Creativity is alive in Margate. The Old Town is the cultural heart of the area with its boutiques, restaurants and galleries. The Turner Contemporary Gallery was built near the Harbour Arm where JMW Turner lived with his landlady and mistress Mrs. Sophia Booth. Turner told art critic John Ruskin that “the skies over Thanet are the loveliest in all Europe”.
Margate can boast three theatres including one of the smallest and one of the oldest.
The Theatre Royal was originally built in 1786, altered in 1874 and is a Grade II* listed building. It is rumoured to be haunted including the actress Miss Sarah Thorne.
The Tom Thumb Theatre was originally built as a coach house in Victorian times, and was transformed into one of the smallest theatres in 1984.
The largest theatre in Margate is the Winter Gardens which boasts two halls – Kings and Queens Hall. The Winter Gardens took 9 months to build and were opened in 1911 at a cost of £26,000. The Winter Gardens has seen some of the best performers in the world including Laurel & Hardy in 1947, The Beatles in 1963, and more recently Status Quo, Ocean Colour Scene, Graham Norton, David Essex and in the last few years some of the best British Comics including Sean Lock and Jimmy Carr.
Margate has always been an entertaining place. The Victorians were passionate about Margate, coming in their droves although those with money didn’t stay in Margate but stayed in the more superior Cliftonville. Later in the 60’s the Mods and Rockers came too bringing their passion. The last trial that was held in the Old Magistrate’s Court in the old town was to deal with the Mods & Rockers – four were jailed and another 36 were fined – Magistrate George Simpson described them as ‘sawdust Caesars’. Margate Museum is now housed in the old Magistrates Court and it is possible to see the cells and where the accused stood to be told their fate.
Margate wasn’t the birth place of the bathing machine but in 1750 Benjamin Beale enhanced the idea by adding a canvas hood which protected the naked sea-bather from prying eyes. The Royal Sea Bathing Hospital opened in 1791 when it was believed that sea bathing and sea air were the best cures for tuberculosis. The wards had large windows that would be opened and the patients would be pushed into the fresh air still in their bed.
Margate got its name in the thirteenth century, meaning a pool allowing swimmers to jump in. So if you are ready to jump in, come to Margate.