Friday, January 11, 2008

The Great Storm of 1978

Jeremy Jacobs reminds us on his weblog, "that on January 11th, 1978 storms reeked havoc along the Kent Coast and Margate bore the brunt with it's famous jetty smashed to smithereens."

Photo of Broadstairs lifeboat courtesy of Michael Child.


Michael Child said...

I think that little booklet that Jeremy mentions should be compulsory reading for the architects of The Turner Centre in Margate and the Pleasurama Development in Ramsgate, I have just put up a few more pictures at that was first attempt at putting a link in apost so if it doesn’t work here is the web address

Tony Beachcomber said...

This storm at present is my all time favourite, but then global warming may pull a few surprises.

The jetty was blown away in spectacular style, I suppose a fitting tribute to a masterpiece of Victorian egineering. Even the first attempts of demolition had the sting of a dying scorpian about it. The structure known as the stem was supported on short piles with a collar that were screwn in. A longer pile then fitted into the collar. The rest of the structure was built on top. Reading the pre 1998 demolition engineers report in the MARGATE MUSEUM which I donated. There were a variety of constructions for the Jetty head. Constructed 1953 with extensions in 1877 and 1897 with different piling methods. In the report the piles that were constructed in 1853 were rivetted quarter sections and the only reason they failed was because the cross sections that kept the structure upright gave way. Which was the exact reason for closing the Jetty in 1974. As the uderwater survey predicted this would happen.

The MARGATE MUSEUM has the complete history and documentation of Margate Jetty, they also have a video of the 1998 demolition survey, best get in there quick before it closes as I doubt such info will not be readily available again.

Tony Beachcomber said...

A reminder of the aftermath of the storm for me will always be the smell of Jetty decking burning on bonfires on the main sands. The smell of burning pitch felt as if I was in another time witnessing the funeral of a old friend.

The metal detecting was amazing, in ever bay along the coast items dating back to the George 111 period were found. The main groyne at Palm Bay had been breached. This led to erosion of the beach cutting a gulley through the center of the beach. Metal detecting was hampered by the amount of .303 cartridges from the world war 2 activity . But digging through that lot wasn't a problem as the main prize was gold jewellry mainly Jewish. There was so much found I felt as if I was reliving a gold rush. Eventualy the groyne was repaired and the gulley filed in.
Anybody that metal detected over that period has a tale to tell. It would be interesting to hear from them.
Some of my finds are in the MARGATE MUSEUM, except for the gold as I sold it.

Michael Child said...

Tony lets get it scanned and I’ll publish it then it will be available for cheaply for anyone who wants it

Tony Beachcomber said...

Correction chaps, the Jetty head was under construction in 1853 not 1953.

Tony Beachcomber said...

Michael, best have a word with Bob at the Museum. The MARGATE MUSEUM is full of unpublished gems that if published could earn money instead of relying on grants.

Jeremy Jacobs said...


Thanks for the link.

Perhaps the next storm will adversely affect Westwood Cross. Perish the thought!

Anonymous said...

Great idea Michael.

I remember as a lad that the East Anglian Daily Times ran a series of yesteryear local history pieces.

One was about the strongman,wrestler,cyclist George Hackenshmidt (inventer of the "Hack squat") wo toured and wrestled anyone daft enough to take him on from the villages etc (Plenty of takers since daft was the qualification)

Then there was story about a man in the Suffolk Regiment First World War. "Kitten" Carver. An eye witness provided what would otherwise have been a lost story.

There was a German crying in agony in no mans land. This went on and on. Eventually 19 year old Carver fashioned a white flag and got on to the parapet of his trench and walked into no mans land.

He picked up the German like a child and then carried him to the German trenches. Not a shot was fired. Then a white flag appeared over the German trenches and a German Honour Guard paraded on the parapet and to salute young "Kitten" as he made his way back carrying a gift of brandy.

There must be loads of little gem stories like that lost for ever.

Tony Beachcomber said...

JJ I think the next big storm will test the stone pier. People seem to forget that construction of the stone pier took place in 1812 and had major repair work in 1953 and 1974. Strange as it may seem the stone pier suffered no damage to its structure in 1978. But I always look on the bright side.

Anonymous said...

How many new sheds were built in 1978? I remember the beach absolutely covered in timber, you couldn't see the sand.

Ken Gregory said...

The storm was great for another reason, we in the fire service were on strike, and some of the timber was used in open fires in front of the fire stations