Thursday, 29 December 2011

Marvellous Margate?

Margate is one of those places that never seems to shake off its rather tacky image of a down-at-heel seaside town with its fair share of amusement arcades, 'kiss-me-quick' hats and peeling paint. As you pass the once fashionable Lido and the countless boarded up shops and grotty bedsits with their filthy nylon curtains and ugly double-glazed units of the greying plastic variety, it's not particularly hard to see why. But if you half close your eyes and look beyond the years of filth and neglect, you can just make out a town of grand Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian proportions. For this indeed was once a fashionable resort for the wealthy residents of London's middle classes. The golden age of the railways brought families with their maids and housekeepers to Margate in their droves. The wealthy bought themselves summer retreats here, and no expense was spared.

Friends of ours have, almost 130 years later, decided to move from London to buy one of these grand properties as a permanent home. Margate may desperately need a makeover, but if you are prepared to see its potential, property here is astonishing value for money. Our friends now live in a majestic Victorian home built in 1890 with incredibly high ceilings and much of the original features like panelling, architraves, ceiling roses and fireplaces all intact. When fitting period chandeliers to the downstairs ceiling, our friends discovered the original wires for bell-pulls that were employed by its very first occupants to summon their servants.

The house boasts five large bedrooms. The master bedroom is enormous and includes a large bathroom-en-suite. And even the rooms on the third floor have ceilings far higher than you'd expect.

I didn't get to see the cellar, but I'm reliably informed by my wife that it's large enough to house a reasonably sized gym - our friends' next project.

The house came with a quality fitted kitchen incorporating an impressive double stove and gigantic American fridge, as well as a separate utility room - all for the price of a one bedroom basement flat in Kentish Town, North London with just about enough room to swing a small cat.

Now that Tracy Emin has opened the lovely Turner Gallery - the town's one cultural claim to fame, one wonders how long it'll be before hordes of Londoners up sticks and seek affordable splendour in this much neglected neck of the woods.

Alex Pearl is author of Sleeping with the Blackbirds 

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