Margate’s Fort Road Hotel to open this August

Fort Road Hotel will welcome guests from August 1 (Photo Fort Road Hotel jobs page)

Margate’s Fort Road Hotel will open its doors to the public this August.

The renovation of the property has been a pioneering venture from co-founder of Frieze magazine and fairs, Matthew Slotover; private residential developer Gabriel Chipperfield – son of designer David Chipperfield- and artist Tom Gidley who has lived on the isle since 2019.

Fort Road hotel is a landmark building of historical significance to Margate, being one of the last buildings the artist Turner would recognise and is understood to have stayed in.

Bought at auction four years ago in an advanced state of decay, the building has been rebuilt by County Construction and reimagined by the three partners and Fleet Architects with an additional top floor and terrace to create a 14-room hotel. Distinctive colour schemes, carefully selected artworks and period furniture adorn the hotel which also has a guest-only roof terrace offering 360° panoramic views of Margate.

Photo Frank Leppard

The 14 bedrooms offer a variety of sizes and styles with many rooms having direct sea views. Every room features a bed made from natural fibres, handmade linen curtains, a selection of vintage artworks, interesting books and a bespoke wood and marble vanity unit. The top floor is an addition to the original building and architecturally distinct, each of its four rooms featuring high ceilings, oversized sliding windows, full length Kvadrat felt curtains and a selection of mid-century furniture.

Photo Isabelle De Ridder

The bathrooms have floor to ceiling hand-made tiling from Mexico, contrasting against herringbone Carrara marble floors. Grooming products from the town’s Haeckels are available to guests.

Art is a key factor in the interior design with the ground floor and basement bar featuring works by contemporary artists with close connections to Margate including Tracey Emin, Lindsey Mendick, Hannah Lees, and others, and a specially commissioned mural by Sophie Von Hellermann will fill the stairway between the restaurant and two-storey basement bar.

There are also 20th century abstract and figurative works throughout the rooms including oil paintings, gouaches, watercolours and prints. Gathered from across the UK, Europe, Scandinavia and the US over the last two years by Tom Gidley, many of the pieces are by previously unknown mid-century female artists who, he says, deserve fresh appraisal.

A view of the hotel from 1975

The corridors are lined with a large collection of Margate-themed vintage photographs, postcards, memorabilia and antique maps. Ranging from the mid 18th to mid 20th centuries, they form a unique and rich social history of the town, its residents and visitors.

The 35-cover ground floor restaurant will serve breakfast, lunch, tea and cake, and dinner, offering seasonal home-cooking with a focus on quality ingredients sourced from local suppliers. The herringbone terracotta tiled floor dominates the room, with vintage wooden tables surrounded by Thonet chairs carefully set out creating a warm and informal dining space. A tiled bar bookends the room, while the snug has a wood burning stove.

Head Chef Daisy Cecil will collaborate with consultant Gioconda Scott on a menu inspired by late 19th and early 20th century female food writers including Isabella Beeton, Elizabeth David and Jane Grigson. This inspiration is supplemented by their combined affection for Kent, with its rich tapestry of flavours, coming fresh from the vine, hop, land and sea.

Photo Isabelle De Ridder

Throughout the year, the kitchen will host a series of chef residencies, collaborations and workshops with local foragers and micro-producers.

The menus will offer simple cooking using produce of British seasonality blended with a hint of the Mediterranean flavours Gioconda was raised around.

Fort Road Hotel subterranean mezzanine 60-cover bar is a double height room which offers a third space for guests to visit within the hotel. Alongside the open area, there is a 24-cover bookable vault for special occasions.

General manager Tom Fogg will be the first port of call for guests staying at the hotel.

Fort Road Hotel will open its doors on August 1, with reservations live now.


The journey to renewal

The hotel was compulsorily purchased by Thanet council in May 2010. Initial plans for the site were for a boutique hotel.

In 2011 more than 20 informal enquiries from developers, hotel owners and architects were made to TDC in relation to the property. A planning application to turn it from bedsits to a hotel was granted with the aim of linking its regeneration to Turner Contemporary.

In a TDC report at the time it stated: “ The Fort Road Hotel (previously the Fort Castle Public House) is one of the last surviving buildings in the area today that the artist JMW Turner would recognise. Turner spent 15 years ‘weekending’ in Margate with Sophia Booth (whose house was opposite) and, as a noted drinker, it seems inconceivable that he did not visit the establishment.”

The property is listed on maps of Margate going back to 1821, although it may be older.

TDC also installed a neon advertisement on the roof proclaiming ‘Iconic Site’ and said plans were for it to be turned into: “as a small, twenty-first century character hotel with up to twelve rooms and a restaurant; which would help address the shortfall of quality hotel accommodation in Margate.”

But although a formal advert was published in October 2011 and 30 application packs for the project were sent out, none were returned to the council.

Guy Hollaway image

A mixed use hotel and restaurant scheme was drawn up by Guy Holloway Architects but TDC decided it was not suitable.

In 2015 an expression of interest was made by the Pollock’s Toy Museum Trust. The idea was for the Trust to house its collection at the property and open it as an attraction. However, at a council meeting in April of that year it was decided that the building should be converted into social housing flats.

A budget of £950,000 was agreed for the conversion. A further budget of £63,750, was set aside for costs of statutory compensation following the CPO. An allowance was also made for costs of £29,447 incurred prior to April 2015. Further costs for the building, totalling £77,009 have been incurred by TDC to date.

The social housing plan also failed to get off the ground. According to TDC documents , initial feasibility work was completed to assess the likely cost of refurbishing the building for housing purposes.

Outline designs were prepared  for potential options to provide 4 or 5 flats, with estimated costs ranging between £874,000 and £1.18million.

The report says: “None of these options are affordable within the current budget. Including the costs to date, the lowest cost option would total £1.1million, averaging £276,000 for each of the 4 flats. In comparison the HRA new build programme is costing around £204,000 per home.”

The Fort Road Hotel was in a dilapidated state

Compensation and costs were initially agreed and settled on 6 July 2017. Thanet council agreed to sell the site in October 2017. It went to auction in June 2018 selling for double the guide price of £180,000.

Plans for the renovation were submitted in January 2019 and it has been undergoing renovation since then, ready for the reopening on August 1.


  1. Nice job. Hope it’s very successful. By the way, anyone know what’s being built behind it? Flats, houses or commercial?

  2. It’s great that this derelict site has now been put to use after such a chequered history.
    There are still few quality hotels in Margate so this is a useful addition. I’m one of those dfl’s who visited Margate regularly over the years before the Turner appeared when the Reading Rooms in Hawley Square was really the only place to stay in the town that provided fabulous accommodation in a Georgian town House and set the standard for attention to detail and customer service.
    I think my wife and I will give it a whirl .

  3. i wonder how much it is per night to stay there ? the thing is you still step outside the door into margate , not a great move

    • Real World; what would you expect to see from a Margate hotel? The hanging gardens of Babylon? The Sydney opera house? Herds of wildebeest sweeping majestically across the plain?

  4. Yes it would be unfortunate if your stay coincides with the rancid putrid sick making stench from the rotting seaweed on the beech.
    Let’s hope the new council senior team.
    and councillors now do something about this problem, rather than making excuses.
    Regardless of protestations from TDC why is it that other seaside locations are not afflicted with this problem?
    It s now time to act TDC!

    • Great to see a historical building put back into all its former glory, its been under construction for many years bieng a listed property I would think rebuilding to a high standard and dealing with all the headache of officials, building regulations,paperwork,meetings,architecture, then covid 19 ,the Fort Lodge opens next month I doubt your average Jo blogs will be able to afford to stay in any of its rooms, very informal article about its design
      It’s a huge shame that this article mentions every single person involved who played a part in this project including its interia design, a huge thing it failed to mention is local main contractor County Construction

      Alan Garrett
      Simon forman

      Without their dedicated team of builders who deliver a high standard of quality work and attention to detail in an especially demanding rebuild through unprecedented times
      Without these people you failed to mention the Fort Lodge would not be opening atall

      I find it insulting that the pen pushers of this world, who right these articles don’t or haven’t done a single hard day’s work in their entire life
      Just have a think next time when your sitting at your desk in a office in a building writing a article, you wouldn’t be sitting in a cosy office in a nice building if it wasn’t for the men and women of the construction industry

      • Happy to add the construction company, it was a detail that was not given. Please don’t make assumptions about what I have or haven’t done in my life, I’m not working in an office building but from home, 7 days a week as a small business owner. I have done many jobs from farm work to chambermaiding and factory work.

    • For years thanet has lost from a council that has no plan on how to make the experience as good as possible for tourist which the area relies on

  5. DFL – Margate is a seaside town and seaweed is part of that! How much extra council tax are you willing to pay for TDC to clear the seaweed twice a day just so that it is not offensive to your nose?
    And where do TDC then put it? As always, so easy to criticise, but no feasible solution offered.

    Matthew, David and Tom – thank you for restoring this building and I wish you much success and look forward to visiting for coffee & cake one afternoon!

    • I read somewhere that local farmers have collected the seaweed to use in the past. Then they stopped as TDC started to ask for money. Any truth to this?

    • Hi
      Just reading through this lively site about the Fort Hitel. Well done to all that has renovated this beautiful building.
      There seems to be a problem with the problem of the stinky seaweed and what to do with IF it were to be collected twice a day. I think I may have a solution for it. Being a very busy allotment holder I most certainly would like to have seaweed for my plot as would many others on the allotment site. Leaves are delivered to us for mulching during the autumn months, why can’t we do the same in the summer months with the seaweed?

    • Yes great that there is a new hotel. The town needs more hotels not more Airbnb taking up valuable renting accommodation for a quick buck. You can breath the smell of seaweed at Westcliff Bay, Walpole bay and Joss bay. The smell from the Harbour Arm is rancid as has been commented … and it is not seaweed!

  6. And other seaside towns do have this problem – not just in the country but also overseas as I have experienced.

  7. I know that in days gone by the seaweed was used on the fields of kent but of course they have been built on.

  8. I really wish them the very best of luck, and applaud them for what they’re doing, but sadly this will be another short lived venture. The Sands couldn’t survive, or The Ambrette. This isn’t the area for upmarket hotels and restaurants. Visitors are only likely to be day trippers, and are quite happy with fish and chips.

  9. Another asset sold because tdc never have had a repairs and maintenance team or pot of money. Shame on tdc in 2017 everything we have asserted tdc sell off..

  10. This article is amazing, Kathy is a phenomenon and deserves an award, and the Hotel renovation is incredible……..thank you.

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