Work begins to restore Dalby Square communal gardens

How it will look Image Sam Causer/Liam Nabb

Work has started this week to the sea end of Dalby Square in Clifonville to remove the car park and restore a communal garden.

A public consultation took place in Autumn 2016 and survey responses revealed that 98% of people had an interest in the environment of Dalby Square; 88% wanted to improve the appearance of the north (car park) end and 70% said they would be happy if the car park were removed to re-create a garden.

The majority view was that the car park, installed in 1958, was an eyesore, poor use of space and made a relatively small contribution to the parking needs of the area. The site provides roughly 13% of parking spaces in the Square, and 9% of those including the whole of Dalby Road and Arthur Road.

The scheme is part of The Dalby Square Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI) which began in January 2013 and will end this year.  It is a £2.5million scheme dedicated to preserving the unique heritage of Dalby Square.

The car park was traditionally part of the overall Formal Gardens.

Through the scheme, Thanet council aims to reconnect the car park space with its historic past as part of Dalby Square’s open space.

Planning permission was granted in June 2017.

Cllr Lesley Ann Game (pictured), Cabinet Member for Housing and Safer Neighbourhoods at the council, said: “Dalby Square is at the historic heart of Cliftonville West and the car park has a negative effect on the townscape of the Square and Clifftop. The proposed communal garden will act as a focal point and contribute towards the wellbeing of the vibrant local community.

“From the mid-nineteenth century, the residents of Dalby Square have placed great value on the garden enclosure as an open green space and important social and recreational facility so it’s great to be restoring it to its original purpose.”

Dalby Square is one of only two surviving enclosed garden squares in Margate and this work in intended to enhance the Dalby Square Conservation Area and enrich community life.

Image Sam Causer/Liam Nabb

Sam Causer, of Architects Studio Sam Causer, said: “We’re delighted that work has started on site this week to reconnect the gardens of Dalby Sq and the clifftop landscape of Margate Coastal Park. The consultation we led over several weeks revealed there’s a great love for Margate’s historic parks and gardens, which were designed and laid out over a century ago to foster health, well-being and strengthening of bonds between people and communities.”

Improvement works are funded by Thanet District Council and the Heritage Lottery fund.

History of the Square

1860s Thomas Dalby Reeve, Mayor of Margate (1873-75) and founder of Reeves Mineral Water Manufacturers acquires 2.5ha of arable land and began the large-scale development of Cliftonville, including the 0.3ha enclosure of Dalby Square and surrounding buildings.

1863 Restrictions placed on the use of the enclosed land of Dalby Sq: “The enclosure should remain an ornamental garden”, and “no buildings of any kind should be erected save for a boundary fence not exceeding five feet in height”.


1872 First illustrative recording of the garden, laid almost entirely to lawn with vertical open paling forming a boundary

1880s and 1890s Evidence that the majority of the area was laid as lawn tennis courts.

Early 1900s Maps and Photographs show tennis courts to the south and a croquet lawn to the north.

1907 Land sold at auction, described as tennis courts and croquet lawn for public and private use.

In 1910

1911 Photos show a mature boundary hedge alongside the boundary palings.

1919 Land sold to John Henry Iles.

1923 Five formal hard tennis courts with high wire fencing, with a small pavilion towards the north east.

1934 Land sold to Margate Estates Company Ltd,(to become, in 1975, Associated Leisure Company Ltd).

1960s Northern end of the Gardens turned to car park, following planning application in 1956.

1976 Sold to Thanet District Council.

Mid 1970s Southern and central areas had reverted from tennis courts to ornamental garden.

2003 The Dalby Project (residents’ association) successfully bid for money to develop the southern and central areas as an ornamental garden and children’s playground, which was carried out in 2005

2012 Thanet District Council secure £1.9 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund through their Townscape Heritage Initiative for a restoration project in the square and surrounding buildings, aimed at improving and re-enforcing the historic character.

2013 Kent Gardens Trust recommend that the square is included in the local list of heritage assets.

2015/16 Some of the THI fund was used to erect new railings around the perimeter of the southern and central areas of the garden

Sam Causer/Liam Nabb

2016/17 Some of the THI fund was allocated towards improving the northern (car park) end, resulting in this planning application.

April 2018 Work starts to convert the car park back into gardens

1 Comment

  1. I hope that Cllr Game will now get the speed limit around the square gardens and adjoining roads made a 20 mph zone, 30 mph is too fast for kids crossing over to the play area. The ‘Children Crossing’ signs in the square are faded badly so not noticeable by drivers.

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