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ADVENTURES IN SHRIMPVILLE
1. Pegwell Bay has long been associated with the famous shrimps caught there; as jokingly featured on this Edwardian postcard by
H&J West of Ramsgate. Marlinova Collection
Adventures in Shrimpville or
Pegwell Bay as a Seaside
This little booklet is about the Kentish resort of Pegwell Bay and its failed attempts to become a watering place to rival neighbouring Ramsgate. Now relegated to a quiet suburb of its big neighbour, the village of Pegwell had been a favoured resort in its own right from around the 1760s. This was due largely to the popular shrimp teas that were laid on at the Belle Vue Tavern with its tea garden overlooking the sea. The shrimps were caught locally in the bay and were turned into the famous shrimp paste at Banger's factory, 69-71 Pegwell Road, opposite the Belle Vue. A trip to sample the paste became an essential part of any holiday to the Thanet resorts and it was sold in ceramic pots produced by the Pratt factory with very colourful glazed lids showing scenes of Pegwell Bay, Ramsgate and Margate. In 1831, the Duchess of Kent and Princess Victoria came to sample the shrimp teas, and six years later (when Victoria had become queen) John Cramp, mine host at the Belle Vue, received a Royal Appointment as Purveyor of Essence of Shrimps in Ordinary to Her Majesty the Queen on 10th October 1837. Charles Dickens was another visitor to Pegwell and features it in his The Tuggs at Ramsgate from Sketches from Boz. The Tuggs visit Pegwell and ordered lunch in the quaint little garden (the Belle Vue) on the cliffs - small saucers of large shrimps, dabs of butter, crusty loaves and bottled ale.
One of the earliest references to a trip to Pegwell is in The Margate and Ramsgate Guide in Letters to a Friend 1797:
About a mile from Ramsgate is a fine large bay called Pegwell Bay. There is a beautiful prospect of the coast from France, the Downs etc from a house called the `Belle Vue', lately fitted up in this place, for the accommodation of parties to dine or drink tea. The finest shrimps I ever saw were caught here, and with bread and butter are a favourite regalement during the season.
Many come here for this purpose both from Margate and Ramsgate, during the season, and there are public breakfasts here every morning upon the same terms as at Dandelion, at which time the Margate band are engaged to attend.
The visitors to Pegwell came mainly by horse-drawn coach, although the village also boasted landing stages, the first being erected by Daniel Curling in 1784. Curling owned Chilton Farm until his death on 4th August 1818. His son, also a Daniel, then held it until his death on 28th September 1854 before the land, including some by the foreshore, was sold off.
Richard Phillips however, in his Guide to all the Watering & Sea Bathing Places (1804), was not enamoured of one particular aspect of Pegwell:
Pegwell, about a mile to the west of Ramsgate, is seated on a spacious bay of the same name, where the inhabitants catch various kinds of shell and flat fish, &c. Belle Vue, an inn intended for the reception of parties from neighbouring towns, is most agreeably situated here. Attached to it are pleasure gardens, and alcoves for summer visitors. This pleasant spot, as well as other places of public resort, at many of the sea-bathing places, is however, rendered disgusting, by the nauseating smell and appearance of the remains of the millions of marine insects, of the crab kind, which are devoured in thoughtless and unfeeling profusion by persons who, if they bore in mind the recollection of the cruel death which these animals are put to, would never be insisted on, by any person who reflects for a single moment on the subject, that a rational being ought, in mere wantonness, without any plea of necessity, to be the cause of hundreds of curious and harmless animals being barbarously boiled to death every time he sits down to satisfy his hunger!
In 1826 the first Pegwell Bay Regatta was held and two years later a visit to the village was recorded in the MS Journal of a Holiday in Ramsgate in 1828 including visits to Broadstairs and Margate:
This morning, after Emily had taken her bath, we hired a little boat to go to Pegwell. It is celebrated for shrimps and all the Margate `hoy' people go there in abundance. We saw 8 or 10 flocks of them. After a pretty tossing voyage, which made Mary and Emily look rather queer, of more than an hour's length (as the wind was completely ahead) we embarked on some rocks covered with sea weed, about a quarter of a mile from the inn. Mary stepped up to her ankle in mud, but the rest of the party made pretty good progress. We enjoyed our luncheon most heartily, having partaken of three plates full of shrimps and divers slices of bread and butter, both white and brown, and a jug of indifferent ale. We paid 4s 3d for the repast, which was 1s 1d for the three others and 1s for myself, having the daintiest appetite of the four. The water was so shallow when we returned to the beach that we could not get the boat within 30 yards of us, so the boatman, Sutherland, and myself tucked up our trousers to the knee, and waded up to the boat. Sutherland and the man having procured a board carried Mary and Emily, as we used to call `in a sedan', and then we, having pushed the boat some 10 or 12 yards further out, jumped in, put on our shoes and stockings and sailed home. Mary and Em were quite delighted with the adventure, although they were not quite well enough to enjoy their laugh at it on the way home, in consequence of an untimely swell on the surface of the ocean, which made it difficult for them to abstain from pale lips and wry faces. However, we reached the harbour (don't think I meant any pun) without serious accident, and having made a most hearty dinner, are now reposing in the drawing room, rather exhausted with the fatigue which our jaws, hands and limbs have undergone in the course of the day.
2. The Pegwell Bay in the early 1840s, showing the cove before it was reclaimed to form the Ravenscliff Gardens. The cove was reached by a sloping tunnel through the cliffs.
G.W. Bonner's The Picturesque Pocket Companion to Margate, Ramsgate, Broadstairs, and the Parts Adjacent 2nd Edition 1831 gives this description of Pegwell:
PEGWELL BAY, from its proximity to Ramsgate and Margate, is admirably calculated to attract the visitors of those places. The scenery in the neighbourhood is delightful and engaging, and, therefore, parties are continually arriving at the BELLE VUE INN to enjoy the views, and to regale themselves upon the shrimps caught in the bay, which are large, fine and high flavoured. The fishermen in this hamlet are well repaid for their labours.
3. A Victorian print showing the tunnel that once led down to the sea at Pegwell. Marlinova Collection
The 8th Annual Regatta, on Thursday 21st August 1834, was advertised in the Kentish Observer of 14th August 1834:
Belle Vue Tavern, Pegwell Bay: John S. Cramp most respectfully acquaints his friends and the public who may honour him with their support on the REGATTA