Cranbourne Alley - A vanished part of old Margate

Featured in the July 2009 handbook.

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Ask any Margatonian of a Ďcertain ageí and they will without fail recall with fondness this short thoroughfare, which once linked Churhfield Place and St. Johns Road with Churchfields. Swept away in the mid 1960ís during the Boroughís clearance scheme which opened up a direct route for motor traffic between Cecil Square and Grosvenor

Gardens ( Frog Hill to real locals!), Cranbourne Alley was a selfcontained little shopping centre where you could get your hair cut at the strange little shop of Fred the Barber: have a pint in the quaint old Walmer Castle pub: then nip across to Wellerís tobacconist and newsagents on the corner of St. Johnís Road for the fags and a paper( those

were the days before smoking attained an almost criminal status). And if the mood for fish and chips took you there was Sudderís perfectly situated to fill the need, and that void in the stomach.

And that wasnít all on offer either, There was Dirty Dickís Cafť, Len Bartonís cobblers shop for those all-important shoe repairs: a couple of draperís shops for fabrics and curtains; Mr Nimmoís for watch and clock repairs; and Mrs Rogers for the fruit and veg. There was a television shop

latterly in the form of Arcade Teleservice: the pet shop of Mrs Slade; and the one that really sticks in the mind (and nostrils!) was the shop of Mr Gravestock - dog meat dealer - where in the window in those now far off days of Fifty odd years ago great slabs of whale meat sat on the marble slab awaiting itís customers. Needless to say, the friendly old chow dog which lived in the alley could always be found haunting the spot adjacent to the whale meat window!

There was something for everybody in Cranbourne Alley, and who could forget that little old sweet shop of Mrs Cully straight out of Georgian times with its little window and small range of steps up to its front door, or the great and imposing Georgian bulk of Churchfields House at its southern end. The fate of the alley was sealed by its narrowness and unsuitability for any kind of traffic.

Only about eight feet wide and with a single narrow pavement on its eastern side, Cranbourne Alley completely hindered the Boroughs plans for improvements in the field of traffic flow in the area. Traffic coming up from Cecil Square which wanted to get to southern Margate via Victoria Road had to turn left into St. Johns Road and through Princes Crescent and that included the Leyland low bridge double decker buses of the 53 and 53A service: the low bridge capability being necessary to negotiate the iron railway bridge at Queens Avenue. The clearance scheme

started in the 1950s and saw the eastern side of the top end of the High Street redeveloped first, the buildings being replaced by those rather bland looking blocks of flats we still see today. But cash ( as always ) was in short supply in the municipal coffers, and it was not until 1965 that the cheme had limped on far enough for the demolition manís hammer to fall on Cranbourne Alley, and soon the much loved area was gone, swept away in the name of progress and the motor car.

That the scheme opened up the town at that end is beyond dispute, and can you just imagine those double deckers trying to get through Princes crescent today? For those who have trouble trying to locate the position of Cranbourne Alley today, itís northern entrance was opposite

St. Johns Road where the traffic island now is, and itís southern extremity is still marked by the triangular piece of ground where the seats are, near the junction with Charlotte Square this being the site of Mr Bartonís cobblers shop. Gone it might be, but Cranbourne Alley is definitely not forgotten.


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