Dalby Square Townscape Heritage Initiative

Dalby Square Logo

The Dalby Square, Townscape Heritage Initiative

The Dalby Square, Cliftonville, Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI) Grant Scheme has now closed.

The £2.5 million scheme ran between 2013 and 2019 and was dedicated to preserving the unique heritage of Dalby Square, the historic heart of Cliftonville West. Funding was made available from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and Thanet District Council.

Under the THI scheme, 23 properties were improved, 3 empty properties were brought back into use and the garden square was extended and improved. The Victorian properties, now refurbished, can once again be desirable homes suitable for modern living.

As a result of the conservation work carried out, properties that have benefitted from grant funding now truly reflect their prestigious past. The improved Dalby Square Conservation Area is a place where local residents can be proud to live and visit

Visit the Square

The Dalby Square Conservation Area is a short walk from Margate Harbour.  Keeping Turner Contemporary on your left, proceed up Fort Hill, past the Winter Gardens theatre and continue along past the Lido. Dalby Square is on your right.

View some of the projects

Details and photos of some of the properties that have been renovated under the THI scheme can be found below.

The objectives of the Dalby Square THI are to:

  • Raise awareness of the value and quality of the historic built environment
  • Promote the repair of historic buildings in the Conservation Area using appropriate materials, detailing and workmanship
  • Set an example of good practice in building conservation
  • Reinforce an area’s unique identity
  • Help change residents’ and visitors’ perceptions of Cliftonville West

There are four main ways we support these aims:

  1. Work with freeholders of eligible properties to restore or repair historic features
  2. Encourage freeholders to bring vacant properties back into use
  3. Aid improvements to public areas
  4. Support education and interpretation initiatives

Funding arrangements

The Dalby Square THI is a £2.5million scheme, 75% funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund through the Townscape Heritage programme.  The remaining 25% is funded by Thanet District Council (TDC).  All the funding is administered through TDC.




History of Dalby Square

Dalby Square was laid out in the 1860s and quickly became a popular area following the construction of the fashionable Cliftonville Hotel in 1868.  This occupied the site that is now a bowling alley and amusement arcade at the northeast corner of the Square.  The Square was originally called Ethelbert Square but was renamed for Thomas Dalby Reeve, developer of the site and Mayor of Margate from 1873-75.

The large terraced buildings were mainly used as boarding schools and hotels until the 1980s.  The Cliftonville Hotel closed in 1939 and was demolished in 1960s.  The south end of the Square, Warrior Crescent, was badly damaged by bombing in the Second World War so the properties demolished in the 1990s and later rebuilt. The central area was historically used for tennis courts and croquet, and the present formal gardens were laid out in 2005 in a project spearheaded by local residents and supported by the Big Lottery Fund.

Below is an 1872 engraving of Dalby Square when it was still known as Ethelbert Square, showing a view across the gardens looking south. Image courtesy of Margate Local History.

Historic image of Dalby Square


The Car Park at the north end of Dalby Square was traditionally part of the overall formal gardens.  It was converted to a car park in the 1960’s.

Reinstatement from car park to gardens

Through the National Lottery Heritage Fund scheme, the Council has re-connected this space with the square’s historic past.  Works included pathways, prairie style landscaping and new railings to the boundary.  The scheme included the retention of three underground recycling collectors, and was completed in the summer of 2018.


Community Groups

Community groups operating in Dalby Square and the Cliftonville West ward have been very active in supporting this scheme, and in helping to promote community involvement and pride in their local area.

Members of the Dalby Square Project have been active in the square since 2002, initially getting the renovation of the formal gardens underway.  Since then, they have overseen neighbours and local residents looking after the gardens, adding to the planting and creating wildlife areas to encourage pollinators and more birds into the gardens.

The Project has also held outdoor community events in the gardens, working in liaison with other groups such as A Better Cliftonville and other organisations in the locality.  The land is ideal for public gatherings to celebrate and enjoy special occasions such as a royal wedding, and seasonal festivals with music and games.

The following Groups supported the designation of the Dalby Square Conservation Area and the Dalby Square THI:

  • A Better Cliftonville
  • The Dalby Square Project
  • Margate Civic Society
  • Margate Conservation Area Advisory Group
  • The Futures Group, Kent Gardens Trust
  • Margate Community Heritage Federation.

National Civic Day June 2019

A joint project to celebrate this day was arranged between the THI team, Margate Civic Society, the Turner Contemporary gallery and Visit Thanet.  Activities were promoted across websites, social media, press activity and the Margate Visitor Centre.

12 Arthur Road was open to the public, in accordance with conditions attached to the THI grant which was awarded to repair and bring the hotel back into use.  Historical information was made available with guides from Margate Civic Society volunteers.  The property was featured in Turner Contemporary’s current exhibition, The Seaside Photographed.  The house and previous resident Ivy Gregory were photographed by Danielle Peck, who appeared at the Turner Contemporary on the day as part of the Meet the Photographer event.  The experience of gallery visitors was given added value by the ability to go and visit a house that featured in the exhibition.  A simple map with directions was produced inviting people to walk up from the gallery to Dalby Square.  

Outside in the Dalby Square gardens, the THI team was on hand to explain the work of the Heritage Lottery grant scheme.  A large selection of photo images were displayed, showing properties that have been upgraded by grants from the scheme, and also historic images over the decades since Dalby Square, Dalby Road and Arthur Road were built.

Community Day May 2019

Local members of the community met in the garden square in May 2019 to carry out activities to encourage wildlife and add planting to the gardens.  The day was also marked by a visit from the Chairman of Thanet District Council to unveil an interpretation panel commemorating the THI scheme.  Cllr Jason Savage spent time in the square talking to residents and viewing conservation building work that has been carried out to nearby properties under the scheme.


This property, owned by Kent County Council, has been refurbished as a model for adapting an historic building to accommodate projected changes in society and climate.

This imposing, five-storey terraced townhouse was originally a guest house named the Innsbruck Hotel.  Most of the properties in the surrounding area, were built as guest houses or hotels, private schools, and second homes for wealthy holiday makers.

The issue of climate change is becoming a very real challenge, as well as an ageing population with an increasing demand for properties that allow multi-generational living .  Thanet Council created the idea to convert this property from an environmental and sociological point of view.  The property has been refurbished to enable several generations of the same family to live together under one roof.  The council has formed a partnership with the University of Kent who will be assessing the development of the project and analysing the benefits.

The interior has been ‘future proofed’ for climate change, designed to improve thermal performance, minimise flood risk, and to conserve water and energy.




The owners of 12 Arthur Road have undertaken a renovation bringing high quality guest accommodation back to the area.

Historically, most of the buildings around Dalby Square provided guest accommodation as hotels, boarding schools, or residential villas rented to visitors.  The last hotel in the Dalby Square closed in 2012. The house was built as a residential home in c. 1895, but fairly soon became a rental property for holidaymakers.  The most prominent external feature is the conservatory on the first floor over the front door; this may not be original to the building but was added in the first years of the 1900s.  It is clearly visible in the postcard above.

In the 1930s major extensions were made to the property, adding a new floor level and creating four new rooms.  In the 1950s the building was a bed and breakfast, offering meals cooked out of a kitchen on the ground floor, and in the 1960s the rooms were all converted into ‘flatlets’ each with their own cooking facilities.  Up to 50 people stayed in the house during this period, the busiest in its history.

In the 1980s, The Cecil Private Hotel stopped operating, and the building was until recently, used as a single family home.

The current owners had ambitious plans for this beautiful building and were successful in securing a grant to bring it back into use after it fell vacant and became uninhabitable.  The work was funded on the basis of 11% funding from Thanet Council, 31% Heritage Lottery Fund, and 58% owner’s contribution.

A historic fabric survey  allowed us to understand how the decoration has changed over the years.  Unusually for a THI, funding was awarded to the owners for some of the interiors work due to the high quality of their historic preservation and the fact that the interior would be accessible.  THI funding can be used only for work that is visible and accessible to the public, and the owners have committed to opening the building to the public at least 8 days per year and three months per year as a holiday-let following the completion of works.  Visitors will be able to see the impressive entrance hall and reception rooms.

Detailed conservation work has been carried out inside the house and externally, and decisions made about what to repair, what to replace and what to remove.  A great number of the original features have been kept and repaired, restoring the house as sympathetically as possible.  Traditional materials and building methods have been used, married with 21st century insulation and energy saving technologies, to bring this previously empty and dilapidated building back into use.

The versatile new layout of the property means that it can be used for a variety of purposes, including a highly serviced hotel, and/or a venue for cultural or business events.

Members of the public are able to visit the house during any of the free annual open days which are hosted by the Margate Civic Society.


These properties have a mixed history, mostly as private homes, number 28 having started out as a boarding school, with both becoming guest houses by the mid-20th century.  Like most properties in the square, they became run down following the shrinking domestic tourist trade after the 1970’s.

Over time, the original sash windows have been replaced with PVCu ones.  Wear and tear and the age of the building meant that the main steps to the front doors had been eroded, and iron work and cast iron water pipes at the front of the building needed repairs or replacement.

A grant from the Dalby Square Townscape Heritage Lottery Initiative has enabled new double glazed timber sash windows to be installed to the front elevations.  Other works enabled by the scheme included: stucco cleaning and repairs; cast iron downpipes, and resurfacing the front steps with stone.

The works are funded from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Thanet District Council, and the property owner.

Pictures showing the condition of the buildings before the works were done, compared to pictures following the works illustrate the transformation that has been achieved here.


Two flats at 33 Dalby Square have benefitted from new windows with total grants of £9,416.77 from the Dalby Square THI.

Conservation projects often involve replacing windows because original wooden sash windows have been replaced with PVC.  PVC windows are inappropriate for historic buildings because they do not allow the building to breathe properly.  However wooden windows can cause nearly as many problems if they are improperly fitted or rotting.  These are not only unsightly, but can allow water to enter leading to further rot and create draughts that contribute to fuel inefficiency.

The newly fitted wooden sash windows are secure and keep the flat weather and watertight.  This will ensure there is no further damage to the structure of the building itself.

Below are photos that show the windows before and after repairs.


A history of the gardens

When housing was first built in Dalby Square in the 1860s, the central green space was landscaped as an open lawn and a formal garden.  Late in the 19th century lawn tennis courts were laid out and from 1904 to the start of the First World War the space was used for tennis and croquet.

John Henry Iles, the developer of Dreamland, purchased the Gardens in 1919 and built hard tennis courts surrounded by high-wire fencing.  The carpark at the north and the parking spaces along the sides of the Gardens were laid out in the 1960s.  By the mid-1970s, the space had been converted back into gardens.

In 2003 a community group known as the Dalby Square Project successfully raised funds to redesign the ornamental gardens and build the popular children’s playground.

The THI scheme commissioned Kent Gardens Trust to produce a full historical survey of the Gardens.

View the The Kent Compendium of Historic Parks and Gardens

Works in 2016

The Gardens were transformed into a community space in the early 2000s thanks to dedicated volunteers and funding from the Big Lottery, but there was still more that could be done to restore their historic character.  The THI team undertook consultation with the Dalby Square Project and through a public event in September 2014 to determine what could be done to improve the space further.

The scheme invested £210,000 in undertaking capital works, as well as £20,000 in the soft landscaping and training for volunteers to help look after the Gardens.

The works have:

  • replaced the railings around the Gardens
  • reworked the terracing
  • introduced new fencing within the Gardens
  • added new rubbish stores to screen off the bins
  • updated the planting scheme

The updated space is better suited for events and activities, preventing damage to the plants, and creating a stronger scenic view towards the sea.  The scheme has also increased the number of bins and replaced some plants that were not well-suited to the local conditions.

Some elements of this work required planning permission, which was granted in 2015.  Click here for more information.

The works were completed and the gardens reopened to the public in autumn of 2016.

Gardening Volunteers

The Formal Gardens have been looked after by volunteers since they were redeveloped in the mid-2000s.  As part of the THI scheme, a landscape designer was commissioned to provide training for volunteers.  A training day added new planting, with over a dozen volunteers helping to plant palm trees and sow grass seed.  Regular gardening activities take place to maintain and improve the planting on an ongoing basis, organised by community volunteers.


The street lighting in Dalby Square is looked after by Kent County Council.  The THI scheme granted them just under £60,000 to replace the modern street lamps with ones that reflect the style of those originally used.

The new lights are distinctly modern, despite their heritage look; they have high performance paint specification and LED lights.  These materials protect the lamps from the harsh seaside conditions and allow them to be in keeping with the maintenance schedule of the Kent Highways Authority.


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