Some describe Arlington House flats in Margate as ‘ugly’ and may find it difficult to see any beauty in the 1960s block.
But when it was first completed in 1964 the site was advertised as “Britain’s first ‘park and buy’ shopping centre with luxury flats,” and marked the beginning of Margate’s redevelopment.
Arlington was designed by Russell Diplock Associates and built by Bernard Sunley and Sons, Originally the site was made up of 52 shops, a pub, a supermarket, a coach station, a filling station, a multi-storey car park and the 18-storey, 142-flat block.
Built with white concrete cladding that had shiny flecks of mica, Arlington House was literally a sparkling example of the modern architectural style known as Brutalism. (Béton-brut is a French term that means “raw concrete”).
The crinkled facades of the building reflect the breaking waves of the Margate Sands and the flats have both beach and countryside views.
Inside the ground floor lift lobby is detailed in Carrara marble, there is frameless glass to concrete fenestration and the double wood and glass entrance doors have brass fittings.
A teak and brass concierge lodge greets residents at the end of the substantial corridor style entrance hall.
The original scheme included a theatre, terraced restaurant and rooftop swimming pool with a glass floor.
Arlington Square shopping arcade, and stores on All Saints Avenue and Marine Terrace, sat alongside parking for 500 vehicles and petrol filling and taxi rank facilities.
— This Brutal House (@BrutalHouse) October 15, 2015
The luxury flats in Arlington House were originally rented with lease terms of 3,5,or 7 years.
A 1965 advertisement for Arlington House highlights services including high-speed lifts, refuse disposal, 24 hour porterage and car parking facilities.
Rental costs, (exclusive of rates) were:
- 1 bedroom from £295 per year
- 2 bedrooms from £325 per year
- 3 bedrooms from £345 per year
The Hawkwind song High Rise, released in 1979, is said to have been written by band member Robert Calvert when he lived at Arlington. Calvert died of a heart attack in 1988, aged 43, in Ramsgate, and was buried in Minster Cemetery.
Following a fatal fire on the 16th floor in 2001, gas supply within the block was removed. Electricity (and solar) are now used.
Plans for a Tesco superstore at the site, which were vehemently opposed by residents, were ditched in 2014 due to trading conditions.
The car park was fenced off until Dreamland/Arrowgrass brought it back into use earlier this year following an agreement with lease holders Freshwater.
The shops moved from the arcade many years ago, the last being the famous Joke Shop and the Bong Shop which moved into the town in around 2011 (check out The Joke Shop here). In 2016 demolition workers were on-site and the iconic arch of the arcade entrance removed.
The lease for the block is currently held by Freshwater but day-to-day management is in the hands of Trinity (Estates) Property Management Limited.
But Arrowgrass, which last year pumped £25 million into the refurbishment of Dreamland, is now looking at “significant” investment in the site as part of a masterplan for Dreamland and Arlington.
Flats in the block have recently been marketed at around £110-120,000.