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MARKET TOWNS OF KENT (from SDUK Penny Cyclopedia)

Ramsgate in 1840

RAMSGATE, a town in the Isle of Thanet in Kent 71 miles from London-bridge, through Dartford, Rochester and Canterbury. The ville of Ramsgate, comprehending 260 acres, was included formerly in the parish of St. Lawrence, in the hundred of Ringslow or Thanet, in the lathe of St. Augustine ; but provided separately for its own poor ; in 1827 it was made a distinct parish. The ville is a member if the Cinque-Port of Sandwich.

Ramsgate was anciently a poor fishing-town, consisting of a few meanly-built houses, built on the coast of the Isle of Thanet, which here fronts the south-east : it had a small wooden pier. After the Revolution of 1688, some of the inhabitants engaged in the Russian trade, by which they acquired wealth, and this led to the improvement of the town. When the practice of families from London and elsewhere resorting to the sea-side became general, Ramsgate was one of the earliest frequented spots, though for sometime eclipsed by the superior attractions of Margate.

The improvement of the harbour by the erection of the piers and other works in the middle and latter part of the last century, gave another impulse to the prosperity of the town.

Early in the present century a stone lighthouse was erected on the head of the west pier, a small battery is fixed at the head of the east pier.

The east pier is one of the longest in the kingdom, extending 2,000 feet ; the western pier extends about half that length : they are built of Portland and Purbeck stone and Cornish granite. The harbour includes an area of 48 acres, and furnishes a convenient shelter for vessels which are obliged by heavy gales to run from the Downs. It is provided with a basin and floodgates in the upper part of the harbour for scouring it from the drifted sand or mud.

The old part of Ramsgate is situated in one of those natural depressions (called in the Isle of Thanet ‘gates’, or ‘stairs’) in the chalk, which open upon the sea. This part of the town is low compared with the higher parts on each side if it. The streets in the old part of the town are narrow and indifferently built.

The newer part of the town, from its elevated site on the cliffs, commands an extensive sea-view, and consists of several streets macadamized and lighted with gas. Many of the houses are very handsome: some are arranged in streets, terraces, or crescents, while others are detached villas. At present (1840) a considerable number of houses are building. There are bathing-rooms, assembly-rooms, boarding and lodging houses, a handsome new church, a chapel-of-ease, and several dissenting meeting-houses.

The population of the ville of Ramsgate, including the town, was, in 1831, 7,985. There is considerable coasting trade ; coal is imported in considerable quantity ; and ship building and rope-making are carried on. It is observable as indicating the commercial character of the place, that though the population of Margate exceeds that of Ramsgate by 2,300 or 2,400, there are not half as many persons engaged in retail trade or handicraft as at the latter place. The markets are on Wednesday and Saturday. A considerable fishery is carried on ; in the summer steam-boats sail regularly between London and Ramsgate.

The living of Ramsgate is a vicarage, of the clear yearly value of £400, in the gift of the vicar of St. Lawrence, the mother church.

There were, in 1833, two infant schools, with 217 children of both sexes ; a national day and Sunday school with l50 boys and 100 girls ; twenty day-schools, estimated to contain about 525 children ; six boarding-schools, supposed to contain 170 children ; and three Sunday-schools, two of them containing 300 children ; from the other no return was made.