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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.