Millionaire benefactor’s proposal to take on Margate’s Old Town Hall, museum and Tudor House for ‘unique’ visitor attraction

Margate's Old Town Hall Photo Oakwood Commercial

An offer totalling more than £750,000 to take a lease on Margate’s Old Town Hall, museum, Tudor House and attached units, contribute towards refurbishment and running costs and create museums holding a collection of taxidermy, fossils, seashells, minerals and ephemera has been submitted to Thanet council.

Avid collector and long-standing Margate Museum benefactor Andrew Perloff says he would long-term loan articles from his extensive collection to be used as a visitor attraction and an educational tool in a bid to help Margate offer “something unique.”

Margate’s Old Town Hall is being offered on the market by Thanet council on a long lease of £75,000 per annum with boutique hotel, business centre or retail uses suggested.

In April the council, which owns the building, agreed to move forward with a proposal to market the lease of the Grade II listed site.

Inside the town hall

In 2018 the 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 with 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.

This year it was marketed through Oakwood Commercial with Thanet council looking to let the entire building on a long lease. The Margate Museum site is not included in the lease.

It is understood several expressions of interest have been made and Mr Perloff says he believes the current favoured bid is for a boutique hotel/restaurant offer.

Andrew Perloff

But Mr Perloff, whose family used to own the town’s White Hart Hotel, says his offer would benefit the museum and Tudor House site as well as the Old Town Hall and bring visitors to the town.

He said: “For a couple of years I have been trying to interest the council in giving the town hall to the museum and I would fund a degree of restoration and give part of this huge collection to be used. It would be very desirable for the area to have an education museum, free entry with donations, which could also be used by by artists to paint animals and objects in their natural form.”

The offer submitted by Mr Perloff, who is chairman on Panther Securities and in 2014 was listed as having a net worth of £44million, would mean the freehold remaining with Thanet council.

He said: “The council would grant a 35 year lease to the museum on the Town Hall and ancillary restaurant, the existing museum, Tudor House and the rear adjoining warehouse building at a peppercorn rent for each separate unit.

“They would simultaneously grant overriding ground leases at peppercorn rents for 150 years on these three/four properties, subject to the occupiers ground leases to Margate Museum Trust and for these long leasehold interests I would pay Thane! council £350,000.

“I would undertake to gift £200,000 towards the refurbishment and conversion of the buildings to enable them to convert to a museum to create display areas for those parts of my collection that the Trustees find most interesting.

“I will provide a long term loan of sufficient of my exhibits, to more than fill the museum’s separate departments with an exciting variety of exhibits to make it interesting and attractive to visitors, especially children of school age.

“Additionally, I would undertake for 5 years to personally donate £40,000 per annum towards the initial running costs, which we hope would be supplemented by visitors’ donations. We would expect to run the existing restaurant area as a museum restaurant. This restaurant could also be used for occasional lectures on the exhibits and other related matters, and I would anticipate it would be possible to obtain visiting speakers at various times throughout the year.”

Mr Perloff says the taxidermy collection, which has been bought from various museums over a 50 year period, includes a reproduction Dodo,  Komodo Dragon, Polar and Grizzly bears,  giant sunfish and other species while he also has fossils, objects and cabinets that were in the Great Exhibition of 1851 and a collection of 1,600 advertising tins.

He added: “An attractive, permanent exhibition from a substantial part of my collection h could be housed in both the former Town Hall and also the rear warehouse building behind (Tudor House) in King Street.”

His hope is Margate Museum’s Augmented Reality App (pictured below), which is in use at the British Museum, would mean visitors could focus on an exhibit, such as the Dodo and see via the app how it lived and also how it became extinct.

Margate Museum’s GAMAR app

The app has the technology to create graphics, animations, and videos to be layered upon real environments, which provides a way for museums to bring collections into the 21st century.

The offer is one that Margate Museum Trustees are keen to have considered with Trust chairman Robin Haddon saying: “It is an extraordinary collection which could be used educationally to teach about climate change and also by artists.

“Combined with Tracey Emin’s efforts to get an educational art scheme running, these two elements would add significant value to tourist attraction to Margate and interact in terms of arts and culture, be that for still life painting practice, augmented reality interaction or indeed climate change and environmental impact education of our wildlife animals – and see upfront what a real Dodo, Polar Bear and others actually looks/looked like in real life form and the threat to their existence.

“Imagine only in Thanet could you come of see these wonderful semi and extinct animals as a whole presence!

“We already have restaurants, pubs and hotels, They all need people to serve and if there aren’t attractions and things to do then those people won’t be stopping here.

“I believe Andrew’s bid is by far the most community minded and would like to know if this is something the community wants.”

A Thanet council spokesperson said: “We are considering all the offers that we have received for the lease of the Old Town Hall, in Old Town Square, Margate, and are carrying out due diligence on a number of them. As this is an ongoing process, we are unable to comment on the progress of individual proposals.

“Any interested parties who would like to receive details of this unique opportunity in the centre of Margate Old Town should contact our retained agents Oakwood Commercial.”