Saturday, 1 March 2014

Saint Augustine and Saint Augustine’s Abbey in Ramsgate an update and tales of two Augustines.

First and foremost it is as well to remember that there was more than one Saint Augustine and the one that relates to Ramsgate is generally known as Saint Augustine of Canterbury. This is the one who was a Benedictine monk who became the first Archbishop of Canterbury in the year 597.

Augustine landed on the Isle of Thanet in the late 500s and from here went to Canterbury the main town of the pagan king of Kent; King Æthelberht.

The abbey dates from around 150 years ago here is the English Heritage listing and up until recently has been the home of a community of Benedictine monks.

Recently the monks moved out and the selling of the Abbey and its contents has been the subject of various news stories, some of which were a bit on the worrying side see

I first blogged about this back in 2009 anyway now the Abbey has changed use to a different part of The Roman Catholic Church and will be back in use again next month as a centre for retreats.
The inauguration will be on 16th March, see

Here in Ramsgate we now have the shrine of St Augustine this is now linked to a major retreat centre, I see this as another positive venture for the town which like the tunnels opening soon will bring more visitors to the town.  

It is important to understand that the Abbey Church is different from the abbey and forms part of the Catholic parish of Ramsgate and Minster, see

Anyway on to a final historical conundrum, which is this picture

I have heard that the catholic war memorial was desecrated frequently during a period of anti catholic feeling that the monks had it quietly demolished, this seems a bit unlikely to me, any information about this would be useful. 

There is also this on the 1872 os map, was it at some time an observatory, perhaps Pugin’s once again any information would be helpful.       


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. The observatory is shown on the OS maps up until the 1907 1:2500 County Series map. The next OS map I know of is the one dated 1939 - by which time the observatory has gone and the site provides the road access to the Royal Espanade.

  3. There was a story about the observatory going around in the 1960's. Perhaps some of this could be checked against newspaper records:
    The abbot of the monastery, Erkonwald (?) Egan, installed the war memorial on the wall of the Pugin observatory in the early 1920's. As you can see, this included a crucifix which was vandalized one night. A letter was then sent anonymously to a local newspaper, stating that "local protestants" objected to the "public idolatry" of the crucifix. Apparently the abbot replied, saying that he would replace the crucifix (he never did).
    There are two rumours attached to this. One, the abbot already knew that the Westcliff Promenade was going to be built, and hoped to stop work on this by putting the war memorial in the way. Two, those who were going to benefit financially from the Westgate development arranged for the vandalism, not any Protestants (who were never traced, apparently, neither could anybody guess who they could have been).

    There was a strong feeling back then that the Westgate development involved serious collusion and corruption between the then town council and developers, but all those in the know must now be dead.

    BTW, the monks only sold whatever church plate belonged to them privately. They were careful to establish ownership before doing so. Most of the hostility against them is from people ignorant of the law.

    1. Thanks 10.31 I suppose I wasn’t listening that well in the 60s, this sounds like a much more detailed account than I can remember and has an air of plausibility to it.

      I guess the thing that niggles me is that I can’t find anything about the observatory, I guess the dome rotated and had some opening for the telescope.


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