Rule by the Margate Local Board of Health 1851 - 1858

Anthony Lee

Westbrook and the Royal Crescent.

To the west of Margate were a row of lodging houses, Buenos Ayres, and Westbrook; Kidd’s guide described them in 1831:1

Buenos Ayres and Westbrook are at the outskirts of Margate, on the London road; at the latter are a mill and preventive [Customs] station, which is about to be discontinued. There is nothing at these places worthy of particular notice, but being reached by the sands, visitors will occasionally stroll thither after bathing.

Print 8 Buenos Ayres with the Prevention Post
Buenos Ayres with the Prevention Post
Picture of Margate and Its Vicinity, W. C. Oulton, 1820.
ILN Margate 1851
Margate from Westbrook
Illustrated London News, August 16 1851.

The land at Westbrook was largely agricultural. It was originally part of the estate of James Taddy (1710-1764), a yeoman farmer based at Street Court, Westgate. Taddy  had two sons, Edward and James, neither of whom had children. He also had three daughters, one of whom, Ann, married John Hatfeild from Norwich — the Hatfeilds spelt their name with an ‘ei’ as it derived from the German word ‘Hauptfeld’, meaning main or home field. On James Taddys’ death his land passed to his eldest son Edward and, with no children, Edward’s will specified that his land and properties should be sold and the money distributed between his nephews and nieces and their children.2 After a disagreement between the trustees of the will had been finally settled, Taddy’s wishes were followed and, in 1839, his land was advertised for sale.3 The thirty nine lots in the sale included ‘an Estate called Hartsdown, containing by estimation 163 acres or thereabouts, about 152 acres whereof, to­gether with a capital dwelling house, farm house, and farm buildings, is let, together with about 49 acres, part of the estate called Westbrook, hereinafter mentioned, to Mr. Charles Taddy Hatfeild, for the term of seven years, commencing Michaelmas, 1835, at the low annual rent of £328, pursuant to a direction in the will of the said Edward Taddy, the testator, and the residue thereof is let to the said Mr. Charles Taddy Hatfeild, and other respectable  parties as yearly tenants, at the gross yearly rent of £23 11s.’, ‘an estate called Westbrook, containing 54 acres or thereabouts, about 49 acres whereof are let to the said Mr. Charles Taddy Hatfeild as aforesaid, and the residue thereof, consisting of pasture lands, gardens, and cottages attached thereto, to parties as tenants from year to year, at a gross annual rent of £38 15s. 6d.’, and ‘about 26 acres of the land near Margate, called the Brook Lands, consisting of rich pasture land, let to respectable parties as tenants from year to year, at the gross annual rent of £188 16s.’ The Charles Taddy Hatfeild to whom a large part of this property was rented was the son of Ann Taddy and John Hatfeild; he had been born in 1796. At the sale Charles Taddy Hatfeild bought the Hartsdown estate together with Hartsdown House, a ‘beautiful mansion’ for £16,800.4

The gradual expansion of Margate along the Marine Terrace had made land at the west end of Margate attractive for building. Hatfeild certainly thought so. In 1846 the South Eastern Railway decided to build its Margate station on Marine Terrace, where the only suitable land was that adjacent to the Cinque Port Arms, land owned by Hatfeild. The railway company offered him £6,000 for the 12 acres, 1 rod and 19 perches of arable and pasture land they required but Hatfeild, claiming that it was potential building land, stood out for £18,000.4,5 The matter went to arbitration before a special jury in Margate. The jury were told that the land was part of the Hartsdown estate, which Hatfeild had purchased in 1839 for just £16,800. The jury felt that Hatfeild’s ‘enormous claim’ of £18,000 was unreasonable and awarded him just £5,265, £735 less than the railway company had originally offered, and, rubbing salt into the wound, Hatfeild also had to pay half of the legal costs.4 The Canterbury Journal reported: ‘It is said that Mr. Hatfeild (of Hartsdown) is so much vexed and annoyed at the late railway proceedings, that he intends leaving Margate for his residence at Ham, near Sandwich. At all events, Mr. Hatfeild has tendered his resignation as Director and Treasurer of the Pier and Harbour Company’.6

As the owner of so much land in and around Margate, Hatfeild had a particular interest in how the town’s boundaries were defined in the Provisional Order for Margate, as this would determine on how much of his land he would have to pay Margate town rates. As described elsewhere (6. How the Report was received in Margate) the General Board of Health decided that it would be ‘expedient’ for the Provisional Order to apply to the whole of the parish of St. John and not just to the town of Margate. However, it was also decided that the rating area would be just the built-up area of the town of Margate, defined in Schedule B of the Provisional Order (see 6. How the report was received in Margate). Unfortunately for Hatfeild the new rating area extended beyond the old town boundaries, meaning that much Hatfeild land, both at Westbrook and at Hartsdown, would now become liable to the town rates. Hatfeild was also worried that the Provisional Order gave the Local Board power to build sea defences, with one third of the cost being paid by the Local Board and the remaining two thirds being paid by the owners of properties benefiting from the work.7 In April 1851 he wrote to the General Board in London objecting to this proposal:8

I beg respectfully to submit the following facts for your consideration on the 27 Section of the Provisional Order for Margate ‘to extend all sea walls’.

The present sea wall cost £8851 17s. 11d. The expenses on ditto from 1828 to 1850 £1696 1s. 8s. The proposed sea wall in proportion would cost £11425 2s. 5d.

The value of all the property possible to be included in the area liable is not rated at more than £408 per annum which at 25 years purchase would be £10,000; allowing the property to be rated at ¾, would increase the value to £12,500 — Therefore the expense of the Sea Wall and cost of repairs is more than equal to the property defended, which I can clearly prove does not cost me five pounds per annum on a value for the land which the sea takes.

The land along which the proposed sea Wall is to extend, was only just into the town Boundary by the Local Act of the 6th year of the reign of King George 4th, and Westbrook Farm House situated 230 yards from the nearest lamp, has paid the Town rate ever since, including interest on Town debt, as well as other Houses double that distance which are still charged.

Allow one to ask is it fair and just to extend the Town Boundary, to charge me with two thirds of the expense of the proposed Sea Wall to Westbrook Gateway, which abutment will occasion the sea to increase tenfold on my land, to my great injury, and may I ask why should my land at Hartsdown be included in the proposed Town Boundary, to pay towards the Sea Wall, not having a building on it and being hundreds of yards from the sea.

Probably Gentlemen you are not aware that five years since, Mr. Bodkin as assessor in a Margate Jury case, ruled the Court, when deciding upon compensation for land taken by the South Eastern Railway in front of the present Sea Wall, by saying that twenty years having elapsed since the erection  in 1825 of the said Sea Wall, I was  not entitled to any compensation although the land had borne the expense of  upwards of one thousand pounds towards its erection, and had not been built upon, consequently the money in twenty years is sacrificed. I am informed two thirds of the expense of the present wall are paid by the Pier Company, who gave two thousand pounds towards its erection. As my land is agricultural with no building except a Farm House I trust your honourable Board from the statement herein contained, will perceive the propriety of expunging the 27 section of the Provisional Order for Margate, and all other sections relating  thereto, and  relieve me from the ruinous expenses of the construction and repairs of a hazardous Sea Wall.

The new boundary proposed for the town is shown by the green line

The General Board wrote to J. E. Wright, Clerk to the Improvement Commissioners, suggesting that he arrange a meeting between himself, Hatfeild, and Cresy, the Board’s Inspector.9 Wright replied that he thought this would be unnecessary as the Margate committee helping to draft the Provisional Order  had ‘unanimously determined to insert words in the 27th section of the provisional order to prohibit any sea defences being erected, until the consent in writing of the owners of the immediate frontage land, shall have been obtained’.10 Nevertheless, the meeting went ahead, at the General Board Office in London, on May 7.11 The outcome of the meeting is not known, but in July Hatfeild wrote again to the General Board asking that the following be added to Section 27 of the Provisional Order: ‘provided always that all land used for agricultural purposes shall be exempt from all special and district rates, costs, charges and expenses until built upon’.12 The Board replied ‘that the bill having now passed through Committee of the House of Commons it is too late to make any alterations in any matter affecting rates, and no such alteration can be made in the House of Lords’.13

Despite having been elected onto the Local Board of Health in September 1851, Hatfeild refused to pay the rates on his land and mounted a campaign to exclude his land from the rating area. In June 1852 he forwarded a memorial from ‘owners of house and tenements situated at Westbrook’ to the Local Board:14

To the Chairman and members of the local Board of Health Margate

We the undersigned being owners and occupiers of houses and tenements situated at Westbrook near Margate which being upwards of one quarter of a mile from the nearest lamp and without desiring town advantages from drainage etc. and being only incorporated into the town Boundary under the schedule B by the provisional order for the town of Margate last July  greatly  to the mortification and regret of your humble petitioners who most humbly pray that your honourable Board will remit under the 2nd section of the provisional order for Margate for the time being all rates of which they do not receive full benefit.

The memorial was signed by Hatfeild and thirteen others, most, presumably, being his tenants. The Rate and Finance Committee of the Local Board considered Hatfeild’s complaint and, in early June 1852, proposed ‘that to relieve the objections made by Mr. Hatfeild and other properties so situated three extra lamps be supplied to the Road extending from Union Place to such a site as will afford light to the new cottages belonging to Mr. Hatfeild’.14 The Local Board accepted the proposal, but decided to delay its implementation as the costs of public lighting were currently being negotiated with the local gas board. Hatfeild then raised the issue again with the General Board, writing to them on 29 July 1852:15


I beg to memorialise your honourable Board by stating that the rating area under the Provisional Order for Margate has included about 70 acres of my land which is entirely severed from the town by the Margate Brooks and two thirds again severed by the Railway, without a road, a drain or a house nor can it require any communication with the town drain, — it is in one circumference with the exception of about five acres on which are an old Farm House and three cottages being upwards of a quarter of a mile from the nearest lamp. May I be allowed to ask your Honourable Board if I am right in appealing to the Local Board for a remission of the General District Rate upon such extension under the 2nd section of the Provisional Order for Margate for the time being or until such extension be divided into different districts under the 89th section of the Public Health Act and a different rate made upon such district. Under present circumstances it has the following effect —

A builder applied for a piece of land in the recent extension which it was agreed to let him have at five pounds per year Ground rent on condition that he should build a house rateable at £100 per annum but in consequence only of allowing the General district rate at one shilling in the pound on such building it was sufficient to swamp the Ground rent. In proof of this when the executors of the late Sir Robert Peel sold twenty acres of building land last summer adjoining the land recently included in the Town Boundary, it was stated to the effect that its being without the rating area was a great consideration in the purchase — it was bought by a Building Society.

Your humble petitioner requests the assistance of your honourable Board in advising him under present circumstances.

Charles T. Hatfeild

The advice, unfortunately for Hatfeild, was that under the Provisional Order questions of rating were ‘left to the judgement of the Local Board of Health’ and suggested he should approach them.15 

At the meeting of the Local Board on 3 August 1852, at which Hatfeild was present as a member, ‘Messrs. Gouger and Hatfield appeared before the board on the subject of a reduction of rating upon property lately included within the new boundary. After a long dis­cussion, in which Messrs. Ovenden, Flint, Kidman, and Hatfield took parts, Mr. Gouger and Mr. Mottley suggested that an allowance of 1s. 4d. be made on all premises at a certain distance from the nearest gas lamp; this would relieve the property of the charge of lighting, leaving it liable to the police, highways, paving; the property was benefited by its proximity to the town, and must bear part of the charge’; the question was referred to the Rate and Finance Committee.16 The Rate and Finance Committee decided on 13 August ‘after much consideration’ that the rate ‘on the property brought within the new rating area situated at Westbrook and on the West Northdown Road’ should be reduced by a quarter.14 This reduction they thought reasonable as the properties would still receive benefits such as policing and the committee thought that if the Local Board accepted their proposal ‘all reasonable cause of complaint is removed.’  At the following meeting of the Local Board on 17 August  the recommendation of the Rate and Finance Committee was accepted, but Hatfeild still complained of ‘being improperly brought within the rating area’.17

During all this time Hatfeild had been refusing to pay the District Rate on his newly rated property, but finally, after having been summoned by the Local Board for non-payment, he gave way, as he described in a letter to the General Board in January 1853:18 

I beg to inform your Honourable Board that in order to prevent any goods being seized I have paid under protest, the Margate General District rate upon the old Farm House Cottages and the residue of  a buck clamp made in 1847 situated in the recent extension of the Town Boundary. I feel it unjust that my real and personal property should be rated in the General District not receiving the full benefit of the works, matters, or things for providing or defraying the expense of which any rate may be levied under the 2nd section of the Provisional Order for Margate. May I be allowed to ask your Honourable Board the object why so much of my land is included in the Rating Area?

The General Board forwarded Hatfeild’s letter to the Local Board for comment and the Local Board’s reply to the General Board was brief and to the point: ‘I have to inform you that the whole matter of Mr. Hatfeild’s complaint has been fully investigated and decided by the Local Board’.19

Hatfeild wrote yet again to the General Board in August 1854, complaining about his land which ‘being put into the rating area of the town is swamped of its ground rents and building value to the injury of the town of Margate by the prevention of Marine Villas being built thereon’.20  He ended his letter: ‘Your petitioner humbly prays that your honourable board will take into consideration the injury to the town, by the prevention of building, the injury to the County by the diminution of the extent and the loss of the ground rents to the injury of your humble servant who prays that the town may have its original boundary and the County its original rights.’ In December Hatfeild sent the General Board a Petition signed by ‘more than one tenth of the Rate Payers’ supporting his request:20

To the President and Members of the General Board of Health

We the undersigned being more than one tenth of the Rate Payers of the Parish of Saint John’s Margate most humbly petition your honourable Board to take into consideration the deterioration of land and property by altering the original town boundary under the provisional order for Margate as stated by memorial to your honourable Board the 3rd of August last. Your Petitioners humbly pray that your honourable Board will adjudicate thereon.

Daniel Gouger also sent a supporting letter:21

To the General Board of Health

Having lived in the parish of St John Margate for thirty years and occupied as a miller 6 acres of land , two mills, house and cottages thereon, and by the late Provisional Order have been taken into the town boundary to the injury of my property without receiving the benefits for which I am called to pay for, and having been summoned for the same, and paid under protest, do think it unfair and unjust.

I have signed the memorial presented to your honourable board by C. T. Hatfeild Esq. and if your honourable board could render any relief by any fair adjustment

Your petitioner as in duty bound will ever pray
I remain Gentlemen
Your most humble servant
Daniel Gouger
Margate Mills

This correspondence was considered by the Local Board at its meeting on 6 March 1855:22

The principal business before the board was the matter of Mr. Hatfeild’s petition to the General Board of Health, which led to a lengthened debate, when it was (with but one dissentient) unanimously resolved, that the following resolution be forwarded to the General Board, in answer to Mr. Hatfeild’s petition for an alteration of the present boundaries: — “That this board having considered the petition of certain rate-payers, which refers to and accompanies a memorial signed by Mr. Hatfeild, dated 3rd August last, has to express its decided objection to the prayer of the petition, because the petition, although signed by the number of rate-payers represented, is virtually the petition of Mr. Hatfeild, and presented only for his personal advantage, and without the slightest foundation for supposing that the town of Margate could receive the least benefit from a compliance therewith. That the petition proceeds from a fallacious statement, viz., that some additional land is about to be added to the town by some new boundary, and that neither this board, nor any one to their knowledge, has yet had in contemplation any alteration whatever in the existing area already settled and determined on by the provisional order. That the provisional order itself was not made without much previous deliberation and consideration with Mr. Hatfeild; and then the town gave way considerably to his wishes, inasmuch that his valuable land was thereby expressly exempted from taxation, until it became used for building purposes. That, acting upon the provisional order, this board has already assented to Mr. Hatfeild gaining great advantages, and has actually incurred an expense of £25 in placing three lamps near his ground, and an annual expense of £10 in keeping them alight, in addition to a great outlay for repairing roads upon the highways adjoining his land, and whereby Mr. Hatfeild has also saved a considerable deduction or exemption from highway rates, to which he otherwise would have been responsible. That in Mr. Hatfeild’s petition it is also endeavoured to be suggested that his land is only of the value of £17,000, whereas, although Mr. Hatfeild may not have given more for it, it is a fact that he has actually sold a small portion of 12 acres to the South Eastern Rail­way Company for £5,265, and it is believed he now really estimates his remaining land at £100,000. That this board cannot, under the circumstances, find any reason to believe that when Mr. Hatfeild converts his land into building sites, it ought not to bear an equal proportion of the town rates with the other rate-payers. And lastly, the board is of opinion, that the letting of Mr. Hatfeild’s land for building is not in the least prevented or delayed by the common circumstance that ordinary taxes may then be charged upon it. That the board therefore most respectfully prays that the General Board will not further entertain the prayer of the petition referred to, nor uselessly disturb the existing arrangements which have been arrived at, and thereby create great expense and much bad feeling and dissatisfaction in the town of Margate.”

Clearly, the Local Board had had enough of Hatfeild, despite his wealth and influence. Of course, there was still the matter of the sea defences at Westbrook, to which Hatfeild also strongly objected. Frequent cliff falls at Westbrook had created problems for many years. In the winter of 1849/50 a combination of high tides and squalls of snow, hail and sleet had led to a cliff fall at Westbrook, and, as reported by the Kent Herald:23

The position of the houses at Westbrook, has now become perilous, and measures must soon be taken to remove or preserve them, as also the high road leading to Canterbury, which now borders on the edge of the cliff; the continual wasting of which by the action of the sea, is attributed to the breakwater at the end of the Esplanade. It is also quite evident the Sea Bathing Infirmary, must, before many years elapse, be removed further inland.

The 27th section of the Provisional Order gave the Local Board power to make sea defences, one third of the cost of which would be paid by the Local Board the remaining two thirds being paid by the properties benefiting from the work.7 Hatfeild had objected to this clause and seemed ‘unwilling that his property adjoining Westbrook should be protected from further ravages by the sea by a stone wall or embankment’.24 The issue was raised at the Local Board of Health in September 1853, but a decision on new sea defences at Westbrook was postponed.25 The South Eastern Gazette was not impressed:25

“Davy Jones” has long been making encroachments upon that part of terra firma which is at Westbrook; piece after piece has fallen into his merciless power, but not satisfied his cravings. The quantity that has disappeared of late years would astonish the “oldest inhabitant.” It is therefore that we are glad to see that the question (although postponed for a time) has been brought under the notice of the Local Board of Health, from whom we hope to see a plan emanate that will, when carried into effect, be the means of preventing future injury to property abutting to this dangerous spot.

Nothing was done for a year but then at the Local Board meeting in December 1854 a report from the Clerk of the Works on ‘the dangerous state of the road at Buenos Ayres was read’ and was passed on to a committee of Mercer, Ovenden, Wright and J. Woodward, ‘in order to receive their early attention’.26 A special meeting of the board was held just two weeks later to hear their report.27 They recommended that a ‘stone apron’ be constructed to protect the cliffs at Buenos Ayres, at an estimated cost of about £400 and that this should come from the general rates. They also reported that they had the ‘verbal consent’ of the owner of the land, Hatfeild, for the work to be done, but, not surprisingly, the Board decided that Hatfeild’s consent should be obtained ‘in writing’. At their meeting in February 1854 the major business was again ‘the sea wall to Buenos Ayres to protect the property from the great in­roads the sea is making there’ and ‘for the undersetting of the Lower Marine-terrace wall, and for the making of an apron for the protection of the new wall’.28 A problem that emerged during the discussion was that any apron protecting the Lower Marine terrace would have to be built on land belonging to Hatfeild, ‘who objected to their using it’.

Meanwhile, matters were getting worse in the neighbourhood of Buenos Ayres. In April it was reported that the Coast Guard station at Buenos Ayres had become unsafe because of the inroads of the sea, and that the Government were erecting a row of cottages near the station, on railway land, to house the coast guard staff; the houses were largely complete by November.29,30 Work was also starting on a new development between the station and the Sea bathing Infirmary, to be called the Royal Crescent.31 The development was the result of ‘the zeal and enterprise of Messrs. Brooke and Merten, solicitors, of this town’ and was to consist of eighteen houses of ‘handsome elevation and convenient size’, suitable for ‘first-rate families’.31-33 Of course, this development only made sense if the houses could be protected from inroads from the sea which ‘for very many years [has] been making encroachments at this point’, and therefore the developer was building his own sea wall in front of the property.34

In September 1856 the foundation stone for the Royal Crescent was laid by G. Y. Hunter, ‘the stone at one corner bearing his name, whilst that at the opposite corner bore the name of W. Brooke’.32 The engineers for the project, including the necessary sea wall, were Messrs. Birch and the builders were Messrs. Harding, of Lewisham.32 Unfortunately, Harding soon ran into problems. In November 1856 he applied to the Local Board asking for help in constructing the sea wall, ‘as the expense of such wall had turned out to be greater than he anticipated’; the Local Board postponed a decision ‘for future consideration’.35 At the Local Board meeting in December, Frederick Chambers supported the proposal to help Harding, given ‘the enterprising manner in which the gentlemen engaged in building the Royal crescent were carrying out their plans’ and given that the Provisional Order gave authority for the Board to construct sea walls, with one third of the cost being paid by the town.36A committee was duly established to investigate the plan, and by the end of December they had agreed to support the proposal.37 In January 1857 a special meeting of the Local Board accepted the report, which was to extend the Marine-terrace wall to the esplanade in front of the Royal-crescent and to build a groin ‘to keep the sand beach in the bay’ and to enable boats to land. The work was to be done by Harding at a total cost of £1,800 and be completed by 1 May 1857. Harding offered to buy the stone ‘forming the present groin together with the loose stone near it’ from the Local Board for £400.33,38 The Local Board would only have to pay one third of the cost, £600, the rest being paid by the local property owners, and, since they were to get £400 for the existing stone, the net cost would be only £200. The Board was, however, still looking for ways of cutting costs and G. Y. Hunter suggested that they could employ their own Clerk of the Works to run the project, and that if Mercer, Caveler and Jenkins, all members of the board, gave their services for free, they would be able to save a lot of money.38 This, as we will see, was not a wise decision, but the Board, as it was about to be dissolved, thought it would be unfair to saddle their successors with an expensive project. The Board decided to refer Harding’s plan back to the committee ‘for the completion of all necessary details’.38  

By January 1857 work on the Royal Crescent had progressed so well that Harding held a ‘bountiful and substantial dinner for his workmen, with a plentiful supply of Cobbs XXX’:33

Precisely at six o’clock about 120 persons entered the room, the band playing “The roast beef of old England.” Mr. Harding presided, supported by Mr. Barnard, station-master; Mr. Wilson, foreman of the works, vice-chairman. Ample justice was done to the dinner, in a very quiet and respectable manner, the youngsters paying great attention to the plum pudding, which was dealt to them in a liberal scale. Thanks having been returned and the cloth removed, Mr. Harding gave the usual loyal toasts, which were warmly received. By this time the room was crowded with visitors, among whom was a good share of the fair sex, who appeared to take a very lively interest in the proceedings, and lent their valuable aid in giving three hearty cheers for Mr. Harding, whose health had been proposed by Mr. Wilson. Mr. Harding, in reply, expressed the pleasure he felt in meeting his workmen on occasions like this; it was not the first time, and he trusted it would not be the last; and while feeling and admitting the importance of the great work he had undertaken, he was not unmindful of the help and encouragement he was receiving from his esteemed employers, Messrs. Brooke and Merten, who had behaved towards him in the most just yet liberal manner. Under the auspices of such men the building of the Royal Crescent was a pleasure. He was pleased to have the opportunity of proposing “The health of Messrs. Brooke and Merten, and prosperity to the town of Margate,” which was received with much applause. — Mr. E. White responded to the toast of “Prosperity to the town,” and observed that he had laboured hard and had completed many important works in the town, and his constant study and endeavour had always been to promote the welfare and prosperity of Margate. He would ever be ready to hold out the helping hand to Mr. Harding. — Mr. T. Bentley bore testimony to the integrity and liberality of Messrs. Brooke and Merten. — Mr. Austen proposed “The health of the vice chairman.” Mr. Wilson expressed his gratitude for the feeling expressed, and assured them that his constant study would be to deserve it. It afforded him much pleasure to declare the happiness he felt in working under such an employer as Mr. Harding — a gentleman whose every aim was the improvement and happiness of the working class. If any evidence was wanting they had it before them that evening, in the liberal manner in which he caused to be provided a sumptuous and substantial dinner to his workmen. He could not conclude his remarks in a more suitable manner than in proposing a toast which he was sure they would all respond to, and that was “The health of Mrs. Harding and the ladies.” — Mr. Brady next gave as a toast, “Success to the Royal Crescent.” — ‘‘The health of Mr. Warrick” was cordially responded, as was also “The health of Mr. and Mrs. Burton,” who had exerted themselves to the utmost in superintending the cooking and arrangement of the dinner. — Mr. Brady (for Mr. Burton, who was labouring under a severe cold) returned thanks.  — The remainder of the evening was spent in song and mirth, much to the enjoyment of all present. It would be unfair to pass unnoticed the exertions of Messrs. Mercer and Austen, sub-contractors, whose efforts through­out the evening to supply the wants of all present con­tributed much to the order and comfort maintained throughout the repast.

In fact, all was not as rosy as it had at first seemed. The Committee appointed to consider Harding’s plan for the sea wall had apparently had second thoughts as to the propriety of simply asking Harding to do the work, and they reported to the Local Board:39

The committee have to report since the special meeting of the board on this subject, they have carefully taken into consideration the best means of carrying out the proposed extension of the Marine-terrace wall, as shown on the plan presented by Mr. Harding. Finding that although the plan was sufficient to show the extent of the proposed works, it did not give any description of the material to be used, your committee have obtained from Mr. Harding a specification setting forth everything that will be requisite for the proper performance of the works. This specification and plan Mr. Harding places at the disposal of the Board; but your Committee are of opinion that in the event of Mr. Harding not being employed to execute the work, he should be paid for such plan and specification. Your Committee have also had placed before them a report from the Marine-terrace Committee, containing principally a suggestion for the lengthening of the groin in front of the proposed wall 100 feet, in which suggestion your Committee unanimously concur. Finding that the Act of Parliament under which the Local Board of Health is formed requires that all works exceeding £100 in value shall be publicly tendered for, your Committee beg to recommend that notice be given at once, in the usual way, calling for tenders for the performance of the above works as shown in the plan presented by Mr. Harding, and bearing in mind the suggestion of the Marine-terrace committee, they further recommend that a separate estimate shall at the same time be obtained for the additional hundred feet spoken of.

It was duly agreed that the board would advertise for tenders for the work, with the expectation that Harding ‘could do the work cheaper than any one else’.39 Following the advertisement two tenders were received, one from a Mr. Hadlow for £1,917 and one from Harding, for £1,800; Harding’s tender was therefore accepted.40 It only remained to get the permission of the General Board. 

In March a superintending inspector from the General Board visited to examine the works on the sea wall, and was unimpressed with the way the project was being managed:41

He was met at the Town-hall by several members of the board, with their clerk and the clerk of the works, when the application for a loan of £2,500 was placed before him  and also the estimates and plans. It was explained by the Clerk that as the Board thought of extending the proposed groin 150 feet further, at an estimated cost of £442, he had asked for a good margin, the present plans only showing an outlay of £1,800. After inspecting the works, and finding no one employed on behalf of the Board to see that they were carried out in accordance with the plan and specification, the inspector recommended that the Board appoint an engineer at their next meeting, as the work was being done very loosely, and it would not be of a sufficiently permanent nature to warrant him in recommending the President of the General Board to give his sanction to the loan. As soon as the Local Board had appointed their engineer, he (the inspector) requested to be furnished with a detailed estimate and a tracing of the plan, and then the application of the Local Board should receive his immediate attention.

A few days later the Local Board met to consider appointing an officer to superintend the work, which was agreed to. Some board members proposed that their Clerk of Works, Thomas Dalby Reeve, should be appointed, but others thought he would not have the necessary experience and proposed J. B. Birch instead; the board finally voted 10 to 5 in favour of Dalby Reeve and agreed to refer everything back to the Sea Defences committee.41 A fuller report of the meeting is given in Appendix I below. The following week the Sea Defences committee presented their conclusions to the Board, which was that Birch should be employed as engineer, modifying the plans and producing an estimate of cost, as required by the General Board.42 Although some members of the board opposed the employment of an engineer, Birch’s appointment was finally agreed by 9 votes to 5.42 By early April the Local Board had received and agreed Birch’s plans, and they asked Birch to examine the existing work that had been done by Harding.43  There still seems to have been some confusion over the respective roles of Dalby Reeve and Birch; the question was asked at the April meeting whether, once Birch had presented his plan, control of the works would go to Dalby Reeve. Josiah Towne replied, saying ‘he had every confidence in Mr. Reeve as a surveyor of highways; but this was an engineering question, and Mr. Reeve had not been appointed engineer. They ought to have a report on which they could rely, as to the state of the works, before they signed the contract. He confessed that he had his fears about the matter. He felt that they had not acted with sufficient caution when the plan was first presented to them. They should have ascertained then whose it was before they accepted it. But they were now progressing in the right road. He thought it right that they should employ Mr. Birch to examine the works and see that the foundation was not rotten, before they signed the contract’.43  

When Birch’s report on the works was received, it was ‘generally favourable’ although ‘certain recommendations’ were suggested.44 Birch also recommended that the works should be ‘systematically overlooked’ by the Board. It was agreed that Birch should be the engineer for the works, with Harding as contractor. The General Board was now happy, and gave their agreement to the Local Board borrowing £2,500 for the work.45 In May it was reported that work on the sea defences in front of Royal crescent was ‘rapidly drawing towards completion’, that there would be a landing place for small boats and a roadway to the sands.46 In August it was reported that the first two houses in Royal crescent had been completed and were now occupied, but, the first signs of bad news, it was also reported that ‘we regret to find that the progress of this magnificent row of houses has been retarded by untoward circumstances’.47 Things rapidly came to a head. In October Birch charged Harding at the local Petty Sessions with assaulting him:48

The complainant [Birch] deposed that on the 28th ult. he was proceeding on the works, when defendant [Harding] tried to push him off, and abused him. That was the assault complained of. Mr. Harding had been pursuing annoying conduct towards him during the last six weeks. This statement having been corroborated,

In defence, Mr. Towne said complainant had gone upon a wrong principle in thinking he had control over these works. Mr. Harding believed it to be his property, and was authorised to protect it, and yet complainant insisted upon interfering with what he had ordered to be done. Mr. Towne also called witnesses to prove the frivolous nature of the charge. The Bench said they could only regret that the case was ever brought before them. They dismissed the complaint.

In fact, this was just the first sign of trouble with Harding; by October he had gone  bankrupt. A special meeting of the Local Board was held at the end of October to consider their response. They had received a letter from the official assignees of Harding, claming £1,717 6s. 4d. from the Local Board.49 As reported by the South Eastern Gazette: ‘By the items of the account it seems that the original contract was for £1,800; but gradually the sum swelled and increased as the work was carried out, by the constant enlargement of the original idea, until the total expense reaches the very different figure of £3,482. On the other side £200 is allowed for goods, viz., the stone supplied by the Board; and, at different times, as much as £1,360 has been paid on account; hence the balance alleged to be due is . . .  £1,717’.49 

It appears that the Local Board asked Messrs. Birch to complete the work: a letter from Messrs. Birch was read at the Local Board meeting:49

43 Parliament Street, Westminster, S.W.
9th October 1857.
Gentlemen, — We beg to report to you that in accordance with your instructions to proceed forthwith to complete the sea defences at Buenos Ayres, in consequence of the default of the contractor, we ordered the stone for the pitching and took possession of the work, and are proceeding to complete the same.

We did not, however, resort to this measure until we had given every opportunity to the contractor to redeem his promise made to you at the late meeting, and over and over again, both before and since then, made to us, that he would proceed to finish the work; but which promises have been as frequently broken. The work, as you are aware, should have been long since completed; and, from its nature, should not have been exposed to so much delay and risk in cases of gales of wind and heavy seas.

We have also to state to you, that in a recent journey of inspection, while giving instructions to the clerk of the works, the contractor conducted himself in a very violent manner, not only using foal and abusive language, but actually assaulting Mr. E. Birch in the discharge of the duties your instructions have imposed on us.

As this conduct was no doubt pursued with a view to obstruct the completion of the work, and to commit a breach of the peace, we appealed to the magistrates, who, in the most extraordinary manner, as it appears to us, refused to recognise an assault (accompanied afterwards by gross abuse) proved to have been committed by competent witnesses.

We beg to lay these matters before you, and have to state, that as a breach of the peace may, under these circumstances, at any time take place in discharging our duty to you, apparently without any redress on application to the magistrates, we consider it necessary to claim your assistance and protection in preserving order while carrying out your instructions.

We are your obedient servants,
(Signed)  J. B. and E. Birch.

Things were therefore in a rather a mess when the Local Board handed them over to the new Town Council in 1858. Work on the Royal Crescent had come to a standstill, due to a lack of finance. In April 1860 a proposal was put forward to form the Royal Crescent Tontine Company to complete the work. [A tontine was a kind of insurance policy. When a shareholder died his share passed to the remaining shareholders until, in the case of the Royal Crescent Tontine Company, just nine shareholders remained, when the estate would be sold and the money divided between the remaining nine shareholders.50] Of the 18 houses planned for the crescent, 11 were completed or in progress, and 7 not started, and the capital of the planned Company was £35,000 in 100 shares.51 The trustees of the company were to be J. Tidd Pratt, G. Y. Hunter  and F. C. Cobb, with a management  committee made up of W. Brooke, J. Laming, Dr. Rowe, J. Standring and H. Thornton.50  The Kentish Gazette reported: ‘the post-office is now literally inundated with letters and prospectuses bearing on this project, which are being sent all over the kingdom’.52

Building work on beach at Westbrook early
Building work on the beach at Westbrook
Royal Crescent [Rock, 1861]
Buenos Ayres 1867
Buenos Ayres and Royal Crescent [stereoview 1867]



1. Kidd’s Picturesque Pocket Companion to Margate, Ramsgate and Broadstairs and the Parts Adjacent, W. Kidd, London, 1831.

2. E. Fitch Smith, Reports of cases decided in the High Court of Chancery, Vol. 35, Banks, Gould and Co., New York 1854.

3. Morning Chronicle, July 3 1839.

4. Canterbury Journal, April 4 1846.

5. Kentish Gazette, March 31 1846.

6. Canterbury Journal, April 11 1846.

7. National Archives MH 13/123 Board of Health Margate 1848-1871, Draft provisions for the application of the Public Health Act, 1848, to the Parish of St. John the Baptist, Margate, in the Isle of Thanet.

8. National Archives MH 13/123 Board of Health Margate 1848-1871, Letter from Hatfeild to General Board, April 17 1851.

9. National Archives MH 13/123 Board of Health Margate 1848-1871, Letter from General Board to Hatfeild, April 22 1851.

10. National Archives MH 13/123 Board of Health Margate 1848-1871, Letter from J. E. Wright to General Board, April 24 1851.

11. National Archives MH 13/123 Board of Health Margate 1848-1871, Letter from General Board to J. E. Wright, May 5 1851.

12. National Archives MH 13/123 Board of Health Margate 1848-1871, Letter from Hatfeild to General Board, July 25 1851.

13. National Archives MH 13/123 Board of Health Margate 1848-1871, Letter from General Board to Hatfeild, July 29 1851.

14. National Archives MH 13/123 Board of Health Margate 1848-1871, Letter  and attachments from Hatfeild to General Board, August 27 1852.

15. National Archives MH 13/123 Board of Health Margate 1848-1871, Letter from Hatfeild to General Board, July 29 1852.

16. Kent Herald, August 5 1852.

17. Kent Herald, August 19 1852.

18. National Archives MH 13/123 Board of Health Margate 1848-1871, Letter from Hatfeild to General Board, January 13 1853.

19. National Archives MH 13/123 Board of Health Margate 1848-1871, Letter from Local Board of Health to General Board, 15 January 1853.

20. National Archives MH 13/123 Board of Health Margate 1848-1871, Letter and attachments from Hatfeild to General Board, December 22 1854.

21. National Archives MH 13/123 Board of Health Margate 1848-1871, Letter from Daniel Gouger to General Board, December 23 1854.

22. South Eastern Gazette, March 6 1855.

23. Kent Herald, January 3 1850.

24. Kentish Gazette, April 29 1851.

25. South Eastern Gazette, September 13 1853.

26. South Eastern Gazette, December 5 1854.

27. South Eastern Gazette, December 19 1854.

28. South Eastern Gazette, February 6 1855.

29. South Eastern Gazette, April 3 1855.

30. South Eastern Gazette, November 13 1855.

31. South Eastern Gazette, July 29 1856.

32. South Eastern Gazette, September 16, 1856.

33. South Eastern Gazette, January 6 1857.

34. South Eastern Gazette, January 22 1856.

35. South Eastern Gazette, November 25 1856.

36. South Eastern Gazette, December 23 1856.

37. South Eastern Gazette, December 30 1856.

38. Kentish Gazette, January 6 1857.

39. South Eastern Gazette, January 20 1857.

40. South Eastern Gazette, February 17 1857.

41. South Eastern Gazette, March 10 1857.

42. South Eastern Gazette, March 17 1857.

43. South Eastern Gazette, April 14 1857.

44. South Eastern Gazette, April 28 1857.

45. South Eastern Gazette, May 5 1857.

46. South Eastern Gazette, May 26 1857.

47. South Eastern Gazette, August 18 1857.

48. South Eastern Gazette, October 13 1857.

49. South Eastern Gazette, October 27 1857.

50. British Library, Prospectus, Royal Crescent Tontine Co. Ltd.

51. Thanet Advertiser, April 7 1860.

52. Kentish Gazette, April 10 1860.


Appendix I.

Local Board of Health meeting to consider the report of the Superintending Inspector on the proposed sea defence work, March 1857.

Kentish Gazette, March 10, 1857.

LOCAL BOARD OF HEATH. A special meeting was held on Tuesday last for the purpose of appointing a person to superintend the contemplated sea defences at Buenos Ayres. G. Y. Hunter, Esq., presided.

The Clerk having reported the opinion given by the Superintending Inspector from the General Board, Mr. Abbott counselled their waiting for an official announcement from the London Board. — The Clerk stated, in reply to a question, that the communication of the Clerk of the Works was not officially made.

Mr. Towne then submitted the motion of which he had given notice for the appointment of a clerk to superintend the works at Buenos Ayres and Marine-terrace. He wished the Board to understand that to no part of the report of the Clerk of the Works did he object; but, at the same time, it could not for a moment be imagined that Mr. Reeve, or any other officer, was to have preference over a member of that Board. Now, they all knew very well that they had a most zealous contractor, who was proceeding with the greatest possible rapidity the execution the works; and he might state, by the way, that the engineer of the General Board of Health had expressed his opinion that the works were of a nature that, when completed, would add very materially to the comfort, increase the prosperity, and, in a word, much benefit the town of Margate. With that opinion, it was hardly necessary for him say, he heartily and cordially concurred. He was convinced that the welfare of the town depended, to some extent, on the proper execution of these works; and, therefore, it was that he felt it incumbent on him to move the resolution. They knew that the inspector from London, who had recently paid them a visit, said that the work had not as yet had the supervision of the town; so that, unless they immediately appointed an officer for that special purpose, whenever they applied to the Board of Health for a loan of the money necessary, they would be met by the answer that the work was nothing new, that it had not been carried out agreeably to the instructions given, and that therefore the application must be refused. Let them, then, at once appoint some gentleman belonging to the town, who, as soon as the contract was signed, could report it to them. Mr. Ranger, he would remind them, had said that he saw no difficulties in the plan which might not easily be overcome; the only thing he suggested was a slight alteration, and the preparation of a detailed estimate of the work. He also thought that they ought to show upon the plan the proposed extension of the groin by 150 feet; and then he said that one application might suffice.

Mr. Burlton seconded the resolution.

Mr. Abbott stated his opinion that the terms in which the general resolution was expressed were too vague, general, and indistinct.

Mr. How explained that the suggestions of Mr. Ranger did not appear in the report of the Clerk of the Works, because, by the regulations of the Board, the reports of committees were compelled to lie three days upon the table; and the suggestions came too late.

Mr. Woodward asked whether it was not necessary to have the plans perfected before the appointment was made of any gentleman to supervise them. Was Mr. Harding a proper person to carry out this contract, without a gentleman to overlook him, or was he not? Who authorised him to proceed? Was it the committee? He supposed that the General Board wanted the plans altered and perfected; and until this was done to their satisfaction, he did certainly feel that they ought to proceed no further. He should move as an amendment "That the plans be perfected and submitted to the London Board of Health for their approval, before any steps be taken by the Board for the election of a superintending officer.”

Mr. Edwards seconded the amendment.

Mr. Caveler said that he had thought the resolution by Mr. Towne was so plain, so simple, and so clear that it must be understood by every member of the Board. Yet Mr. Woodward proposed to move as an amendment that the plans may be perfected, without for a moment considering that until the officer be appointed they had no one who could undertake the amendment of the plans.

Mr. Abbott inquired whether or not the town was to have free access to the whole of the Promenade? When the subject was introduced, it was distinctly stated that this was to be the case; but lately doubts had been raised and it looked a little as if there was an attempt to shuffle. Was the Board aware that when Mr. Ranger was down at Margate he called at Messrs. Birch, and asked them whether they were the contractors for the works, or if the plan produced was theirs, and they answered in the negative. He then addressed himself to Mr. Harding, who said that he had received it from Messrs. Birch. So that they had now actually got a contract, and were yet ignorant of who the contracting party was; there were works going on and they did not know for whom they were intended! But, supposing they appointed a Clerk of the Works, why that was a direct acknowledgment of the arrangement with Mr. Harding. The first thing for them to do in his idea, was to have the plans altered and amended, in accordance with the suggestion of the Board of Health engineer; then submit them to that Board, and afterwards the appointments of a Clerk of the Works might be advantageously proceeded with.

Mr. Smith concurred in this opinion.

Mr. Edwards told the Board that he had inspected the works that morning, and it certainly appeared to him that they were being done very badly.

Mr. Brooke did not believe that the Board of Health would look at a plan unless it was prepared by an authorized engineer.

Mr. Towne in replying said it appeared to him that they were gradually getting of one opinion; for he had not heard, even from the mover or seconder of the amendment, any valid argument against the resolution. Mr. Woodward had indeed said that the plans ought to be altered and amended before the appointment was made but how could the alterations take place, until an officer was appointed to do them? He knew that they were not the most perfect body in existence; but surely they would not accede to an argument which one gentleman had employed, to the effect that they ought to begin all again. The Act had provided that they should have an engineer; but, from some cause or other, they had never appointed one, and such was the zeal of Mr. Harding, that he was proceeding with the works without one. Now he (Mr. Towne) had personally not the slightest objection to this but Mr. Ranger told them that they must have an engineer to overlook the works, and that then all would be right.

The amendment was then put: there appeared for it, Messrs. Smith, Woodward, and Abbott: against it, Messrs. Baker, Edwards, Bath, Wood, Brooke, Jenkins, Amos, Stanley, Relph, How, Mercer, Towne, Keble, and Caveler: it was consequently lost. For the original motion the numbers were reversed.

An application having been read from Mr. Crothall offering to superintend the works at £2 per week, the Board proceeded to elect a proper person for that department. It was moved by Mr. Woodruff, and seconded by Mr. Bath, that Thomas Dalby Reeve be appointed.

Mr. Brook, not considering the Clerk of the Works competent to have the management or control of work of this description, moved that Mr. J. B. Birch be appointed.

The motion was seconded Mr. Towne, who observed that he could very well see the difference between an engineer and clerk of the works; and if the General Board should ask "Is Mr. Reeve a surveyor or engineer," their reply must be that he was not.

The motions were then put, when there appeared for Mr. Reeve, Messrs. Barker, Edwards, Bath, Stanley, Amos, Woodward, Smith, How, Mercer, and Woodruff; against — Messrs. Brooke, Jenkins, and Towne. For Mr. Birch, Messrs. Barker, Brooke, Jenkins, Towne, and Keble; against — Messrs. Edwards, Bath, Amos, Stanley, Woodward, Smith, How, Mercer, and Woodruff.

Mr. Reeve was accordingly appointed.

It was next moved by Mr. Towne and seconded by Mr. Keble that the contract be referred to the committee to consider the suggestions of Mr. Ranger, as reported by the Clerk of the Works, which was unanimously agreed to.