Charles Dickens

Thanet's Famous Faces

The Isle of Thanet is known for its famous faces - artists, writers, musicians, royalty and even smugglers, who have long been inspired by this almost-island and they continue to be drawn here today, but just how many do you know and their connections and stories with the area

 

ARTISTS

  • JMW Turner - Some of his most famous works are of Margate sunsets, describing the “skies over Thanet are the loveliest in all Europe”. Today the gallery named after him stands on the site of Mrs Booth house, with whom he stayed with during his time in the town
  • Tracey Emin - declares her love for the town she grew up in, with a pink neon sign ‘I never stopped loving you’ on Droit House (Thanet Visitor Information Centre) at Margate Harbour. Today she has returned to the town with artist studios
  • Vincent Van Gogh - taught languages at a private school in Ramsgate and is known to have drawn sketches of the view from his window
  • Dante Gabriel Rossetti - known as an artist and helped to found the pre-Raphaelite brotherhood, but also wrote poetry, he moved to live in Birchington. His grave marked by a celtic cross memorial stone can be seen in the village churchyard

AUTHORS AND POETS

  • TS Eliot - whilst in Margate convalescing he composed the key lines in his ‘The Waste Land’ poem, sitting at the now listed Nayland Rock Shelter looking at Margate Main Sands
  • Charles Dickens - Broadstairs’ most famous visitor, with references to his work seen across the town to this day that was his inspiration. From Bleak House (previously Fort House) on the cliff top overlooking Viking Bay, to The Old Curiosity Shop cafe and Dickens House Museum
  • John Buchan - it was whilst staying at North Foreland, Broadstairs that he started writing the first part of his novel ‘The Thirty-Nine Steps’, said to be inspired by the steps which lead to Stone Bay beach
  • Wilkie Collins - stayed in Broadstairs with Charles Dickens and Ramsgate. It is believed the North Foreland Lighthouse was the inspiration for the title of his detective novel ‘The Women in White’
  • Samuel T Coleridge - a major poet of the romantic movement, he was a frequent visitor to Ramsgate during the 1830s

ARCHITECTS

  • Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin and Sons - 19th century architect known for designing the interior of the House of Parliament, but it was in Ramsgate that he made an impact with much of the work still visible today. On the Wes Cliff he built himself a home, the now grade I listed ‘The Grange’ and ‘St Augustine’s Church’ the location of the family Chantry next door

ROYAL CONNECTIONS

  • Princess Victoria later Queen Victoria - it was whilst a princess, Queen Victoria, stayed in Ramsgate to recuperate from illness. Further visits to Ramsgate and Broadstairs took place during her reign
  • King George IV - following the warm hospitality that he received during visits, in 1821 he bestowed the harbour with ‘royal’ status, that to this day is still the only Royal harbour in the country

OTHER FAMOUS FACES

  • St Augustine - the first Archbishop of Canterbury landed near Ramsgate bringing Christianity to Britain
  • Benjamin Beale - assisted in the creation of the first sea bathing machine with canopies
  • Brenda Blethyn - one of England’s best loved actresses starring in theatre, film and TV including Little Voices and Vera, was born in Ramsgate, a supporter of it today
  • Thomas Russell Crampton - victorian engineer who brought a water system to the town and designer steam locomotive
  • Charles Darwin - the naturalist holidayed in Ramsgate in 1850
  • Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy - performed a week of shows in August 1947 at Margate Winter Gardens
  • Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall - had their wedding reception at the Nayland Rock Hotel in 1990
  • The Libertines - one of the country's biggest rock bands, having played at Margate’s Winter Gardens now own and run ‘ The Albion Rooms’ hotel in the town
  • John Le Mesurier - known for his role as Sergeant Wilson in Dad’s Army, the actor lived in Ramsgate 1970 – 1983. Previously in the 1960s he had lived in Trinity Square Margate with wife actress Hattie Jacques
  • Eric Morecambe - one part of Morecambe and Wise had his wedding reception at the Bull’s Head in Margate Old Town
  • Horatio Nelson - stayed in Hawley Square, Margate with Lady Emma Hamilton in c1801.
  • Oliver Postgate - Animator, puppeteer and writer, creator of Bagpuss, Clangers, Ivor the Engine and others lived in Broadstairs
  • ‘Lord’ George Sanger - famous circus impresario who formed the original Dreamland called ‘Hall by the Sea’. At Margate Cemetery is the horse memorial to his brother John Sanger
  • Joss Snelling - was it the bay (Joss Bay) named after this famous smuggler or was he named after the bay? He was introduced to Queen Victoria on a visit to Broadstairs as ‘The Famous Smuggler’
  • Margate Winter Gardens has hosted an array of top name acts since its opening in 1911 - The Beatles (Performed 2 shows a day for 6 nights between 8th and 13th July 1963)