Tuesday 30 October 2007

The Turner Contemporary

On this subject I am getting two conflicting messages, most of the media and comments on the various blogs seem to be all for the new design, but most of the people I speak to seem not to be so keen.

Personally I think it’s a very ugly design that is completely out of harmony with its surroundings and have great doubts about how recycled glass cladding will weather in that windy salt sprayed environment.

It is as though the architect completely ignored the surrounding buildings the sweep of the coastline and the harbour, in essence ignored Margate. To say that its shape represents sails suggests certain unfamiliarity with things nautical.
I am suggesting a more familiar design that is more in harmony with the Droit House, see picture above.

Monday 29 October 2007

Moaning Minnie Thanet's Civil Defence Sirens

Moaning Minnie Thanet's Civil Defence Sirens
By Steve Moore and Alan MooreThis is the latest publication out today, an enjoyable interesting well researched book which I imagine many of you will be looking forward to reading. Click here for more about the book and to view sample pages

Sunday 28 October 2007

Occasional Ramsgate Writings By Donald G Long

It gives me great pleasure to publish Don Long’s new book this week.


Love the town in which you dwell, as you do, too – don’t I love Paris and London, though I am a child of the pine woods and of the beach at Ramsgate
Vincent Van Gogh

Indeed many of you love the town in which you live. I love Ramsgate – to me a very special place, with buildings to delight the eye – residents of great interest – and some important events, which have helped to shape the history and character of our town and the country.

This series of articles will I hope interest and inform you the reader, and that you will enjoy reading them as I did writing them.
Don Long

The articles are

A Tale of Long Ago








Saturday 27 October 2007

Thinking of the week a whole perhaps the best bit has been Simon’s pictures of Havana

Dover castle

We went to Dover castle this week, seeing a successful heritage site I am very conscious the a combination of Ramsgate Harbour, some interesting historic vessels, the maritime museum and the Ramsgate tunnel system, the main line part of which is big enough to display substantial historic items, could all be used to a lot better.

Anyway so much for the gripe you can click here if you want to see the pictures.

Ramsgate's answer to Turner and Tracey

As the new Turner centre plans have been revealed I thought it appropriate to feature Bob Simmonds book Ramsgate's answer to Turner and Tracey if it interests you click here for some of the books content.

The publicity and controversy generated by the proposed Turner Centre at Margate, and the recent book and film about Tracey Emin's childhood there, have given the impression that these are the only famous artists ever to have lived in Thanet. This book attempts to correct this by looking at the many artistic, creative and significant people who have lived in the neighbouring town of Ramsgate.

The first chapter provides information about the local connections of a whole range of people - from Saint Augustine to Jackie 'Mr. TV' Pallo and from Karl Marx to Frank Muir - with lengthy looks at Queen Victoria's childhood visits and the holiday stays of Marx and Engels.

The significant local figure of Sir William Curtis, his relationship with George IV, and his influential role in the transportation of convicts to Australia, is then examined, with new research from Australia which casts the great Baronet in a less than favourable light.

A chapter is devoted to each of the more well-known artists who have worked in Ramsgate, including William Frith, James Tissot, Vincent Van Gough, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and the Pugins - with reproductions of their local pictures where possible, and a humorous modern-day version where not.

The architectural remains of the fishing industry, and of the army's presence in the town during the Napoleonic wars, provide an insight into these two periods, and extracts from the letters of an army officer's wife give an interesting glimpse into the social whirl that made Ramsgate very fashionable at that time.

A stroll along the eastern cliff is provided in order to look at places where other notable people have lived whilst in the town. These include Albion Place (visited by Queen Victoria and Jane Austen), Wellington Crescent and the Plains of Waterloo (Coleridge, Marx, Frith, Collins), the site of Truro Lodge (Professor Samuel Vince FRS), the Granville and San Clu Hotels (various), and East Lodge (Queen Caroline, Lord Keith, Duke of Wellington, Moses Montefiore etc,), and the latter's mausoleum and synagogue.

The book ends with details of other books, websites and organisations that can provide more information about the characters mentioned.

Friday 26 October 2007


On of my customers drew my attention to the above notices, Moses Montefiore set up an endowment trust to protect the synagogue in Ramsgate where he and his wife are buried and to protect the land surrounding it so that it remained quiet and peaceful.

Not being lawyers but both being wary of public notices it seemed a good idea to draw people’s attention to them.

Notices published
Jewish Chronicle 12.10.2007
KM extra 26.10.2007

Reflections on the secondhand book trade publications

Looking at the secondhand book trade publications today I noticed a couple if things of a more general interest.

The first is that “Wiltshire County Council has been disposing of good books to a landfill site. It was disclosed this morning in a local newspaper that Wiltshire County Council has sent some 300 children's books to the waste tip - and some are in near perfect condition. Local tax payers may well ask questions, as is their right, but this action will doubtless anger most members of the secondhand book trade who were not asked to bid - including those `charity shops' who would have loved to get their hands on such stock for next to nothing”.

Ed. It would be interesting to know what Kent County Council do with excess stock.

The second “the massive firestorms (all 16 of them) that are raging across the western states tonight, it will difficult to grasp the colossal impact and losses both to property and residents. Our sympathies to all those affected.

There was bound to be massive losses if only because of the sheer size of the affected areas. One of the first to be reported, is a unique collection in Malibu of Elvis Presley memorabilia. The owner only had time to grab one major item before she fled - his army uniform. Lilly Lawrence told the American press that 32 original movie scripts with Presley's personal annotated notes and original song sheets had been lost.
It is sad that this will not be the only loss of unique archives, books, ephemera and memorabilia.”
Finally Christie's in London recorded today a world record price for J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone: an exceptionally rare first edition that realised £19,700.

Thursday 25 October 2007

The Pen is Mitre Than the Sword?


When Nick Evans’ book about Broadstairs was advertised in ‘Thanet Extra’ it was said to be the first book about the town to be published for 15 years. Which is odd, since I distinctly remember writing ‘Petrified’ (along with its companion ‘The Small Happy Family of Broadstairs’) only a year ago. Indeed the ‘Extra’ wrote a review about it –
If I had known the effect that these small, inoffensive booklets would have on my career I would never have written them.

They were based on some research that I had done for the 175th anniversary of Holy Trinity Church, Broadstairs (Dicken’s ‘petrified haystack’), and I thought would provide a light-hearted look, both at the history of the church, and of the town it was built to serve. Little did I realise that the church was incapable of taking a light-hearted look at itself, or its history.

I had returned to the town of my childhood in order to regain my health and vocation as a Church of England priest. I had spent several years working part-time for Oxfam and the Red Cross whilst recovering from a major road accident which nearly killed me. In Broadstairs I thought that I would find a caring church where I could exercise some form of ministry and eventually return to a responsible position in the Christian community. I was therefore both surprised and greatly saddened to discover that I was not welcome in the parish church. Even when their Vicar left for a new job my offers of help were refused. I never had my letters answered. The Bishop and Archdeacon refused to meet with me. I was treated as an outsider even though I attended services regularly. In the end I became so desperate as I saw my life slipping away that had to take a post in Yorkshire in order to find the acceptance and encouragement that I needed.
And the reason for this very non-Christian behaviour? Because I had written something that offended them in one of these two little books.
So, read them yourselves…and if you find something so offensive that you would not let a priest do his job then write to Michael’s Bookshop and he will pass it on.

Bob Simmonds

Wednesday 24 October 2007

Ramsgate’s schools political football or cricket?

Out of all the Ramsgate issues that concern me at the moment that of our secondary schools pretty much tops the bill.

picture Chatham House First Eleven 1894

There is a rumour that some of our politicians would like to make changes to Chatham House, Clarendon, Hereson, Ellington and Marlow schools.

The rumours are that they would like to end grammar school, and single sex status for those that have it, and move them all to a school cluster at Pysons Road.

In view of all this I will email them and ask them if they would like to tell us about their ideas here.

I should add that it is my intention that this blog should be totally non-partisan I am myself a floating voter, without party ties.

picture Hereson School Football Team, 1950

Mockett’s Journal

Portrait of John Mockett

Of all the books I have published over the past three years Mockett’s Journal is one that most needs a forum where the descendents of those named in it can comment and communicate with each other.

The old Thanet names Mockett Culmer Dewker Crampton and so on crop up throughout and I often ship copies to their descendents living all over the world.

John Mockett (1775~1848) was a farmer in the Isle of Thanet at the beginning of the 1800s. He was a churchwarden to St. Peters at a time when local government was administered by the parish so he had considerable responsibility for the care of the population and the environment. Mockett also saw military service for 13 years as a “Yeoman of Thanet”.

This publication is the result of a journal kept by him and members of his family, it is filled with amusing information about our history the following are some examples.

When coaches first appeared in England a law was passed to prevent men from riding in them as it was thought too effeminate.

When the peace was celebrated at St. Peters Broadstairs in 1814, 436 poor persons and stewards were seated at a table 132 feet long, with about 8 inches of table each it must have been a bit cramped, admission was by ticket all had to bring their own knives and forks.

In 1828 Margate Savings Bank had to close because a clerk absconded with a large amount of money.

In the same year when Thanet people dressed up for fun at Christmas a young woman dressed as a crow was so frightened on seeing a man dressed as a bear that she died.

In 1829 the overseer of the poor in St. Peters built a cage for public offenders.

In the same year some of Thanet’s agricultural workers put out of work by the introduction of thrashing machines were deported for seven years for breaking up the machines.

Gaols at the time were fitted with treadmills for evildoers who if they didn’t keep up the pace caused a bell to ring.

Monday 22 October 2007

1939 Ramsgate new Holiday Recipe Book

1939 Ramsgate new Holiday Recipe Book

This marvellous Ramsgate guide from 1939, now 68 years ago, produced as a parody of a cookery book encapsulates the atmosphere of the period. You will notice that the cover shows girls in bikinis, these had just started to appear in America on models and film stars although were not common until after World War 2 although you will see a few adorning the bolder lasses in the photographs in this guide.

The French obviously had some catching up to do with Ramsgate, they claim that the bikini was invented by French engineer Louis Réard and fashion designer Jacques Heim in Paris in 1946 and first appeared on July 25 of that year at a fashion show at Piscine Molitor in Paris.

Miss Joydays who shows us many of Ramsgate’s attractions and is something of an attraction herself, looks to be about 20 so if she is still alive today would be in her 80s or 90s I would of course be pleased to hear from her or anyone featured in this guide or their relations.
In the spirit of this guide I have added the picture below showing Ramsgate’s carnival queen for 1938 Miss Ethel Todd with her two assistants Miss Joyce Allen and Miss Joan Gibbons I hope you will agree with me that this is an important addition.

I have started an interactive website or blog where people who feature in or are interested in a particular book can communicate with each other, so if you go to the michaelsbookshop.com site and find the pages where this book is advertised there will be instructions about how to use this facility.

Reading this book with its optimistic text it is hard to imagine that on August 24th 1940 Ramsgate would be the first town to be blitzed, looking at Dave Richards book about the raid these two aspects of our history, seem now, incredibly incompatible.

As always with this type of guide the advertisements are equally valuable to those of us interested in our history, helping us to identify past uses of Ramsgate’s buildings and the past occupations of our residents.
As far as the book production goes, the original was A5 format however the pictures have benefited from enlargement to this A4 format, should any of you think it useful I would be happy to produce an A5 edition.

Click here for sample pages from the book

Sunday 21 October 2007

Birchington Great War patriotic Record

Click here to see more pages from the book

Please leave comments related to the book and the people mentioned in it.

The following is by Parish Archivist Jennie Burgess.

“For many years, there has been a large red book in the glass case near Quex Chapel in All Saints Church, Birchington. The book is hand made and beautifully illuminated, containing both text and photographs, and is totally unique. It contains a record of how the people of the village of Birchington responded to the events of the 1914 – 1918 War.

Because the book is irreplaceable, it has been felt that it should not be left in such a vulnerable position, but before it was placed into safe keeping, the pages have all been scanned.

As a result of studying the contents of these pages, some amazing facts have emerged about the life of this enterprising and caring community during those difficult times. Men like Major Powell-Cotton of Quex Park, who oversaw the care of the hundreds of wounded sent to Birchington and Major George F. Holland of 'Clovelly', Berkeley Road, who ran the military side of things in the village and then undertook to write this book at the end of the war.

It is a pity that a similar enterprise was not undertaken after the 2nd World War, for that same spirit was clearly as evident then, as it is now. Our community of Birchington is one of which to feel justly proud, and the old book gives us ample evidence of this.”

Many thanks to Jennie and Birchington PCC for allowing me to produce a facsimile of this attractive and interesting work.

The pictures are pages from the book.
This first post will hopefully give you some idea of what I am up to. I intend to put up a posting about each of the books about this area that I publish and to invite comment about some of the local issues that interest me.

The main object being to allow people who are interested in the book, or are related to the books authors, or the people mentioned in the book to communicate with each other.

You must excuse a total lack of punctuation, something I never learnt as I hardly attended primary school.