Unexplored Kent: Margate Caves
Hewed into the chalk rock are the little known caves under Margate. Originally a chalk quarry from the 17th and 18th centuries these mines had a number of different uses over the years. The walls are adorned with murals, some of which date back to the Georgian period.
The caves were dug as a small chalk mine and around 2000 tonnes of chalk were removed. The mines were abandoned but then rediscovered and used to store wine and ice wells. In 1863 the caves were opened to the public for the first time.
If you look up carefully you will see a small opening to the caves. It is 1.7m by 1m and you can see marks where the rope has worn down the chalk either side of the opening. The methods and tools used in this mine have led archeologists to believe that it was in use from the mid to late 18th century.
Post- mining History
Recently, historians have disputed the belief that the caves were rediscovered pre 1800. When the property above the caves was sold to the Forster family in 1807 there was no record of underground features or the caves. Inside the cave however the initials C.F.F and the date 1808 have been graffitied into the rock. These initials presumably belong to Charles Francis Forster, the 13 year old son of the owner in 1808.
Shortly after their rediscovery, Forster had a proper entrance created and two sets of stairs constructed. Forster then started making changes to the caves for his own convenience. Giant murals were painted onto the walls of the caves these often depicted animals and military scenes.
In 1854, The South Eastern Gazette published this about the subterranean wonder in Margate:
“Under a portion of the garden is a curious cavern, part of which is fitted up as a wine cellar; it also contains an ice-well, and well of excellent spring water.”
The caves have been open on and off from 1863 until 2004. It was closed due to health and safety concerns. Six years later a planning application for seven two and three-storey buildings was submitted. The plans included filling in the tunnel with concrete.
Thee locals joined together in outcry to stop the permanent closure of the cave. The Friends of Margate Caves were formed and submitted a concept proposal outlining the reopening of the caves. They were successful and the caves reopened to the public in 2019.
Margate Caves are open from 10-5 and an adult ticket is £4.50. There is a modern cafe, shop and visitors centre on site.
Last Updated on 7 September 2022 by Michael