The Marine Place and Rendezvous, By Mick Twyman
Featured in the November 2008 handbook.
The imposing title of the Marine Palace was that chosen by its Victorian developers, the grandly named Margate Skating Rink and Aquarium Company, for what would transpire to be a
lacklustre collection of flimsy galvanised-iron buildings, sandwiching a single brick structure on the chosen site, sitting behind a sea wall on the area now occupied by the Rendezvous Car
Park, and at one time in 2007 almost the site of the ‘now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t’ land-based version of the Turner Centre.
The Rendezvous Car Park sitting behind the sea wall we are all familiar with today, but in 1875 when the Marine Palace idea was first mooted there was no sea wall, just a bay in the chalk cliffs running between Second Point, today’s Fort Point, opposite the Britannia pub, and First Point at Bankside, now the almost vanished little headland sitting behind the concrete block wall, just to the west of the Lifeboat House and the Margate Yacht Club compound.
The syndicate formed to construct this venture underwent a protracted and painful birth, and there were many comings and goings of potential Directors, and more than a few scandals too! The original plans included a massive building to house what would have been a first-rate Aquarium - a forerunner of today’s sealife centres - but this proved to be nothing more than a pipe dream, and way too expensive to have been within reach of the finance available at the time.
What actually happened on the site was that a sea wall of ten-ton concrete blocks was built on the rocks between the two Points mentioned previously, just a little to the south of where the current series of arches supporting a promenade walkway behind a single thickness of blocks, carefully designed to offer the maximum resistance to large waves battering it, and it was this combined with the fact that the area behind the wall was not filled-in but left at the foreshore level, which would prove to be its downfall - literally!
Starting at the eastern end behind the wall the Skating Rink was built, and next to that there was a large and substantial brick building of the restaurant, which rose up three-stories from the ground level, and running back from that towards the Harbour was the Swimming Baths. When viewed from the sea, all that could be seen above the parapet wall of the promenade was the brick restaurant and the roofs of the Skating Rink and Swimming Baths, but also on the site at the rear of these was a Theatre, a Ballroom and various side-shows and amusements, whilst right at the back of the site under there cliffs there was a switchback railway and the brick-built boiler house for pumping the sea water for the Baths.
Despite its flimsy construction, the venue prospered mightily, a hugely popular venue with visitors and locals alike. Then, in early 1897, it was announced that the Pyramidical Investment
Syndicate has plans to resurrect the proposal for the large Aquarium building, even publishing a very grand artist’s impression. But as we know today, during the Great Storm of November 29th and 30th of 1897, the huge seas running easily washed over the whole site, demolishing all the iron buildings and making a huge lagoon trapped behind the wall - the wall which was designed to withstand pressure from the front (which it did wonderfully) but not from the back. the result was that the wall collapsed outwards onto the sands, and that was the end of the Marine Palace. Both the brick building survived almost intact.
A new wall was built and the site filled-in, eventually arising on it what was supposed to be a permanent funfair named The Rendezvous, but it was never a huge success financially and it
was killed by the Great War. In 1921 the Corporation brought the site and turned it into a PuttingGreen, which survived until converted into the Car Park in 1964.