Spotlight on Ramsgate
PUBLISHED: 15:43 19 July 2010 | UPDATED: 17:33 20 February 2013
Celebrating its famous annual regatta this month, Ramsgate has a lively Royal harbour, splendid architecture, a charming cafÃ© culture and plenty to offer the weekend visitor
Spotlight on Ramsgate
Celebrating its famous annual regatta this month, Ramsgate has a lively Royal harbour, splendid architecture, a charming caf culture and plenty to offer the weekend visitor
The heart of Ramsgate is the wonderful harbour, with its colourful boats, majestic sweeping cliffs and lively seafront cafs and bars. But behind the waterfront, the town has plenty of hidden gems.
Splendidly elegant Regency terraces and squares complement the quirky seaside buildings and the tremendous Gothic revival buildings by Augustus Pugin and his sons, and youll find Ramsgate has a friendly, easy-to-love town centre with excellent individual shops.
Writers, actors and artists have always been drawn to this lively idiosyncratic town: Victorian novelist Wilkie Collins had two Ramsgate mistresses and artists Van Gogh, William Frith and Tissot painted Ramsgate scenes.
Ramsgate sands won the European Blue Flag award in 2008 and the town is surrounded by beautiful countryside and pretty villages, plus some of the most magnificent coastal walks in the south east. Its a Victorian seaside town thats been brought bang up-to-date, without losing any of its charm.
Theres very little on-street parking, but plenty of car parks, and the town is compact enough to cover in one (long) walk. The most notable buildings in the West Cliff part are The Grange in St Augustines Road, Augustus Pugins wonderful house, next door to which is St Augustines Abbey Church, also built by him, with its scenic clifftop graveyard affording panoramic views out to sea. Across the road is St Augustines Abbey, designed by Augustuss son, Edward.
Begin the rest of your tour at Victoria Parade, just behind Marine Esplanade. Along here is what was originally The Granville Hotel, Edward Pugins fine Grade II listed building that was the last word in luxury until it went bankrupt in 1872. Today, the grand building has been converted into flats, a neat irony, as The Granville began life as a row of terraced houses, and conversion to a hotel was an economic expedient. Numbers 3, 4 and 5 Victoria Parade were also designed by Edward Pugin.
Returning to the Marine Esplanade, turn right and youll soon pass the Victorian Pavilion and the obelisk, then you can enjoy the view of the variety of sailing craft in the marina. Further out, beyond the inner harbour, there is the Clock House, home of Ramsgate Maritime Museum.
Cross the main road and you come to Harbour Street, which changes into the High Street as you enter the heart of town. Turn right at Church Hill for St Georges church. From here you can see the grand buildings of Chatham House school, founded in 1797.
Return to the High Street, turn right, cross the road and go up Chapel Place. Here youll see wonderful Georgian house fronts, now converted to businesses and flats. At the end of the street theres a mock-Tudor house with blue bay windows, once the vicarage of St Georges church.
At the end of Chapel Place, go left down Elms Avenue. On the left are almshouses of the Parish of St George. Take the first left turn after the almshouses into Clarendon Gardens and Clarendon House Grammar School is on the right. Go past the school to the right of a flint wall, and you will see what was once the Public Library, destroyed by fire, now being rebuilt.
Opposite this library is Guildford Lawn a typical Regency crescent. At the end of this road go down Effingham Street, opposite. Go past Ramsgate fire station, to the bottom of Effingham Street, turn left into Queen Street, and right down York Street. Turn into Charlotte Court on the left side of York Street, turn right and go through a courtyard that leads to the alleyway back on to York Street, with the police station on your left. Continue towards the harbour to meet Royal Parade.
Cross the street and go down Military Road, to see the Smack Boys Home next door to which is The Sailors Church. Turn around and follow the road with the harbour on your right and youll reach Marine Esplanade.
Thanet Visitor Information Centre (01843 577577) covers the whole of Thanet, including Ramsgate.
- The Grange (01628 825925), rescued and renovated by the Landmark Trust. It is open on some Wednesday afternoons and occasional weekends and available for holiday lets, and was built by the great Augustus Pugin as his family home and work place, exemplifying his principles of building inside out the shape of interior rooms dictating the exterior plan, which was copied by many others throughout the country. Richly decorated with wallpapers, tiles and furnishings
- St Augustines Catholic Church, also built by Pugin, and where he and other family members are buried. There is a scenic clifftop graveyard that overlooks the busy commercial ferryport terminal
- The Italianate Greenhouse (01843 585588), an elegant greenhouse dating from the 1830s within the George V1 memorial park, part of the original East Cliff Lodge
- St Georges Church. This has a high tower topped with a remarkable octagonal stone lantern: each face of it bears a letter spelling St George, and the weathervane on top has a bullet hole from the Second World War, and also The Dunkirk Window, a stained-glass representation depicting ships setting out from harbour and troops wading out from Dunkirk beach
- Sailors Church has a collection of paintings and model ships
- Bandstand (0870 2646111) hosts regular concerts throughout the year.
- Granville theatre and cinema (01843 591750).
- The harbour, with its wonderful caf culture and cosmopolitan feel. In 2006 the inner harbour achieved the Four Gold Anchor Award. There are boat trips from here (07931 744788)
- The Boating Pool (01843 581999), with arcade amusements, restaurant, playground, boating pool and an art gallery
- Play Bay (01843 590591) Childrens indoor play centre, on the harbour
- The Pinball Parlour (07966 217295) Wonderful selection of games
- Ramsgate sports Centre (01843 585111) Leisure centre with gym, aerobic studios, spa, sauna and sports hall
- Ramsgate Maritime Museum (01843 570622) in the old Clock house building. This has exhibits of the areas maritime history, but at the time of going to press was closed for renovations, so check to see whether it is open
- Market Days on Fridays and Saturdays in the pedestrianised part of town centre, just behind the seafront.
- Pegwell village: quaint old flint cottages
- Pegwell Bay, part of Kents largest National Nature Reserve
- Quex Museum House and Gardens and Powell Cotton collection (01843 842168
- RAF Manton History Museum (01843 825224) and RAF Manton Spitfire and Hurricane museum (01843 821940)
- Sandwich and Pegwell Bay National Nature Reserve (01622 662012)
- Sarre Windmill (01843 847573) with tea room and shop
- Monkton Nature reserve (01843 822666)
- Minster Abbey (01843 821254) early nunnery with seventh-century ruins, still occupied by Benedictine nuns
- Viking ship Hugin (01843 577577), full-size replica of the Viking ship which sailed to Thanet from Denmark in 1949
- Westwood Cross Shopping Centre
Past and present
In 449 Hengist and Horsa took the Isle of Thanet, including what was then Hraefns ate (cliff gap). During the middle ages, Ramesgate was a fishing village, then in 1483 the settlement became a Cinque Port as a limb of Sandwich. It grew dramatically after 1688 as a result of burgeoning international shipping trade.
From the late 18th century onwards building boomed because Ramsgate was a garrison town during the Napoleonic wars, and also as a result of its status as a fashionable seaside resort from 1780 onwards. Beautiful Georgian squares and terraces of houses proliferated, lovely Regency examples being those in Nelson Crescent and Wellington Crescent.
In 1749 work began on building a harbour, completed a century later. This harbour had Royal status, conferred on it by George 1V, who opted to use Ramsgate as his port of departure and return, in preference to Dover: Dover folk had earnt his displeasure by welcoming Queen Caroline, his hated bride. An obelisk in pier yard, known as the Royal Toothpick, commemorates his visits of 1821.
The Victorian era saw more growth and the Royal Victoria Pavilion, until recently a casino, was opened in 1904 by Princess Louise, daughter of Queen Victoria. In the First World War, Zeppelins raided the town and during the Second World War it was the principal port used for the evacuation of troops from Dunkirk.
The harbour today has small fishing vessels and yachts in both the inner and outer harbours, while a newer harbour, to the west of the Royal Harbour, is host to ferries from Ostend. In the late 1960s holiday-making had declined and large houses housed many DSS claimants. However, in 2000 the seafronts regeneration boosted the town, and new building projects began, and in 2006 the inner harbour achieved the Four Gold Anchor Award.
- Ramsgate Week 2010 (16-21 August) at Royal Harbour, the Royal Temple Yacht Clubs annual regatta
- The harbour firework display, every alternate Saturday during summer
- St Laurence in Thanet Churchyard tours (next is 4 September: 01843 592478)
- 1940s Thanet-At-War Weekend (31 July, 1 August), on Government Acre, at the seafront. Live entertainment from Kaz, demonstrations of Lindy Hop, military vehicles, stalls, etc.
Considering a move?
Compared to London, prices are very reasonable, with a one bed-roomed flat from 94,000 to 113,000, and a two bed-roomed one in the region of 140,000. A two-bed house would be around 146,000, a three-bed-roomed semi 176,000, while a four-bed house would be upwards of 280,000.
How to get there (+ map Ramsgate July 09)
Ramsgate connects to the M2/A2, and then the M25, by the A299, and the M25 is about an hours drive away; it is around 20 minutes drive from Dover and Canterbury. Theres a railway station in the north part of town. Rail and bus enquiries, contact Traveline 0871 2002233.
Satnav postcode: CT11 8LS.
Christopher Hobbs-East, Ramsgate Carnival Committee (24 and 25 July)
Tell us about Ramsgate Carnival
We are putting on a great event where people can come and enjoy Ramsgate in all its glory. Its to celebrate the town, to show people just how enjoyable and welcoming a seaside town can be. People around here have happy childhood memories of waving flags, eagerly awaiting the floats they could hear but not see, because they were just around the corner. We want this magical experience to be there for the next generation and many more after that.
What do you like about Ramsgate?
I just think its a great place for any type of person. A typical seaside English town, where the harbour has kept up to date by introducing a contemporary caf culture, yet our historys still preserved through places such as the Maritime Museum.
Whats the most interesting aspect?
The architecture is amazing! Rather like London, you can walk down a street and find buildings from two different centuries within yards of each other. Not to mention the buidlings created by the great architects, the Pugins, Augustus and his sons Edward and Peter Paul.
Whats your favourite place?
The Royal Harbour. Its nice to walk around and take in the sea air, and is the very best place to be on New Year, when the fireworks go off along the harbour wall. Its great to see the tall ships arrive in summer, and I love to see the big and small craft coming in to shelter in the surroundings of the harbour walls.
Where do you take guests?
Whenever friends or family come, we always go to Petes Fish Factory on the harbour, and walk along the seafront with a bag of fish and chips. You cant beat the smell of sea, salt and vinegar!
How would you describe Ramsgate?
A typical Victorian seaside town that has not lost its culture over the years, but has reinvented itself as a modern seaside resort. Weve got award-winning beaches and views across the channel to France. Ramsgate has such history youre constantly reminded of the days of bathing machines and Punch and Judy shows. With the ever-improving rail links, Ramsgate really is the place to live!