Sunday 30 December 2007

Ramsgate seafront

Looking along Ramsgate seafront from the old marina pool site where most local people I have spoken to want our new swimming pool but our politicians won’t even give that as an option in consultation despite the site being earmarked for one. Next comes the olds Nero’s demolished by the council despite my protests. Then you come to arches under the road running down the cliff some of which look very dangerous indeed and our strange change from a one-way road with parking spaces facing either the cliff or the sea to an unnecessary two-way road with no parking. Next the council built wall of sand that we presumably paid for, totally out of scale with the height of the waves in a normal sea and washed away in the next few days. Then the Pleasurama experiment in crippling the town by giving the architect an impossible remit, I wonder what happened to insurance money from the Pleasurama fire. On to the pavilion half empty with all its windows blocked up spoiled by a bad rich tenant and the council not implementing the most basic control over the way they treated the building. Then the cliff behind Kent terrace the façade visibly parting next to the houses I am told by experts in danger of collapsing. Then the harbour so badly silted up that even the ferries have started going aground. Then the port the harbour extensions built without a sand proof membrane or any understanding of the tidal flow in the bay and the buildings that were supposed to be screened from view by being next to the cliff, looking like prefabs that can be removed at a moments notice. Then the western undercliff used as a lorry park and lorry drivers toilet, behind it the motor museum and model village both gone. The disused lift where water collects in a deep pool at the top of the cliff next to it a sure sign of imminent cliff collapse and lack of the most basic maintenance. Do you think we have been short changed here in Ramsgate by both administrations?

Friday 28 December 2007

Will Thanet District Council be wasting £450.000 of your money?

Here in Ramsgate talking to people in the shop there is a lot of concern over the Pleasurama development. The only information I can offer is that work is due to start on the cliff façade repairs on the 7th of January and that the experts I have consulted say this will probably take about a year to complete after which it will be safe to start on the building work below and the environment agency have finally received the approved plans.

The main thing that concerns me is that cash strapped TDC have put aside £450,000 for this and are going to go ahead with the work before finalised plans for the building have appeared.

Certainly they can’t build using the approved plans as they are full of errors, apart from peoples heads and vehicles being embedded in the ceiling, where an attempt has been made to fit a 5 story building in a space only big enough for a 4 story one the architect seems to have been dimensionally challenged.

The experts I have discussed developing the Pleasurama site with generally are of the opinion that the only large development that would work on the site is one integrated with the cliff, where the cliff top is extended over the building and slightly beyond so that anything thrown of the cliff won’t hit the building of the cars parked in its car park.
Taking this into account it probably means that that the £450.000 will be wasted as the cliff façade would be rebuilt differently were it part of a building.

Thursday 27 December 2007

Masked Openers

In the world of health and safety gone mad one of my family received for Christmas a pocket combination tool about the size of a credit card, containing miniature compass screwdriver tin opener etc. Health and safety instructions on the packaging recommended hardhat, goggles, safety gloves and face mask should be worn when using it.

Monday 24 December 2007


It thought this Christmas I should write something about human relationships over Christmas more people commit suicide than at any other time of year perhaps you’re gay perhaps lesbian I don’t really think it matters well her it is.
If you take a large hungry dog and tie it up and feed it very little and tease it with large lumps of meat it will soon become bad tempered indeed. You can make it good tempered by giving it the meat or you can make it good tempered by taking away the temptation altogether, when the dog will adjust itself to the meager diet. While you keep on teasing it with the unattainable it will remain bad tempered. Scientists prove this all the time, and they say science is wonderful.

Christmas greetings

The picture shows the frozen sea in Ramsgate harbour in 1963 and if you click on it you should get a fairly high definition one.

I have just closed the bookshop for the Christmas break and would like to wish you all a happy Christmas and the hope that most of you get the books you want for Christmas.

It has been a pleasant day of helping people chose the right books for other people with so many charming customers who appeared to be genuinely enjoying the books and the bookshop.

My especial thanks to those of you who have helped with the local history book publishing by either writing local books or helping me to obtain material for them.

Saturday 22 December 2007

Some old pictures of Broadstairs

Christmas shopping in the bookshop is fairly patchy today, jumping between quiet and busy, meaning that it is difficult to get on with much work, so I am publishing a few pictures that are on the pc that I don’t think I have published before.

Ellington Park Ramsgate in 1971

Many thanks to Dave for his pictures of a snowy Ellington Park in 1971, which he is happy for any of you to print out as an emergency Christmas card with a local theme, click here for the high definition versions. Happy Christmas to you all.

Friday 21 December 2007

Not Christmas shopping

This year I have been becoming progressively more environmentally conscious and as Christmas approaches I have been trying to buy presents that are either secondhand or involve some aspect of recycling. But most of all I have been trying to avoid lots of car journeys to get the Christmas shopping.

Well today we had to get some of the things we need for Christmas from Tesco at Westwood Cross so we braved the inevitable traffic jam and started battling through the crowds.

I became increasingly aware just how very unpleasant it was I am afraid to say that after about half an hour with only 20% of the Christmas food shopping done we paid for what we had done and ran away back top Ramsgate where we did the rest.

The madness of crowds? I just don’t know.

I should add that all of the Tesco staff were both charming and helpful and I suspect no more wanted to be part of the great machine that is modern shopping than anyone else.

Monday 17 December 2007

More Confused Ramblings From the Book Trade

The Christmas shopping rush is here again which is always pleasant in the bookshop as you feel most of the shoppers are buying people something that they actually want, or the person who will receive it as a present will want, this is especially so with the local history books. This is not particularly a money thing as from the customers point of view none of the books I produce are over £10 and from my point of view the profit margin is fairly small. However in terms of giving local people a bit of extra enjoyment over Christmas it is very satisfying.

I have just published some more old pictures of the harbour to the web with some interesting ones of the area west of the west pier where Moses’s shipyard was, I am hoping to get time soon to produce a book of pictures of the harbour, at the moment most of my time being spent either manufacturing enough copies of the books to keep up with the seasonal demand or helping people to work out which will be the best books for their friends and family.
Something that is also interesting this year is that I am finding many people are coming to the conclusion that a secondhand book makes an environmentally friendly Christmas present.

Friday 14 December 2007

Historic pictures of Ramsgate

I have added more old Ramsgate pictures from this page on click here to see them. I should add that this is entirely down to the kindness and generosity of my shop customers who bring them in for me to scan or send them to me by email.

Where the pictures are not credited the owners of the originals prefer to remain anonymous.

Wednesday 12 December 2007

Ramsgate carnival 1969

Having put up some pictures of Ramsgate carnival last week here is some video to go with it.

This is one of a series of videos taken by Harry Hickman from 1968 to 1970 his family had them converted to dvd and sent the originals of to the national archive but were kind enough to lend them to me to put on youtube to share with us all.

Tuesday 11 December 2007

Ramsgate model village

This is one of a series of videos taken by Harry Hickman from 1968 to 1970 his family had them converted to dvd and sent the originals of to the national archive but were kind enough to lend them to me to put on youtube to share with us all.

For those of you who haven’t been up on the westcliff for a while the model village has closed, like most of our leisure facilities gone for good.

Monday 10 December 2007

Ramsgate hoverport in 1968

This is one of a series of videos taken by Harry Hickman from 1968 to 1970 his family had them converted to dvd and sent the originals of to the national archive but were kind enough to lend them to me to put on youtube to share with us all.

Saturday 8 December 2007

Warm Cottage

Swiss Cottage is on fire in Ramsgate, recently it’s had so many name changes and closures I am not sure if it was trading or what it is called at the moment. I am pretty sure the building value must be so high as to make it not viable as a business.

`Alpha' and Better

I have published a new book about St Nicholas at Wade By Mikal Cole called `Alpha' and Better here is a sample. .

Chapter One
BSNAW - Before St Nicholas at Wade
I was born on Saturday 24 August 1946, at about 10.30am, in The Canterbury (now Kent and Canterbury) Hospital and being a person who only complains when things are really bad was named `The Purple Terror' by the staff on the maternity wing, basically because I did not like being kept waiting for my food, (some things never change, do they?J). Saturday's child has far to go!
My parents William James Cole (born 26 April 1917) and Lilian Elsie (born 6 September 1916 (nee Pettman) were first cousins and got married in Napier Hall, Gillingham on 27 December 1939. Actually my mother was born on 7th but as Grand father left the house he turned to Granny and said `She was born on the 7th wasn't she?' `No! the sixth.' Came the reply.
When he returned with the Birth Certificate it had the wrong date on it and Granny told him off for being a `great fathead' but they didn't bother altering it and all her life my mother has had something in common with the Sovereign of this Country in that they both have `an official birthday' and an ordinary one.

Tuesday 4 December 2007

The cost of everything and the value of nothing.

Well it’s official this is from the TDC website.

TSR18 Museums and grant to the East Kent Maritime Trust
(Saving £100,000)
The Council currently grant aids the East Kent Maritime Trust, who provide museum services and supervise collections at Margate and Ramsgate. Sadly the council grant of around £100,000 a year supports services that are used by only around 10,000 visitors each year – equating to a subsidy of around £10 per visitor. This is not sustainable in the current financial climate and the Cabinet believes thatthis grant must cease in 2008/09. The Council will discuss with the Trust the best way forward to achieving the following objectives:-

A thorough review of the current museum exhibits, with the aim of establishing a series of high-quality themed exhibitions which can be displayed at various venues across the district and, possibly, county.
The presentation of a core, static museum display on the ground floor of Albion House, Ramsgate – in rooms not required for civic accommodation
The release of accommodation currently occupied at both Ramsgate and Margate for potential alternative commercial or community

As part of this change programme, the Council is willing to fund a post for two years to support the reconfiguration of the Museum collections.

Ed. as for tourist attractions in Thanet one thing can be said there is nothing much else to lose

Video through the eyes of a property developer.

Carnival time?

I am doing a bit of work on a new publication and would like some help dating some pictures of Ramsgate carnival, I think they are about 1968 click here to see all of them.

Going going gone?

A few bits of random news and rumour flying about in Ramsgate today one is that TDC intends to close Ramsgate and Margate museums, another that TDC is going to have to buy all of the pontoons in Ramsgate harbour under what it calls a special exemption from procedural rules.

I have been told that a start date of January 7th 2008 has been set for the repairs to the cliff façade behind the Pleasurama site in Ramsgate, when I took professional advice about this earlier in the I was told that it would take about a year and that building work on the site below wouldn’t be able to start until the repairs were finished. You can view a large sample of the engineers report on the condition of the cliff by clicking here in simple terms rain water going in from the top damages our cliffs and they collapse.
I have written to both Roger Latchford and David Green asking them if they could organise some temporary use for the Pleasurama site next summer, they were responsible for the fun fair that we all enjoyed so much this year click here to see the pictures.

Saturday 1 December 2007

Friggin in the rigging

Some of you may remember the square rigged sailing ship that was in Ramsgate Harbour beside the brick arches from about 1968 to 1973 owned by an Australian opal mining company she was called the Black Opal.

I worked on her rigging and in her engine room during my school holidays in the late 60s

I know she wasn’t originally called the Black Opal and is now called the Black Pearl, has been pulled up out of the water and is used as a restaurant in Malta.

I looked on the restaurant’s website and several others about her and a lot of the information on them I know is wrong, so I will put down what I can remember and perhaps others can add anything they can remember.

She was built I was told in the 1920s in one of the Scandinavian countries it think 112 feet long and 300 tons she was originally fitted with a 200 horse power 2 cylinder Bolinder engine with a variable pitch prop.

She was three masted, probably originally rigged as a topsail schooner, her masts had been cut off level with the deck at some time past, probably because it would have not been economic to have a crew large enough to manage her under sail, she was being used as a coaster in Jamaica when the mining company bought her, these slow running Diesel engines run well on rum which is cheap in that part of the world.

She was crewed by a group of young Australians and an older captain, Captain Keble I think. They flew from Australia to Jamaica where they picked her up and sailed to one of the Scandinavian countries, to buy the pine to make masts and spars.

When I first saw her she had the square cut pine on the deck, which we planed to eight sided the sixteen sided and so on until we were able to sand off to round masts and spars. The whole of the hull was empty and lined with oak to take dry cargoes, the only accommodation being under the wheelhouse where the portholes are in the pictures.

We removed the old engine because it was thought its exhaust would stain the new sails. It was under the accommodation we cut a hole in the engine room bulkhead, laid railway lines into the hold level with the engine bed, attached a chain block to the stump of the main mast and the engine and dragged it into the hold where it could be craned out. It was heavy, the flywheel alone weighed three tons, no one wanted to buy this dated marine engine it lay on the quay for a bit and was eventually sold to the scrap merchant for £50.

The hold was ballasted with fitted water tanks and shingle beneath a deck over which accommodation was built, two deck houses were also built over the cargo hatches.

The making of the masts and all the rigging was done by Wally the rigger, who taught us unskilled young people how to rig a square rigged ship from nothing at all.

Eventually the opal mining company went bust, probably largely due to financing the Black Opal and I believe a film company bought her eventually.

I am certain that she was renamed the Aeolus, though not sure if that was her name before being called the Black Opal. It was under the name Aeolus that she finally left Ramsgate rigged as a barquentine and I lost track of her.

Knowing the limitations of my camera at the time, click here to see the full size pictures, I think I must have taken the pictures from our dingy, one of the pictures says Ramsgate 1971 on the back in one of my brothers hand writing he was 15 and I was 18 at the time, you have to have a certain understanding of things nautical to fully appreciate what owning Heron number 19 meant in 1971.

Thursday 29 November 2007

Endangered species

Most of us live in towns, it is has been the favored human environment for many years, and it think we have reached the point where our species needs its environment protecting.

Apart from any consideration about our social needs as a species, road travel to shops, jobs, leisure facilities, schools etc. isn’t environmentally sustainable.

As a retailer I am in a position to explain why the shops are going in our towns, my brother recently closed his bookshop in St Albans and now my father has closed his in Wimborne Minster and I have noticed a lot of shops are closing here in Ramsgate.

When I moved back to Ramsgate 20 years ago King Street was a much busier street and Ramsgate had a lot more shops and places to park it also had leisure facilities to atract tourism. Back then the shop takings were about £1,500 per week or £75,000 per year as the town disintegrated as a leisure and shopping town this figure fell at its worse to about half. It has now gone back up a certain amount to about £1,000 per week or £50,000 a year. Unlike many other retail businesses, in the secondhand book world one is able to compensate for these sort of fluctuations a certain amount, by when the shop is quiet using the time to engage in postal business which although much more time consuming, is more profitable.

Now we and the other shops have a new problem because most shops are rented on long leases, the rents tend to stay fairly stable for long periods of time until the leases come up for renewal. 20 years ago the building I rent was worth about £25,000 and the rent was about 10% of this freehold value, this is all usual practice.

Now however this building is worth about £200,000 maybe more, this wouldn’t be a problem if the planning regulations meant that it had to stay a shop, as I doubt that any other type of shop in this building would do much better, so the rent, rates and ultimately the value of the building would have to reflect what it could make as a shop.

10% of £200,000 is £20,000 per year or £400 per week converted into 4 flats with rents in the region of £100 per week it would easily generate that sort of income for the landlord. The gross rate of profit for bookshops shop sales is generally in the area 40% if it is very well run it might be possible to get 50% but not very likely and this applies to most small shops where the initial discount on what they buy to sell varies between 20% and 50% as of course not all the stock one buys sells for the amount one hopes for.

Our average book selling price is about £2 which means we buy and sell about 500 books a week, a lot of books all re used the majority of which would otherwise been thrown away.

So the bottom line is the very best the shop is likely to make to pay all of the expenses rent, rates, heat, light etc is about £500 so you can see with a rent of about £400 per week and business rates related to this figure, it’s not worth a candle.

Monday 26 November 2007

Ramsgate’s schools

WW1 bomb damage at Chatham House School

Ramsgate’s schools are back in the local papers again this week, the problem being that there is money available for rebuilding schools and some of our politicians want to use it to further their own particular brand of political idealism.

There are all sorts quirky aspects like most of the Labor politicians involved being grammar school educated, or one of the Labor politicians teaching in one of the grammar schools, or some of the Conservatives wanting to maintain single sex status for the grammar schools but get rid of it in the non grammar schools.

Now most of the ordinary people I speak to every day want to maintain the status quo as we have good and improving schools in Ramsgate and they don’t want them either unsexed or ungrammared.
I have tried to group together all of the opinions I can find in one place click here to read them.

Publisher’s dilemma

I thought I would put a book together of pictures of Ramsgate harbour, so I am in the processing the material I have borrowed from various people’s collections. What I have to do is decide what to leave out, I have published about a third of them click here to give you some idea of what I mean.

`Alpha' and Better

I have published a new book out today, `Alpha' and Better By Mikal Cole Personal memories, over the past fifty years, house by house through the village of St Nicholas at Wade A4 128 Pages stapled card covers £6.99

This blog is intended for people who have an interest in St Nicholas at Wade, its people and the book, to be able to communicate with each other.

You can leave comments for others to see, you don't have to join anything or fill in any forms, you can even comment anonymously should you wish to. Just click Comments then on leave a comment, below either dot anonymous, or other if you wish to leave your name.

A few months ago Mikal came into the bookshop and showed me this book while he was in the middle of writing it, his intention was to produce the A4 version format printed on one side only, so that anyone can write their own memories in the same book, he says, “then in fifty years time we can all get together and write another edition of this book. See you then!”

I suggested to him that, as he was already doing it as a Microsoft Word document, it would be very easy for me to produce it as an A5 stapled book that would be an inexpensive and easy to handle version for those people who just wanted to read it.

Last week, he came into the bookshop with the finished book on a memory stick and the new book is the result, which we were both pleased with and I think, is an important addition to my local publications.

I first started publishing local books about three years ago and have now got about one hundred and ten titles in print all of which I have read several times as part of the publishing process. I find more and more that it is the ones like this with one individual’s personal recollections of the area that I find most interesting.

Footpaths of Thanet by Bob Simmonds

Cedric had already asked if they knew of any attractive back passages in the area, before realising, to his horror, that the 'THANET WANDERERS' were not actually a local walking group, as he had supposed.

Having just read Eastcliff Richard’s frustrated comments to the anonymous ramblers making unrelated comments on his blog about one of Ramsgate’s lifts. “What has all that got to do with the lift? If you want to ramble, please do it in the countryside!” It really is very annoying to be having a chat about a lift while anonymous people are replying about holocaust denial lectures and the smuggling ring run by Geoff Capes in the 1970's as though this was somehow related.

I thought it was time some of us went for a ramble so featured here is my publication, Footpaths of Thanet by Bob Simmonds. The illustration is from the book.

This is a book for those who -

- like to get around without having to use the car,

- take pleasure in seeing their surroundings from a different point of view,

- enjoy discovering unfamiliar parts of East Kent,

- sometimes want to get away from all the noise and the traffic, and take a wander down a leafy lane,

- get a kick out of finding themselves somewhere they least expected,

- prefer to go and come back by different routes,

- or just like walking for the sheer pleasure of it.

With lots of information about the network of footpaths, alleyways and leafy lanes that cover the Isle of Thanet, it will enable you to do seemingly eccentric things - like walk to Westwood Cross avoiding the traffic, get up close and personal with the planes at Manston airport, or find pleasant ways to cut quickly across deadly-dull housing estates.

Click here to read more

Friday 23 November 2007

Here in Ramsgate one of our most important buildings the Royal Victoria Pavilion is coming up for grabs, unless of course the council have already sold it, they are not always to keen to publicise what they are up to but there is nothing recent about it on their website.

Designed by architect Stanley Davenport Adshead who also designed Ramsgate Library the floor is well below the flood line, so the building is not just at risk from how the council dispose of it.

Anyway the current occupant the casino is due to move off to improve the traffic congestion at Westwood Cross and I am afraid they haven’t been to kind to our pavilion.

Their greatest act of external vandalism being the demolition of Adshead’s ornate porch and bricking up all the windows, internally they have let a large part of the building that they didn’t want to use become derelict.

I wonder if they will have to do anything to return it to its former glory when they leave, I suppose being casino operators they would be able to afford to.
You may consider that Brighton makes rather more of its pavilion so there you have it a building the size of the Turner Contemporary in a prime site, I wonder what will happen.

Monday 19 November 2007

Cliff collapses in Ramsgate

One of my customers came in with some pictures of the collapse at the Paragon in the late 50s today, copies above. He recons the date to be about 1958 or 59 going by his age, he is the lad in one of the pictures and claims he didn’t do it.

He had seen the pictures of the other cliff collapses on my website and thought that it would be interesting to add these, any further information would be appreciated.
You may also wish to comment on the cliff behind Kent Terrace that I believe to be in danger of collapsing at the moment.

Sunday 18 November 2007

Confused ramblings from the secondhand book trade

Having been commenting on various blogs about retailing Westwood Cross and the problems that this poses for all the Thanet towns, with other retailers saying how bad the situation is.

Saturday’s sales in the bookshop were more than 50% up on both those of 2005 and 2006 looking at the sales analysis this was mostly ordinary secondhand books, I have to say I am totally miffed.

Now things are pretty bad in the secondhand book trade at the moment my brother has just closed his shop in St Albans that was established 45 years ago blaming the combined effects of out of town shopping and the internet.
The demise of the secondhand bookshops is particularly bad at this time because of the affect on the environment at the moment everywhere I go they seem to be closed or closing.


We went to see Ramsgate Operatic Society’s production of H.M.S PINAFORE yesterday just a note of thanks to say how enjoyable it was and how pleased we were to have them performing back at the Granville Theatre in Ramsgate again.

Friday 16 November 2007

Architectural disaster

Having just discovered the very interesting Margate architecture blog where the latest posting is related to what was demolished to make way for Argos, Somerfield and Iceland in Margate I thought I would post something about what was on the site of the Ramsgate Argos. I have taken the illustrations above from my publication Ramsgate & Broadstairs by Camera and Pen by J Bavington Jones which was first published in 1904.

I was astonished that that the grand Sanger’s Hotel and Sanger’s Amphitheatre (pictured above) was demolished in 1960 to make way for the supermarket (Fine Fare) now Argos.

It is a sad that the supermarkets and chain stores have, over the last 50 years, caused so much damage to the Thanet towns, both by their developments and eventual closures.

The word that comes to mind here is parasite, feeding of the host town until it's dead and then moving out of town.