Posted by: madkentdragon | April 3, 2011

Tunnels, Ramsgate and Quex Park

Right now, on to Ramsgate, memories of this as a child in the 1950s are fried onions, there used to be a hotdog stand by the harbour, long beaches of sands and the Sunday School outing tea in a restaurant above a fish and chip shops whilst our parents filled up on fish and chips downstairs. The trip there and back on the coach, passing field upon fields of cabbages and cauliflowers was all part of the excitement. Of course some of these fields are now Thanet Earth.

Originally this bucket and spade coastal town had been a fishing and farming hamlet and was first noted in about 1255 as Hraefn’s Gate, meaning cliffs end and the name evolved into Ramsgate from about 1357 and became part of the Cinq Ports.

The harbour was constructed between 1749-1850 and is the only one in the United Kingdom with “Royal” in the title! Its full title is The Port and Royal Harbour of Ramsgate. This is thanks to George IV after the town entertained him fully whilst he visited with the Royal Yacht Squadron in 1821. Famous as the main departure point for the Dunkirk little ships during the evacuation, it was also the main point for the fleet during the Napoleonic Wars.

In 2010 a celebratory return of the little ships made the return trip to Dunkirk on the 70th anniversary of the rescue trips. The ferry terminal is built on reclaimed land and is now only a freight service, but has in the past been a passenger ferry to Ostend and Dunkirk. The harbour
is overlooked by the Royal Temple Yacht Club which was founded in 1857 in London at Temple Steps but moved to Ramsgate in 1897 and has been here ever since.

Places of note are Townley House, used by William IV and Princess Victoria, the Grange redesigned by Augustus Pugin and Sir Moses Montefiore’s Tomb which is a replica of Rachel’s Tomb which is between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Sir Moses had, with the permission of the Ottoman Turks, restored the original in 1841.

Under Ramsgate there is a large disused railway tunnel which in 1938 was extended and joined to other “smuggler” tunnels to provide shelter
from the on-coming war. The townsfolk had sheltered here during WWI in the zeppelin raids, being on the coast the town was vulnerable to bombing. Chemical toilets were built in the tunnels and first aid bays were added complete with running water, the main entrances were fitted with steel gas and bomb-proof doors. There were 23 entrances, with smaller tunnels leading off the main area to most of these; the tunnels could hold up to 26,000 people. A battery room and generator were added for some light, with ventilation shafts to vent the fumes.
Unfortunately, after the war the tunnels were just blocked off and sewerage pipes were laid through them and there is no access to them.

Now to Birchington, a smallish village with two notable features: Minnis Bay with its sailing and windsurfing and caves and Quex Park.
The village was first recorded in 1240 and buried in the church of All Saints is Dante Gabriel Rossetti, the 19th Century Pre-Raphaelite artist.

Quex House is a 19th Century Manor House, but there has been a house here since the early 15th Century and in the following century was owned by a family called Quekes, hence the name of the house and park. A John Powell bought the house in 1777 as an investment and his
nephew, another John demolished the original mansion and built a regency style one and developed the farmland into a park.

Major Powell-Cotton, who inherited the manor in the 19th Century, extended it in between his trips abroad where he brought back “trophies”.
His daughter Antoinette unearthed many Bronze Age artefacts and arranged the displays that now form part of the Powell-Cotton Museum which is housed in part of Quex House. The museum houses artefacts from Africa as well as mounted animals staged in diorama landscapes,  the Bronze Age local items as well as jade, ceramics and ivory from Europe, China and Japan. The rest of the house is still a private home.

Sorry, got carried away again by this quirky county so next time it will be Margate and the rest of Thanet!


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