It is almost impossible to exaggerate the vital role Ramsgate has played in England’s rich history, and yet the town’s importance is often overlooked.
It is, after all, right by the spot where Caesar’s invasion force came ashore, and where Napoleon sought to emulate him, but was dissuaded. It is also where St Augustine landed on his mission to establish Christianity in England.
In the nineteenth century, Ramsgate was one of the finest resorts in the land. As the numerous blue plaques that dot the town’s elegant crescents and squares attest, the town was once frequented by kings and queens; nobility; prime ministers; and authors, artists, scientists and radicals of the utmost eminence.
What of the stories behind those plaques, and those visits?
Secret Ramsgate explores a Ramsgate that deserves to be much better known: revealing why, for example, the future Queen Victoria almost died here, and examining the crucial role of a Ramsgate doctor in saving her life.
We find out why eminent resident Augustus Welby Pugin, architect of the interiors of the Palace of Westminster, was called ‘the devil incarnate’ by a Ramsgate clergyman.
We look at why another resident, Sir Moses Montefiore, built a replica of Rachel’s Tomb in Ramsgate, and exported a Ramsgate windmill to Jerusalem.
We explore the lives of Sir William Garrow, who first used the phrase ‘innocent until proven guilty’, and laid the foundation for our modern legal system; and of Mary Townley, one of the first female architects, and creator of many of the finest buildings in Ramsgate.
We relish all the colour of a town in which Caroline, estranged wife of George IV, allegedly dallied with a naval officer; where the abandoned wife of a previous Duke of Sussex sought refuge; Jane Austen set scenes of seduction; Charles Dickens thrilled at the sight of a lady lion tamer; and Karl Marx and Joseph Engels complained about the petit bourgeoisie flooding in on cheap rail tickets.