Saturday, 4 July 2009

Ramsgate Maritime museum is open.

I popped out from the bookshop to check that the museum has actually opened and can confirm that it has (picture taken today) Gavin Steele is running it and it museum will be reopening for the summer season. Opening hours are subject to alteration but will start as 10am till 5pm, Wednesday to Sunday.

At the moment the entrance fee is £1 however I am hoping to persuade the new owners to make it free.

Some Historical notes on The Clock house that houses the Maritime Museum now that we can get back in it.

In 1805 Samuel Wyatt the harbours engineer was directed to draw up plans for a watch house and clock house.

In 1809 modifications to the plans were suggested by John Rennie the naval architect and new engineer to the harbour.

Completed in 1817 its main purpose was as a navigational aid part being an astronomical observatory, very important in navigation.

There was a brass transit line embedded in the floor, similar to the one at Greenwich used for determining longitude also important in navigation, this was levered out and stolen in 1975.

The original astronomical clock by Moore of Clerkenwell with grid iron pendulum was constructed under the control of the famous pioneer of precision Captain Henry Kater (1777-1835) who did much research into the accuracy of pendulums.

In 1848 records show that there were two clocks in the clock house the one previously mentioned showing Ramsgate mean Time and a new one showing Greenwich Mean Time.

One of the great advantages of having an accurate clock visible in the harbour was that captains could scale their chronometers without taking these delicate instruments out of their ships.

The first floor central room was constructed as a fireproof repository for charts and papers.

The ground floor housing buoy house, carpenters shop and watch house the basement designed to store flammable materials like tar and pitch.

Ernest Cockburn says in his book COCKBURN’S DIARY

“The Admiralty have also fitted up a wireless station at the clock house in the pier yard (Ramsgate.) During the week the public have been allowed on the pier the London boats have run as usual, but we were not surprised on Saturday morning to find the pier gates closed, and the following notice posted up:-

that any unauthorised
person approaching or
attempting to enter the
Navy Office, commonly
known as the Clock House
is liable to be SHOT by the
sentry or police constable.”
It looks very grim to see such a notice on our usually peaceful front. A space around the Clock House is roped off, and a sentry with a loaded rifle and fixed bayonet is stationed there.”

My main source of information is a Bygone Kent article by Robert B. Matkin which I have plagiarised in the tradition of Thanet Historians.

This is what two historians said about our most famous local history book and its author Lewis our most famous historian who published, The History and Antiquities as well Ecclesiastical as Civil of the Isle of Tenet, in Kent .

Thomas Alien, Vicar of Murston, sometime Fellow of University College, writes to his friend Thomas Heame, the antiquary, of Edmund Hall that "it has only an indifferent character and is a poor performance." Heame refers to "that vile, silly Pimp, that vile wretch, Lewis the Pyrate, the same poor writer that drew up and published Wicliffs Life. He is a Wiclivist, Calvinist, Puritan & Republican, and hath wrote and published divers other things of no manner of Esteem among honest learned men. Lewis has the character of a rogue and a villain."

18th century historians mostly vicars had something of the tone of some bloggers about them don’t you think?


  1. So it won't be open for visitors / schools / historians in the winter then?

  2. If no charge is to be made how will it pay its way? are your books free Michael?

  3. 14.27 I believe that it is too early to say yet.

    Ken I am happy to do what I did with them before which is to provide them with local history books to sell at reasonable discount on a sale or return basis.

    Last year the spitfire and hurricane museum, which has free entry, made more out if the profit on this and the aviation books they sold than the maritime museum made from charging entry.

    I also have the right contacts for getting them a stock of maritime books at the right prices and discounts should the wish.

    As it has it’s own little quay and beach within the harbour they could sell tea and coffee there the profit on this would be very large indeed.

    What they could charge for is to get volunteers to take groups of people on guided tours of the harbour of things like the lighthouse, magazine sailors church etc.

    The really big potential tourist attraction that Ramsgate has is the tunnel system, I don’t know if you have ever visited the tunnel system at Dover Castle, it is so popular that you normally have to book well in advance.

    This link takes you to archive footage of the Ramsgate tunnel system in use as you can see it wouldn’t cost very much to make part of the tunnel system as it was then, there is also potential for exhibiting maritime items that are to large to fit in the museum and are unsuitable to be displayed outside.

  4. How was the matter of the £267,000 Butler legacy resolved ?

    If Steam Museum have that money from EKMT then they must have taken on any bonds of trust associated with the legacy.

    If the legacy is for the provision of a maritime museum service in Thanet then, Ken, I suggest you have a word with former EKMT trustee Bill Hayton. Because in answer to your point about how the museum pays its way, £267,000 of capital would seem a pretty reasonable starting point ?

    At the moment it rather looks as if the former EKMT trustees tried to slip out of individual unlimited liability for damages re the Cervia neglect and the legacy was used as a sweetner to appease the Cervia owners Steam Museum Trust.

    It may be that if another party stepped forward and said they would run the museum service then they could sue the former EKMT trustees and the Steam Museum Trust for £267,000 ?

    That may be why no one else seemed to get a look in at what I understand is a rent free offer of the building ?

    It looks on the face of it that Thanet Council abused office to protect certain cllrs from individual liability as trustees.

    At over £100,000 per year council grant for quarter of a century what museum service did Thanet get to show for EKMT's existence ?

    What must be a fact is that whatever deal was struck it was done at a time the Charity Commission had a live investigation into EKMT.

  5. Main thing for us here in Ramsgate Richard is that the museum is now open, I belive there is still quite a lit of work to be done sorting out the legal side.

  6. I had to pay to go in today but I didn't mind as long as it was open - there were at least ten visitors at 10.30 this morning so i hope the gorgeous weather helped and they had lots of visitors


Please note comments that may be libellous, comments that may be construed as offensive, anonymous derogatory comments about real people, comments baiting internet trolls, comments saying that an anonymous comment was made by a named real person, boring comments and spam comments, comments in CAPs will be deleted. Playground stuff like calling real people by their time stamp or surname alone, referring to groups as gangs, old duffers and so on will result in deletion. Comment that may be construed as offensive to minority groups is not allowed here either, so think before you write it, remember that the internet is a public place, that it is very difficult to be truly anonymous and that everyone who uses it leaves a trail of some sort. Also note the facility to leave anonymous comment will be turned of during periods when I am unable to monitor comment, this will not affect people commenting who are signed on to their blogger accounts. When things are particularly difficult on the commercial spam front I may turn comment moderation on for periods.

If you feel that someone has left a comment that is offensive and directed at you personally please email me (link on the sidebar) asking to have it removed, you will need to tell which post and the date and timestamp of the offending comment. Please do not reply to the offending comment as I will assume you continuing the dialogue as meaning that you want the comments left there.