Saturday, 1 September 2012

Digging up Georgian Margate

Digging up Georgian Margate.

Finding any item apart from coins and tokens relating to Georgian Margate is a very difficult task due to the modern development of the Margate. Even though many fine Georgian buildings remain in the town today it is very difficult to find any items relating to life in Georgian Margate apart from the artwork and archive records in the local Margate museum.

 Since the construction and opening of the stone pier in 1815 and the construction of the sea wall that forms Marine Terrace there has been a continuous build up of sand and silt in the area.  This in turn has buried some evidence of life in Georgian Margate under layers of silt and sand in the harbour and main sands area. With items remaining buried and only accessible when there is sand erosion due to storms or during sea defence construction and repair works.

In the past there have been opportunities to find Georgian items like the aftermath of the storm of 1978 that destroyed the Jetty. The demolition and clear up that followed and the construction of a new sea defence behind the Droit house in 1985 did lead to a few finds. Most of the finds being George II, George III and George IV coins and tokens that were found using a metal detector as this was the only search option because of tidal conditions. Other items made of lead and copper were also found but it was difficult to date these items and establish a provenance from the Georgian period because of the abundance of Victorian items in the area originating from the Jetty and the Victorian Marine Palace site at the Rendezvous car park.  Examinations of all old non metallic items found in the area at the time were found to be all Victorian, Georgian items like ceramic and glass were found to be nonexistent in these areas.

The under pinning works of the Stone Pier in the spring of 2012 provided another  window of opportunity as the excavations that were to take place would lead to some deep digging in the Harbour area. Digging took place close to base of the stone pier wall and sheet piling was driven in and then capped with concrete. Old underpinning from the 1953 reconstruction work was also removed from around the square head area and the lighthouse and replaced. During the 2012 underpinning works a few Georgian items were found during excavation and these items were spread over a wide area, this was probably due to the fact that dredging took place in the Harbour in the 19th century for the paddle steamers and later in the 20th Century for the colliers removing items from the area.
 In one area around the square head remains of the balustrade that surrounded the base of the lighthouse that was lost in the February 1953 storm were found, this included some lead work used in the construction of the stone pier. Inside the Harbour easily identifiable finds like clay pipe stems and bottle necks were found, unfortunately no complete bottles or clay pipe bowls were found. Behind the Droit House on the sea ward side digging unearthed Georgian coins and some shattered remains of the original Droit House bombed during the Second World War which is consistent with the finds found when the cold harbour sea defence was constructed on the site of the Jetty entrance in 1985.

Every year since the summer of 1998 there has been erosion on certain parts of the low tide mark at Margate main sands on a regular occurrence. On some occasions small areas of sand will shift leaving evidence of the clay base of the old creek and brooks that ran through Margate. When this happens large quantities of ceramic and glass items can be found on the surface including intact items. Most items generally date from the 1840’s to the present day. When this occurs there is always an abundance of Victorian and Edwardian items and on some occasions identifiable Georgian items can be found. I have listed Georgian items that have been found in this area along with items found during the sea defence digging and items found in the town. The list is small but each item does have a genuine provenance to Margate.

Tony Ovenden

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