Ramsgate’s Art Deco Western Undercliff lift to go under the hammer at auction

Going under the hammer - the Western Undercliff lift

The Grade II* listed, Art Deco lift at the Western Undercliff in Ramsgate is to go under the hammer at public auction with a £20,000 guide price.

The structure was built circa 1926 and had capacity to carry 20 passengers but has not worked for a number of years. It was listed for asset disposal by Thanet council in 2019.

The lift will be sold by Clive Emson auctioneers. Details are due to go live on the auction website at the end of this week.

Documents at the time said: “This is a Grade II* listed lift from the Westcliff Promenade leading down to Military Road. Now in poor condition, suffering with graffiti and vandalism. It is recommended for disposal by public auction.”

Despite the claim of graffiti, the lift is actually cared for by volunteers of the Western Undercliff Regeneration Group. In 2017 volunteers installed colourful artwork and new Perspex panels after working for around three months  with artists Lee Nicholls and Robert Onion to spruce up the lift.

Volunteers revamped the West Cliff lift but now the council is selling it Photo Brian Whitehead

The group managed to secure £1,200 from Ramsgate Town Council and permission from Thanet council to replace the Perspex panels in the shaft and create art at both the top and the bottom of the structure.

A spokesperson for the group said: “A local volunteer who is now in his 80s has been caring for the area at the bottom keeping it litter free, weeded and freshly painted. He has been doing this since we gave it the revamp. He also paints the white at the top by the lookout.”

The volunteer group has asked Clive Emson to remove the board from the Lee Nicholls art work and to be reimbursed for any damage to the painting.

A Thanet council spokesperson said: “The Western Undercliff former lift, in Ramsgate, will be disposed of via public auction, as agreed by Cabinet on 16 December 2019.

“The lift descends from Westcliff Promenade to Military Road and has been awarded Grade II* listing by Historic England. Now in poor condition, the lift is subject to graffiti and vandalism.   The sale will be conducted by Clive Emson Auctioneers on Wednesday, December 15 and the guide price is £20,000 plus.”

The lift is close to the Western Undercliff cafe and toilet block which was sold at auction by Thanet council in 2018 for £100,000.

In 2020 planning approval was given for a café, restaurant and flats at the site but this year the developer said the proposal might be ditched due to a row with Thanet council over further financial contributions.

Tim Burt, who is a partner in Western Undercliff Ltd, said negotiations with the council’s estates department had broken down over a demand for ‘excessive’ payment to allow an overhang on the new building which would go over council owned pathway.

There were also issues over the site being served by private sewers belonging to TDC and permission to connect the new build to them being denied.

The Ramsgate West Cliff Hall was also sold by Thanet council in 2018 for £225,000 – more than double the guide price. The sell-off  decision infuriated Project MotorHouse, headed by Ramsgate resident Janet Fielding, which has been working  since 2009 to acquire and renovate the hall to create cinemas; theatres; bars; restaurants, offices and youth facilities.

The West Cliff Hall terrace before Project MotorHouse cleared it (2018)

The property, at the Paragon, has been empty for 16 years. It opened in 1914 as a theatre, concert hall and promenade venue, adjacent to the Royal Paragon Baths.

The new owner is understood to have made several pre-planning applications to renovate the site but these have been unable to progress.


  1. What a joke, seems to be the speciality of TDC and RTC to let things rot and decay and then sell them off. Have they never heard of preserving assets and making the place look nice.

    Seems that any effort is too much effort! As said many times the whole of Thanet council needs laying off and all positions opened and re-applied for, it is a disgrace.

  2. The RTC allotments are also extremely well run and maintained. No complaints about RTC here. I often wonder about the very large white and blue Victorian house at the far end of Chapel place which has TDC signage but has been boarded up for years. Anyone know why they don’t “dispose” of that if it’s not needed? It must be worth a fortune by now.

    • Regarding the old defunct adult education centre I am trying ascertain if KCC (still) own this, and if so what plans are in place. A local resident contacted me about this.

  3. What a shame the group’s efforts have been ignored – they’ve done a beautiful job if keeping the structure looking attractive from all angles. Very sad that the auctioneer was so blinkered as to not check the public artwork they were hammering into.

  4. I think important information needs to be relayed by TDC when selling parts of the heritage to private groups and companies. The fact that they sold the nearby cafe for £100,000 then would not allow them to connect the toilet to the sewer is a bit wicked.
    There again, those who are intending to purchase these bits of heritage should do their due diligence to make sure there would be no issues later on. It would be no point in buying a lift shaft if TDC will not allow connection through to electricity for example.

    • Agreed, it would be a fantastic public asset to have it reinstated as a lift – but it would be a big risk to take it on if TDC are then awkward to deal with in achieving permission/ power. The undercliff is ideal for those using wheelchairs or who struggle with mobility/ energy levels with the wide, flat footpaths. Presumably it’s a good site for beach wheelchairs too as there are a few ramps down to the sand. I’d love to see a rental service for children and adults alike operating around here.

  5. Thanet council lot of Crooks so corrupt why not repair the lift with there judge grant …so many older and disabled people in the summer struggle up the stairs why is this even a question repair from all the council tax and grants from gov ..

  6. Who on earth would buy a broken lift and why?

    I’m depressed at this asset fire sale across our heritage estate.

  7. Absolutely gutted as a visitor to my beloved Ramsgate from the age of 8 and still visiting age 62,with my husband and granddaughter who loves Ramsgate, I remember using the lift everyday from Wellington crescent down to the beach and fair.The building is iconic and should be protected.

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