A harbour stroll at Ramsgate

Pugin kiosk

Cervia Sundowner Windlass

Channel Dash memorial Dunkirk memorial Museum building closed

Ramsgate time Ramsgate museum building Ramsgate maritime museum late 2011 - closed sign

Down at the far bottom right-hand corner of England, Ramsgate is a pleasantly unchanged little harbour and seaside resort town.

It’s also a place with a lot of history: Hengist and Horsa travelled here from Jutland in the 5th century to bring in the pagan Anglo-Saxon age in England, and this is also where St Augustine landed on his mission to reconnect England with Christianity and Rome.

So it’s not at a bad town to call into for an afternoon with friends. Strolling around reveals one surprise after another – so many that if you have an eye for these things you’re likely to end up feeling pleasantly bemused by the place.

For example, there’s a wonderful 1880s-built Home for Smack Boys, a splendid jumble of architecture Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau architecture, and even the chimney pots catch the eye. The only real disappointment is that the maritime museum is closed, and there is no outward sign that it’s likely to re-open anytime soon.

But the Ramsgate feature that most caught my eye on our latest visit was this seaside kiosk originally designed by the legendary architect and founder of the Gothic revival Augustus Pugin (1812-52). Imagine my amazement – the man who was responsible for much of London’s Houses of Parliament also drew this tiny pointed seaside shop selling sweets and ice-creams to holidaymakers. It’s almost too much to take in.

A little research reveals that Pugin was a sailor and liked the company of sailors, a class of man he first met when working as a youngster painting scenery for London’s theatres – I gather sailors were often employed back stage because of their knowledge of knots and using lines generally.

From a review published by The New Criterion I learned that having been intrigued by the sailors he met, the  young Pugin bought himself a boat and began wearing clothing based on a seaman’s rig – a habit he kept up for the rest of his life.

From the Age of Umber website, I discovered that by the time he was 20, Pugin had already been a smuggler, been shipwrecked, been furniture designer to the King and been jailed for debt – and had also become a widower with a baby daughter.

Towards the end of his life, he ran a part-time salvage operation from his house on the cliff above Ramsgate, as well as doing a bit of smuggling on the side. And some people call me hyperactive…

Win a Native American birchbark canoe in Penboscot museum raffle

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The birchbark canoe being raffled by the Penobscot Maritime Museum; photos courtesy of Jeff Scher

Penobscot Maritime Museum officials are raffling what I’m told is is a very fine replica of a Wabanaki
birchbark canoe of the early 19th century.

The Wabanakis were the indigenous people of Maine and New Brunswick, and included the Micmac, Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Malecite and Abenaki tribes, and the canoe certainly sounds splendid from the description. It’s 16ft overall and made from birchbark lashed to white cedar gunwales using split spruce root, with seams sealed with a mixture of pine sap and fat.

It was built at the museum by a team of Native Americans from Maine and New Brunswick, led by Maine boatbuilder Steve Cayard; and the proceeds of the funds will be used to pay for another similar boatbuilding project at the museum in 2010.

Click here for details and to buy tickets: www.penobscotmarinemuseum.org/pressreleases.html

Fishing in Cornwall exhibition

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Photos from the Fishing in Cornwall exhibition. Top, rogueish fishing crew at Mousehole, circa 1910, taken by an unknown photographer; a probably publicity photo of fishermen in heavy weather gear from Mevagissey in around 1920 shot by S Dalby-Smith; and fishermen ‘tracking’ or towing a boat out of the harbour by hand at Porthleven, captured by A H Hawke of Helston

An impressive photographic exhibition exploring fishing in Cornwall in the days of sail and oarhas just opened at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall at Falmouth. Click on the thumbnails above to get a better look.

The beginning of the 19th century marked the last days of fishing by sail and oar around the Cornish coast, but it was also a time when photography came into wider use. This exhibition includes photos of the various types of boats that were used; the catching, landing, and marketing of the fish; the communities involved; and of the skills necessary to support the industry.The photos come from the Pentreath Photographic Archives.

The exhibition runs until 30 May.

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