After spending a good hour walking Baxter on the shore before the 10 o’clock dog ban, we jumped in the car to make our way back home. Looking out of the car towards the sea I was struck by the sight of one of the shelters adorned with pink curtains. Something was going on and curiosity got me.
The girls and I walked over to the Blushing Pavilion and on arrival we peeped behind the curtains unsure if we were allowed to and not sure what we would find.
We discovered posters glued on the walls and took a closer look, they were all of years gone by, depicting Margate and Cliftonville as it would have been.
As the girls enjoyed running in and out of the curtains I took a closer look at each poster to see what I could find out.
On returning home I did a little bit of research to see if I could find out more about this initiative.
Beach shelters were a 19th century concept of promoting Cliftonville as a health-giving place where the benefits of sea water and, especially, sea air were unparalleled. This series of ‘public walks and pleasure grounds’ helped to establish Margate and Cliftonville as one of the most successful seaside resorts in the country. – Cliftonville Conservation
At the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century there were over 50 public shelters around the Thanet coast. They were built to encourage exploration and contemplation and were used to bring wellbeing and good health to the visitors. They were also intended to be social places, a meeting point if you like.
With the decline of Margate as a popular seaside resort, the shelters also suffered; of the 12 original shelters in Margate only 7 have survived. Their future is precarious, people don’t tend to use in today’s busy culture so new roles need to be found to guarantee their future.
This shelter is at Palm Bay in Cliftonville, it is an original Edwardian structure dating back to the 1920’s and was built alongside other local Art Deco constructions like Dreamland, The Walpole Bay tidal pool, the elevator and a handful of stand-alone villas and hotels.
The shelters are clear historical examples of leisure facilities that haven’t found usage within today’s ideas of fun, in which sitting around without a clear function, or without consuming, falls into the worst of capitalistic categories: boredom.
In the 19th and 20th century, visitors came for longer periods and temporarily moved their home and life. They would sit and contemplate the sea, they had the luxury of time and could wait for someone to come by and strike up a conversation.
Sexuality and the body
Shelters are constructions for outdoor leisure, they allow us to sit down and switch off. We can turn off our social media and loosen up in a predominant sensorial and pleasure driven atmosphere. Margate’s slogan “Porta Maris – Portus Salutis” (Gate to the Sea – Gate to Health) doesn’t just refer to the properties of sea water, clean air and sunshine but also to rest, relaxation and reconnecting mind and body encouraging its healing properties.
A positive, sensually- activated atmosphere stimulates humans to re-connect with themselves, to discover their bodies and to bond and grow affectively, and, if permitted, dismantle control over the body to establish a truly diverse society in relation to gender and sexuality.
No wonder that Margate’s “dirty weekend” is an unofficial slogan of the town.
Another shelter we spotted on our way home was the ‘Let’s go fly a kite’