New Blue Plaque in Westgate dedicated to ‘cat’ artist Louis Wain

Margate Civic Society committee member Mike Thompson handing over Blue Plaque to house owner Chris MacDonald and the house with plaque in place

By Mike Thompson – Margate Civic Society

Margate Civic Society is pleased to announce that a blue plaque dedicated to Louis Wain, the Victorian artist who became famous for his drawings of cats depicted in humanised form, is now on display at 29 Westgate Bay Avenue in Westgate, where he once resided.

The Society was approached by the house owner asking if it would be interested in a joint venture to produce and display a suitable plaque. Agreement was quickly reached and the Society commissioned its regular Town Pride plaque manufacturer to produce one suitable for the occasion.

Louis Wain, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Louis Wain was born in London in 1860 and by the time he was in his twenties he had developed into a successful commercial artist. In 1882 his mother hired Emily Richardson as governess to her youngest daughter. Although ten years Louis senior, Emily and Louis fell in love and were married in 1884. Emily had a cat, Peter, which she adored and Louis had spent many hours with Emily drawing Peter.

She suggested that he submit the drawings to the owner of the Illustrated London News, Sir William Ingram, and in 1886 Sir William suggested for the Christmas edition, a double page spread of a cats Christmas party which Louis duly produced. The artwork included 150 cats in a variety of poses and activities. As we would say today, it went viral! The Louis Wain cat had arrived.

Louis Wain, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Tragically, just three years after their marriage, Emily died of cancer and Louis became very withdrawn. Sir William took pity on Louis, his mother and five sisters and being the owner of several properties in the up and coming Westgate on Sea, offered the family one of them, in Adrian Square. He subsequently occupied 7 Collingwood Terrace, later to be renumbered as 23 Westgate Bay Avenue, and finally 10 Collingwood Terrace – now renumbered as 29 Westgate Bay Avenue – where they lived from 1906 to 1916, until their return to London

His years in Westgate became his most productive and Louis should have been wealthy but he was a poor businessman and failed to protect his work by copyright. As debts mounted and the creditors closed in, Louis and the family moved back to London.

By 1925, with deteriorating mental health, Louis was certified insane with schizophrenia and confined to an asylum in Middlesex. Upon hearing of his plight, several notable people including a certain H G Wells made an appeal to raise funds for his on-going care and he was transferred to the Bethlem Royal Hospital in Southwark where he spent the next five years in a much more caring environment.

In his happy moments he would continue to draw his beloved cats and no doubt dream about them and his happy memories of walks along the promenade at Westgate.

He died in Napsbury Hospital on 4 June 1939 aged 78.

Interestingly and co-incidentally, a film entitled ‘The Electrical Life of Louis Wain’ was released earlier in the year starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Claire Foy. It is a truly delightful film with some great acting from the two leads.

I am indebted to Nick Evans, author of ‘Mayfair by the Sea’ – the story of Westgate and published by Bygone Publishing for much of the detail in this article.


  1. Not before time that Louis Wain is officially recognised in Westgate .This is long overdue and no doubt it was the recent film about him starring Benedict Cumberbatch that prompted this .
    The property that he is also well known by his fans to have in lived in at Adrian Square also qualifies for one of these well deserved plaques but least one plaque recognising him in Westgate is better than the none we had for far too many years .

  2. Great about time there must be more interesting people who deserve a plaque in Westgate.

    • Did you have anyone particular in mind ? I.e The late local,Actress Juliette Kaplan who played Pearl for many years in “Last of the summer wine” or Mick Jagger’s parents who lived for many years in Sea Road ,Westgate on Sea

      • A few years ago there was a strong rumour after David Essex was seen strolling around Westgate that he was moving there to a new build on Sea Road .
        Was there any truth to this rumour ?
        I do know that he was living at Seasalter / Whitstable prior to this story of him moving to Westgate

  3. Other worthy people who lived at one time in Westgate on Sea and deserve a Blue Plaque are Dame Vera Lynn and “ King of the skiffle” musician Lonnie Donegan who influenced so many people incl. namely a young Paul McCartney and John Lennon and also Brian May of Queen who picked a guitar for the first time after hearing Lonnie Donrgan’s music

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