Sunday, 12 September 2010

Photos of the Tudor House in Margate

One of the buildings open as part of this weekend’s activities was The Tudor House. The only part that wasn’t open was the cellar, so I managed to get quite a few pictures of the rest.

This was the first time I have visited this marvellous old building and I very much enjoyed my visit.

Before I look into the history of this building I am putting down my initial impression of this building, I would like to make it quite clear that this isn’t an expert historical opinion, just my ideas from a first visit.

I know this sounds a bit stupid but the upstairs seems to be older and more authentic than the downstairs.

I have had some involvement with very old buildings over the years. I also have done a certain amount of carpentry and have for instance used an adze in earnest.

An example of what I mean is that it looks like some of the timbers in the downstairs part have been sawn planed and then have had marks put on them with a gouge, to make them look like they have been cut with an adze.

Another observation with my engineering hat on was what appears to be some asbestos used in the construction of a small part of one of the ceilings that may be dangerous.

My understanding is that Margate is the oldest of our seaside towns, this idea is a bit on the vague side and is mostly based on the kings letters to the Lords Warden of the Cinque Ports, written between the mid 1200s and about 1600.

Looking at John Speed’s map of Kent drawn in 1611 Margate looks to be the only substantial town in Thanet, about a quarter of the size of Canterbury or a third of Sandwich at that time.

I would think the cellar of the house is the oldest part, probably late medieval say about 1300 give or take 100 years either way.

By the late 1500s I would doubt there was much in the way of oak growing locally and so I would expect that most of the timber would have come from shipwrecks.

The stripy look, I mean the exposed beams on the outside, isn’t how the house would have looked either. Although these old timber frame houses were constructed with a wooden frame, and daub plastered onto thin strips of wood nailed to the timber frame, the thin timber strips were nailed onto the outside, across the timber frame. So the outside would have looked like an old plaster wall, fairly flat all over.

I would say that at sometime around 1300 someone built a timber frame house, probably a single story, over the cellar that is under about a quarter of the left hand end of the house, looking from the front.

The bottom part of the timber frame rots away, even oak after a while and has to be replaced.

I would have thought that from that time a serries of rebuildings and repairs, using the materials from the previous incarnation of the building and in the style of the period, went on until about 1600.

Most of the surrounding buildings would have of a similar style and construction in about 1600 and as they wore out would have been replaced with brick ones, between then and about 1900.

Poorer peoples buildings would have built with timber frames throughout this period too.

The chimneys are obviously old and were probably built at different times as the building developed.

Click on the link for the pictures


  1. Hello there,

    I also visited Tudor House over the weekend, and I noticed that there was sign outside saying that a gentlemen (I can't remember his name) was in the middle of refurbishing the house when he passed away in 1952. I think this must be the reason that some of the house is older than other parts.
    I wish I knew more about the actual history of the people that used to live there years ago. So if anybody knows more about that I would love to know more.

  2. Michael, your understanding is mostly based on the kings letters to the Lords Warden of the Cinque Ports, written between the mid 1200s and about 1600. Did you read it in the press at the time or have you researched it since?

  3. Hello all, the Margate Historical Society has a great collection of history on the Tudor House. Contact us on

  4. Michael, it would be very interesting if there are visitor statistics available for the venues open this weekend, like the Tudor House for example.

  5. Michael - see if you can get hold of Mick Twyman and Alf Beeching's research on the building published via Margate Historical Society in 2000. Beware of other writers such as Roger Brown in “Old Houses and Cottages of Kent”, who misdescribe the house in some important elements. Even the late Dr. Alan Kay tried to revise the importance of the building, aware, as he was, of some of the changes that happened during its restoration. Glad you finally made it to one of Margate's true gems.

  6. Thanks for revealing. Quite simple and straightforward to comprehend. Done well!

  7. Thanks to you for the post relating to this issue, it turned out very useful.

  8. It's been a while since you visited, Michael, but I've just come across this page.

    I can illuminate a couple of questions.

    The laths would not have been applied outside the structural timbers. The style employed here is "close studding" - using more timber between the structural pieces than required -, and was very much meant to be seen. Timber was still plentiful - it didn't need to be recycled from ships -, but it had to be bought, and close studding displayed the house-owner's ability to pay for excessive material. This is attested not only by very many surviving examples, but by copious contemporary records, written and drawn.

    You're probably right about the marking on internal timbers being subsequent. This would have been to provide a key for plastering, by a later generation adapting or updating the house.

    Historic England considers the restoration to be remarkably accurate, and the major part of the house to date from the early 1500s.

    Ian M. Palmer.


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