The Tududor House in King Street
Featured in the March 2011 handbook.
(In fond memory of the late Mick Twyman)
This fine old building was restored from a state of dereliction in 1951 by Margate Master Build Harold Doughty and his team of craftsmen, and a skilful restoration it was to. The writer had the great fortune to meet Harold when he was 99 years old (he lived to be almost 101), and his razor-sharp memory provided many previously unrecorded insights into the work carried out there, nearly 50 years previously. The house stands today as a memorial to Harold and a plaque, unveiled recently by his widow, Barbara, now records that fact for posterity.
The façade of the building dates from the early years of the 16th century, so is already around 500 years old, but that is itself the results of a rebuilding of an older structure, and the central core of the house is from a much earlier period. The heavily moulded beams of the Hall ceiling are of the very finest quality and hugely expensive to produce by hand in mediaeval times, which implies that they are the sort of thing which could only be afforded by the Church, the Crown or rich merchants. But the Hall is not the oldest part of the house, as hidden away in its cellar at the western end is the substantial remaining portion of a mediaeval under croft chapel, once of barrel-vault profile but later having its ceiling removed as the original smaller house was extended over it. The walls of this chapel, which ash 2 segmental-arch ninches in each of its long sides, are built of chalk blocks sitting on a skirting of knapped flint work of the first quality. The house bore a date stone of 1147 until the middle of the 18th century, and those segmental-arched niches (one of the earliest arch forms) assume a great importance in validating that date. So, as a 19th century resident of the house used to proclaim, part of the house is possibly older than Canterbury Cathedral.
Despite a silly claim by a previous writer that King Street is named after a wealthy local family, it is simply because it was once the King’s High way. But long before a road of any kind existed is was part of the old tidal Creek, on the quayside of which the house sat. Given Margate’s ancient importance as a strategic port for trade with the Low countries, it would be natural to find a chapel on its quayside, as in those days perilous sea crossings were preceded, and followed if God was kind, by devout prayers.
The oak-panelled parlour has a unique and important moulded-plaster ceiling formed of geometrically shaped compartments, in which are moulded drops and decorative motifs. Amongst the latter are to be found the Mace, single Rose, a vase of flowers, Fleur-de-Lys and one comprised of two Dolphins. This fine ceiling is complemented by moulded friezes, one of convoluted grapevine design, a typical Tudor feature, and another deeper one which contains the Fleur-de-Lys, single Rose, Prince of Wales’ Features and Dolphins. The newel stair turret, leading off this room was added to the building in around 1620.
Upstairs the rich decoration is totally absent and the Crown Post roof (already out of fashion by 1500) which is fashioned from timbers of plain, unadorned mediaeval carpentry, give the whole floor the appearance of a working space. If to this is added the fact that the three rooms once interconnected before the insertion of the fireplaces at the conversion of the building into cottages, we have the typical configuration of a Weaver’s House. It was only the fact of its cottage conversion which saved the house for us. Slated for demolition in 1936 it was purchased by the Borough and suffered damage by bombing in the War. We are truly lucky to still have this ancient gem, and must treasure it.