Monday, 29 November 2010

Building Storeys: The Work of A Buildings Historian

ELLEN: HOUSE HISTORIAN. Read post below and see link for further reading.

Building Storeys: The Work of A Buildings Historian

The Work of A Buildings Historian

Park Street, Mayfair 1901 (Survey of London)
I came to researching historic buildings by accident. All I knew was that I wanted to work with old buildings and play a part in their conservation. I had always loved history; I had always been interested in old buildings and always enjoyed the process of research. But it was only when I studied for a post-graduate in building conservation at the Architectural Association that I realised that there could be a career incorporating all these elements.

I started at the deep end, researching buildings for a firm of conservation architects. I was and am ostensibly an historian but my post-graduate in building conservation gave me that depth of knowledge required by architectural professionals.

Today my clients include architects, property developers, planning consultants as well as private home owners. The latter call on my services for many reasons; mostly just to find out the story of their house, but at other times it is to support a planning application or help settle a boundary dispute.

A house historian will look at dates, people and any stories surrounding the house and occupants. In my work, I also look at what was on the site before construction, who built it, how was it constructed, for whom and why? What was the building used for, what alterations had been made in the decades / centuries since construction? I scrutinise architects’ plans, identify alterations and piece together how the building has evolved. This kind of research aids the restoration, conservation and building process. For instance it can determine the historical importance and relevance of architectural features and whether they can or cannot be altered or removed. Particularly if a building is listed, an in depth knowledge of the building’s fabric is crucial.

One example of my work involved a house in St John’s Wood that had been lived in by a famous artist in the 19th century. It was assumed he had designed it himself and had had the entire building built in 1888. However, my research involving visual inspection and later documentary searches revealed the grand late Victorian house was built partially around a more humble but equally fascinating structure dating to 1825. The conservation / architectural result was that the intended extension had to be modified but in the end the owner achieved what he wanted without disturbing the earlier fabric of the building.

Another example was, a homeowner who had purchased a listed house in Cumberland Terrace in Regent’s Park, built in 1828 and wanted a swimming pool dug in the basement. The opinion was that the listed status was mainly for its external structure and appearance and that the house had been heavily altered internally and therefore the pool should be permitted. However, research revealed the basement floor to be virtually untouched since the late Georgian period and so the owner had to rethink his pool plans. My work is balanced between wanting to conserve the historic fabric of buildings and trying to achieve what the client wants. Ultimately, though, I can only report the facts and from that decisions can be made.

Cumberland Terrace 1938 (Survey of London)
While I work all over the country, I have often been asked to research a Georgian or Victorian townhouse in Belgravia or Mayfair with a view to converting the building back into a single residence (having been converted into flats in the 1950s). In these instances, I would be required to find out the original layout of the building in order to reinstate the plan form, its walls, doorways, windows and sometimes floor levels.

When I research the history of a house I begin by inspecting the premises and getting a feel for the structure. I will then source information at local libraries and archives e.g. maps, parish records, manorial records, electoral rolls, census returns and archived photographs of the building site or area. Depending on the building, a visit to the National Archives at Kew may be needed. In the case of an in depth architectural search, I always visit the Royal Institute of British Architects Library as well.

From these example sources, and many others I call on, I can build and write a history of the building, for the architects or owners. I often liken it to doing a jigsaw puzzle (but without a picture to guide you). Each piece is important, but it is only when you put them all together that the full historical picture of the house is finally revealed.

(This blog first appeared on

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Tudor House Opening for Christmas

For the details of the Tudor House opening and Museum have a look at the following link.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Funeral Service Details for Mick Twyman

Please find below the funeral details for Mick Twyman.

The service will take place at the Margate Crematorium on Thursday 30th September at 11.20am and will follow on at Lesters, Ramsgate Road.

Arrangements for Floral tributes to Gore Bros Ltd

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Mr Mick Twyman Secretary to 2010

It is with a great sadness that we announce the death yesterday (14th September 2010), of Mr Mick Twyman founder member and Secretary of the Margate Historical Society. This was very sudden and we will all miss him and his expert knowledge of Margate and its environs.

He had just completed the October Society Newsletter, which will be published as usual on the 14th October, and we hope to have some additional obituaries to include with this issue. The Society was developing well since the AGM in April and we all had plans to make its archive more accessible and widely used. This will go one in his memory and will be called the 'Mick Twyman Bequest'.

Mick loved Margate with a passion not felt by the many, but he was able by his example to fire others imagination and thirst for history in general and Margate History in particular. We are working on setting up a suitable tribute to the life long work of Mick and anyone wishing to be included should contact The Society via email at or or call 01843 223300

Please feel free to send your memories of Mick to this blog site, and we will be happy to post them for all to see.

Lynn Jackson
Administrator & Acting Secretary

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Talk on a New Novel & The Shell Grotto: Margate Library

Kent County Council News Release

How was the Shell Grotto discovered?

Local author talk at Margate Library

Sonia Overall will be giving a talk at Margate Library on Thursday 2 September at 6.30pm until 7.30pm. She will talk about her book the The Realm of Shells and the research that she did for it. The event is free but tickets are essential due to space. Tickets available from Margate Library, telephone 01843 223626.

The narrator of Sonia’s second novel, The Realm of Shells, is Fanny Newlove, a young girl who moves to Margate with her family in 1835. The discovery of an underground shell grotto in their new back garden is a catalyst for the unravelling of Fanny's world, as childhood secrets are replaced by adult intrigues and ruthless profiteering. Although a fictional account, the book includes many facts about the story of Margate’s Shell Grotto.

As well as being an author and teacher of creative writing, Sonia Overall has a ‘secret life’ as a street performer and musician. See her website for more information:

For further information please contact Margate Library or Jane Bex on 01843 223626

Monday, 19 July 2010

Service of Commemoration Pilot Officer John L Allen DFC

A Service of Commemoration and Thanksgiving
for the Life of
Pilot Officer John Lawrence Allen DFC
(1916 – 24/7/40)
Saturday, 24th July 2010
Canterbury Christ Church University
Broadstairs Campus
Northwood Road
CT10 2WA
Tel 01843 609120 for further information

The University’s Chaplain, Revd Dr Jeremy Law will conduct the service to honour John L Allen, in the courtyard of the Broadstairs Campus at 2.30pm on Saturday 24th July. All are welcome to attend and join together in the service of remembrance. Refreshments will follow in the Allen building where attendees will be able to view a small display of documents on John Allen’s life as a WW II pilot. Pilot Officer John L Allen DFC, who has a University building at the Broadstairs Campus named after him,flew with the 54 Squadron and received his DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross) from King George VI only a few weeks before his death. He is also credited with the 54 Squadrons first claim of the war when he shot down a Ju88 in the Dunkirk area on 21st May 1940.
John L Allen’s Spitfire was the first RAF aircraft brought down in Thanet during the Battle of Britain, when on 24th July 1940, at the age of 24 he died when his plane stalled and crash landed into a substation in. Omer Avenue Cliftonville. He was attempting to reach RAF Manston after his Spitfire R6812 had suffered engine damage during combat with a ME 109, flown by renowned German fighter pilot Adolf Galland.
He is buried in a Commonwealth War Grave in Margate Cemetery. His funeral was reported in the Isle of Thanet Gazette on August 4th 1940, which also recorded funerals on the same day of another RAF pilot plus a German pilot, saying: “All three were buried with the homage due to gallant young men”.
Along with many others, John L Allen’s name can also be seen on the “The Battle of Britain Monument London”, first unveiled by Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall on the 18th September 2005. This memorial was built to recognise one of the key battles of World War II and to raise the awareness of its importance amongst subsequent generations.
The Broadstairs Campus will also host a public lecture on Thursday 7th October 2010 on the subject of the Battle of Britain. Military historian Mr Richard C Smith will discuss ‘Memories of the Battle of Britain’, which will include events over the Thanet skies during the Second World War and the role of RAF Manston.
The lecture will take place at the Canterbury Christ Church University’s Broadstairs Campus, Northwood Road, Broadstairs, CT10 2WA. It will start at 6pm and is open to all members of the public. Booking is required in advance.
To book a place and seek or to provide further information about John L Allen DFC
please contact Sharon Quy-Verlander Tel 01843 609120.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Thank you to all.

Neptune Square from the air.

To all readers of this blog, I would like to thank those of you able to get to the AGM last week, a great time was had by all. Specific thanks go to Mariette, who at the last moment stepped in a helped with the Tea, Coffee and those great cakes. Thanks to Ian at Angelas Cafe for Making the Cakes, we must have some more soon. (Angela's Cafe is on The Parade next to Cafe G, for those of you wou may like some sooner)..

Thanks to the Margate Media Centre for the room and the IT link, also to Derek Harding of the Margate Renewal Partnership for supporting the work of the Margate Historical Society. Thanks to Tony Ovenden for showing us all how to get to see the great Blogs about Margate and to look at films on YouTube.

All the officers of the Society were elected unanimously and we all look forward to more events and meetings to follow. Watch this space for more dates.

A big thanks to the family of Mrs Hilda Goodbody who lived in Margate from 1949 to 2000, who had the Post Office in Approach Road, Cliftonville till 1954. She was member of the Ladies Lifeboat Guild of Margate RNLI and continued till the 1990s.

She sadly passed away in 2004 and her son Tony has donated to the Society a collection of papers covering the Great Storm and the Day the Sea Froze. Thank you Tony we do appreciate it. Any member want to see any of these archive materials do contact me at the following email margate@tesco,net or call 01843 223300.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Margate Historical Society: AGM

Please find below the AGM on the 16th April (Friday) at 2.30pm RSVP to or

Margate Historical Society

AGM Friday 16th April 2010: 2.30pm

Margate Media Centre (Old Lloyds Bank Building)
King Street, Margate

2.30 Introductions and Welcome: Mick Twyman

2.35 Election of Officers for year April 2010;
Current Chairman John T Williams

Nominations have been received and duly seconded for the following posts:





(Note only members of the Historical Society are allowed to vote, please bring your membership cards with you if possible).

2.40 Chairman’s Thanks for Attending & Voting

2.45 Society’s Plans for the future: Mick Twyman

3.15 Introduction to the Internet Archive, this section will explain
the Society’s plan to load archive materials on to the internet so
that people further a field can enjoy the history of Margate and its

Questions and Answers:
a) about accessing the internet via the Library Service

3.30 Plans for smaller meetings in local areas.

4.00 Date of Next AGM 15th April 2010

Membership Forms will be available on the day.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Countess of Huntingdon & Zion Chapel Burial Ground

Meeting arranged to discuss the future of the Countess of Huntingdon & Zion Chapel Burial Ground Margate.

Meeting 24th March 6-7 on St John's & Holy Trinity School.

Please attend, if you want to protect the Burial Ground

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Margate Historical Society AGM

Please note that the AGM will be on Friday 16th April at the Margate Media Centre (was Lloyds Bank), King Street, Old Town Margate. 2.30pm

All Welcome, please RSVP to

Elections of officers and a tour around the Margate History web presence.

Margate from Steve Freeman

Margate in Pictures

Margate by Steve Freeman

Have a look and tell us what you think of these


Thursday, 11 February 2010

Arlington Tower 1962

Arlington Tower 1962
Originally uploaded by Pauls Images

An interesting view of this controversial tower.

Again many thanks to Pauls Images, please do not reproduce this image.

Station Green Margate

Station Green Margate
Originally uploaded by Pauls Images

A rare glimpse of how that area used to look.

Many thanks to Pauls Images for allowing me to blog this. Please respect his request not to reproduce.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Membership Cards, Elections and AGM

Good news, Membership cards are being designed and printed and will be sent out in March 2010 along with nomination papers for election of Officers for the Society.

AGM will be in April, venue and time will be notified at the same time.

If you would like to check if your subscription has arrived please call
01843 223300 (Admin).

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Lynn Jackson

St Johns Margate School Reunion

I have been asked to post this as they are looking for anyone from the 1970's who attended.

Was it you?

Monday, 11 January 2010

In memory of Ann Barford

Under the heading burial at the crossroads, this article by Mick Twyman and Alf Beeching from the Margate Historical Archives is about the tragic story of Ann Barford.

Monday, 4 January 2010

The loss of the "Hawksdale" 27th January 1899

Another winters tale from the Maritime Margate archives published by the Margate Historical Society , this article written by Mick Twyman and Alf Beeching , tells the story of the loss of the "Hawksdale" in January 1899 and its cargo of 900 pianos during a all too familiar January storm.

The loss of Pilot Officer John Allen

In reply to a enquiry about the spitfire that crashed into the sub station in Omar Avenue , Cliftonville , Margate during the Battle of Britain claiming the life of Pilot Officer John Allen. I have attached notes from John William's archive.
As you can see from reading the notes Pilot Officer John Allen was a true hero a eight victory ace who died for King and Country.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

The Long Row 1895

This story of determination and endurance of Margate boatmen took place in 1895, written and researched by Mick Twyman for the Margate Maritime archive. It is about the Margate Lifeboat "Quiver"and the crew of 14 under skipper Steve Clayson, who rowed a round journey of 80 miles to rescue the crew of the Norwegian Barquentine "Tvedstraved" only to abort the mission to find out later that the crew had been rescued by the Harwhich lifeboat.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Oh dear , Oh Lor , she's going over

I have received a request for some information on the "Friend to all Nations" surf boat disaster on the morning of 2nd December 1897 claiming the lives of nine Margate men. Rather than send out the information I have posted it on the blog for all to share. The extractis froma article by Mick Twyman and Alf Beeching from the History of the Margate surf boats, Maritime Margate number two published by the Margate Historical Society 2002. Also included is the details of the Nayland Rock seafront statue and the monument at Margate cemetery on the lifeboatmen grave.