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Old Town Magistrates Court and Police Station

The Victorian Police Station built in 1895, and used until 1959. Still remaining intact are 4 of the original cells that are used to display exhibits from the Victorian police and other related activities.

Upstairs the majestic Victorian Magistrates Court opened in 1857 in a room constructed as a town meeting room in 1820. The main body of the court had to be mobile as the room doubled up as a Council Chamber in the evening for the Borough of Margate Council meet. The room remained such until 1971 when the new Court house opened in Cecil Square.

Now housing the main gallery of the Margate Museum the Court Room contains artefacts telling the eventual story of the town of Margate. The walls are adorned with paintings and prints highlighting the rich history of the town and its inhabitants. The Magistrates Bench and Dock are still here and you can sit in the very chair where Dr Simpson pronounced sentences on Mods and Rockers at Whitsun 1964.

See the displays on the Royal Sea Bathing Hospital and Cecil born 2,500 years ago and found under the buildings of the modern police station, and more…

Borough of Margate and the Mayors of Margate Past

The Charter of the Borough of Margate was granted in 1857, and in the upper gallery the list of mayors and civic dignitaries are recorded on ornate boards. Many of the Mayors and important citizens of the old Borough are displayed in glory along the walls.

The Mayoral Pew from the old Holy Trinity Church, bombed in 1943, stands in front of the Magistrates Bench. This beautiful ornate carved pew carries the Borough Coat of Arms with the town Motto “Porta maris portus salutis”, "A gate of the sea and a haven of health." Which points to the days of 1750 when the town was a center for health when people travelled to “take the waters” in Benjamin Beale’s hooded bathing machine.

Whilst the Borough status was lost when the Thanet District Council was formed a civic body known as the Charter Trustees, comprising of elected Councilor’s for the Wards covering the old Borough of Margate, manage all civic activities, and annually elect from their number the Mayor. The first Mayor of Margate, elected in 1857, was George Yeates Hunter , a local surgeon-apothecary, also a consulting surgeon at the Sea Bathing Infirmary.

Marine Room, early RNLI and the War Years

The oldest part of the Museum building boasting a 16th Century Flemish Gable end, has three rooms set aside in an area which originally housed the 4 cells used by Revenue and Watch and later by the Borough Police from 1857 to 1895. These rooms hold the Maritime Room, which tells the story of the Hoy, which could bring visitors from London to Margate prior to 1815; the journey could take up to three days, depending on the weather.

In this room are displayed two models of Paddle Steamers, the predecessors of which first came to Margate in 1815; the two superb models displayed, are the Royal Eagle and the Royal Sovereign, these were heroes of D-Day bringing back between them 10,000 evacuees. In the exhibition there are also models of “The Lord Southborough” Lifeboat, the “Waverley” Paddle Steamer, the only remaining ocean going paddle steamer and the “Will Everard” the last Thames Sailing Barge to commercially deliver Coal to Margate in the 1960’s.

This exhibition also tells the story of the brave men of Margate who perished in two surfboat disasters in the 19th Century. The two war rooms document the story of Margate during the First and Second World Wars.

Holidays by the Seaside from 1815 to Modern-Times

The old Muster Room of the Victorian Police Station on the ground for now hosts the Seaside exhibition; memories of seaside holidays from 1815 to modern times. Presented through artefacts and pictures over 150 years including two Donkeys, one, in its original state, the other which was discovered rotting in a basement and now restored by students at a local centre, were used on the beaches of the town for children to have their photographs taken by the Sunbeam Photographic Company.

The archives of the Sunbeam Photographic Company are held by the Collection; over a two-year period the Collection of mainly Glass Plate Negative photographs was digitized in a 2 year HLF bid with Christ Church University Photographic Faculty.

Amongst the eclectic collection is what is believed to be the oldest photograph, showing Spray Tanning at the Cliftonville Lido. The walls of this room were painted by a local Artist David William Burley 1901-1990 in 1988, and are a rare work of art in their own right. Here you can also see the wide variety of entertainment offered in the 18th and early 19th century. You can also have you photograph taken in the Victorian Seaside cut out.

True Reflections of Margate Past and Present

Throughout the Museum the well versed award winning volunteer guides are on hand to regale you with all the stories associated with the unusual collection of paintings, prints and artefacts which are presented through the exhibitions in the museum.

You will see and hear how the 18th Century health seekers “took the waters”. Learn how and when the Theatre Royal, the second oldest provincial Theatre came into being, hear the story of 18th Century actress Dorethea Jordon, the mistress of the future King, came to be at the Theatre Royal, and how a little know music hall artist Lilly Langtry, not the “Jersey Lilly”, appeared at the Hippodrome Theatre in 1898 and thus the two created an urban myth.

The corridors contain works by Thomas Rowlandson (13 July 1756 – 21 April 1827) and engravings by Philip James de Loutherbourg (1740–1812) all the artworks demonstrate the development of Margate over the last 300 years. And will take the visitor through the ground floor up the Old Town Hall stairs to the Upper Gallery which houses the Victorian Magistrates Court and the Victorian Council Chambers.

Cobbs Brewery, Cobbs Bank and Mrs Cobbs Cabinet

The Cobb Family were the main family of Margate from the time. The brewery was founded in 1673, until the brewery was sold to Whitbread in 1967. The Cobbs were not only involved in brewing, they also had their own Bank and one which was able to issue their own bank notes.

Three generations of Cobb - Francis (the founder) 1727-1802; Francis (his youngest son) 1759-1831 and Francis William 1787-1871, were to all intents and purposes Margate - for they each in turn exerted a substantial influence on the town's affairs. To the social historian their personalities and that of their business empire is a source of importance for, not only were the Cobbs bankers, incorporating a Savings Bank (1818-1827 and again 1839-1863), but brewers, shipping agents, chandlers, coal merchants, insurance agents, ship owners, salvage experts, and owners of a considerable amount of property including licensed premises, as outlets for the beer they brewed.

The beer, from their brewery at Deal, incidentally, was supplied to the troops at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. The Bank was sold to Lloyds in 1897. Prior to 1857 Francis Cobb was also the Deputy of Dover and the Chief Magistrate, he was known as “King” Cobb although this may not have been a title of respect.

In the Upper Gallery you can view the Cobb Cabinet, this piece of Furniture is in fact two pieces, the top is 1632 Flemish hand-made, the lower portion is great exhibition 1851. The top section was probably a ladies Dressing Table and originally on four legs. The Commonality of the two pieces is the Green Man seen on the head of the Cabinet and the Gaian Cornucopia on the lower piece, this very pleasing furniture amalgamation was used to house the Sea Shell collection of Mr Cobb.