Back in the 1960’s, two important historic buildings, East Cliff Lodge and Nethercourt were demolished much to the concern of many local people. There was then a proposal to demolish two further historic buildings: Queens Court reputedly the oldest house in Ramsgate and Townley House, where the owner wanted to build a petrol station. A group of local people, concerned about this blatant disregard for our historic built heritage, got together and successfully campaigned to save these historic buildings. As a result, The Ramsgate Society was formed in 1964 to safeguard Ramsgate’s architectural heritage and the Society will soon be approaching its 60th anniversary.
Since then, there have been many other initiatives and achievements including the establishment by Historic England of a Register of Buildings at Risk, the publication of the Ramsgate Millennium Book, the restoration of the Italianate Greenhouse, the Ramsgate Town Trails, The Ramsgate Society Blue Plaques Scheme, the replanting of Madeira Walk and the superb restoration of the 14 Ramsgate Promenade Shelters - which had been earmarked for demolition by Thanet District Council.
The Society has gone from strength to strength and now has some 700 members and supporters. We are a Registered Charity and were one of the original founder members of Civic Voice, the National Organisation for Civic Societies in England.
Today, the Society works to protect the quality of life for local residents including their social and economic well-being. In 2019, working with the Spencer Square Residents Association, we delivered a project to showcase Vincent van Gogh’s short time he spent in Ramsgate in 1897. This culminated in the installation of a superb bust of the artist in the Spencer Square Gardens, donated to the Society by the sculptor and painter Anthony Padgett and installed by Ramsgate Town Council.
We work with schools, community groups and charities on activities that include tree planting, litter picking, landscaping and maintenance of public spaces, town planning and design, signage, transport, parking, wildlife, nature, sport and leisure, and coastal issues. We also host an annual series of public talks on matters of interest to Ramsgate residents.
The Society is also a partner in the Ramsgate Heritage Action Zone created by Historic England in 2017, using the town’s heritage assets to support Ramsgate’s economic and cultural regeneration. We are active members of the Ramsgate Heritage Action Zone Board and the Ramsgate Heritage and Design Forum, which scrutinises and comments on planning applications in the town.
The lack of investment in our public realm over the last 40 years has made the need for active civic societies just as relevant than it was in 1964. Current projects in the pipeline include the restoration of the Clock House in Pier Yard as a Maritime Heritage Centre, the renovation of the Festival of Britain Fountain, Heritage Open Days 2020, and a Conservation Area Tree Planting scheme to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the designation of the Ramsgate Conservation Area. The COVID-19 Pandemic has temporarily caused some of our activities to be put “on hold” but we are already planning to start moving things forward again as soon as the current restrictions have been lifted.