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MARKET TOWNS OF KENT (from SDUK Penny Cyclopedia)

Margate in 1839

MARGATE, a seaport town on the coast of Kent, in the parish of St. John, hundred of Ringslaw, and Isle of Thanet, 40 miles east-north-east from Maidstone, and 65 east from London (direct distances). Its name is probably derived from Meregate, signifying an opening or gate into the sea.

Hasted, in his ‘History of Kent,’ published in 1799, says, "The town of Margate was till of late years a poor inconsiderable fishing-town, built for the most part in the valley adjoining the harbour, the houses of which were in general mean and low ; one dirty narrow lane called King Street having been the principal street of it." At present the principal streets of Margate are regularly constructed and well paved, and lighted with gas ; and many of the houses and public buildings, including an esplanade, squares, &c, are of a superior description.

The spring-water is excellent and the supply abundant. The shore is well adapted to sea-bathing, and to this circumstance, added to the generally acknowledged salubrity of the air, and the facility of communication with the metropolis by means of steam-vessels, must be attributed to the rapid increase in the population of the parish of St. John, which in 1831 amounted to 10,339.

A handsome new church has been built at Margate within these few years. There is an hospital, called Draper’s Hospital, founded in 1709 by Michael Yoakley, a member of the Society of Friends, for the housing and maintenance of decayed housekeepers. The sea-bathing infirmary at West-Brook, near Margate was established by the benevolent Dr. Lettsom in the year 1792, assisted by committees which had been formed both in London and Margate. The object of the founders was to enable poor people to participate in the advantages of sea-bathing. The building consists of a centre building and two wings, and contains wards for the reception of nearly one hundred patients. The national school affords gratuitous instruction to about 400 children of both sexes.

The present stone pier was erected under the superintendence of Messrs. Rennie and Jessop, at an expense exceeding £100,000. It is 900 feet long, and at its extremity is the lighthouse, built from a design of Mr. Edmunds. The erection of this pier has added greatly to the utility the harbour, which is much exposed to winds from the north-east.

Margate is within the jurisdiction of Dover, one of the Cinque-ports. In the year 1787 the inhabitants thought their town of too much importance to be longer subjected to this jurisdiction, and accordingly applied to the crown for a charter of incorporation ; but upon the case being heard before the attorney-general, the opposition of Dover was so strong that their petition was refused, and since then the application has not been renewed.