Margate's Seaside Heritage

BookMargate's Seaside Heritage

Margate's Seaside Heritage

Informed Conservation


October 31st, 2007





The seaside holiday and the seaside resort are two of England’s greatest exports to the world. Since the early 18th century, when some of the wealthiest people first sought improved health by bathing in saltwater, the lure of the sea has been a fundamental part of the British way of life, and millions of people still head to the coast each year.

Margate has an important place in the story of seaside holidays. It vies with Scarborough, Whitby and Brighton for the title of England’s first seaside resort, and it was the first to offer sea-water baths to visitors. Margate can also claim other firsts, including the first Georgian square built at a seaside resort (Cecil Square), the first substantial seaside development outside the footprint of an historic coastal town, the site of the world’s first sea-bathing hospital, and, as a result of its location along the Thames from London, the first popular resort frequented by middle- and lower-middle-class holidaymakers.

It is unlikely that Margate will ever attract the vast numbers of visitors that flocked there in the 19th and early 20th centuries. However, with growing concerns about the environmental effects of air travel and a continuing awareness of the threat of excessive exposure to the sun, the English seaside holiday may enjoy some form of revival. If Margate finds ways to renew itself while retaining its historic identity, it may once again become a vibrant destination for holidays, as well as being an attractive place for people to live and work.

Author Information

Author and expert of English heritage, London. Allan Brodie is a Senior Investigator in Historic England. He is the author of a number of books about the history of tourism, including seven examining the development of seaside resorts. Nick Dermott is a Conservation Architect and acts as heritage advisor to Thanet District Council. He was a founder member and was for many years Chair of the Pugin Society. Lucy Jessop is an Investigator at English Heritage. Author and Exhibitions and Images Officer at Historic England.

Table of Contents

Section TitlePage
1. Introduction
2. 'Merry Margate': its seaside story
Margate in 1736
The first visitors arrive 1730-1769
1769-1800 - a change of pace
Why Margate - location, location, location?
1800-1846 - development along the coast
Margate's terraced houses
'Merry Margate'
Expansion and optimism - Margate before the Second World War
Storm and stagnation - the decline of the resort infrastructure
Margate in the late 20th century
3. A future for Margate
Further reading
Gazetteer of Margate's principal buildings of interest