Rule by the Margate Local Board of Health 1851 - 1858

Anthony Lee

9. A Charter for Margate

For a long time Margate was a ‘limb’, an administrative part, of the port of Dover, one of the five Cinque Ports. The Cinque Ports, from the Norman French for ‘five ports,’ were first mentioned in a Royal Charter of 1155 and originally consisted of the five ports of Hastings, New Romney, Hythe, Dover and Sandwich; these five ports were known as the Head Ports.196 This ramshackle confederation was created to provide ships and men to defend the Channel in time of war, in exchange for which the ports were exempted from various taxes and tolls and received a number of other privileges. Over the years many of the original members of the Cinque Ports went into decline and had difficulty in meeting their obligation to provide ships for the King and so between the twelfth and fourteen centuries a number of smaller ports were called upon to help share the burden, in exchange for a share of the privileges of the Cinque Ports. These additional ports became Members (also called Limbs) of their local Head Port. The arrangements made with the larger towns were confirmed by Royal Charter; these towns were known as corporate members of their local head port. Margate, and the parish of St. John’s, were too small and insignificant to become corporate members and so joined Dover in a less formal way, without a Royal Charter, and became non-corporate members.

Membership, even as a non-corporate member, had a number of advantages for a small place like Margate (and the Parish of St. John’s). It gave Margate a share in the local herring fishery, it meant that it was free from county tolls and taxes, and it enjoyed constitutional and judicial liberties that would normally only have been enjoyed by a wealthy corporation.196 In the fourteenth century, wishing to strengthen its position and to clarifying the bargains that it had made with Dover, Margate asked for a charter granting in express terms the liberties of Dover, which it had enjoyed as a Member ‘de temps que memore ne court’.196 In 1424 Margate, the parish of St. John’s and a group of other parishes in Thanet, were again recognised in a charter as ‘members and advocants of the port of Dover:’

We command you that you allow the men of the Towns of Margate and Gorisende, and the men of the Parishes of SS. John, Peter, Nicholas, and All Saints, of Birchington, Wode in the Isle of Thanet, and the men of Kingsdown, and of the Parish of Ringwold near Dover, which are Limbs and Advocants of the Port of Dover, and the said men avowing themselves to be of the said Liberty, or any one of them, to be quit of this kind of toll, custom, lastage, tallage, passage, kayage, rivage, from pontage, and all wreck, and of every their sale in its sale and re-sale throughout all our land and dominion, with sac and soc, and thol and them, wreck-free, and wit-free, and lestage-free, and lovecop-free, and of shires and hundreds, according to the tenour of the Charters and of the Confirmation aforesaid; and that you do not place, or cause to be placed, them, or any one of them, in any Assizes, Juries, or recognizances held before you for any tenure outside the Liberty, contrary to the tenour of the Charter and the Confirmation aforesaid, nor shall you in any way molest or burden them, or any one of them, contrary to the tenour of the said Charters.197

The disadvantage of non-corporate membership was, of course, that it placed Margate in a position subservient to Dover, rather like a colony in the old British Empire:198

The Members …which have not been incorporated, are under the municipal jurisdiction of their respective Ports: they are within the jurisdiction of the criminal and civil courts, and of the magistrates and coroners of those Ports; they are summoned on the juries, and con­tribute to the rates, in the nature of county rates, imposed by the justices of those Ports. None of the rights of citizenship, however, can be acquired in the Members, nor have they any share in the election of any of the officers of their respective Ports. Residence within them is not considered as residence within the Port for any corporate purpose.

The fortunes of Margate were inextricably linked by these arrangements to those of Dover; it was Dover that determined Margate’s future. This arrangement continued with little change until the 1830s when the government of Lord Grey, having passed the 1832 Reform Act reforming parliamentary constituencies, turned its attention to the reform of local government. A select committee was appointed in February 1833 to report on the state of Municipal Corporations like Dover. It concluded that ‘corporations, as now constituted, are not adapted to the present state of society’ and recommended that a Royal Commission be established to carry out a full review of the existing Corporations. 199 The Commission was duly set up and appointed eighteen commissioners to carry out the inspections. The commissioner assigned to Dover was Daniel Maude, and he ran into an immediate problem.198 He wrote to the Mayor of Dover telling him of his intention to inquire into the government of Dover, but an assembly of the ruling body at Dover wrote back that ‘it appearing to this assembly that the Municipal Commission . . . has no legal authority to require such investigation (a conviction in which this assembly is confirmed by the opinion of some of the most eminent lawyers, both of the past and present ages), this assembly considers it would be compromising its own dignity, and be guilty of a violation of its public trust, if it permitted its records to be produced, or its officers examined before such Commission, and therefore feels itself bound respectfully to refuse such pro­duction or examination.’ Daniel Maude reported that:198

In accordance with the above Resolution, all assistance was afterwards, on my visit to the town, refused by the members of the corporation. Several of the inhabitants of the town were willing to give all the assistance in their power, but they knew very little of the con­stitution of the corporation. The proceedings of the governing body, and the system upon which they act, as well as the state of the pecuniary affairs of the corporation, seem not to be known to any except the members of the governing body. I proceeded, however, to obtain all the information I was able upon the operation and effect of the system as it exists, and to ascertain, as far as I could, the degree of confidence felt by the inhabitants generally towards the corporation in the management of the affairs of the town under their juris­diction. I had every reason to believe that some of the members of the governing body would most willingly have given me information, had they not felt themselves bound by the Resolution stated above.

Despite the difficulties put in his way, Maude was able to produce a fairly detailed report on how Dover was run. Local government for Dover, as for most of the other corporate towns in Kent, consisted of twelve jurats (aldermen), from whom the Mayor was elected, and thirty six common councillors. The jurats and councillors were drawn from the freemen (all male) of Dover.198 There were six ways in which a man, when over twenty one, could become a freeman; by birth, by marriage, by apprenticeship, by the possession of a freehold, by purchase, or by gift.  However only a small proportion of the adult men in Dover ever became freemen and because most freemen were admitted as a consequence of birth or marriage, most freemen had one or more kinsmen who were also freemen.

A freeman could become a member of the Common Council, a common councillor, by election by the mayor, jurats, and common councillors; membership was for life. Maude was told that election of a freeman onto the Common Council was based solely on the political opinions of the freeman or on their family relationship to an existing jurat or member of the Common Council. The Jurats were chosen from the members of the Common Council by the mayor, jurats and common councillors. This office was also for life and, again, Maude was told that ‘nearly all the elections were attributable either to the political opinions of the persons elected or to their relationship to some influential member of the electing bodies. All the present jurats are supposed to belong to the same political party. Of the present thirteen jurats, nine have near relations in their own body; in some instances there is a family connexion, extending to three or four jurats and common councilmen.’ The Mayor was elected annually from amongst the jurats.

Maude was highly critical of this system of self-election: ‘There seemed to be no doubt that, until very recently, the admission into the governing body was strictly confined to one political party. This principle of action, and the numerous family relationships which exist amongst the members of that body, have created a strong feeling of dislike and want of con­fidence towards it in many of the inhabitants.’ The Select Committee that had been appointed in 1833 to report on the state of the municipal corporations  had already concluded that ‘the principle which prevails of a small portion of corporators choosing those who are to be associated with them in power, generally for life, is felt to be a great grievance. The tendency of this principle is to maintain an exclusive system, to uphold local, political and religious party feelings, and is destructive of that confidence which ought always to be reposed in those who are intrusted with control, judicial or otherwise, over their fellow citizens . . . ’.200 The Royal Commission came to the same conclusion in 1835: 198

The most common and most striking defect . . .  is that the corporate bodies exist independently of the communities among which they are found. The Corporations look upon themselves, and are considered by the inhabitants, as separate and exclusive bodies; they have powers and privileges within the towns and cities from which they are named, but in most places all identity of interest between the Corporation and the inhabitants has disappeared. This is the case even where the Corporation includes a large body of inhabitant freemen: it appears in a more striking degree, as the powers of the Corporation have been restricted to smaller numbers of the resident population…

Hence a great number of Corporations have been preserved solely as political engines, and the towns to which they belong derive no benefit, but often much injury, from their existence. To maintain the political ascendancy of a party, or the political influence of a family, has been the one end and object for which the powers intrusted to a numerous class of these bodies have been exercised. This object has been systematically pursued in the admission of freemen, resident or non-resident; in the selection of municipal functionaries for the council and the magistracy; in the appointment of subordinate officers and the local police; in the administration of charities entrusted to the municipal authorities; in the expenditure of the corporate revenues, and in the management of the corporate property. The most flagrant abuses have arisen from this perversion of municipal privileges to political objects.

Given the power that Dover exerted over Margate, it is not surprising that Margate suffered from many of the problems identified in Dover and that reform in Margate had to wait reform in Dover. Margate, as an unincorporated member of Dover, had little government other than that afforded by Dover, but Margate had no share in the election of any of the officers of Dover. Even the coal-meters at Margate, the men who supervised the landing of coal, were appointed by Dover. The Mayor of Dover, to help in his governance of Margate, had a Deputy at Margate. In the early seventeenth century Dover held a Special Session once a year at Margate, when the mayor of Dover and two of the Dover jurats, with a jury of local people, chose one of the leading residents of Margate to be Deputy for the following year.201,202 By the time John Lewis wrote his history of the Isle of Thanet in 1723 this system had fallen into disuse, and Lewis reported that the Deputy ‘is chosen either every year, or once in two or three years, at the pleasure of the Mayor of Dover’.203 From about 1770204 the ‘pleasure of the Mayor of Dover’ was always to appoint a Cobb as Deputy, starting with the first Francis Cobb (1726-1802), then his son the second Francis Cobb (1759-1831), and finally his son Francis William Cobb (1787-1871). Francis William Cobb was to resign as Deputy in 1857, to be replaced by Richard Jenkins, the sub-deputy.141

The Deputy had to swear faithful allegiance to Dover; ‘he alone could summon the inhabitants [of Margate] for any particular purpose,’ but ‘it does not seem that he had the power of taking any independent action whatever’.205 As chief constable in Margate, the Deputy was in charge of the local police in Margate, but was answerable for his actions to the mayor and justices at Dover. The Deputy was not a magistrate, and all criminal offenders and all civil suits had to be tried in the Dover Courts.196,199Another source of complaint was that only the justices of Dover could license publicans in Margate; a group of Dover justices went to Margate for this purpose once a year. The Mayor of Dover was also the coroner for Margate, attending all inquests.

Margate, as a member of Dover, was taxed by Dover in many ways. By the time of the Parliamentary Commission of 1835 the origins of many of these taxes had been long forgotten. Each year St. John's paid £1 6s. 8d. as ‘Composition Money’ to Dover, but Maude was told that the basis for this was not known. The major tax on Margate though was the ‘Liberty Rate’, introduced by Dover in 1794 after the corporation had got into serious debt, but continued every year thereafter. Each year the justices at the general sessions in Dover decided the amount of this rate and then informed the churchwardens of the Parish of St John’s, and of the other parishes in the town and liberties of Dover, the sum that had to be collected. The lack of transparency in this rate, and the lack of control over it, made it very unpopular in Margate.

Many attempts were made by Margate to throw off the yolk of Dover. The first was in 1784 when the people of Margate ‘thought their town of sufficient consequence to throw off the yoke of dependency on the town and port of Dover’ and decided to petition the crown for a charter of incorporation’.206 A charter, the inhabitants were told, would ‘emancipate you from the dictatorial authority affirmed by some of your neighbours, (and some too who have neither rank, property, nor talents to entitle them to any degree of superiority or distinction) but also to redress the grievances you laboured under from a distant and partial administration of the laws, and place in your own hands the relief which your situation required’.207 However, correspondence between James Hammond, the Mayor of Dover, and Francis Cobb, the Deputy of Margate, identified a problem that proved insurmountable. Hammond wrote to Cobb: ‘Yesterday in the afternoon there was a meeting of the Margate Committee [of the Dover Corporation] in the Court Hall, whereon comparing the Charter of the Cinque Ports with the oaths every freeman of Dover hath taken at his admission, That the Charters, Liberties, Free Customs, Decrees and Ordinances of the whole Ports and of the Limbs and Precincts thereof to his Power he shall well and truly maintain and keep. And as Margate is granted in express words to the Corporation of Dover, they do not look upon themselves in any shape able to do any act or thing to cut off the privilege they have held at Margate for upwards of three hundred and fifty years’.208 A petition for a Charter of Incorporation for Margate was finally heard by the Attorney General in April 1785 but his opinion was that ‘he did not think himself justified in advising the Crown to grant an exclusive Charter to [Margate], by alienating the ancient privileges of the Town and Port of Dover’,207 and that was the end of that.

However, the idea of loosening the ties to Dover had taken root and in 1787 Margate applied for, and was given, a local bill that allowed them at least some modest degree of self government, through a board of improvement commissioners. The bill, ‘To enable the Pier Wardens of the Town of Margate, in the County of Kent, more effectually to recover the ancient and accustomed Droits, for the Support and Maintenance of the said Pier,’ established an Improvement Commission to oversee a range of improvements in the town, including rebuilding the pier and widening the streets; the bill also allowed some local policing.29 Some of the improvement commissioners were to be ex-officio, including the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, the Mayor and Recorder of Dover, the Members of Parliament for Dover, the Pier Wardens of Margate and the Margate Deputy, but the rest, thirty four in number, were all to be from Margate. These thirty four commissioners, as was often the case in Acts of Improvement, were named in the Act and since Francis Cobb’s [senior] name headed the list, he probably had a major say in drawing up the list. This was certainly the impression at the time; looking back in 1840, the Kentish Mercury reported that objections had been made at the time that the list had been produced ‘without consulting some of the principal inhabitants’ and that ‘they afterwards by accident heard that the Commissioners proposed by Mr. Cobb and his friends consisted of about thirty one, of which number ten were farmers who resided in the country, ten others non-resident, and the remaining ten Mr. Cobb and his friends, and that should the thirty one Commissioners be so appointed, twenty of them not residing in the town, Mr. Cobb with the aid of his friends, would have the total conduct of the business, be appointed treasurer, and have the nomination of the other officers’.209

The commissioners were appointed essentially for life; they would cease to be commissioners only if they died, if they resigned, if they left the district, or if they failed to attend meetings for more than a year without reasonable cause. And this was to be a self-selecting body; when a vacancy arose a new commissioner was chosen by the existing commissioners. Francis Cobb [senior] was a commissioner ex-officio, because he was Deputy, but also being one of the named commissioners ensured that he would retain his position even if he ceased to be Deputy. The Act was indeed successful in ensuring that power remained in the hands of Francis Cobb and his descendants; even in 1840, the complaint was that ‘the whole machinery of the local administration, and the expenditure of the very heavy rates and taxes, were monopolized by the ruling few’.210

The next small step towards gaining freedom from Dover was an Act of 1811 ‘to provide for the better execution of the office and duty of justices of the peace within the Cinque Ports’.211 This recognized that there were not enough justices of the peace in Dover to allow some to live close to Margate or to the other liberties of Dover, ‘by reason whereof great inconveniences, and many defects of justice have frequently arisen.’ To solve the problem, Justices of the Peace for all the Cinque Ports liberties were appointed, with the expectation that some would be living in or near Margate. The Cinque Ports justices were appointed by the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports and ‘commit to the gaol of the Port, within the liberties of which the offence was committed’.198 Although the Cinque Port justices had the usual powers of justices of the peace, they could only act in the liberties and not in the Head Ports themselves. Strangely an additional restriction was added to the bill as it passed through Parliament, stating that the justices were not ‘by this act authorized or empowered to grant licences, or cer­tificates for licences, to any victualler resident within any liberty belonging to any Cinque Port, ancient town, or corporate town’;211 the restriction was renewed in the 1828 Act ‘to regulate the granting of licences to keepers of inns, alehouses and victualling houses, in England’.212 As reported by Daniel Maude, the Government Inspector, in 1835:198

The consequence is that . . . the Dover Justices go over to Margate to license the publicans of that town . . . It is not easy to see what advantage was contemplated in withholding the power of licensing from the Cinque Ports Justices. The latter might be expected tobe better acquainted with the necessity for public-houses and with the conduct and character of the parties applying, from residing and acting in the district, than the mayor and jurats of the distant Port, who are not called upon to act in it on any other occasion.

As we will see, this remained a sore point in Margate and was one of the reasons advanced for a Charter in 1855.

In 1835 the chances of Margate gaining its independence increased very significantly with the passing of the Municipal Reform Act, which had explicitly encouraged unincorporated towns to petition for incorporation. In April 1836 a requisition was circulated asking the Deputy to call a public meeting to discuss a petition for a charter and, after some hesitation, he agreed.213,214 At the meeting, G. Y. Hunter detailed all the problems Margate had with the administration by Dover, but the vicar of Margate, the Rev. W. F. Baylay ‘endeavoured to confute and explain away the supposed difficulties enumerated by Mr. Hunter.’ Despite Baylay’s best efforts a motion to go for an Act of Incorporation was carried almost unanimously: ‘there being only five dissentients, all of whom, either as a clerk, surveyor, &c. were the paid servants of the town’.215 A petition praying for a charter of incorporation was submitted to the King in March 1837.216 Predictably, Dover objected. At an ill-tempered meet­ing of the Dover town council in March 1837, it was agreed to petition the King against a Margate charter. An amendment was proposed  ‘that the coun­cil should petition the King to grant to Margate a charter, subject to Margate paying a proper sum to Dover towards the expense of converting the late town-buildings into a gaol,’ this gaol being where Margate’s prisoners were housed, but the  amendment was defeated.217 Even in Margate views were divided. A meeting of the Improvement Commissioners in March 1837 was worried about the costs of building a new gaol in Margate, and decided to oppose the petition that by then was before the Privy Council.218 The question of the costs of the Dover gaol ultimately proved to be fatal for Margate’s ambitions. In May the bad news was received from the Privy Council that the petition was rejected: ‘Dover has incurred a considerable debt in erecting a gaol for the common benefit of itself and its non-corporate members . . . and Dover has a power of taxing its non-corporate members towards the discharge of this debt. A large part of this tax is raised from Margate, but as soon as that town is incorporated the power of levying such a rate would be at an end. This would be manifestly very unjust towards Dover . . .’.219 

The issue of the amount of money paid by Margate to Dover came up again in February 1847 at a meeting in St. John’s vestry ‘to consider the amount paid each year to Dover for “Liberty-rate”, and its application’.220 Unusually, the meeting was chaired by the vicar, the Rev. W. E. Hoskins, rather then by F. W. Cobb, who was absent. Edward Mottley estimated that the Liberty-rate averaged £600 a year, paid out of Margate’s poor rate, and wanted to know what Margate’s debt to Dover was. F. W. Cobb, despite being Deputy, apparently had stated that ‘he had not such knowledge’. It was thought that the debt could be partly on account of the building of the new gaol at Dover, ‘which so quiet  and well-disposed a community as Margate had little need of’, a comment greeted with laughter. The issue of separating from Dover with a Charter of Incorporation was discussed, but both Edward Wright and J. Harvey Boys argued that Margate would then have to pay its own Recorder and gaoler, and would have to pay for a gaol, and this would prove too expensive.    

As we have seen, in 1851 Margate came under the Public Health Act and the powers of the Improvement Commissioners were transferred to the new Local Board of Health. This system, of a number of Local Boards of Health under the control of a General Board of Health in London had, however, always been a temporary expedient, and the General Board’s span of life was due to end in 1854; the General Board had become unpopular with parliament and there was no chance of simply extending it.1 However, the Public Health Act of 1848 was still in force and some kind of General Board remained necessary for the Act to operate. It was decided as a stop-gap measure in 1854 to convert the General Board into a Department of State.1 Throughout all these changes what remained constant was a view that towns should, by and large, remain ‘the judges of their own needs’.1 The continuing rule of Margate by Dover sat badly with this belief in self-governance.

A major obstacle to the separation of Margate from Dover was removed by the death in 1852 of the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, Arthur Wellesley, the First Duke of Wellington, and Lord Warden since 1829. As described by J. Harvey Boys in 1853,221 it was futile to attempt a separation from Dover after a Lord Warden had been sworn in, because, on appointment, a Lord Warden would swear to preserve the powers and privileges attached to the office, including the ‘privilege they have held at Margate’ for hundreds of years; this was the reason why the application for a charter had failed in 1785. An opportunity was therefore provided by Wellesley’s death, but it was an opportunity that had to be grasped before a new Lord Warden had been sworn in.221 It was decided, perhaps because of the past failures, not to go for a charter of incorporation, but simply to move Margate from the jurisdiction of Dover to that of the county of Kent, as a non-corporate town, making use of the county’s courts and prisons. As described in the Kent Herald for October 1852:222

In consequence of the much la­mented decease of the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, another effort is about to be made to throw off the intolerable yoke of Dover, by transferring Margate from the sessions at Dover to the [County] Quarter Sessions at St. Augustine's, Canterbury. It would appear that the inhabitants of Margate, with the exception of the deputy, F. W. Cobb, Esq., are of the same way of thinking, for they wish to withdraw themselves from a local jurisdiction of the very worst description, to a jurisdiction of a very different kind, which has also the advantage of being nearer to them. These are not the only circumstances which lead them to prefer Canterbury to Dover. The Grand Jury at Canterbury is composed of gentlemen of education and respectability, and the magistrates are as respectable as any in the kingdom. On the other hand, the Grand Jury of Dover is composed of persons, whose education and situation in life are not exactly such as to make them the most eligible people in the world for the discharge of the duties which devolve on them.

By January 1853 a memorial had been prepared in Margate ‘praying for the separation of Margate from the jurisdiction of Dover’ and a copy was sent to the Town council at Dover:223

To the Right Honourable Lord Commissioners of her Majesty’s Treasury,

The humble memorial of the undersigned inhabitants of Margate, in the liberties of the Cinque Ports, sheweth,

That from time immemorial the parishes of St. John, Margate, Birchington, the Ville of Wood, otherwise Acol, and St. Peter, including Broadstairs, and containing a resi­dent population of about 14,500, have been non-corporate limbs and liberties of Dover, one of the Cinque Ports, and called the Thanet division of Dover; that all the ancient privileges have become obsolete, while all the disadvantages of so distant a jurisdiction remain, amongst which may be named:—

That all prisoners for trial, and those summarily con­victed, are sent to Dover, a distance of twenty-five post miles, at great expense and inconvenience; whereas, if sent to the county gaol at Canterbury, the distance would be only seventeen miles, with a direct railway, and the ex­penses considerably less. That upwards of eighty jurors are annually summoned from this district to Dover, at great individual expense and inconvenience; whereas, if this dis­trict was thrown into the county, the number of jurors an­nually summoned into Canterbury, the lesser distance, would average about only ten annually. That the coroner of Dover has jurisdiction over the district, whereas, if the county coroner, residing at Canterbury, had jurisdiction, considerable time and expense would be saved. That the resident Cinque Port magistrates, appointed in this district under the 51st George III., c. 36, are six in number, and hold weekly petty sessions at Margate; but that, by the said act, there is a clause giving to the Dover corporation justices the exclusive right of licensing all the public-houses and billiard-rooms, &c. (although they are all strangers to the Margate publicans), and the resident magistrates are re­stricted from having any voice in such licensing or with­holding a license, although they have jurisdiction over such licensed houses as to their regulation and conduct.

That your petitioners have no participation in any of the privileges of the Cinque Ports.

That they are also subject to a Dover liberty rate.

That there is now due from this division to the corporation of Dover, about £3,000 for the expenses of the new gaol there, the principal and in­terest of which your memorialists are willing to pay.

Your memorialists, therefore, humbly pray that such anomalies may be removed, and that your lordships will be pleased (after due inquiry), to recommend her Majesty to adopt such measures of redress as shall remove the grievances so long complained of.

The petition was discussed at the Dover Town Council meeting in April and, although the Council did not agree that Margate would gain by separating from Dover, they decided not to oppose the change, as long as all the financial issues could be agreed.224 The Council concluded: ‘They [Margate] have now both sides of the question before them, and we trust that an opportunity will be given them to express at a public meeting their desire.’ A full account of the Dover meeting is given in Appendix III. A public meeting was convened in the Town Hall at Margate by F.W. Cobb, the Deputy, on 6 April ‘to consider the propriety of memorialising her Majesty for a separation from Dover’.225 The South Eastern Gazette reported that ‘the hall was not crowded’,225 although the Kentish Gazette thought there was a ‘good attendance and considerable interest’.221 A full report of this meeting is given in Appendix IV. It was decided to refer the matter to a committee of twenty, and, a few weeks later, the committee reported in favour of separating from Dover and joining the county:226

Your Committee, the better to enable them to form their opinion, thought it expedient, in the first instance, to enquire into and ascertain the present state of debt and liabilities at Dover.

It appears that, of the sum of £6,340 incurred for the purchase of the site and construction of Dover gaol, about £l,600 are due from Margate, the interest of which, if borrowed at 4 per cent, and paid off in thirty years, would amount to about £92 per annum. With regard to the portion of the salaries of the Recorder and gaoler, and the compensation to the Clerk of the Peace, the Coroner, and the Clerk of the Justices, alluded to by the Finance Com­mittee at Dover, your Committee have no data, but believe, if legally claimable, the amount could not exceed £55 per annum for the lives of the present officers.

It appears, also, that the sum of £542 6s. (about 3½ d. in the pound) has, upon an average of the last ten years, been paid by Margate to Dover (from the Poor-rate), as 'Borough and Liberty Rate.'

Your Committee find that the average number of jurors summoned to Dover, each year, has been sixty-four (once in four years and a-half), and that the distances between Margate and Dover are — By road, twenty-two miles; by railway, fifty-five miles; time (by carriage) there and back, seven hours; expenses, there and back, 13s., or, by the cheapest mode, 6s., occupying nine hours. Between Margate and Canterbury — By road, seventeen miles; by railway, twenty miles; time (by railway) there and back, two hours; expenses, first-class return ticket, 6s., or, by the cheapest mode, 3s. 11d., occupying two hours.

Your Committee also find that the average number of journeys with prisoners, &c., to Dover, is fifty-two a year; and that the policeman in charge is taken from his duties in Margate, on an average, eleven hours.

Your Committee also find that, taking an average of the last ten years, the County-rate has amounted to 2½ d. in the pound, and that the annual amount to be paid by Margate would probably amount to £375.

Your Committee also find that a special juryman would be summoned to Maidstone once in thirty years only, and that the average number of jurors summoned to Canterbury would probably be twenty-seven (once in nine years), or less than half the number now summoned to Dover. Thus, if the expenses of a juror summoned to Dover is 13s., and to Canterbury 6s., there would be a saving of £33 10s.  a year, exclusive of loss of time, and the inconvenience of starting at five a.m.

Your Committee have compared the expenses of main­taining the average number of pauper lunatics, and find that a saving of about £58 per annum would be effected, by their being taken from Camberwell and placed in the County Asylum.

Your Committee desire to state that the difficulty which at this time forbids the empanelling of a jury in the County Court at Margate, would be got rid of, if the jurisdiction were removed to the county, in consequence of which difficulty several causes remain untried.

Your Committee, with reference to the licensing of public houses, consider it as a great grievance that the Dover bench of magistrates should supersede those of the Thanet division, by whom it is reasonable to expect that the wants of the Inhabitants would be better known.

In conclusion, your committee, having carefully considered the evidence before them, are of opinion that, upon the whole, it seems desirable that Margate should be separated from Dover, and placed within the county jurisdiction.

Signed on behalf of the Committee
Thomas Blackburn, Chairman
April 16th, 1853.

The committee report was discussed at a further meeting of the rate payers on 21 April, this time ‘a very numerous meeting’.227 F. W. Cobb, as Deputy, was again Chairman and he reminded those present that ‘the object of the meeting [was] either to accept or reject the report of the committee appointed at the former meeting with reference to the separation of Margate from the jurisdiction of Dover.’  The proceedings of the meeting were reported in the South Eastern Gazette:227

J. Waddington, Esq., as a member of the committee, said he had great pleasure in moving the adoption of the report, the more so in consequence of its having been unanimously adopted by the committee, and he felt assured that the meeting would as cordially adopt it. He had always felt strongly in favour of the incorporation of Margate, and he hoped the day was not far distant when their chairman would occupy that seat, not as the deputy of Dover, but as the chief magistrate of Margate. After alluding to one or two verbal alterations in the report, which were necessary to be made, he said the question before them was not one merely of £ s. d., but one of social progress; he hoped the meeting would bear in mind that there was such a thing as progression, and the time had now come when it was ne­cessary to do something for the advancement of the town. In a commercial point of view, what benefit, he would ask, had Margate derived from its connection with Dover? On the contrary, he believed, had Margate been a corporation, it would never have lost the benefit of the Ostend trade, but the boats would have continued to run here to this day. It was well known to many in the meeting that this was the favourite landing-place of William III, George I, and George II, who used frequently to sojourn at Quex. With reference to the pilots of the Cinque Ports, there had not one been appointed from Margate for the last twenty years, although it was known that there were as many sea­men there capable of filling such office as in any town on the coast. The Margate voters, too, instead of having the ad­vantage of a polling place, were at the time of an election obliged to go to Ramsgate to record their votes; he was happy, however, to inform the meeting that a memorial was in course of signature, for the purpose of constituting Margate a polling district. With reference to the duties of jurors, the committee had found that 64 were annually taken from Margate, it coming to the turn of each juror once in 4 ½ years; but should Margate be placed under the county jurisdiction, it would come to each juror’s turn but once in nine years; besides which, the inconvenience and expense of a journey to Dover was much greater than it would be to Canterbury. When called on now to go to Dover, a juror had to leave his bed by half-past four in the morning, which, in winter, was not very pleasant. With reference to licensing public-houses, he thought a local bench of magistrates could much better understand the requirements of the district than could the same num­ber of gentlemen at Dover, although he would not say a disrespectful word of the Dover magistrates. He concluded by proposing to the meeting the adoption of the report

G. Y. Hunter, Esq., considered that the question before this meeting required the most calm consideration, and it was with this impression that he had proposed the committee, which at no small pains had produced the report which had been circulated through the town, so that each rate-payer had had the opportunity of reading and digesting its contents. He wished not to say anything disparaging to Dover, but he would do all he could to promote the best in­terests of Margate, and no one could doubt, who had lis­tened to the arguments, but that they were nearly all in favour of this town being placed under the jurisdiction of the county. The intellectual question was the one in his opinion which ought to weigh with the rate-payers; if ever they expected to be raised to the enviable condition of a cor­porate body, they themselves must move, and he hoped this move would be a stepping-stone to something higher — that they might live to see their worthy chairman occupy that seat, not as the deputy of Dover, but as their chief magistrate, elected by the will of the people. With reference to the interest of the debt due from Dover, he had doubts if, in case of a separation, any portion of it could be claimed from Margate; even if legal it would not be equitable. Then, with reference to licensing public-houses, he had seen with deep regret the reckless extension of licenses, which he thought to be very prejudicial to the morals of the town; and should this power be placed in the hands of the local magistracy, he thought they would much better understand when licenses were required, than it could be understood at Dover. He with pleasure seconded the adoption of the report.

Thomas Blackburn, Esq., said he had understood from the last report of the County Lunatic Asylum, that it was then full, and it was not therefore right for them to calculate on the county taking an extra amount of lunatics. He thought the peace and quietness, the present and future welfare of the town, were matters they would do well to consider, and that to incorporate the town would be the greatest evil that could befall it.

Harvey Boys, Esq., in reply to Thomas Blackburn, said that the county asylum was at present more than sufficient for the county, there being now a number in the asylum farmed from other counties.

Mr. Chancellor thought the meeting was about to take a leap in the dark; he would therefore propose that the ques­tion be deferred for twelve months. No one, however, seemed disposed to second the amendment.

Dr. F. Chambers said it was not a question of to-day, but one that had been agitated for years, and he believed that if this was gained, the town would be in a better position to obtain a corporation.

The Chairman, before putting the resolution to the meeting, said that nothing had been stated about the pos­sibility of amelioration in connection with Dover; he be­lieved it possible to farm their prisoners either at Sandwich or Canterbury, and to have an adjourned session at Mar­gate for the trial of such prisoners, and he wished the meeting to understand that should they go to the county they might expect to be detained at Canterbury two days. He could assure the meeting that he had no particular sym­pathy with Dover, but, on the contrary, could he see that this alteration would tend to the benefit of Margate, it should have his most hearty support; at present, however, he could not coincide with the opinions expressed by them.

The resolution was then put, and the chairman declared it carried unanimously.

Mr. Mottley then moved, and Mr. Pickering seconded, the adoption of a memorial to the Lords of the Treasury, praying for separation of the town from the jurisdiction of Dover.— Carried unanimously.

The Rev. Mr. Lingham then proposed, and H. Boys, Esq., seconded, that the memorial be circulated through the town, to obtain the signatures of the inhabitants. Carried unanimously.

After a vote of thanks to the committee and chairman, the meeting separated.    

Everything now seemed set for success. Vestry meetings were held at Birchington, Acol, St. Peters and Broadstairs and resolutions were passed unanimously, ‘praying the Government to release the Thanet Division from the jurisdiction of Dover, and to throw these parishes into the county of Kent’.228 Memorials were prepared, that in Margate being signed by nearly 1,000 out of the 1,500 rate payers.228 These memorials were presented to Lord Palmerston, the Home Secretary, by David Price, chairman of the Local Board of Health, Frederick Chambers, Francis Abbott, and  J. H. Boys, Clerk to the Local Board.229 As reported in the South Eastern Gazette, ‘the deputation was introduced to Lord Palmerston by Sir E. Dering [one of the M.P.s for East Kent], and was most courteously received by him. After hearing the several facts adduced in support of the memorial and of the peculiar hardships inflicted upon the residents within this district of the County Court of Kent, by a denial of a trial by jury which does not exist in any other portion of her Majesty’s dominion of Great Britain, he expressed his surprise that such an anomaly should exist in the 19th century, and as regarded the separation from Dover inquired whether a public or private bill would be requisite. It was suggested by Mr. Boys that a public bill would be necessary, as the criminal jurisdiction of a portion of this county had to be dealt with, to which his lordship replied that the whole matter should be referred to Mr. Fitzroy, who would in a short time communicate with Sir E. Dering. The interview extended to nearly an hour’. 229  

A bill for the separation of Margate from Dover was presented to the House of Commons in July 1854.230 The bill, ‘A Bill for the better Administration of Justice in the Cinque Ports’, contained just eight clauses: ‘the preamble states that it is expedient that the present district should be severed from the cinque ports, and for all purposes form part of the county. Clause 1 abolishes the jurisdiction of the Lord Warden in civil proceedings; 2. writs and judgments to be directed and executed in the cinque ports as in other places; clause 3 gives power to the county justices to act; clause 4 repeals certain Acts of Parliament and recites that after a day to be named, no court of sessions holden for Dover, nor any justice thereof, shall have jurisdiction, and no such place shall be liable to any rates to which the inhabitants would have been liable but for this act; 5. the town is to continue liable to contribute towards the payment of any debt owing at the time of the passing of this Act to Dover, and the interest thereon; 6. compensations are to be given to persons holding office under the Lord Warden who may sustain any loss of emolument, which is to be paid out of the county stock; 7. prisoners in Dover Castle to be removed to county gaol, the expenses of which are to be defrayed by the county; 8. reserves the rights of the Cinque Ports Admiralty Court’.230 The bill was read a third time and passed by the House of Commons but deferred by the House of Lords until the next session.231

Unfortunately, at this late stage, a problem became apparent, not this time with Dover but with the county. Worries were first raised at a General Sessions of the county in April 1853.225 It was thought that Margate could not simply be absorbed into the present magisterial divisions in Kent, but that a new division would have to be created, with additional constables, magistrates’ clerks, and so on.  Then, in July 1854, at a meeting of the county magistrates, it was noticed that the Bill then before Parliament ‘was silent upon the question of contributing towards the expenses of the county gaol, lock-up houses, and lunatic asylum’.232 Finally, at the Kent General Sessions in April 1855 it was announced that the sum that the Thanet Division would be charged to join the county would be £6,400, from which £400 could be deducted for the lock-up house at Margate, which would be given up to the county:233 ‘The Earl of Romney stated that calculations had been made on the most favourable terms to Margate and the other places.’ William Deedes, one of the M. P.s for East Kent, said that if Margate decided to proceed with the Bill, he thought that a clause would have to be inserted into the Bill ‘to secure the payment of this money to the county’.234 He then proposed that ‘an intimation to the above effect be made to the authorities of Margate’, which was agreed to. 

This was a major blow and at first seemed to end any hope of separation from Dover. The South Eastern Gazette reported in May:235

The committee appointed at a meeting held at the Town-hall, on the 6th April, 1853, “To consider the propriety of separating Margate from Dover, and placing Margate within the jurisdiction of the county,” have found, after two years’ unceasing labour on the part of themselves, and particularly of Sir Edward Dering, M.P., and W. Deedes, Esq., M.P., including J. H. Boys, Esq., that the attainment of their object is not at present practicable, on account, as they inform the rate-payers by hand­bill, of the county magistrates having fixed £6,400 as the sum to be paid by Margate, St. Peter’s (including Broadstairs,) Birchington, and the ville of Wood, upon joining the county. This was to be paid in addition to the debt to Dover of nearly £2,000. The promoters are entitled to credit for not pressing the matter, although last year they were enabled to get the measure passed through the House of Commons. The justices at their meeting seemed to think that £6,400 was a very cheap rate to admit us to their friendly embrace, but we question if the rate-payers of Margate and its adjoining parishes are of a similar opinion.

The handbill circulated throughout the town read:236


The Committee appointed at a public meeting held at the Town-hall, Margate, on Wednesday, the 6th day of April, 1853, — To consider the propriety of separating Margate from Dover, and placing Margate within the County jurisdiction, — regret very much to state, that the county magistrates have fixed the sum of £6,400 to be paid by Margate, St. Peter’s (including Broadstairs), Birchington, and the Villa of Wood, upon joining the county. Under these circumstances, the Committee do not feel justified in carrying out the important matter, for the present,, although they were enabled during the last session, to pass the bill through the House of Commons.

The Committee desire to express their cordial thanks to Sir Edward Dering and Mr. Deedes, for their unwearied exertions to obtain the much wanted measure; also to Mr. J. Harvey Boys, who, regardless of time and expense, has mainly assisted the Committee. 

Thomas Blackburn Town-hall, Margate, April 23rd, 1855, Chairman.

The failure of this attempt at separation from Dover turned everyone’s attention back to the possibility of a Charter of Incorporation. F. W. Cobb was asked to convene a public meeting to discuss the possibility but he ‘politely refused’.237 A handbill was then circulated around the town asking David Price, Chairman of the Local Board of Health, to call the meeting:237


To David Price, Esq., Chairman of the Local Board.

We, the undersigned, request that you will allow the Town Hall to be used for a public meeting, on Monday, the 21st instant, at twelve o'clock at noon, to receive the result of the investigation of the Committee ap­pointed on the 6th day of April, 1853, to consider the propriety of separating Margate from Dover; also to ascertain the desire of the inhabitants with reference to a Charter of Incorporation.

Dated 17th May, 1855.

Thomas Blackburn, Joshua Waddington, Francis Ab­bott, George Yeates Hunter, Frederick Chambers, Samuel Mercer, John S. Swinford, Edward T. Relph, Rice Giles Higgins, John Poussett, Jas. Prebble, Chas. Woodruff, Charles Dixon, Stephen Foat, Thomas H. Kebble, Thomas Goodyear, Edward Rapson, Thomas Fells, Edward Wootton, Henry Ingmire.

The same day Price replied, agreeing to call the meeting:237

Margate, 17th May, 1855.

Gentlemen, — The Margate Local Board of Health having empowered me to grant the use of the Town Hall for any purpose connected with the interests of the town, I have great pleasure in complying with your request, and am, gentlemen, your obedient servant,

David Price.

The meting was held at the Town Hall on 21 May 1855, with Thomas Blackburn, a local J. P. in the chair; F. W. Cobb was absent.238 J. Harvey Boys started the meeting by saying that they were there to discuss two distinct issues, ‘one as to joining the county, and the other as to a charter of incorporation, and they were so connected as remedies for relief from their grievances, that he must necessarily refer to both’. He reminded the meeting of the history of Margate’s ‘thraldom’ to Dover, going back to the first attempts to escape, in 1784. And how, last session, a Bill for separation had passed the House of Commons, but then the county had suddenly asked for £6,400 which, they said, ‘represented capital invested, and which included lock-up houses in different parts [of the county], in respect of which Margate could derive no benefit.’

Francis Abbott then addressed the meeting. He thought ‘the time was come when they should take their business into their own hands; he had been connected with the town 20 years, and thought it was a great drawback on the prosperity of the town that they had no responsible authority. They could neither get an account nor have an advocate to plead their cause. This was his reason for wishing to be emancipated from Dover. But he should not like to go to the county, but rather expend their own money among themselves, and he therefore thought a charter of incorporation was the best course to seek for, and the present the best opportunity the inhabitants were likely to have. Sir E. Dering thought their present condition very anomalous, and that there was no difficulty in the way of a charter, the Town council of Dover having expressed its willingness to part with them on the condition that they should pay their portion of the debt. He was of opinion that if they became incorporated, the expense would be very little more than at present, and not so much as in connection with the county. The first thing would be to obtain a Bill for a separation from Dover, and then by an Order in Council obtain a charter of incorporation, and he believed they had only to ask and have. In conclusion he moved “That in the opinion of this meeting it is most desirable that Margate should be separated from Dover, and an independent jurisdiction secured.”’

The resolution was seconded by Joshua Waddington, who said ‘he could testify to the necessity of obtaining such a charter, the preliminary expenses of obtaining which it had been  stated, would barely amount to £200; but if it was £500 it would answer their purpose, and surely such an amount might be raised among them. He was willing to put down his £20, and doubtless others would follow.’

The motion in favour of a charter was then carried unanimously, as was a resolution, ‘That a committee, consisting of the members of the former committee, the resident magistrates, the parish officers, the chairman of the Local Board of Health and the Pier Company, be appointed, for the purpose of getting the Government to allow the separation clauses in the present Bill to remain, upon payment by Margate of the debt to Dover, and compensation to the officers from the date of joining the county, if terms could be agreed upon, or if not agreed upon from the date of any charter of incorporation which may be obtained.’ After a vote of thanks to the chairman, ‘the meeting, which was one of the most unanimous that has been held here for many years, separated’.

The committee met the following day and appointed a deputation to go to London to talk with the two East Kent M.P.s, Sir Edward Dering and William Deedes.239 The outcome was the insertion of an additional clause into the Cinque Ports Bill, allowing Margate and the rest of the Thanet Division of Dover either to join the county of Kent and pay the required money to the county, or to petition for a charter of incorporation. In both cases, they were to pay their share of the Dover debt and compensate the relevant officers of Dover for any loss of salary. The bill was passed on 16 July 1855.240

In September the committee published their estimates of the costs of remaining linked with Dover and of the two options for separation:241


PRESENT expense as connected WITH DOVER.

  £ s.. d.
Liberty Rate, taken upon an average of 10 years   542 6 0
Pauper Lunatics. — 8 pauper lunatics upon an   average of 8 years at 12s. per week each 249 12 0
Total annual expense
791 18 0


  £ s.. d.
Admission to the County — The county claims  £4202 for admission, which if extended over 50 years at 4 percent, would require an annual payment of    226 18
Compensation to Dover officers — The amount of compensation payable during the lives of the present officers at Dover is estimated at £55 per annum    55 0 0
Dover Debt — The amount of the old debt now due  to Dover is about £1400 which if paid off in 30 years at 4 per cent would require an annual  payment of     75 12 6
Pauper Lunatics — 8 pauper lunatics upon an  average of 8 years at 10s. 6d. per week    218 8 0
Total annual expenditure (exclusive of  County-rate)  
575 19

Equal to a rate of 3¾ d.; county rate, 2½ d.; total rate, 6¼ d.



  £ s.. d.
Compensation to Dover officers  55 0 0
The amount due on the Dover debt to be paid off  in 30 years at 4 per cent, annual payment   75 12 6
Salaries of Corporate Officers -      
The Mayor   -  
The Recorder 40 0 0
Treasurer 10 0 0
Town-clerk 30 0 0
One Town-sergeant 20 0 0

Hall keeper

5 0 0
Inspector of Weights 10 0 0
Poll-clerks 2 2 0
  117 2 0
Expenses of Prisoners – (2 years’ average) – 42  journeys conveying prisoners       27 15 0
Maintenance of ditto 1934 days at 1s. 96 14 0
Pauper Lunatics – 8 upon an average of 12s. per week each 249 12 0
Justices' Clerk's fees (average)  20 5 3
Coroner's fees, six inquests (average)  6 6 0
Total annual expense  
648 6 9

Equal to a rate of 4¼ d. in the £.



Unfortunately the unanimity displayed at the May meeting did not last. A meeting was held in the Town Hall in October to consider the report of the committee and decide whether or not to go ahead with an application for a Charter of Incorporation; the hall was crowded.242 A full report is given in Appendix V. Francis Abbott, the secretary to the Committee, explained the meaning of the Act that had just been passed by Parliament and how he had arrived at the probable costs if they obtained a Charter. He explained that the estimated salaries for officers were based on those at Canterbury, and that the salary for the Mayor had been left blank ‘because there was no necessity for allowing one’. According to his estimates, joining the county would increase the rates by 1d. in the pound, whereas if they got a charter the rates would decease by 1d. in the pound. He also explained that with a Charter for Incorporation the Local Board of Health would be superseded, an explanation that was greeted with cheers. He went on: ‘There never was a board which had so little confidence in themselves. What they wanted was energy, which was not to be found in the local board; there were too many members in it. He hoped they would obtain their charter, and would not have their council consist of so many.’ He moved ‘That a memorial be forthwith prepared, praying her Majesty to be graciously pleased to grant a charter of incorporation, in accordance with the provisions of the 18th and 19th Vict., c. 48.’

John Woodward thought they needed more time to consider, and Josiah Towne thought that Francis Abbott had failed to make his case: although it was true that there were disadvantages to being linked to Dover, these would not be removed by going for a Charter: ‘the townsmen could not be saved from serving on juries because they had a charter; the only effect would be that they would have to go to Maidstone instead of Dover.’ In the end the meeting voted ‘That the further consideration of the report be adjourned for three months, to give the committee an opportunity of communicating with the county justices as to the reduction of the sum asked by them, and the rate-payers of further examining and considering the report.’ The South Eastern Gazette concluded their report of the meeting:242

We confess we are somewhat disappointed at the result of the meeting on Monday. We did expect, after what has been said and done respecting the separation from Dover, that a more go-a-head feeling would have been shewn in the matter. We hope in the interval that is to take place before the next meeting, that the rate-payers will make themselves acquainted with the case in all its bearings, and be prepared to support cordially the plan that may be recommended for effecting the most good. There are conflicting interests at work to oppose public good, but in such a matter of importance as this, all party feelings should be put aside.

The adjourned meeting was duly held on 1 January 1856.243 A full report is given in Appendix VI. J. Harvey Boys read a letter from the Clerk of the Peace for the County saying that the cost of joining the county was unchanged, at £6,400. Since this was unaffordable, said J. Harvey Boys, the options were only to remain linked with Dover or to go for a charter. Francis Abbott then again proposed going for a charter, supported by Samuel Mercer and Frederick Chambers. John Woodward again disagreed; he thought ‘that the poverty of the town was such that it was unable to meet any change bringing with it additional outlay’ and so he thought ‘that for the present they should remain as they were.’ Thomas Chitty was also against; he thought ‘a charter would create expense and confusion, and break up that social feeling which existed in the town, and which was greater in Margate than in any other town in Kent. He knew something about corporations, having lived many years in Maidstone, where at present much ill-feeling prevailed. There were also Faversham, Gravesend, and many other places with corporations, where strong dissensions existed . . . In his opinion, whatever advantages formerly belonged to corporations were now defunct, or monopolized by a clique. Like many other institutions, corporations had outlived their day, and he should oppose the project of a charter’. Not many shared Chitty’s views of Margate as a place of harmony and the final decision of the meeting was to go for a charter, a decision greeted with loud applause. A committee was appointed ‘to take the necessary steps to obtain a charter’, consisting of Blackburn, Abbott, Hunter, Waddington, and G. R. Higgins.

By February a petition for a Charter for Incorporation had been prepared and was being circulated for signatures; by the middle of the month about 700 signatures had been obtained.244 The petition was considered by the Privy Council on 31 March 1856, ‘and as there was no opposition, it was determined that a commissioner should be sent to Margate to take evidence on the desirability of the change, but that he could not visit Margate until about the 17th of May’.245 The commissioner was Major George Warburton, and he started his inquiry on 4 June in the Town Hall, which was crowded, and continued on the following day.246,247 Mr. Clabon, a parliamentary agent, appeared on the part of the memorialists, and Mr. Daniels represented the owners of land outside the rating area.246 The Kentish Gazette reported the meeting as follows:248

Mr. Francis Abbot was the first witness examined, merely as to the signing of the petition.

Mr. Henry Wootton, collector of poor rates, said there are about 9000 inhabitants in the town of Margate, as proved by the census taken in 1851. The total number of rate-payers, male and female, in the town is 1500 – 440 out of them are female; the amount of rating represented is £29,685; out of the 1500 rate-payers, there are 130 empties, which leaves 1350; the rating to be deducted for these is £4097 16s. The number of signatures is 802; they are all inhabitant householders; they represent £13,637 10s. The number of females signing is 162, representing £2196; there are therefore two-thirds of the rate-payers signing.

Mr. Abbot's examination was then pursued. He said, from the year 1847 to 1853 the question of a charter was in constant agitation. In 1848, there was a bill introduced into Parliament, relative to the Cinque Ports, but it did not pass. In the spring of 1855 the committee received an intimation from the magistrates that they would be admitted into the county for the sum £4,200. In May, 1855, a public meeting was convened of the inhabitants, by bills circulated. (Mr. Cobb said it was not signed by him.) A public meeting was held, which was numerously attended, and a resolution passed appointing a committee for the purpose of obtaining a charter. On the lst October an adjourned meeting was held, and further communication was made, by Mr. Boys, to the county magistrates. (The report was produced, by which it was stated that the Committee found there was no chance of a reduction being made in the sum for their admittance to the county.) Another adjourned meeting was held on the lst of January, when it was resolved that a petition be sent to her Majesty, for a charter of incorporation. The average amount of the Liberty-rate for ten years past was £542 16s.; that represented a rate of about 3½ d. in the pound. The estimated expense of working a charter was obtained after some considerable trouble. In the first place there was compensation to Dover at £55. The next item was in reference to the debt. From various bases he was entitled to say that there was debt due from Dover of about £6,000 to £7,000; and the proportion due from Margate was about £1,400. That estimate was formed in 1855. The salaries of corporate officers he had compiled from the bases of several other corporations. This had reference to the recorder, treasurer, town clerk, serjeant, hall keeper, inspector of weights, and poll clerks. The total sum was £117 2s. There was a gaol at Sandwich; and, from a communication received, they were authorized to state that the authorities there were willing to contract with Margate for their prisoners. The rate at which they would be received was 1s. 3d. per head per day.

Mr. Clabon said that including the compensation to Dover he did not think there would be any increase to the expense.

The Deputy said he would take the opportunity of remarking that he agreed in the estimates formed.

The Commissioner said that he should invite any gentleman after the examination of the witnesses to come forward and cross-examine them.

Mr. Abbot then dwelt upon the juries and the inconveniences attending the necessity of their going to Dover. Generally speaking the magistrates exercising jurisdiction at Margate resided at Dover. That alluded only to the magistrates. He was of opinion that a charter was highly desirable, inasmuch as it would economise both time and money.

Mr. David Price, chairman of the Local Board, was not in a position to give an opinion as to the general wish of the inhabitants for a charter; but he knew there was an almost universal desire to separate from Dover. There must be great inconvenience caused by the jury and licensed victuallers by the present system.

Mr. Frederick Chambers concurred as to the inconveniences stated by Mr. Abbot as arising from the present system. He had every reason to believe that the report of the committee was in every respect correct. He had no doubt of the great advantages to be expected from the separation from Dover. He thought no better step could be adopted, as all parties would be benefited.

By the Deputy. — Do you mean to prefer the plan of the corporation, than to go to the county?

Dr. Chambers. — I do.

By Mr. Chancellor.— I do not believe the Corporation Charter will increase expenses.

Mr. Rice Higgins concurred perfectly in the opinions expressed by the other witnesses.

Mr. William Pickering agreed entirely with all that had been said. He thought a charter would be a very great benefit and desirable change. He did not consider that a large town like Margate ought to be dependent on Dover. They did not feel at present satisfied with the manner in which their money was expended. He did not mean to assert that Dover did not do its duty by them.

This was the ease for the petitioners.

The Deputy, upon the request of the Commissioner, said he should be glad to have concurred in the view expressed by many of the gentlemen as to the Corporation had it been practicable; he did not know that it would not have been possible at one time to have laid the matter before Parliament, and showing the injustice of their being obliged to pay a large sum on their entrance to the county; but though it was now too late, there was yet another point which had not been alluded to. He thought they might be relieved from a great deal of the trouble caused by their present connection with Dover if they were to join Sandwich, which was so much nearer Margate, and consequently more convenient in every respect. With respect to Margate he must say that he did not think it was in any very flourishing circumstances; it was shown that the population had decreased between the census taken in 1841 and that taken in 1851; and he must certainly express his decided conviction that a town like Margate, of such small dimensions, was not likely to be benefited by the introduction of self-government. He thought it would excite constant agitation — more especially at the time of the annual election of officers, which were so much calculated to disturb the peace of the town. He also very much feared that the expenditure which had been estimated would fall far short of what it would prove to be if the change was undertaken. He should be favourable to separation from Dover, but he could not see that a Corporation would prove beneficial to the town. He had resided in it all his life, and had presided over it for more than twenty years. But had the inhabitants ever expressed a wish to him that they would prefer to select their own deputy year by year, he would have laid their wish before the Dover authorities, and recommended it to the best consideration of the Council. The reports of the Thanet Union showed that there were a large number of their poor at present in the house, which proved that Margate was in no great state of prosperity; and, on the whole, he must say, he differed from the views which had been expressed by the many gentlemen who had preceded him.

Mr. Pickering observed that the census, in 1841, was taken in June, when the town was full of visitors; but the census in 1851 was taken in March.

Mr. Cobb detailed the duties which devolved upon him as deputy, and stated that he had no data with him to prove his suspicions with respect to the increased expenditure under the corporation.

Mr. Daniels said he appeared on the part of the owners of land without the area of the town, who desired to place on record their disapproval of the Charter of Incorporation.

Mr. Boyce addressed the Commissioner at some length against the Incorporation; but argued that, if the Charter should be granted, the elective franchise ought to be made low, so as to admit "persons in whom the people might place confidence." He also thought that, in so small a town as Margate, there was no need of any wards.

Mr. Ovenden was convinced no greater boon could be given to the town than a charter of incorporation. He was also thoroughly convinced, going in direct opposition to the last speaker, that the commissioner could not confer a greater honour upon the town than by putting the qualification at the highest figure instead of at the lowest. It was true the higher class — than whom there was no set of gentlemen more respected than in Margate — could not yet be persuaded to join the Local Board; but under a corporation it would be different, and he felt persuaded that those who had the largest stake in the prosperity of the town were the most fit to govern it. He trusted, therefore, he might be allowed strongly to recommend to the Commissioner the propriety of fixing the qualification at a high rate.

The Commissioner said the subject should receive his especial attention.

Mr. Clabon said he was prepared to take the ward question now if the Commissioner was ready, but

The Commissioner said he should prefer Mr. Clabon merely to state his proposals today, and then to adjourn till Thursday in order that he might have an opportunity of making himself personally acquainted with the localities.

Mr. Clabon then submitted that the first ward should take the High-street of the town, running the whole way from the boundary down the High-street, turning to the left to Upper Marine Terrace, thus taking in the whole of the district to the west. The second ward should take the rest of the old parish district, the line of which runs through Cecil-square, up Union-street, Ellington-street, through the rope-walk, and thus to the boundary. The third ward should include the Dane, and so run to the boundary — in fact dividing the new church district into two parts, one of which should be the third and the other the fourth ward.

The inquiry was resumed on Thursday, when the division of the town into wards was considered, and the opinions of several of the inhabitants taken thereon. They appeared to concur in the propriety of having four wards. A definite arrangement was not made, the question being left open for further consideration.

The case for the petitioners having been brought to a conclusion, several parties addressed the Commissioner expressive of their views; and the inquiry terminated early in the afternoon.

The commissioner eventually left the question of the number of wards undecided and arranged that the ‘petitioners could reconsider the subject and present it [to him] in a more finished state’.247 The debate at times got heated. The Canterbury Journal commented the following week: ‘We were certainly surprised . . . at the arguments urged in favour of the low qualifications, which were represented by some three or four noisy rate-payers — one as low as four pounds, ten shillings, and the other pro­bably not much higher. If this is to betaken by the Commissioner as a fair specimen of the conduct and integrity of our Council from the elective franchise being  upon the lower scale, we are quite satisfied that gentleman will see the propriety and necessity to overlook them altogether by fixing the upper scale. The Committee must be active in getting up their memorial’.249

The issue of the number of wards was important as it determined the eligibility to stand for election. Elections to a new Town Council were controlled by the regulations in the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835.250 Eligibility to be a candidate for election on to the Town Council was based on property ownership or wealth, and depended on the number of voting wards into which the town was divided. In a town with four or more wards the qualification was to be rated for the poor to at least £30 or to have at least £1,000 in personal property. In a town with three or less wards the qualification was to be rated for the poor to at least £15 or to have at least £500 of personal property. What this meant in practise can be seen by looking at the numbers of properties rated over £30 and under £30 but over £15:251,252 ‘The ratings in the Upper Marine-terrace Ward are 279 under £30 and 30 over £30; in the Hawley-street Ward, 518 under £30 and 20 above £30; in Cecil-street, 393 under £30 and 88 above it ; in the Fort Ward; 804 under £30 and 47 above it; total in the 4 wards under £30, 2,004, above, 187; total 2,191’. Having four wards would, therefore, limit membership of the Town Council to a small group of the wealthiest rate payers in the town.

The Municipal Corporations Act also defined those eligible to vote, the burgesses. They would be male, over 21, have lived in the town for the previous two and a half years, have been rated for the poor rate, and have paid those rates; anyone who had received parochial relief or other alms from the parish would not have a vote. The regulations for voting were therefore significantly different from those for voting for the Local Board of Health, with one man one vote, for rate payers, but no votes for women. Each year the Overseers of the Poor in the parish would make out the Burgess list of those eligible to vote.

The South Eastern Gazette, which was against a charter for Margate, saw this as another reason for opposition: ‘The committee appointed for obtaining a Charter of Incorporation for Margate are beginning to show the cloven foot, and are evidently trying to get the management of affairs placed in as few hands as possible. They have recommended that the town be divided into four wards, so that the highest qualification should be secured for the representatives of the rate-payers in the council. We would suggest to the rate-payers that this appears to be the first instalment of the blessings they are likely to derive from a charter of incorporation, and should they succeed, the management of affairs will be left in the hands of those who will feel but little sympathy with the bulk of the tax payers of the town. There can be no doubt that the injustice of this attempt has been discovered by the commissioner, as it has been announced that he would reopen the enquiry yesterday (Monday,) and a placard inviting the attendance of the rate-payers has been circulated by Mr. How, a member of the local board, to resist this attempt to limit the number of persons qualified to serve as councillors from 2004 who are rated at £15 to 187 rated at £30’.251

The Kentish Gazette was also against a corporation but thought that, if Margate was to have one, the qualification for becoming a member of the Town Council should be high:253

If we might judge from the feeling already exhibited in Margate, the place would be better without a Corporation. Much difference of opinion exists on the number of wards that is requisite — the Margatonians appear desirous of being unlike other corporators and insist on four wards for a town for which two or three would suffice. On the amount of qualification too for corporate dignity, they are sadly at disseverance; and the meeting convoked by the Commissioner last week to confer on the subject is stated to have been of the most uproarious and thoroughly antagonistic character. This does not augur well for corporate consequence. If they look around they will find the higher amount of qualification essential to weight and importance. It has not been by the higher class of individuals who have occupied corporate seats that the modern Town Councils have become degraded. It has been through men of no education, intelligence, or worth beyond the mere pecuniary qualification, sitting in the Councils that they have been disesteemed or considered of no importance or respectability. We will not be invidious to point to any particular illustration — we will refer to all wherever the inferior class have been allowed to set themselves as corporate dignitaries and to "rule the roost.” Let the inhabitants of Margate defer to the Commissioner on the subject of wards, and profit by what is passing around as to the description of people they should place forward to direct their town, and give weight to its municipal transactions, and so enhance its general interests and prosperity.

Given the importance of this issue, Major Warburton decided to reopen his inquiry at Margate on 23 June.254 The meeting was described as follows:

Notwithstanding the shortness of the notice, the hall was crowded. The commissioner apologised for the inconvenience to the rate­payers by the re-opening of the inquiry, and stated it was occasioned by the difficulty raised by the memorialists requiring the town to be divided into four wards. As no other town that had been incorporated since the Municipal Reform Act had been so divided, he suggested a petition to the Privy Council as the best means of attaining their object, which Mr. Clabon, on the part of the memorialists, said they would do. The Commissioner then said that any further evidence on that subject had better be deferred until that period. Mr. Boyce was of opinion that the only way to get at the views of the inhabitants was by calling a public meeting to consider the propriety of dividing the town into wards, the meaning of which many did not at the first understand. In answer to Mr. How as to what was the object of the present visit, the Commissioner said that, after considering the subject of the division of the wards, he thought it necessary to make further inquiries respecting the state of the public opinion of the inhabitants respecting it; he had received no communication respecting it, but he had intimated his intention of coming again to the advocates of both sides. — Mr. How contended that the having of four wards would be but a return to the old system of commissioners; he wished to know why men of intellect should not be allowed to govern the town as well as the rich. To grant the incorporation upon the present evidence would be unjust; if the £15 rating was adopted, they could then elect the rich man; but if the £30 was adopted, there would be no choice. — A discussion ensued as to the shortness of the notice, during which a confusion was created by several persons endeavouring to address the court. — John Berry Flint said he was ashamed of the meeting, and surprised that they did not know how to act better; he was sure that whatever might be Major Warburton’s opinion of the comparative poverty of Margate, he would be more impressed with her want of good manners. — After an attempt by Mr. Boyce to get the meeting adjourned for two months, it was settled that it should stand adjourned for a month, to enable the opinion of the inhabitants to be taken as to the number of wards into which the town should be divided.’

The meeting must indeed have been a rowdy one. The Kentish Gazette reported that Major Warburton’s explanation for why he had called the meeting was followed by a ‘scene of uproar’.253  The paper thought this a bad omen: ‘if the town is to be involved in a frequent repetition of such scenes, it would be better without a corporation.’

So the arguments in the town had now become arguments about the number of wards. At a public meeting on 25 June ‘resolutions moved by Mr. Boyce were unanimously adopted as the basis of a petition to the privy council, expressing the wish of the inhabitants, in case the corporation should be established, not to have the town divided into four wards, as there is no necessity for such division, and it might be difficult to find men to act as councillors, possessing at once the confidence of the rate-payers, with sound sense and practical wisdom, and a qualification of £1,000 or its rateable equiva­lent; that if it be absolutely necessary to divide the borough, then the number of wards should not exceed two; and that there be eighteen councillors and six aldermen to transact the business of the place’.255 The Committee that was investigating a Charter for Margate decided that, rather than hold another meeting, they would simply print an address to the rate-payers, putting their point of view:256 ‘Margate being entirely dependent upon personal patronage, having no resource from either manufacture or commerce, it is most essential to its prosperity, that those representing and watching over its interests should not only possess the ordinary qualifications of ability, but should also be in such a position as would enable them to cultivate all those associations in society, which would most conduce to the convenience and comfort of those upon whom it so depends. The committee further be­lieve that efficiency and unanimity will generally be found to prevail in existing boroughs, in proportion to the scale of qualification. They beg that no ratepayer will sign a memorial on either side (should such be necessary) on any ground than his own honest convic­tion.’

The Kent Herald reported ‘Petitions for and against the proposal to divide the Town into four wards have been in circulation for signatures during the past week, and each has obtained a large number of influential names. Many persons, however, have refused to sign either, believing that there are two sides to the question, the advantages of each being nearly or quite counterbalanced by its disadvantages’.257

Major Warburton re-opened his court at the Town Hall on 23 July. The Local Board of Health had given orders ‘for measures to be taken to protect Major Warburton . . .  he having complained by letter of the conduct of the last meeting’. David Price reassured Warburton that ‘the local board had instructed the police  to remove any one who interrupted the proceedings’.258 Perhaps as a consequence there were no complaints of rowdy behaviour this time:258

Petitions having been presented to the Privy Council both for and against the plan for dividing the town into wards, Mr. Clabon said that he now not only represented the promoters of the petitions in favour of a charter of incorporation, but also those in favour of the town being divided into four wards, the petition for which had been signed by many persons of influence who had not done so before; the Deputy had also signed it; he asked upon these grounds for the higher qualification to be granted. Witnesses were called to prove the signa­tures to the petitions. The petition presented by Mr. Clabon contained 598 signatures, representing a rating of £12,000. Mr. Boyce's petition had only 97 signa­tures. The correctness of the rating was proved by Mr. Wootton, assistant overseer.

The counter petition was put in, and Mr. Boyce addressed the court, contending that the high qualifica­tion was contrary to law. The town was not large enough for four wards, and their petition had not showed what were their grounds for the plan. The 25th section of the act stated that the number of wards should be in accordance with the size of the town. There was no need for a set number of wards; if the four were adopted they would have 24 councillors, eight aldermen, and eight assessors. He was willing that the town should be divided into two wards, which would require 18 councillors.

The Commissioner then summed up decidedly in favour of the higher qualification, and complimented the peti­tioners for the able manner in which they had conducted their case; he also said that Mr. Boyce was entitled to the praise of those whose case he so ably represented. The Commissioner will now report to the Privy Council the result of his inquiries, and we doubt not but that in the course of a few weeks the town will be in possession of a charter.

The Commissioner duly recommended to the Privy Council that four wards should be adopted.259

All now seemed to be going smoothly: ‘At a Privy Council on Friday [28 November 1856], at Windsor Castle, her Majesty was graciously pleased to grant a charter of incorporation for Margate. This circumstance was announced to the committee by telegraph on Saturday, and subsequently to the inhabitants by the ringing of the church bells. The town will be divided into four wards, so that the higher qualification will be required of members to serve in the Town Council. In about a week the charter will arrive, which will direct the getting out of the burgess lists, &c. The elections, it is supposed, will take place about the 1st January’.260 In fact, things were not to go smoothly at all. The complications of dealing with Cinque Port legislation were such that at this very late stage a problem became clear, a problem not spotted by the drafters of the legislation. It was pointed out by the Recorder of Dover, W. H. Bodkin, at the Dover Quarter Sessions in January 1857:261

My notice has been directed to an Act of Parliament passed in July last year, one of the objects of which, as no doubt the gentlemen from Margate are aware, is to provide for the separation of Margate from this jurisdiction. Now, there are two provisions in that Act of Parliament; the first enacts that the part of this jurisdiction which it is proposed to separate from it (Margate) may for the future form part of the county of Kent; and in that alternative the justices of the county of Kent would have power over that part pre­cisely as if it had originally formed part of their juris­diction. And if that plan had been adopted no difficulty would have arisen, because at the same instant of time that the jurisdiction of this Court was withdrawn, the jurisdiction of the county would have arisen, and an apparatus would have been ready formed for the administration of justice. But there was another pro­vision in the Act of Parliament, that of granting a Charter of Incorporation. This has been taken advantage of; and when I left London, I left under the impression that a Charter to that effect had been granted, and I believe it has been formally granted. I have looked into the act of parliament, and find that although in the one case, if the jurisdiction formed part of the county of Kent, there is no difficulty in providing for the administration of justice; yet there is no provision for the other alternative. Although, therefore, when the charter is really granted the jurisdiction of this Court ceases, there will be no provision for carrying on the criminal business of the town ofMargate till the corporation is formed and application made to the Crown for the appointment of a recorder. In fact there will be no person having any authority to entertain a criminal charge or deal with any offence of a similar nature. This would have been undoubtedly a most serious state of things; but I find, on communicating with the clerk to the justices of Margate, who is in attendance, here today, that although the charter has been granted it is not at this moment sealed. I have called the attention of those gentlemen from Margate to the subject, there­fore, in order that they may see the propriety of immediately communicating with the Government to prevent public inconvenience such as I have alluded to. It will be necessary to introduce a short bill to remedy this defect, and it will be desirable to do so at once, for the instant the seal is applied to the charter of incorporation, the jurisdiction of this court will cease, and, so far as existing arrangements go, there will be no other to take its place.

This, of course, was a blow, as one of the main reasons why Margate had applied for a charter was the inconvenience of going to Dover to serve on juries and conduct prosecutions. A Bill, ‘The Cinque Ports Amendment Bill’ was hastily introduced and passed through the House of Commons and Lords. 262 The bill contained just one clause, and simply modified the 1855 Cinque Ports Acts so that the jurisdiction of the Quarter Sessions at Dover over Margate would not end until Margate was awarded its own Court of Quarter Session. The Bill had been read three times in the House of Commons and had also passed the House of Lords, when a clerical error was discovered in the preamble to the bill; ‘instead of the word “provisions” the  word “provision” was used’.263 The Bill had to be sent back to the House of Commons for amendment. However the corrected bill was pushed through Parliament ‘at a railway speed’,264 and received the royal assent in July 1857.265

So Margate did not actually receive its charter until 29 July 1857. The event was celebrated in suitable style: ‘This long-looked for charter has at length arrived, and was hailed by a salute of 21 guns, the gunpowder for which, we are told, was paid by private subscription. The question, however, begins already to be asked, who is to pay for the wax and parchment?’.266 As we have seen, the Charter did not actually break the link with Dover; it was to take another ten years before the supremacy of the Quarter Sessions at Dover was ended. The way to the final break was cleared by yet another amendment to the Cinque Ports Act, passed in 1869.267 The bill agreed that when a court of quarter sessions was granted to the borough of Margate, the Treasury would determine a capital amount that should be paid by Margate to Dover to end all financial liabilities to Dover. However, until the Court of Quarter Sessions was awarded to Margate, Margate remained in an odd position. Under the Municipal Corporation Act, Margate, when it became a borough, appointed its own justices who had jurisdiction in Margate. However, all prisoners committed by the justices of Margate had to be sent to Dover to be tried at the Dover Quarter Sessions. Margate was finally awarded its own Quarter Sessions in 1870.  

Meanwhile, the Local Board of Health had to plan for the handover of its powers to the new Local Council. On 4 August a special meeting of the Local Board was called to consider the handover.268 J. Harvey Boys, the Clerk, read the Charter ‘which sets forth that there are to be four wards in the borough, and that each ward is to have three councillors and an alderman to represent the interests of the burgesses — making, with the Mayor, seventeen (instead of thirty, as at present, to govern the whole town.’ In October it was announced that F. W. Cobb had resigned as Deputy, and Richard Jenkins, who had acted as sub-deputy under F. W. Cobb for many years, was appointed to succeed him ‘as deputy for that portion of the liberties which remain unaffected by the charter of incorporation’.269


* * *


Preparations got underway for the elections to the new Town Council. The Charter named David Price, the Chairman of the Local Board of Health, as the returning officer for the election and the date of the election was set as Monday, 2 November 1857. The list of burgesses, those eligible to vote, was drawn up, and contained about 950 names.270,271 A number of ‘private’ ward meetings were held to determine who might stand for election, and which of the burgesses would support them. The Kent Herald complained ‘from present appearances the old clique will be the dominant party, and every effort is being made to exclude the radical or liberal portion of those qualified. The Pier and Gas [Company] directors are in the ascendant and will, if possible, retain their present influence in matters immediately connected with their own interest’.272 The Kent News and Advertiser listed the candidates:273

In Cecil ward the result was the selection of Messrs. G. Yeates Hunter, T. Gilder and John Berry Flint; but Mr. Gilder declining the proffered honour, Mr. T. H. Keble has been substituted. – In the Marine ward a ballot was taken, where the votes showed for Mr. Jenkins, 27, Messrs. Brooke and S. Mercer 23 each, for Mr. Jirah Towne 17, and Mr. Josiah Towne 7. The first three were consequently selected, but Mr. Jenkins having declined to comply with the request, another meeting has since been held, at which Dr. Chambers, who had previously offered himself on independent principles, was adopted; and the joint address of the three has been issued. In the Fort ward, Messrs. W. Caveler, D. Price and J. Woodward were selected; and in the Pier ward, Messrs. J. Standring, A. D. Pickering, and E. T. Relph. There are not wanting little indications of opposition in these two wards. Mr. Smith for instance, has sent out a bill offering himself for Fort ward, taking his stand on economy; Mr. James Crofts has issued an address on the impropriety of gentlemen connected with the Pier and Harbour Company being elected in the Corporation; and following on this, three fresh candidates have been adopted at a meeting in the Pier ward – Messrs. W. Perkins, J. Ford and E. White – which renders the election of one or two of the others doubtful.

The selected candidates published their ‘addresses’ in the local papers; these were very unlike their modern equivalents. For example, that of Woodward, Price and Caveler:273

Burgesses of the Fort Ward – Having been desired by many of the Burgesses to offer ourselves as Candidates for the office of Town Councillors, we willingly accede to the request.

If it be your pleasure to place us in the Council, our great desire will be to further the interests of the town of Margate, so far as our abilities will permit.

John Woodward
David Price
William Caveler.

That of Brooke, Mercer and Chambers was hardly more persuasive:

To the Burgesses of the Marine Ward

Having been requested by a numerous body of the Burgesses to offer ourselves as Candidates for the office of Town Councillors, we have, upon the retirement of other gentlemen (also nominated as fit persons to serve the office), consented to do so.

If, therefore, it shall be your pleasure to place us in the Council, we hope we shall ever be found vigilant in watching over and promoting prudently the interests of the town of Margate.

Wm. Brooke
Samuel Mercer
F. Chambers, M.D.

The election was on Monday, 2 November:  ‘The town was all excitement throughout the day, and two bands — the Town and the juveniles’ — paraded the streets, infusing harmony where none existed, though we are bound to say that, notwithstanding the contest that was raised, there was no great discord’.274 Other reports were similar: ‘In every ward but one there was opposition, and this increased the interest. During the past week several addresses, squibs, &c., had been issued, and created much amusement; and we were glad to observe that the elections were conducted without that display of party spirit observable in the older Corporations. All parties took the affair very good humouredly; and those defeated had the grace to sustain it without at least showing any particular mortification’.275

Votes were cast in the Town Hall: ‘Over each compartment in the Hall apportioned to the several wards, were placed vigilant and competent persons for the discharge of the duties. Mr. T. W. Reeve recorded the votes in the Pier ward; Mr. Beerling, in the Fort ward; Mr. Goodbourne, in Cecil ward; and Mr. W. Rose, in the Marine ward; and all were under the supervision of David Price, Esq., the returning officer, with Mr. Higgins for deputy, one and all of whom exer­cised their duties in a manner to leave no ground of complaint on the part of any burgess. The polling was commenced with spirit, and so con­tinued till near the close, at four o'clock, when the Hall was cleared, and at half-past seven, the returning-officer and his assistants were in attendance, to satisfy the expectant burgesses with the result of their choice. There was a large assemblage of the townsmen’.274

The returning officer, David Price, started the proceedings by congratulating everyone on their behaviour: ‘He had seen something of elections; but he was bound to say that he had never seen any body of freeholders or burgesses, who had behaved with more discretion, or better than the inhabitants of that town had done on that the first opportunity of ex­ercising the most important right of the franchise. He had no doubt that on all subsequent occasions their conduct would be marked by the same good sense, and the same good temper, which was of immense influ­ence in all elections’.274. He then announced ‘he was about to declare to them which of their fellow townsman had been elected. He had merely to announce those who, according to a hasty calculation appeared to be the winners. Beyond all doubt those whom he was about to name had been elected Councillors; but there was so exceedingly close a run between some of them that it was important to them to be accurate, as the Charter said those who had the fewest votes would be the first to go out [i.e. the first to be rotated off the Council in future annual elections]. He should next day, with the Clerk and others engaged in the election, go most carefully over the papers, so as to be thoroughly satisfied that no mistake had been made. (Applause) He was pretty well certain that there was no mistake — still to make safety doubly sure, and feeling it a duty he owed to himself and to them all he was determined there should be no error in the return.’    

He then announced the results, which were confirmed by him on Tuesday morning. The three candidates in each ward with the greatest number of votes were elected :


Marine Ward  
Samuel Mercer 105
William Brooke 100
Frederick Chambers 77
George Sturges 4
Cecil Ward  
John Berry Flint 82
George Yeates Hunter 81
Thomas Harman Keble 80
Fort Ward  
David Price 151
John Woodward 150
William Caveler 148
William Cheeseman 90
William Smith 73
Pier Ward  
James Standring 112
Edward Thomas Ralph 112
William Druce Pickering 111
Edward White, jun. 77
William Perkins 68
James Ford 39


Many of those elected then gave speeches, best left forgotten. Those by Flint and Chambers though still have some interest:274

Mr. J. Flint . . .  considered it advisable to keep pace with other towns, and to exercise judgment and prudence in the expenditure of all public moneys, knowing how many ratepayers found a difficulty in raising even a small pittance for local rates. It would be his endeavour, as he believed it would be of those associated with him, to do all they could to have value received for all that was given. The burgesses must not judge them harshly, if they found them acting for the well-being and prosperity of the town. (Hear, hear) One thing had struck him as rather singular. He could not tell what would be the issue of the poll till revealed by their Chairman; but he thought it somewhat singular that many of those who had been elected occupied a place at their Local Board of Health; and therefore it was no little mark of confidence that they had been selected for this fresh post, and he took it as an omen of future welfare. (Applause). Disapproving of anything like bickerings and personal contentions, he trusted that the councillors would have the courage to do their duty, irrespective of party influence — turning neither to the right nor to the left, but doing their best to keep pace with their own consciences with honest intentions, like faithful stewards.

Dr. Chambers congratulated the meeting on the cordiality and kindness exhibited during the election. It had been previously thought that the election would give rise to many dissensions and heart-burnings. That day had realised the reverse, and shown that the Margate people could conduct such matters in a manner that would do credit even to the great metropolis itself. Hence it was that they had reason to be much gratified and feel proud that the business of the day had been conducted so wisely, so kindly, so businesslike, that it would bear tomorrow's reflection. He wished in thus addressing the assembly to be understood that while all his words should be those of thanks, for the honour conferred on him, he was also mindful of the fact that having been three years a member of the Local Board, and again during the short time since the last election, strong evidence had been afforded his mind that his efforts had in some  degree been acceptable to his constituents, and entertaining a desire for the general good, and having as much in the town to consider  as many of its promoters, it would be a fallacy to suppose that he  should move in any direction that militated  against its best interests. If at any time he gave a vote which appeared contrary to those interests, it must be attributed to an error of judgment, rather than of will. It would be his endeavour in the council to form a right judgement, and, so long as he was spared, to be regular in his attendance for promoting the interests of the town; and trusted that so far as good intentions went,  he should be found worthy at the end of his services of the confidence placed in him. (Applause.)

Not all though was sweetness and light:

Mr. Brady felt a few words necessary from the pro­minent part he had taken in promoting the opposition in the Pier ward, and said though unsuccessful on the present occasion, he should most assuredly put forward the same candidates again at a future opportunity.

Mr. Stokes took up a similar position in respect of the Marine ward, and undertook to give the successful candidates a little advice, and complained that the inhabitants under the Local Board had not enjoyed suf­ficient means of redress under grievances, which he instanced in cases of parties being handed from the members of the Board to the Surveyor, and from him to them. He cautioned the winners against such dereliction of duty, as the members of the Local Board had been guilty of, in attending in only one-third of their force, and told them to mind their P's and Q’s or at another election overboard they would go, which excited no little laughter. He also raised some little complaints of the voters not being duly classified in their respective wards, which had occasioned some voters to be sent away. 

The Chairman gave a flat contradiction to this, and stated that he had been present throughout the polling, and not one voter had been sent away.

The Chairman repelled the attacks made on the Local Board, and called for proofs of the charges made by Mr Stokes.

But all ended happily: the Chairman ‘called for three cheers for the town, and nine for the Queen – which were responded to with alacrity, after which the meeting departed in the most orderly manner.’

The outcome of the election caused little surprise, according to the Canterbury Journal:275

From the first there could be little doubt as to the result; for the disparity between the candidates was too great to admit the probability of the more respectable gentlemen being defeated. The chance of opposition in the Marine ward is clearly seen by the fact that Mr. Sturges' friends amounted to the surprising number of four; and it is almost a matter of surprise where these came from. Soagain in Fort ward while Mr. Price, Mr. Woodward, and Mr. Caveler press closely on each other's heels, the difference between the number of votes they each polled being little more than nominal, the wide chasm of sixty votes separates them from Mr. Cheesman, and the still wider of eighty votes from Mr. Smith, of whose success not the slightest doubt was entertained — by himself. Up to Saturday evening he announced publicly that “the result of his canvas” was such as to place his success beyond all question; but unfortunately words, however big, are of no avail when placed side by side with votes; and if Mr. Smith’s canvass really persuaded him that he was safe for a seat in the Council, we can only say that the burgesses woefully deceived him.

In the Pier Ward the same thing may be observed as in the other cases — viz., that the three successful candidates polled the same number of votes within one, and the three unsuccessful gentlemen so few that their opposition can hardly be looked upon as other than vexatious. The burgesses had plainly announced their desire as to who should be their representatives when the ward meetings were held; and the defeated candidates have only met a just reward for their officiousness in forcing themselves upon the townspeople.

The first meeting of the Town Council was held on 9 November and is described in Appendix VII. 276 David Price, as returning officer, was in the Chair and the Council’s first task was to elect four aldermen and a Mayor. The aldermen were picked from amongst the councillors, and David Price, G. Y. Hunter, Samuel Mercer and James Standring were chosen. G. Y. Hunter then proposed David Price, as Mayor and this was seconded by John Berry Flint and carried ‘amidst loud cheering’. Price then explained that he could not accept the position because of the recent death of his youngest daughter and the illness of his oldest daughter, and proposed instead that G. Y. Hunter should be elected. This in turn was carried ‘amidst mingled cheers and confusion in the body of the hall’.277 John Harvey Boys was then elected as the Town Clerk; ‘the affair went off very quietly, not a voice being heard when the Mayor got into his carriage and drove off’.277

The Lancet, which had taken some interest in the health of Margate, was impressed by the election:278

A mayor's nest. Margate — the great watering-place of the fagged dwellers in Cockaigne, of city-blanched  damsels — the belles of  Bow — and of tremendously nautical beaux from within sound of Bow bells; where the cits do most resort for their sea-water sitz-bads, and to enjoy their ocean-cum dignitate, and on whose beach, as Tom Hood wrote,

“the sick one roams.
And the sentimental reads;
Where the maiden flirts, and the widow comes-
Like the ocean - to cast her weeds"; —

Margate has very recently had its dignity advanced by receiving a charter of incorporation. And so last week the newly-appointed council met for the election of the first Mayor. Remembering the disgraceful circumstances attending the last election of a Lord Mayor for London — the vulgar wrangling in the council chamber, and the expose in the police court — we trust that every common-council-woman will persuade her husband that he requires relaxation from his municipal labours, and send him to Margate, with special injunctions to attend the meetings, and take example by the doings of the new corporation there, if the late meeting for election of officials is an earnest of what their usual proceedings will be. Both as an exemplification of wise discrimination and of delicate consideration, the past election of Mayor for Margate is worthy of note. Unanimously the council called upon Dr. Price — long a resident and a much-respected practitioner, who is chairman of the Local Board of Health — to assume the dignity. As senior alderman he presided at the meeting, and the proposal of his name was received with unanimous applause. Speakers rose one after the other to bear cordial testimony to the high esteem in which he was held and it may well be believed that the recipient of all this kindly homage was not unmoved. But Dr. Price declined the honour, on account of heavy domestic afflictions, which, as he nobly said, might prevent his paying that incessant devotion necessary to the interests of the town.

So a second Mayor of Margate had to be elected. And with equal unanimity the town-council called on Dr. G. Yeates Hunter, also one of the newly elected aldermen, and the colleague of Dr. Price at the Sea Bathing Infirmary, to fill the office. In acknowledging the honour and responsibility thus conferred upon him, Dr. Hunter said, "the difficulties and duties will be lightened, because my worthy friend, Dr. Price, has told me that, although he refused the honour offered him, he will aid me by his counsel, as often as he can, in the deliberations which must necessarily take place. I shall feel that my position is so far rendered less difficult, because I shall have near me, when I require it, the matured experience and judgment of a member of my own profession, whom I highly esteem, whose judgment I much value, and whose assistance I have frequently had the pleasure to receive."

The following week elections were held to fill the vacancies created by the election of the four Aldermen. Only in the Cecil and Pier wards were the elections contested, and the results were:279

Cecil Ward: Mannings, 70; Bath, 53.
Pier Ward: Amos, 110; Ford, 61.
Marine Ward: Maxted, 95.
Fort Ward: Cheesman, 108.

The Town Council met again on 17 November, when Thomas Keble presented the proposed design for the borough coat of arms, ‘consisting of the Kentish horse, argent, and the Cinque Port Arms, a lion and a ship; the motto to be, we are informed, “In portu maris salus est," "There is health within the gate of the sea," alluding to a supposed derivation of Margate from Mare-gate’.280 The design was approved and sent to the Herald’s College for approval. The design for the corporate seal was also decided on.281

Margate crest
Margate crest
Margate Seal
Margate Seal

Meanwhile the Local Board continued to meet. On 8 December they held their monthly meeting in the Town Hall, with David Price in the chair.282 They set a number of local rates, but, appropriately, their major business concerned some local pigs:

A long and smartly written letter was read by the Clerk from Messrs. Croft and Larter, of Wellington Gardens, complaining of some pigs that were kept by Mr. Miles, and strongly reflecting on the conduct of the Inspector in carelessly doing his duty on receipt of the complaint.

Mr. Caveler called attention to that part of the letter which charged the Inspector of Nuisances with carelessly doing his duty; he (Mr. C.) thought it a serious charge and that Mr. Reeve should be allowed to explain. The charge in the letter was that on receipt of the complaint he ordered the pigs, two in number, to be removed, which order was complied with, but a day or two afterwards three pigs were put in the same sty, on  complaining of which, no notice was taken.

Mr. Reeve, the Inspector of Nuisances, stated that he caused the first nuisance complained of to be abated, and when the second complaint was made, he enquired of the complainant how long they had been there, and his reply was "Oh, about half-an-hour;" he told him that was too quick to take any measures against the owner, they must wait and see if they produced a nuisance.  

Dr. Chambers strongly supported the immediate removal of not only those pigs but all others about the town, they being highly detrimental and injurious to health; pig-sties were "a crying evil," and the Public Health Act and the Nuisances Removal Act gave the Inspector power to proceed against the parties. The public, generally were in favour of pig-sties being removed and they ought to be abolished from the town.

Mr. Keble was decidedly of opinion that the complaining parties, whoever they   were, ought to be protected; perhaps it was some poor man whose living depended on his health, and to have that jeopardized by a nuisance that the Board had the power of removing would be a great injustice.

Dr. Hunter supported the removal of the pigs, as also of another abominable nuisance in the Dane, he alluded to the manure factory — from it there constantly arose an intolerable stench, and it was no  argument to say because people worked and lived there, they were not injurious, the very contrary was the fact; it was entirely arising from the sanitary arrangement that only one in 58 of the population of the town died, and if the pig-sties are removed and other nuisances abated the mortality would be one in 70. Ultimately a committee of seven was appointed to examine this alleged nuisance, consisting of Dr. Chambers, Dr. Hunter, Messrs. Caveler, Keble, Higgins, Ralph, and S. Mercer. The Chairman put the motion but no one offered to second it; to save it from being burked Mr. Caveler withdrew from the committee in order to second the proposition, which was then carried. Dr. Chambers thanked Mr. Caveler for the step he took in the matter, and was very sorry indeed it was not more readily seconded by some one else. The committee, anxious to get to their new work, then proceeded to the Dane to view the nuisance complained of, but not without first being cautioned of the presence of  two ferocious bull-dogs on the premises of Mr. Craycraft. The court then adjourned for one month, with a sort of understanding as our correspondent phrases it "that the infant corporation would be able to stand on its own legs and manage the affairs of the town after the fashion of other corporate boroughs."

The Local Board met again on 5 January 1858.283 They heard that ‘the nuisance’ at John Craycraft’s manure manufactory near Dane Farm ‘had been discontinued’, and if it hadn’t he would be fined £50. They also received a letter from the Pier and Harbour Company ‘complaining of the time selected for discharging the town drain near the new landing pier, and thereby causing a most intolerable nuisance, when the promenade was thronged with visitors’. This they referred to the Clerk of the Works. Then ‘some conversation . . .  took place as to the time when the Local Board would cease to exist; and the Clerk was directed to prepare a transfer deed to be ready for signature at the next meeting.’

A few weeks later, on 19 January, the Town Council met to consider a number of pressing issues.284 S. S. Chancellor requested that the Mayor and Corporation should attend a ‘juvenile ball’ to be held at the Assembly Rooms in honour of the marriage of the Princess Royal on 25 February. This was agreed to, as was the proposal to send addresses ‘to her Majesty, the Prince Consort, and the Royal Bride and Bridegroom.’ With that out of the way, the Council turned to the issue of applying for a separate Court of Quarter Sessions:

The Mayor remarked that this was one of the principal objects of obtaining the Charter; and he recommended that the usual application be made, as they were in want of more magistrates, both for sanitary and criminal matters.

The Town-clerk entered into some explanations, in which he stated that under the Separation Act they must commit to Dover until they had obtained a separate Court of Quarter Sessions and a Commission of the Peace. Whether the Government would compel them to build a gaol he could not say. Perhaps they might send their prisoners to Sandwich or Canterbury. It would, he thought, be more advantageous to farm them at Sandwich, where there was plenty of room, and it being easy of access. If they were compelled to build a gaol, then they must have a chaplain and other officers. He thought that the council should direct him to prepare petitions for a separate court, and to obtain the necessary information as to the amount required for farming the prisoners at Sandwich for three or four years.

It was then resolved that this should be done, and a committee was formed to assist in obtaining the requisite information, and to solicit an interview with the council of Sandwich.

The next item was to fix the salary of the Mayor. It might be remembered that in calculating the estimated cost of having a corporation, the figure for the Mayor’s salary was left blank, because it was felt that he would not need to be paid one. Now, however:

The Committee appointed to fix the salary of the Mayor presented their report, in which they recommended that it be the sum of £50 per year.

Some little discussion ensued, in which Mr. Woodward hoped the Mayor would not accept the paltry sum of £50, to be taken out of the rate-payers’ pockets, and enumerated several places where no salary was paid at all.

Ultimately the recommendation of the committee was adopted; Mr. Woodward alone dissenting.

The council meeting then broke up.

The final meeting of the Local Board of Health was on 2 February, when the powers of the Local Board were transferred to the Town Council. The event was described in the South Eastern Gazette:285

On Tuesday last the members of the Local Board of Health met in the Town-hall; D. Price, Esq., presiding. There were also present, Messrs. Caveler, Keble, Mercer, Pickering, Dyer, Smith, Woodward, Higgins, Relph, Amos, Hunter, Barker, Bath, Chambers, and Swinford.

The accounts of the Finance Committee having been passed,

Mr. Caveler moved the following resolution :— “That it is deemed expedient that all the rights, powers, estates, property, and liabilities of this Board, under the Public Health Supplemental Act, 1851, No. 2, and the several Local Acts and Public Acts incorporated therewith, shall be transferred to the said Mayor, Aldermen, and Burgesses, of the town and borough of Margate, in pursuance of the permission in that behalf given by the Act passed in the last Sessions of Parliament, entitled ‘An Act to amend the Acts concerning Municipal Corporations.’ ”

Dr. Chambers seconded the motion.

Mr. Woodward said for himself he must decline to sign away any powers he possessed as a member of the Local Board.

Mr. Keble thought they ought to have seen a draught of the transfer deed, in order that they might be sure it was a valid and sound document.

The Clerk read the deed of transfer, which he stated was all sufficient, a resolution to which effect was passed by the board at their last meeting.

After some little further discussion, the motion was carried, Mr. Smith being the only person who held up his hand against it. Mr. Woodward, however, did not vote.

The Board then adjourned for an hour, and

The Town-council took possession of the hall. The Mayor presided, and the other members present were Aldermen Standring and Mercer; Councillors Caveler, Amos, Keble, Mannings, Cheesman, Flint, Pickering, Relph, Chambers, and Woodward.

Alderman Standring moved that the council accept the transfer of the powers, &c., of the Local Board of Health. Seconded by Mr. Cheesman, and carried.

The Committee appointed with regard to a separate Court of Quarter Session and Commission of the Peace reported that they had been to Sandwich, seen the Town-clerk, and inspected the gaol. The Clerk told them that there would be a meeting of the council on Wednesday, and the application had been anticipated from Margate as to farming the prisoners, the matter would be then discussed.

The Mayor said he was satisfied with the arrangements of the prison, and he had no doubt Sandwich would be ready to take their prisoners when Margate was in a position to commit.

The petition for a separate Court of Quarter Session was then read, and, after some little amendment, was agreed to.

The Town-clerk was requested to ascertain from the authorities at Sandwich the amount they would require for farming the prisoners, in the event of the prayer of the petition being granted.

The addresses on the Royal marriage were directed to be forwarded to Sir George Grey for presentation.

This concluded the business of the meeting.

On the Local Board resuming, the acceptance of the transfer by the council was announced, and the seal of the board was affixed to the deed.

Mr. Caveler then, in highly complimentary terms, moved that the warmest thanks of the board be given to D. Price, Esq., for the able and impartial manner with which he had discharged the duties of chairman of the board.

The motion having been seconded, and carried amidst loud applause,

Mr. Hunter rose, and observing that it was felt that Dr. Price ought to have some lasting token of the respect and esteem in which he was held, presented that gentleman with a silver inkstand, beautifully chased, of the value of £20, and bearing the following inscription “Presented to David Price, Esq., M.D., by the past and present members and officers of the Margate Local Board of Health, as some acknowledgment of the ability, assiduity, and strict impartiality with which he performed his duties, as the Chairman of that board, from the time of his election, in August, 1852, until the transfer of the powers of the Board to the Corporation, in February, 1858;” and on the opposite his crest.

Dr. Price, in returning thanks, referred with satisfaction to the improvements the board had effected in the town, and trusted that Margate might long continue to progress. He thanked them, one and all, for the manner in which they had supported him in his humble attempts properly to fulfil the duties of his office, and before sitting down invited them to meet him at the White Hart, at seven in the evening, to drink “Auld Lang Syne.”

A committee, consisting of Messrs. Higgins, Dyer, Barker, and Bath, was appointed to schedule the papers and effects of the Board; and, the deed of transfer having been executed on both sides, the labours of the Margate Local Board of Health were brought to an end.