with the buy it now button on http://michaelsbookshop.com/catalogue/a_description_of_the_isle_of_thanet_1763.htm

This is the first time I have published a book with nudes on the front, so it may have more appeal than the average reprint of an antiquarian local history book.


Here is the whole picture, including the bit on the back of the book, note the person on crutches with his mug, drinking a pint of seawater before total immersion in the sea, supervised by a professional ducker would have been part of his cure and his reason for being in Thanet at all.

Note the man on Ramsgate’s East Pier with the telescope, over 100 years later in the Gossiping Guide to Thanet http://michaelsbookshop.com/catalogue/1882_a_gossiping_guide_.htm there is mention of religious organisations trying to put a stop to the people emerging naked or scantily clad from the bathing machines, combined with the people viewing this through telescopes from the pier.

Here are my publishers notes for the book.

There are local history books, which for the most part try to convey what was happening fifty, a hundred or more years before they were written, but usually say very little about the what was happening when they were written. There are also old guides aimed at telling people from another place, what the place they were going to visit was like at the time of writing.

Taking the past as a foreign country and using old guides, it is possible to get some sort of glimpse at what things were like here in Thanet and with this guide what they were like 250 years ago.

It is however important to realise that for the most part this is the past of the wealthier people, at this time many of the local agricultural workers in Thanet were still living in chalk hovels.

It is also important to realise that much of the ordinary, that is and was common to everywhere, is left out. 

A useful indicator here are the price lists in the back of the guide and the price of the guide 1/- (one shilling) at a time when an agricultural worker, working in the fields from dawn to dusk would have been earning about 1/- per day. 

This is probably the first tourist guide to Thanet, the cover picture “The Bathing Place at Ramsgate” by Benjamin West probably dates from the 1780s so is a little more modern than the guide. However out of the pictures of Thanet that date from around the time of this guide, it seems to come closest to conveying the reason fairly wealthy Londoners made the fairly difficult and uncomfortable journey here. Some of this is related to the primitive medicine of the time, when London doctors prescribed the drinking of seawater, being immersed in the sea, being ducked and of course the fresh air as the cure for various maladies.

Margate pier went through various stages of lengthening, decay, storm damage and repair depending on the trade with London, which was mostly exporting grain and vegetables grown in Thanet to London and importing coal to heat the buildings to here. The sailing hoy, a sloop rigged vessel of a bout 60 tons, was the main vessel to ply the Thames at this time and the visitors to Thanet either came here by hoy or by coach from London.

Travelling from London to Margate by sailing hoy would have been by far the cheapest way of getting here, as the hoy was reliant on wind and tide, the journey could anything between about eight hours and several days, with seasickness being the main problem. Several cartoons were published of passengers suffering on hoys and I would guess those who could afford it came here by coach.

For the most part the hoys sailed between London and Margate pier and would have avoided going round The North Foreland to Ramsgate because of the added danger and discomfort. 

At the time this guide was produced Ramsgate Harbour was being constructed, it was finally finished around 1791, its main use being as a harbour of refuge, during bad weather, for the shipping anchored in The Downs opposite Deal.

Sorry the quality of writing isn't up to much at the moment, there is a lot pneumatic drilling going on in the shop opposite that the council are turning into social housing.   

2 comments:

  1. Michael

    Just ordered it, most of the books I've read about Thanet don't go back much before the late Victorian era (with the the honourable except of a passing mention in Cobbett's Rural Rides) so I await the postman with interest!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Echo, I guess the best of the early Thanet books is; 1736 The History and Antiquities as well Ecclesiastical as Civil of the Isle of Tenet, by John Lewis.

    The only early Thanet diarist was John Mockett; 1836 Mockett's Journal, which is a fairly unusual one and I would recommend you look at the sample pages in the Michaels Bookshop website where you bought the 1763 guide.

    When it comes to tourist guides of anywhere in the UK there is very little before 1830, when it comes to Kent I thought the earliest was the one by Thomas Fisher, sometime bookseller in Rochester was the earliest one; 1779 The Kentish Traveller's Companion, which we also publish.

    Incidentally your order missed today’s post, so won’t get posted until Wednesday.

    ReplyDelete

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