Margate Market Place
Featured in the February 2009 handbook.
Although now completely built around and surfaced over, the Market Place started life as an open space. We are fortunate to have from the 1730s a very cleverly drawn attempt at an aerial view of the Harbour, which shows quite clearly the mouth of the old Creek entering into the Harbour where King Street (previously Bridge Street) now is and into which the sea flowed at high tide, and another opening in the form of a slipway at the entrance to what is now Market Street. This area between those two openings and behind the houses fronting the Harbour is shown as an
open space. The Harbour pier then was constructed of timber, and the whole face of the land abutting the sea from the Harbour to what is now Andrew’s Passage was protected by substantial timber revetments, rather confusingly referred to in the terminology of 18th century documents
“jetties”. In this aerial view can be seen large baulks of timber drawn up onto the slipway, and more lying in the open space where the Old Town Hall now stands, the original small brick and flint part of which nearest King Street dates from the 17th century.
With the boom in visitors frequenting Margate in the second half of the 18th century to avail themselves of the health giving qualities of sea bathing, as popularised by Doctor Richard Russell and the perfection of the bathing machine by Benjamin Beale, the need for an established licensed
market became ever more pressing. Consequently, Pier Wardens, Francis Cobb and John Baker petitioned in 1776 for the establishment of such a facility, and that petition was successful. The licence was for the free and open buying and selling of corn, grain, flour, fresh, fish, poultry, licence
was for the free and open buying and selling of corn, grain, flour, fresh fish, poultry, butter, eggs, fruit and vegetables. The petition also included reference to Margate’s busy role as a maritime base servicing the needs of both naval and merchant shipping being involved in the supply of pilots, anchors and cables etc. The original licence was for the market to be held on Wednesday and Saturday, but by the early 19th century it was open everyday except Sunday.
An early name of the area was the Pier Green, where was to be found a bowling green, and in January, 1775 the Kentish Gazette carried the following advertisement which highlights the growing commercial aspect of the area:- “William Truss (son of Joseph Truss), begs leave to acquaint his
friends that he has opened a shop at the sign of the Grasshopper on the bowling green, as a Cheesemonger, Teaman and Grocer, and is determined to sell at the most desirable rate, by Wholesale or Retail”. In 1820 the original market was pulled down to be replaced by the building depicted below. At the same time the small Town Hall was enlarged by the addition of the building which later housed the Courtroom and Police Station, although when built its ground floor was left as an open space supported on pillars, and before the Police took up residence there the Fire Bridge occupied it.
Further enlargement of the town hall began in 1897 with the commencement of work on the building which now houses the Mayoral Parlour, and which is linked to the 1820 building by a quaint enclosed footway bridge. The enlargement entailed the demolition of the market building, although
this was compensated for in part by the erection of a lean - to iron structure supported on columns at it’s southern end. This too was subsequently reduced in size until the last vestige was the section where the Mockett family ran their fruit and vegetable stall for many decades, and the tiny tea stall which is now the last commercial activity on the markets old site - a far cry from the more than 40 stalls routinely recorded there in the 1820s.