Last weekend Grandpa Chic, Lady Violet and myself ventured to Margate, lured by the many vintage shops I have seen on Twitter. In particular, Madam Popoff, who held a sale, and very kindly sent me a map to help me find more than just the seafront!
It was beautifully sunny and absolutely freezing – the wind actually prevented us from lingering too long along the promenade, so we will have to venture back on a less windy day! However, I wasn’t disappointed at the vintage shops on offer.
So, let’s get this out of the way. Margate has developed a poor reputation in recent years, for its social problems and boarded up shops. I used to go in the summer at least once a year when I lived in London…I have fond memories of splashing in the sea with my cousin, and visiting what was Bembom Brothers White Knuckle Theme Park. Even Del Boy visited Margate in one of the funniest ever episodes of ‘Only Fools and Horses’. But the park got smaller and smaller, then finally closed, the train fares went up, the beach got dirty and it generally became very run down. Everyone forgot about Margate.
Then Tracey Emin entered the art world, heralding from the forgotten town, and it started to creep back into people’s minds. It began to have festivals on the beach. Then the Turner Gallery opened. Thanet District Council decided to block the plans to build houses on the old Bembom Brothers (now Dreamland again) site, hoping to pay homage to the site’s history by restoring it to a semblance of its former glory (more about this another day). Then Mary Portas was on the telebox, telling everyone how Margate is the next big thing. So, worth a trip, I thought. And I wasn’t disappointed!
We parked up in the Morrisons Car Park (pay and display), which is really handy for Old Town, which is where all the vintage shops are located.
Pilgrim’s Hospice is one of my favourite charity shops. It has several themed shops, including a furniture warehouse at Canterbury and another Frocks n Stock shop in Canterbury. The stock is varied from vintage clothing to sewing patterns. I spied a 1950’s frock coat for a mere £20, but I am not buying clothing at the moment due to baby weight.
Entry to Margate Museum in the Market Place is a bargainous £1.50. Previous exhibitions include one on mods and rockers – apparently it was Margate beach that was the scene of the battle between the rivals in 1964 made immortal in the film ‘Quadraphenia’. (Ha! Stick that in your eye, Brighton!)
Madam Popoff’s sale did not disappoint. It’s so lovely to see vintage shops that stock a range of accessories and vintage clothing from different eras. There furs, hats, bags, brooches, girdles….I had not seen a range as good as this since Retrochick and Missy Vintage took myself and Penny Dreadful Vintage on a tour of Norwich in May 2011.
I am going to confess, I didn’t go into Betty B’s. It might have been something to do with the fantabulous cat’s eye glasses they had on display in the other window. I knew if I went in, I would buy them. So I resisted. Although I am secretly hoping they will still be there when I go next time…
Along with the beach, which is now a blue flag holder, and the vintage shops, there are also some lovely tea rooms, the Turner Gallery and the shell grotto to visit. Nearby there is Ramsgate and Broadstairs, as well as the historic RAF Manston museum, Battle of Britain Memorial and Dover Castle – plenty of things to fill a weekend up with.
Margate still has some social problems it needs to overcome, and Thanet District Council have acknowledged they have an important role to play in this. But I am really pleased to see a place where I have many happy childhood memories starting to come alive again. Margate has a little something to offer everyone, from the beach to shops to museums, and even more so when Dreamland re-opens (it will, it will!). I think everyone who has fond memories of Margate wants to see it get back to its glory days, want to see it succeed. I will certainly be going back soon!
A return train ticket to Margate from London is £10 via the Southeastern Trains website. The ticket hall is a wonderful example of Victorian architecture, and is located at the bottom of the promenade. Walk towards the Turner Gallery for Old Town. In a car, follow the A2 onto the M2 then A299. Madam Popoff has written a Vintage Guide to Margate, which you can see here. The map is available from Kiss Me Quick and Madam Popoff.
PS I have contacted the winner of the Eliza M Vintage sewing pattern giveaway – sorry if it wasn’t you, but I will be holding another giveaway shortly…watch this space!