Saturday, 17 April 2010

Ramsgate Maritime Museum will probably never open again.

Some of you will have noticed that Ramsgate Maritime Museum didn’t open over Easter as expected, after what we thought was a successful campaign to keep it open, Thanet District Council appear to have developed a Catch 22 strategy to finish of Ramsgate’s last remaining leisure facility.

This is a sorry tale put together after a week of on and off the record discussions with councillors and council officers, I think I have now got all of the information right but am open to any corrections.

The museums artefacts and the vessels Cervia and Sundowner are owned by a charitable trust – The Preston Steam Trust - that already runs another museum.

The previous trust (EKMT now disbanded) was funded by Thanet District Council and ran Ramsgate Maritime Museum and Margate Museum on a council grant of about £100,000 per year.

The previous trust (EKMT) failed to renew the lease on The Clock House, the building in Ramsgate Harbour that houses the museum.

The council now has virtually no money or staff to run any of the museums, apart from a small amount to keep Dickens House in Broadstairs running.

The Preston Steam Trust wants to run the museum, restore and maintain the vessels and dry dock, using outside grant funding at no cost to the council.

To obtain this grant funding they need security of tenure or a freehold interest in The Clock House and dry dock.

The council put The Clock House on the asset disposal list and asked for public consultation about future use of The Clock House.

Those who responded to the consultation said that they wished The Clock House to continue to be used as a museum.

The Preston Steam Trust then offered to buy the freehold of The Clock House with a covenant that The Clock House would be used as a museum in perpetuity.

The council then removed The Clock House and offered The Preston Steam Trust a long lease to which The Preston Steam Trust agreed to accept the lease .

The council then withdrew the offer of the long lease, which meant that The Preston Steam Trust couldn’t obtain grant funding to run the museum.

The council would like to see the museum open and would be prepared to let The Preston Steam Trust run it under licence, without any security of tenure with The Preston Steam Trust paying all of the operating expenses.

Of course The Preston Steam Trust can’t do this, as without security of tenure they can’t raise any funds to run the museum.

It would seem that the only option that the council has left The Preston Steam Trust, is to remove their artefacts and vessels from Ramsgate, with the current boom in UK leisure I would imagine there would be a great many towns that would welcome them.

Now at the moment Thanet District Council is run by a Conservative administration and I am being extolled upon to vote Conservative, the reasoning here would seem to be that they consider Conservatives run things better.

So here is an open question to the local Conservative politicians.

Either you think that the majority of local people don’t want the museum to remain open and you think that what is going on here is in the furtherance of local peoples wishes and interests.

Or you think that the majority of local people would like the museum to remain open but you think it is in best interest to close it.

Or you have lost control over the actions of council officers and it is they who are running the show and not you.

Or there is some other option that hasn’t occurred to me that in some way makes sense and you can explain

Well guys and gals which is it?


  1. What on earth are TDC playing at here? I can understand that they may not like the idea of it being a museum in perpetuity, but they have failed to come up with any alternative. Or if they have, they're not telling us.

    What a shocking, top down, we know best approach from TDC officers. They run rings around our useless elected representatives. The officer in charge appears to be hell bent on building up his own little public sector property empire rather than doing what's best for the area, or caring less.

    More accountability please!

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. Ramsgate is getting a bit thin on the ground on what it has to offer to tourists like me. But maybe thats what TDC want, but I for one will never visit Margate, its a total dump.

  4. Council officers are getting out of control, and our elected councillors are doing nothing about it. You only have to look around and listen carefully to understand what's going on. Councillors and officers alike are too busy covering their own arses to worry about ours!

    Don't just read this blog, go out and rattle someone's cage. And if that doesn't work, rattle it harder.

  5. 16:26, Margate Museum is also closed & shows no signs of reopening!

  6. Good point Rick, what will happen to the Butler legacy ?

  7. is this another mighty duo balls up
    if so well done E&L

  8. TDC took a decision about 2 1/2 years ago to stop funding the museum, but did not have the cojones to actually do it out right. Richard Samuels and the elected members did the margate 2 step for a year then just stopped the grant funding. With tdc's assistance the prestonbased steam museum trust got a wedge of cash from the EKMT and all the artifacts. tdc then reneged on a deal with the steam museum trust as they thought they could open a fancy french restaurant in the museum and waste more of our dosh.
    in the meantime the harbour goes to rack and ruin the arches are collapsing and peoople are being driven out of business.
    tdc got rid of the only person who used to try and fight the harbours corner.

  9. Richard sorry I have deleted your comment as I think it may be potentially libellous, please people, keep peoples names out of this one and remember the only useful objective here is to try and keep the museum.

  10. THe only last resting place for the Cervia is probably in the old dry dock as it is very doubtful if she would make it to th dock gates let alone take a voyage several years ago her plates on the port side gave out flooding the engine room and no permanent repairs were made she must have deteriated considerably since then to sink on being moved would be such a sad end to a tug with a lot of history

  11. 14.20 I think the idea of use as a museum in perpetuity was a guarantee that the trust couldn’t sell it on at a profit to a commercial operator for a different use.

    I think the council have some notion that as they own all of the harbour, apart from a small part owned by Southern Water, they may be able to sell or lease the whole thing to a commercial operator.

    They seem to be going down the road of trying to use the small print to reduce people’s security of tenure.

    Looking at the overall state of the harbour this seems to have backfired on them.

    16.45 Perhaps some sort of concerted campaign to keep the museum open would be possible.

    00.02 As far as I can see The Preston Steam Trust are the only organisation available with the resources to make it into a viable leisure attraction for Ramsgate. My understanding is that that they had hoped to secure tenure in 2008 and would have held a series of leisure events in the harbour area during 2009.

  12. 10.57 I would imagine that when it comes to assessing the condition of riveted steel Preston Steam Trust must have considerable experience and as they have obviously been investing in the restoration of the tug, I would imagine that there is considerable hope for her.

  13. If TDC push Preston Steam Trust out, no one will replace them.

    Ramsgate has numerous prestigeous places for restaurants, so to squeeze out an organisation trying to save and enhance a Ramsgate tourist attraction is utter madness and very short-sighted.

    The average life span for a restaurant is 7-10 years before a new restauranteur tops it with a better venue.

    This is asset destruction not asset disposal.

    Save the Maritime Museum, you know it makes sense.

  14. The Conservatives in Thanet are a joke.

  15. I have without a doubt preston steam have the knowledge to repair the CERVIA unfortunately unlike a traction engine on dry land she has to be drydocked the problem is to shift her to a slip without incident a big risk to take on not immpossible but at what cost?

  16. I believe that regular ultrasound surveys are being carried out on Cervia and that her plate thicknesses are generally much better than you would imagine. The holing in 2003 was caused by abrasion damage - not corrosion. The Steam Museum trust includes former commercial shipping operators and it has access to Naval Architects with current experience of slipping/dry-docking historic vessels. This is just one example of why we should leave running a museum/heritage attraction to people who know what they are doing.

  17. I say if there is no alternative to what's currently on offer keep it closed!


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