Good and Great
List of Displays
In British archaeology the Industrial Period is characterised by the effects of the growth of mechanised industrial and agricultural production. The impact of Industrialisation from the 1700s onwards was manifest in population movement, new transport networks, international trade and changes in people’s lifestyle including their houses and personal belongings.Agriculture
At the beginnings of the 1700s, Thanet’s population lived in small rural communities. Broadstairs was a small fishing port and although Ramsgate was a busy trading port, there was no official harbour area.
Thanet has always had good well-drained agricultural land and in the 18th- 19th centuries farmland was mostly given over to corn and barley production. Hops were also produced on the Thanet and Oast Houses such as the one in the village of Monkton show that the hops were processed on the Isle. The marsh areas of the former Wantsum channel were used as pasture land for sheep.
Thanet’s agricultural economy was affected heavily by the intensification of industrial farming methods that took place in this period. More and more complex tools, machines and engines were used to make farming more productive. The patchwork of fields of rural Thanet is a product of the processes of agricultural change in the 18th and 19th century.Breweries
Although there is little remaining evidence of the enclosure of traditional strip fields that began in the 18th century, there is evidence of increase in field size to provide ease of access to large ploughing and threshing machines. Small traditional strip fields and crofts were no longer suitable for industrial farming.
The changes in traditional farming practises brought a reaction from the agricultural workers. Less manpower was required and work became increasingly seasonal and unskilled, census returns show a high proportion of migrant agricultural workers in Thanet. Violent reactions grew to the introduction of machinery and market economics to agriculture as it dissolved traditional ways of life. Local historians have noted that members of Thanet communities were heavily involved in the Swing Riots of 1830.
As a result of being a rich barley growing area, Thanet was able to support two Malthouses by 1750. These two establishments became popular and successful breweries gradually absorbing other firms. Cobb’s Brewery of Margate was popular into the 20th century. Ramsgate’s Brewery was named Tomson and Wotton.Ports
The archaeological evidence of the industrialised brewing industry includes the buildings of the breweries themselves and the Public Houses they served. The architecture of many buildings was designed to accommodate horse drawn transport and the storage of grain sacks and barrels. In the countryside specilaised buildings reflect malt and barley production.
Another feature of the agricultural production of Thanet was the windmill. In its history, Thanet has had 39 windmills and nearly every town and village in Thanet has at some time had a windmill. Two of these windmills have been restored to working order, one at Sarre and one in the Drapers Mill area of Margate.
By the 1700s Ramsgate was becoming a major shipping port transporting coal from the North East of the country. The Thanet ports of Margate and Ramsgate were used as a stopping point between London and the continent. Timber and naval stores were transported between Thanet and the Baltic Coast in the early 18th century. Both Margate and Ramsgate had stone piers built during this period.
By the end of the 19th century this trade had given way to trade with the Mediterranean and other continents. In the 17th century Ramsgate was beginning to grow as a trading port and came into conflict with Sandwich. After a storm in 1703 in which ships took shelter in Ramsgate harbour, money was granted for the extension and refurbishment of Ramsgate harbour.
A by-product of Thanet’s coastal trading was the growth of smuggling in the 18th to early 19th century. Before the 18th century smuggling mostly concerned the export of highly taxed products, especially wool, with the introduction of import tax following wars on the continent, smuggling goods into the country became a profitable. Coastal Thanet is full of caves and tunnels utilised by smugglers.
One of the most notorious groups of Thanet smugglers were the Callis Court Gang from Broadstairs. Evidence of smuggling can be seen not just in the activities of smugglers but also of the officials who’s job it was to prevent smuggling. The Napoleonic Fort at Broadstairs was converted into a Preventative Station in 1816 to keep vigil for smugglers.
The Tartar Frigate Pub takes its name from a revenue boat commissioned to prevent smuggling. There is evidence however that the pub itself may well have been used by smugglers and is said to have hidden tunnels and storage areas. The Landguard and the Waterguard sent to patrol the coasts for smugglers became our familiar Coast Guards in 1831.
The proximity of the continent has always had an effect on both trade and defensive measures on the east Kent coast. Evidence of Napoleonic defences can be found all over Kent and this applies no less to Thanet. The development of cliff top and coastal sites during the Napoleonic wars was one of the most significant motivations for new building in the Industrial period.TOP
There were two Napoleonic batteries at North Cliff and Chandos in Broadstairs. These were sited on opposite sides of the bay. Military Road in Ramsgate was built to aid the loading of troops and stores on boats for the continent. Ramsgate also had a barracks and an exercise ground for cavalry. There was a fire beacon at Minster enabling rapid communication in event of emergency.
No study of Thanet in the 18th- 19th century could ignore the changes occurring in the coastal towns as a result of the growth of holiday making. The Georgians had already discovered the benefits of taking the spring waters at Tonbridge Wells when a famous Dr. Russell promoted the benefits of seawater. Thanet is close to London and has many sandy beaches.
It did not take long for the seaside towns of Thanet to become fashionable tourist resorts. Once somebody of merit had visited a town, its appeal to others would escalate. Queen Victoria visited Ramsgate as a child with her mother. Another famous inhabitant of Thanet in this period was Benjamin Beale who invented the Bathing Machine, which allowed the trend for sea-bathing to grow without compromising the modesty of the Victorian lady.
As Ramsgate grew in popularity, so did Margate, becoming the destination of choice for the affluent. Holiday making in Thanet left its mark on architecture and can be seen in the beautiful Georgian and Victorian houses that line the seafronts of Margate and Ramsgate. The lift at Ramsgate is a product of this period and has now been restored. The Margate Shell Grotto was thought to be of this period but recent research has indicated it is of a much earlier date. The promenades at Ramsgate and Margate were designed specifically for ladies and gentlemen to stroll along showing off their fine clothes and conspicuous wealth.
Souvenirs, postcards, bottles for drinks, advertising boards amongst others can all give clues to what life was like in Thanet at this time. It is worth noting that holidaymaking was not merely restricted to the towns and that day trips were organised to Minster and Grove Ferry, encouraging growth in the villages too.
The railways had an important impact on the tourist industry in 19th century Thanet. The railway line from London was one of the earliest train routes in the country dating to the mid 1840s. It provided fast and cheap travel to seaside towns. This was a landmark in the history of tourism that enabled the working classes to travel to seaside towns on cheap package deals, experiencing life away from the city. This was also a product of reforms to improve working hours and provide holiday time for workers.
The Good and the Great in Thanet
Many famous names of the 18th and 19th centuries have been heavily influenced by Thanet. Turner’s paintings clearly show skies that can be seen in Thanet today and his love of Margate was a reflection of attitudes at the time. Dickens has left his mark on Broadstairs, Pugin has left his architecture in Ramsgate and Gabriel Dante Rossetti has given the ultimate compliment to Birchington by choosing it as his place of burial.
Version 1 Posted 5/05/05
Version 2 Posted 24/02/06
Version 3 Posted 07/03/07
The information on this web page was taken from these books:Bloomfield, P. 1987 Kent and the Napoleonic Wars. Kentish Sources X. Alan Sutton Publishing for Kent Archives Office.
Busson, C. 1985 The Book of Ramsgate. Barracuda Books Ltd: Buckingham.
Dauch, J. 1985 Smuggling: Rough, Rude Men. Buckland Press Ltd: Dover.
Killingray, D. and Lawson, T. (eds.) 2004 An Historical Atlas of Kent. Phillimore and Co. Ltd.: Chichester.Land, J. Broadstairs Pubs: past and present. Thanet District Council.
Mills, C.J. 1986 The Windmills of Thanet. Thanet District Council.
Quested, R.KI. 1996 Isle of Thanet Farming Community An Agrarian History of Easternmost Kent: outlines from early times to 1993. Wye: Wye College Pess.
The Isle of Thanet Archaeological Unit. 1979. Wreck of a British Man-of-War discovered on the Goodwin Sands. Interim Report.
If this topic interests you here is some further reading:
Bird, J.E. 1974 The Story of Broadstairs and St. Peters. Lanes Ltd: Broadstairs.
Gilham, J. 1991 The Isle of Thanet Union Workhouse: Minster in Thanet. Thanet District Council.
Perkins, D.R.J. 1981 Sketches of Historic Thanet. Birchington Secretarial Service.
Perkins, D.R.J. 1989 Ramsgate and Thanet Life in Old Photographs. Sutton: Gloucester.
Scurrell, D. 1982 The Book of Margate. Barracuda Books Ltd: Buckingham.
List of Displays
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