People’s Museum plan put forward for Margate’s Old Town Hall

Margate Museum and Old Town Hall

A People’s Museum is being proposed for Margate’s Old Town Hall.

Campaigners wanting to save the property as a community building have announced the plans, based on ideas from people who attended two public meetings.

The People’s Museum will subvert the traditional idea of the museum as a place where curators display precious objects by inviting people from Thanet to show their own collections instead.

From toy cars to glass bottles and from postcards to Funko Pops, local people have their own collections and will be invited to share them in the People’s Museum.

As well as hosting changing exhibitions of interest to locals and visitors, the museum will provide behind-the-scenes services such as training in conservation skills, workshops in archive research, and apprenticeships in preservation techniques.

It will build a growing catalogue of the collections held by residents, creating a town-wide, community-owned museum collection to sit alongside the items owned by existing Thanet museums.

The idea, suggested by local photographer and collector Frank Leppard, was developed in a workshop held at Dreamland on Thursday, February 17.

The People’s Museum team, led by Jack Packman, will be making a formal expression of interest in acquiring the Old Town Hall, with the People’s Museum sitting alongside Margate Museum at the heart of the Old Town.

With expertise in community development, heritage projects, and social enterprise, they will develop the plans further before creating a Pop Up People’s Museum to test the idea further.

The Town Hall was built in 1897. The two storey building is joined to the older building by an overhead bridge which is now the home of the Margate Museum.

The Old Town Hall was used as the Magistrates Court and police station. Four cells and offices for the police were installed at ground level.  The Town Hall has been used by Margate Charter Trustees and the Mayor of Margate since 1974.

The Old Town Hall has been closed for several years due to health and safety concerns.

In 2018 the listed building was put on Thanet council’s asset disposal list. A report at the time said baseline costs were £911,400 for Margate Museum and Town Hall. It was agreed that Margate Town Hall would be marketed with the proviso that “consideration (is) given to preserving the Margate Charter Trustees presence.”

In early Spring of 2020 marketing withe advertising and approaches for support through English Heritage, Heritage Lottery Fund, Arts Council England, Association of Independent Museums and other independent museum trusts was due to take place. However the covid pandemic hit with national restrictions coming into force in March 2020.


  1. A petition was presented to TDC to take the old town and museum of the list it cannot be sold as it was presented to the people of Margate many years ago.are these the same people that attended a meeting when the proposal for a town council that were nasty to the charter trustees and the mayor at that meeting using words that I won’t repeat.Another lot who want to make money for themselves they want to do a people’s museum ask Dreamland they have plenty of space in the cinema building the old town hall will be needed for our own town council this sounds like another socialist movement.

    • Hi Brian, no not at all!

      The top floor of the building would be for the use of the charter trustees and then (when formed) a town council. It is important this building remains under public ownership.

      It is a fab building great location and a great opportunity to build on the incredible history working with the residents and the Trustees of the museum!

  2. Jack that was always the plan to use the upstairs for a town council if it happens I knew about that at least four or five years when the museum trustees were hoping to go forward finance was the problem at the time as finances weren’t available cost for repairs was very high this is nothing new at the moment the museum is only open weekends no sign of any school visits that under the stewardship of the late Ian Dickie these ideas were his and the trustees. It’s about the history of Margate it’s history when it first started many years ago as the first seaside town not a lot of space there to expand and plans to use the downstairs below the town hall into an education centre.

  3. Jack, I totally agree the building must remain under public ownership. What is the legal framework you propose to achieve that with?

  4. Jack, this building is the historical crown jewel for TDC, so it needs the most carefully considered plan. If you are able to gather sufficient experienced and knowledgeable minds, why not try to fix the wider problem, which I am now certain stems from TDC ignoring its assets for long enough that they become liabilities, which they can then give away to the next out of town arrival. With your experience of funding, could you not reform TDC’s Degeneration Department into a real Restoration Team, to secure funding from the multitude of sources available to retain, restore, repair and repurpose the many legacy assets that TDC owns. The public asset disposal process is corrupt, highly divisive and by definition totally unsustainable. With your leadership, we have the opportunity to stop the decay and fix this properly.

  5. Well it would be an advance on the prospective Burger Bar – or even another hostelry BUT though not a lot of people hereabouts seem to know it we have two un exploited cultural assets which would complement the ambitions for a creative corridor (and conform to the recent ACE/SELEP report on the Creative High Street) rather better : viz. 1) s o called J MW Turner who is q well known internationally and would even have conc urred with the OTH and 2) our archaeology as revealed in the Paul Drury Report which has been suppressed and has useful transmanche affiliations.
    Sadly the Powers forgot to consult the community over the first tranche of the Levelling Up Fund (in fact did their best to suppress a Margate submission) but one lives in hope that there will be further tranches and the present Museum will get a flourishing annexe idc.

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