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Written by JulieW
(5/28/2007 11:42 a.m.)
About a year ago she was taken from school, and an establishment formed for her in London; and last summer she went with the lady who presided over it to Ramsgate;
Ramsgate was the place Georgiana Darcy nearly came to grief. While there Mrs. Younge and Wickham conspired to effect an elopement: Georgiana’s fortune of £30,000 was no doubt Wickham’s objective ,as well as the opportunity to wound Darcy to the core.
For the past year or so I’ve been on a little mission to find out as much as I could about this place during the early 19th century. I must admit that its been a bit of a hard slog as there is very little information out there,and the local library, which contined a wealth of information on Ramsgate history, was destroyed ( along with all its contents) by fire in 2004.
However, with the help of three contemporary guides including ,Picturesque Views of Ramsgate(1817) and The New Margate , Ramsgate and Broadstairs Guide 1809 I can hopefully give you some idea of the place Darcy judged was a pleasant place to allow Georgiana to spend her summer season.
Let's set it in some context.
Here is a map of Ramsgate and its surrounding area, in the early 19th century from John Feltham’s book,A Guide to all the Watering and Sea Bathing Places (1816).
Ramsgate is in Kent and the area in which it is situated is known as the Isle of Thanet. It is 78 miles SE of London, 20 miles from Dover, 17 miles from Canterbury and four miles from Margate.
It did not develop as rapidly as its neighbour, Margate, because the transportation links to London were not as good. Margate had direct links to London by road and by sea;
Margate: This town from its peculiar position is admirably calculated for an easy intercourse with the metropolis, either by land or by water. Hence it is enlivened by a more numerous company than any other sea-bathing place in England; and the4 changes are so frequent that new faces are to b seen daily, and even hourly. This distance by the common road is only 72 miles; and there are vehicles innumerable of every size and description. The annual number of passengers is now about 20,000
Page 4 Feltham, as above.
The same guide gives a very different description of Ramsgate:
This which is a hamlet belonging to the parish of St Lawrence is situate about 4 miles to the south of Margate in a valley opening to the south-east and commands a delightful prospect of the downs and British Channel with a view of the coast of France….
But although this may be considered as the rival of Margate and is filled with very respectable company, t is never likely to supplant that favourite place; the point of land between them, the North Foreland being sometimes weathered with difficulty; and in consequence three fourths of the people who visit Margate by voyages on water are induced to stop there.
So ,Darcy appears to have chosen ,or at least approved, of Georgiana spending her summer at a quite quiet, retired place by the seaside.It was certianly not as racy a palce as Bath or Brighton for example.
Here is a description of Ramsgate from The New Margete, Ramsgate and Broadstairs Guide (1809):
It was antiently (sic) a small poor fishing-town, built in the form of a cross, consisting only of a few houses badly and meanly built, some of which are still remaining.
Since the year 1688, through the successful trade which the inhabitants were concerned in to Russia and the East country, it began to be very much improved; the old houses were many of them raised, and made more commodious dwellings; and a vast number of new ones have been built, particularly in Albion Place, Sion Hill, etc after the modern taste. And since sea-bathing been found indispensably necessary, and indeed the only possible remedy in various diseases, Ramsgate has been much resorted to, during the summer season. A new handsome street and other buildings have been added to it within a few years, and it has now many large and elegant edifices, purposely calculated for the accommodation of the visitants to this improved watering-place.
So, what could Georgiana do while she stayed at Ramsgate?
Let’s look again at the Guide to see what attractions Ramsgate boasted at the time.
Georgiana could go walking on the Pier:
THE PIER, which must be considered as the chief mine of wealth to Ramsgate, is a large and most magnificent structure, built of Portland and Purbeck stone, at the expense of several hundred thousand pounds, and proving of greater national utility than the general opinion ever supposed, it claims a particular description in this place.
This great work was begun in the year 1749, after the designs of William Ockenden, esq. and Captain Robert Brook; it extends near 800 feet into the sea before it forms an angle, and is 26 feet broad at the top, including the parapet; its depth increases gradually from 18 to 36 feet; the south front is a polygon, its angles five on a side, each 450 feet, with octagons of 60 feet at the ends, and the entrance 200 feet. But after this noble piece of masonry had been erected at so considerable an expense, the harbour, which contains 46 acres in its area, as the work of the piers advanced, the space inclosed, and the waters rendered more quiet, and in that respect more fit for the purposes of an harbour, became filled with filth or mud, having no rivulet or backwater to clear it out again. This increased so much, that had not an effectual remedy been found, the harbour would have been in a few years entirely choaked up, and instead of a receptacle for shipping become a dry land.
In this distressed situation of affairs, the celebrated Mr. Smeaton was called in, and he rightly concluding that this apparently insurmountable object could only he removed by a back-water, he directed that a cross-wall should be built in the uppermost part of the harbour, so fitted with sluices that the pent water might play upon the sand-bank, and force it out beyond the extent of the piers.
This was effected in 1779, the operations of which were so amazingly powerful, as to scour away the sullage down to the chalk. After the bason and cross-wall had been erected, the harbour became subjected to such a degree of agitation and inquietude from the force of the waters in hard gales of wind, as to render it more eligible to vessels of burthen to ride it out in the Downs, than come in to this harbour in such an unquiet state.
To obviate this difficulty, an advanced pier of 400 feet was carried out from the extremity of the east head, which has had the desired effect, and facilitated the entrance of ships in hard gales of wind. A large dry dock has been erected, and capital storehouses have been built for housing the Cargoes of ships.
To this account of improvements, it may still be added, that since the year 1792, a new light-house, built with stone, has been erected on the west head, with Argand lamps and reflectors, and a handsome house for the harbour-master, with a new and elegant building…
The Piers form a most delightful walk, commanding a view of the Downs, the coast of France, with the towns of Deal and Sandwich, and many of the hills and fruitful valleys of East Kent.
Picture of "Jacobs Ladder":above the cliff are seen the tops of the smart houses of Nelson's Crescent and Sion Hill
Sion hill,and the harbour when the tide was out
She could also visit the Assembly Rooms (and the hotels).
View from the window of the Kings Head Inn, showing the East India Coffee house and the Castle Tavern
The Assembly room is situated near the Harbour and is a neat structure with the conveniences of coffee tea billiard and card rooms; the ball-rooms are under the direction of Mr Le Bas, the Master of Ceremonies; and for better information we insert the following Rules and Orders for admission etc.
Ramsgate Assembly Rooms
I. That every person to be entitled to walk and play at cards in the rooms dueinthe season do subscribe 7 shilling and 6pence
II . That the balls be on Tuesdays, the card assemblies on Mondays and Fridays and on Sundays the rooms be open for tea.
III . That there be no dancing whatever in the rooms on the nights of the card assemblies.
IV. That on Tuesdays subscribers do pay 2 shillings and 6 pence admittance and non-subscribers 5 shillings and on Mondays, Fridays and Sundays subscribers do pay 1 shilling admittance and non subscribers 1shilling and sixpence. Each person calling for tea at ten o’clock to pay 1 shilling.
V. That all persons playing at whist, quadrille, commerce or loo do pay 10 shillings and 6 pence for two packs of cards; 7 shilling s for a single pack; and lottery tables to pay 15 shillings. No other game to be played in the rooms without the permission of the Master of Ceremonies
VI .That no person be permitted to play with cards which had been left by another party
This assembly rooms and tavern is now kept by Mr Goodyer who exerts his best endeavours to give satisfaction to all who honour him with their company. Besides the above, there are several other inns well calculated for the accommodation of company and travellers from which we must particularise the London Hotel and the kings Head which are both excellently conducted by their respective proprietors Mr page and Mr Bear.
Georgiana could also have gone to one of the circulating libraries in town:
Mrs Witherden has lately erected a most elegant and spacious library in Cliff Street Sion Hill which commands an uninterrupted view of the Downs and French Coast; the extensive rooms over this library age appropriated as a boarding house for a limited number which we have noted are very select and of the most desirable description; in the front of the building is a tasteful garden and shrubbery belonging to Sir William Curtis, whose noble mansion is situated very near it.The assiduous attentions of Mrs Witherden to her numerous subscribers and boarders are too well known to need any comment.
Burgess’s valuable and extensive library is in High Street near the market and has attached to it a good shop well supplied with stationary, jewellery, toys etc
She could also have gone sea bathing:
The place for bathing is on the sand at the back of the pier, where the machines ply after the same manner as at Margate. Here are good waiting rooms for the bathers but they are neither so large or so well situated for the purpose as those at Margate and are totally divested of newspapers and other sources of accommodation.
Mr Syson of the bath house has erected four baths (the Isabella Baths –JW) for warm sea water also a plunging and shower bath, which are so contrived as to have a continual supply from every tide; attached to them are very convenient waiting and dressing rooms; the whole are completed on such a plan as to be much approved and recommended; and we sincerely hope that they will well reward the proprietor for tehgreat care and expense necessarily attendant on so extensive and beneficial an establishment.
Picture of the Isabella Baths
So- walking, reading, shopping, attending small assemblies,drinking tea and bathing were the order of the day at Ramsgate. There was no theatre and much fewer visitors than Margate. Darcy must have thought Georgiana would be safe in such a retired place with few visitors and a careful chaperone. Poor man.
I’ve also looked at JA's letters to see if I can discern any particular partiality or dislike of the place on her part. She is known to have visited Ramsgate in 1803,probably visiting her brother Frank who was stationed there, and she has another link to the town in Mary Gibson who was eventually to become Frank’s first wife and was born at Ramsgate.
Maggie Lane in her book Jane Austen's England wrote:
Jane Austen's references to Ramsgate in both letters and novels are consistent with a personal knowledge of the place,which she evidently disliked...
However, JA’s comments about Ramsgate are distinctly equivocal,IMHO. In her letrers she comments on visitors coming to and from Ramsgate while she is staying with her brother Edward at Godmersahm,again in Kent, and she specifically records John the Coachman’s impressions of the place:
John is just come from Ramsgate and brings a good account of the people there
Letter to Cassandra 30th August 1805.
There are also these two rather dismissive comments to consider .Look at this from her letter to Cassandra ,dated 25th September, 1813:
Edward Bridges unexpectedly to breakfast with us in his way from Ramsgate where is his wife, to Lenham, where is his church (Bridges had the living at Lenham)... They have been all the summer at Ramsgate for her health, she is a poor Honey – the sort of woman who gives me the idea of being determined never to be well – and who likes her spasms and nervousness and the consequences they give her, better than anything else
and this one from her letter to Cassandra of 15th October of the same year:
Ed. Hussey talks of fixing at Ramsgate – Bad Taste! – He is very fond of the Sea however – some Taste in that – & some Judgement too in fixing on Ramsgate, as being by the Sea.
Frankly, from these comments I can't tell if she liked the place or not. ..
Anyhhow, I thought you'd like to know more of the place where Darcy and Georgiana were so sadly deceived by Mrs Younge and Wickham :-)
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