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.”

17 Comments

    • The alternative is to let it all rot?
      An offer that needs careful and sympathetic consideration providing the correct guarantees and contracts are in place to ensure the buildings’ histories and provenances are maintained .

  1. I had to read the article a number of times to believe what I was reading. This is an amzing idea. The first thing that came to mind was Dr Athur Walton Rowe his work and his bequest around 100 years ago to the town of Margate. It is like a reincarnation. Dr Rowe’s natural history collection was nationally reknowned. Unfortunately no longer held in Thanet due to its importance. The legacy of Dr Rowe’s bequest of his Margate collection laid the foundations of the Margate museum collection that is the largest seaside heritage collection in the country. Since the turn of the millennium the Margate museum has had its ups and downs. The museum does need a benefactor with a vision along the lines of what Dr Rowe bequested in 1926. I have never met Mr Perloff but his vision is superb

  2. Margate needs attractions such as this which are open all year round and not just dependent on summer sunshine and which will attract locals as well as visitors. So surprise us TDC – look at the whole picture rather than just the highest bidder which could just be someone wanting to convert it to a hotel to make money purely for themselves. This project would benefit many in the community and I thank Mr Perloff for his offer and generosity.

  3. Another expensive posh hotel for the few not the many the council had the opportunity to lease out both the ground floor units in order to pay for updating what is the mayor’s parlour the current parlour on king Street they have to.pay lots of money to the lessee of the whole building the parlour in the old town hall is what it was given to the town to the people of Margate.The museum idea definitely Is a good idea for the ground floor with a tea room on the site of the old town cafe.Yhr comment about both our theatres it makes sense for this millionaire to put his money into then the mention of Tracy emin sounds fishy we all know money talks sounds of backhanders.

  4. If this is going to be funded by private money as opposed to reliant on Arts Council grants, etc. and is going the halt the deterioration of yet another Council asset – then it has to be the best (and possibly the only) option.

  5. Over all, I believe this sounds a positive option for these fantastic town assets. Having the adjacent restaurant to the museum designated as a museum restaurant would undoubtedly bring additional interest to the museum and its offerings. If it pans out as proposed, I believe the town would benefit.

  6. Sad that inertia has allowed such an obvious tourism enhancement to waste for so many years when a public spirited ‘native’ entrepreneur (who has supported the main Museum for many years – and indeed was so promptly generous to the Time Ball Project) was in the wings. Says much for the Regenerators’ acquaintance with current economics if they supposed that there was much chance of a commercial lease – even the fish & chip merchants are staring disaster in the face (all to do with Ukrainian sunflower oil, dearth of – one down to Vladimir !)
    Well done Andrew Perloff – maybe the Town Deal Board will yet get round to exploiting JMW Turner (just as well Margate only had Dickens’ mistress as we would surely have ‘fluffed’ the Inimitable ?)

  7. This is the same Andrew Perolff who’s company unlawfully levelled a building in Ramsgate High Street at high risk to lives in 2013. The company was fined £160,000
    Panther AL pleaded guilty to breaching reg 4(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 to failing to ensure the contractor was competent. It was fined £160,000 and ordered to pay costs of £9,129.
    According to reports, members of the public ran to safety and shops were evacuated as debris started falling during the botched demolitionanther AL pleaded guilty to breaching reg 4(1) of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 to failing to ensure the contractor was competent. It was fined £160,000 and ordered to pay costs of £9,129.
    https://www.ioshmagazine.com/suspended-sentence-contractor-over-botched-demolition-job

  8. These are historic buildings with historic interiors and as such should be fully accessible to the public. A free museum as opposed to a private hotel makes much more sense. Hope TDC have the foresight to go for the former option and not the latter

  9. According the an article in the Liverpool Echo: “The owner of one of Liverpool’s architectural gems has recommended his company donates £25,000 to UKIP and credited Margaret Thatcher with the liberation of topless models.

    Amid tales of partying with bikini-clad models Andrew Perloff, whose company owns the Lyceum on Bold Street, also questions “wimmin’s” groups for campaigning against topless photos appearing in national newspapers.”

  10. If he has that much money and he is part of Panther group please be aware. why did it take them so long to do the work on all the properties they owned in Margate high street, Broadstairs high street, Ramsgate high street and Northdown Road. They are the main reason thanet looked declined. These properties were left near derelict for many years with many wanting over inflated rent. I think im correct in saying the one in Ramsgate was demolished without permission and the correct safety taken. I approached them to rent a shop so have personal experience. I saw the state of the property inside. They expected me through the letting agent to pay 1 years rent up front with 6 months extra deposit. I mentioned it would cost at least £25000 to fix the water damage and scrape the 6 inch deep mould of the walls to re plaster and to lay a new floor. I was told I could have 3 months rent free for this work. As I traded in the area I saw they were hoping to rent to people mainly from London with to much money and no bussiness experience. It seemed they wanted them to restore the properties and then at the lease break clause for the tenant to beg to give the keys back to get out the lease. That way they don’t have to spend money on the property and re ent it for more.
    Let’s hope if this deal goes through the council make and informed a full repairing lease and are prepared to prosecute. We don’t want another wi ter gardens or undervalued Granville deal.

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