This walk will take around and into the Town Centre. Walk 3 ends in the centre square of the Town Centre; a great place to stop for a break or look around the shops.
Turn into Effingham Street and pay close attention to the buildings on either side of the road. The building opposite the RM&HT plaque has some fantastic decorations. Some of the houses’ doorways appear to have been built after the houses, perhaps filling in an open, arched walkway, giving the off-centre, mismatched appearance seen today. Formerly known as Brick Street in 1728, then Effingham Place in 1785. It became Effingham Street between 1849 and 1872, based on surviving maps of the period. It may be difficult to see now, but back in the 1780s it was considered to be ‘the place to live for people of refinement’, and was the most popular and favoured residential road in Ramsgate.
It was the home of nobility and amongst the residents, you would have found Lord Conygham, Lord Mount Charles, Lord Verney, Lady Westmorland, and several retired admirals. One of which was Rear-Admiral Fox, a friend of King William IV. His house, Effingham Lodge, was the former Ramsgate Fire Station. The Ramsgate Corporation bought the house and grounds in 1905, converted the house into the Fire Station, and on his former grounds were built Clarendon House Girls’ Grammar School, on what is now Elms Avenue, and the Ramsgate Library, on George Street.
Many of these houses are Grade II listed, these are: 10; 12 (late 18th century); 24 Pines Lodge (late 18th century and 17th century); 32; 34;36; and on the other side, 1 Chancery House; 5 (both late 18th century, altered 19th century); 35; and, 39. You can see the remains of their elegance in the architecture of these former stunning houses.
As you walk to the top of Effingham Street, walk across the road into Guildford Lawn (slightly left of Effingham Street). This was built by William Saxby in 1842 with curved bays and round doorways. The area in the centre, between the older houses of Guildford Lawn and the Library, used to belong to the original houses as their garden area. After 1904, these gardens were bought and Lawn Villas were built in their place. The comic actor Will Hay lived at number 3 Guildford Lawn.
As you leave Guildford Lawn, you will be facing Ramsgate Library. This was built in 1904 on the grounds of Rear-Admiral Fox’s estate, bought by the Ramsgate Corporation. It was funded by American steel tycoon, Andrew Carnegie. The library used to be the home of the Ramsgate Town Museum and housed many original maps and blueprints. These were all destroyed during a massive fire in 2009. The only original feature from the library is the front fascia, everything else has been rebuilt in a modern style.
CLARENDON HOUSE (AND CHATHAM HOUSE)
With the library on your left, walk down the road and you will see the site of Clarendon House Grammar School, recently merged with Chatham House to form Chatham & Clarendon Grammar School. Clarendon was also built on the grounds of Rear-Admiral Fox a year after the library in 1905, showing the extent of his estate.
For Chatham House, if you have a chance, walk from the High Street with Argos on your left, until you reach a hill on the right, this is Chatham Street. Walk up here and you will see Chatham Grammar School, an imposing red-brick building with a lot of history. During World War One the entire site was evacuated in 1916 and requisitioned as a Canadian Hospital, as was the adjacent Townley Castle. Also, along this road is Townley House, built by architect Mary Townley in 1792. Queen Victoria stayed here in her days as a princess.
Click here for the Chatham and Clarendon Grammar School research project, carried out specifically for the Ramsgate Military & Heritage Trail by Sixth Form students.
To the right of Clarendon House is a small walkway, Tomson’s Passage. Its original name was possibly Grove Lane, as shown on the 1849 Map of Ramsgate, however this did not stretch as far as the Tomson & Wotton Brewery (now the site of Waitrose). It is likely the brewery extended the passage to reach their site, eliciting the name change, after the housing boom was complete in the Ellington area of the town, where many of their workers lived allowing an easier route to work.
The passage used to stretch from Ellington Road down to Queen Street and was the only connection between the two, as there used to be a house built across the road between Ellington Road to Elms Avenue. Clarendon was built across much of the Passage, after the roads were opened up.
Turning left at the end of the street, walk down the hill towards Waitrose and Queen Street.
TOMSON & WOTTON SITE
The nation’s oldest brewery, Tomson & Wotton, began in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, with extant records showing it was brewing no later than 1634 with hints of it having been in operation much earlier. It was still trading during the reign of Queen Elizabeth II.
This site took up a very large part of the small town of Ramsgate and was a major employer in the early days. Most of the pubs in Ramsgate were tied to Tomson & Wotton. It existed on both sides of the road where Waitrose now sits.
The company was sold to one of the national breweries, who promptly closed it down in 1968 and the site was taken over by Waitrose. This made Thomas Neale of Whitstable the Oldest Brewery in the UK; this title is now held by Shepherd Neame Brewery, founded in 1698.
VYE AND SON
Keep Waitrose on your left, until you walk past its exit on Queen Street. As you walk along Queen Street, to the right is a newly built apartment block, called Vyeson Court. This is the site of one of the main Vye and Son properties, which burned down in the Second World War, during the town’s first blitz. The bombing killed both the manager, 46-year-old Miles Leach when he was thrown through a plate glass window and also Milers Wrigley, a civilian, was killed outside the shop.
After the Napoleonic Wars ended, Captain Vye brought his wife Sarah to Ramsgate for a visit. This was Sarah Vye’s first visit to the town and she loved it straight away; so much so she decided to open a small corner shop selling groceries in 1817. This project was an amazing success and she expanded at a great rate. Eventually, the chain had over 200 branches across the South Coast. Sarah was one of many of the ‘well-to-do’ to move to the town after the Napoleonic Wars.
There was an office block HQ, which stretched the length of Cliff Street just off Queen Street. There was also one of their largest shops in Queen Street. Eventually, the chain would be bought by Lipton’s.
Queen’s Cottage, take a short detour into Cavendish Street on your left and you find possibly the oldest house in Ramsgate, built c.1680. It is Grade II listed. This is an easy place to miss, tucked away behind Queen Street and next to Cavendish Street. It is opposite the public toilets and the old Police Station. Walk back onto Queen Street and you will be opposite York Street.
The now dilapidated police station in Cavendish Street was preceded by a station in York Street. The building still exists today and can be seen on the left of York Street.
The old police station has a small archway, leading through to an enclosed area, with an ‘Upholstered Brick Three Piece Suite’ by Rodney Harris; worth a look and easily missed by visitors. It leads out to the other end of York Street, only 100 yards from the archway. At this end are a few old buildings, opposite Wilkinson’s, and a few nice eateries.
York Street is one of the oldest streets in Ramsgate. After the Second World War, many of the old houses and shops had been bombed and destroyed, leaving a large area of derelict space. The area was considered a bit of a slum for a long time, until the stretch opposite the police station was pulled down for modernisation, and the derelict area was built on in the 1990s. This area became the hotel and retail shop, currently Travelodge (previously Ramada Jarvis) and Wilkinson’s (previously Tesco).
Now walk from York Street back to the Town Centre. As you walk along Queen Street you will reach the centre square, turn left and you will come to Holland & Barrett on your right and Poundland on your left. Poundland was once Woolworth’s and before that, The Bull & George Hotel.
THE FIRST ZEPPELIN RAID AND THE
BULL & GEORGE HOTEL
The Bull & George Hotel was once the focal point for many; a popular pub and hotel used by locals and visitors alike. This was the case until the Great War when the town centre was attacked in a Zeppelin Raid on 17th May 1915, at 1:48am. This was one of the very first air raids of the First World War. Until this time in the war, people were still holidaying in
Unfortunately, three people were injured and two of these holidaymakers would be among the first civilian fatalities in Ramsgate. An inquiry into the 2 deaths accused the German Kaiser of ‘wilful murder’.
After this event, and the increasing frequency of Zeppelin raids, tourism in Ramsgate ceased until the end of the War. This raid and many others gave Ramsgate the unfortunate title of the UK’s most heavily bombed seaside town during WW1.
This site was reused in 1916 as a purpose-built department store for F.W. Woolworth’s. It would later become the 99p Store and is currently Poundland.
Much of the original architecture of Woolworth’s (and the buildings opposite) survives, including drawings from World War II of fighter plane silhouettes, so a lookout could tell apart friendly and enemy planes. In the stock room of the ‘new’ building survives an original frieze and wall fragment from The Bull & George Hotel, pictured above.
Similarities can be drawn between these stores: the first claimed ‘Nothing over 6d’; with the later stores claiming nothing over 99p and £1. A 6d and a £1 were similarly valued coins for their periods.
SITE OF THE TOWN HALL
Walking back towards the centre square and Harbour Street, keeping the old Woolworth’s building to your right, you’ll come to the site of the old Town Hall; now the site of Halifax. The original Town Hall was built in the 1860s and knocked down in the 1950s/60s to widen the town centre.
Evidence of attempts to widen the town centre can be seen in buildings where some are further forward than others. Where a building pushes out into the path more than another, this is an older building which would have been intended to be moved back, in line with those already altered. If you look at King Street, left, you will see the older buildings are on the righthand side and the newer, pushed back, buildings are on the left.
Keeping Halifax to your right, walk down Harbour Street. This has many old buildings with fewer pushed back than Queen Street and King Street. At the end of Harbour Street, turn left to see Albion Place and Madeira Walk. Madeira Walk has a waterfall, this is the next path to take.