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No. 40 Hawley Square is a grade II listed house with a more varied past than most. Our client bought the building from the local authority Thanet District Council, who had used it as their Parking & CCTV Monitoring Station for over 20 years. It was in a very poor state, riddled with asbestos, surface-mounted plastic trunking, and chipboard cabinets. It was hard to imagine a fascinating old house lay within the magnolia wood-chip wallpaper, fluorescent lights and thin brown carpet.

The building is now a comfortable 3-bed historic house with refurbished studio on the back, new garden terrace over, ideally suited to a live-work creative practitioner.  The walls have been stripped and prepared for redecoration by the new owner.   

Our conservation approach was to remove interventions we felt were harmful to the character, and repair or reinstate items which were broken or missing.  A simple example of this approach is in the staircase, which had lost its original spindles, nosings and the turned hardwood ends to the balustrade, all of which were carefully re-made to match remaining fragments. It's remarkable to be reminded how careless local authorities were with historic buildings as recently as the late 1990s.


Hawley Square, Margate




Follow the images to the left downwards.

Our research suggests that no. 40 was built as a 3-storey house with cellar and front area in the late 1830s to match the pre- 1821 neighbour at no. 41. There is no occupancy data before 1840, and there is a big gap in the plans between 1821 (empty plot) and 1852.

By 1840, a blacksmith named John Sitpard Witherden moved in, likely operating from a shed at the end of the back garden as seen on the 1852 plan, accessed off Herbert Place.

It is possible that he invested in changes to the building to accommodate level access for horses and other trades from the prestigious Hawley Square front to increase passing trade. To achieve this level access from the front, the raised ground floor was lowered to street level; we can tell this from remaining fragments and the way the floor is constructed.

Later came a variety of occupiers all suggesting there was some light industrial space on site, ie cabinet maker, auctioneer, sometimes with residential accommodation above.

This would make the transition to the HQ of the 4th Battalion The Buffs, East Kent Regiment as noted in Kelly’s Directory in 1907/08 and as shown on the 1936 map (noted as ‘Drill Hall’) virtually a cosmetic exercise, the main halls and access from the front already being in place.  We know that in 1910, the military instructor Sgt Alfred Cook, lived in accommodation over the Drill Hall below.

It is likely that when the military took over, they wanted to change the appearance, if not necessarily the plan form, turning the building front facade and front gateway from a relatively flimsy-looking timber shop front into a full-on ‘Windsor Castle’ show of strength. NB Windsor underwent a materially-similar beefing up exercise in the mid 1820s, under George VI, with architect Wyatville.

The 1960s photo of the front façade (left) shows cast iron gates still intact. From their appearance, it’s likely that the gates were contemporaneous with the rusticated stonework.  We can see on site evidence of their fixings set into the stonework, at both front and ‘inner’ archways.

The building remained in military use until at least the 1970s.After this time (date unknown), and until recently, the building was occupied by Thanet District Council, most recently as their Parking and CCTV Monitoring Station. Following permission granted in 1998, the iron external gates and inner (unknown material) gates were removed, a glazed timber screen installed and various internal alterations made by TDC.

This 1936 Map shows the Drill Hall with large Hall on the back of the house, completely filling the former garden site.

2018 view of the front facade from Google Streetview, showing the timber-framed, frosted glass screen 

2020 'on site' view of the 1998 timber screen being carefully removed.

The screen was removed, laid flat and moved backwards into the inner archway to create an external front entrance yard.

The conserved front facade in 2021, with gates re-installed and original windows stripped, repaired, and decorated with traditional linseed oil paint. The facade has been left 'dirty' in line with SPAB philosophy that old buildings should carry with them the ravages of time, use and weather.  Only in cases where dirt (such as acid soot or pigeon guano) is causing harm should it be removed.

This series of photographs shows 'before' and 'after' our conservation works. The Estate Agent Inigo dressed and photographed the house for sale. The image to the left is the completed Drawing Room, with three full-height sashes overlooking Hawley Square, and 1830s fireplace opened up and modern cupboards, electrical trunking, carpets and storage heaters removed. The walls were stripped, made stable and flat in lime plaster and left for the new owners to decorate.

These images show the roof of the 1970s studio on the back of the house. The dank an inaccessible roof (above) has been made into a large, private garden terrace.  The main moves were 1) change the plastic domed rooflights for flat glass that can be walked on; 2)  install decking to build up the surrounding levels flush with the rooflights; 3) install large sliding glazed doors from the 1970s rear extension to provide access. The historic c19th window has been retained, repaired and repainted in traditional, long-lasting linseed oil paint.

In the 1910, this was Sgt Alfred Cook's kitchen, at first floor level, over the open carriageway below.  We turned this room back into a kitchen, opened up the fireplace and installed simple shelving and cabinets. The room has been dressed in these images by Inigo, the Estate Agent, who have also taken the photographs.   

The conserved staircase (left) belies the terrible state it had been left in (below right). The 1830s hardwood handrails and newel posts were in place, but clad in solid panels. The baluster rails were all missing, and the stair nosings had been cut off to facilitate the asbestos tiles and carpet. We carefully spliced in all missing parts and repaired what remained.