The Margate School secures future after benefactor buys former Woolworths building

The Woolworths building

The former Woolworths store – home to The Margate School (TMS) – has been bought from Brede Estates by a benefactor who has offered TMS a 20  year lease.

The Margate School (TMS), an independent, postgraduate, liberal arts school, had faced threat of imminent closure after several recent funding bids failed to materialise and then the property was put up for sale.

But following a fundraiser, online auction, benefit gig headed by Carl Barat of The Libertines and donations, the future is now looking more secure.

The Margate School at the Woolworths building

TMS is now looking forward to a summer of exhibitions of work by final year students on the European MA Fine Art and Visual Communications courses, plus vinyl recorded and pressed by the Sound Arts students, the Margate Festival of Design and a programme of courses.

A spokesperson said: “We would like to reiterate our thanks to the wonderful community that sent us such encouraging and supportive messages along with generous donations and participation in our fundraising through the CrowdFunder; the online auction; No Surrender, the benefit gig and 8 by Eight, the exhibition of photography.

“We have used this funding and motivational support to continue and to develop a number of new initiatives for The Margate School. These include submitting an application to The Charity Commission to set up a charitable arm to support bursaries and development to allow students to study with TMS who wouldn’t normally be able to due to financial constraints, alongside delivering an exciting and engaging public programme for the community.

Photo Isabelle de Ridder

“With the additional concern that our home, the former Woolworths, was for sale, The Margate School is pleased to announce that a benefactor has reached an agreement to purchase the building from its current owner, Brede Estates, who have accepted the offer which is now in solicitors’ hands.

“The School has been offered a 20 year lease which will secure the long-term occupancy of the current space in the building. The Margate School is immensely grateful to the benefactor and also Brede Estates for their support during this transition.

“We would like to extend a massive thank you to all of the School’s supporters, without whom The Margate School would not have progressed to where it is now.”

The Woolworths site had been put on the market for £1.85 million with Terence Painter Properties.

Photo M&L Genuine Ghost Experience LTD

Woolworths closed in 2008 following the collapse of the company. The Margate store was purpose built at the corner of New Street for Woolworths in 1925 and traded its eclectic blend of pick ‘ n’ mix, records and then CDs and assorted items until the collapse.

In 2017 the Margate property was bought for £1.98 million by Brede Estates Limited.

Brede Estates directors were former Sands Hotel owner Nick Conington and John Adams, who – along with Mr Conington –  was also a director of Nayland Rock Hotel Margate Ltd.

Sands Hotel shut last year and is due to reopen this July under new owners and a new name – No 42 Margate.

In 2019 The Margate School moved in to the Woolworths building after renovating several floors of the former shop.


  1. In what way does this project benefit local people? Not having a go, but I’d just like to know. The building looks no better than when it was empty

    • ‘We are an independent not-for-profit postgraduate liberal arts school. Situated in a former Woolworths Building that had stood empty since 2008, The Margate School by its very nature has become a new hub for innovation and creativity.’

    • I just read their criteria.. To be a student you need a BA degree. Now that strikes out to me its not for children. University perhaps. Its also linked to a company in France. Why havent they coughed up money. All I see is a begging bowl. I also now dont see a school because you need a BA degree to become a student. Student fees would incur. The french connection needs looking into. I just thought it taught kids. As it is named school. Ofsted should know about this too.

    • Totally agree, now with a 20year lease,they ask for more public money,art should pay its own way,or close down,how long before they need more money for running costs etc

      • Phew, thankfullly we have intellectual giants like real world and ray the bread to guide us through these complicated questions.

        • Why should the arts,keep getting a free ride ,when the use of food bank are on the rise,and cost of living ,going through the roof ,getting priorities in order first ,art comes way down the line ,or should ,ART ,should pay its own way ,

          • Can you see where the money is coming from? There is a clue in the article, Ray. It is a gift. It has not come from taxes or grants.


  2. Fantastic news for ALL the people of margate who directly or indirectly benefit from margate school.

  3. Wonderful news.

    I see the usual snowflakes melting over the news.

    Not sure how it affects them at all.

  4. A good investment by the benefactor potentially at a peppercorn rent to TMS. One assumes the value being gained to the freeholder by increase in the value of the property. A very shrewd investment. Hopefully for the benefactor on a fully repairing lease with the leaseholder being responsible for all all expenses should TMS decide to vacate the premises and until a new leaseholder is found.

    We in Thanet have see what happens when maintenance is not carried out….Theatre Royal and WinterGardens

  5. What wonderful news, hopefully having agreed a 20 year lease they will be in a position to create an engaging and long term programme. Not to mention the security provided for those who rent studio space there and spend money in the local community. I’d be interested to know who the benefactor was. Well done Margate School and all who supported them through this difficult patch.

  6. I want to know more about the new initiatives for The Margate School, as mentioned in the article. It says TMS are applying to ‘The Charity Commission’ to set up a charitable arm, to support bursaries and development for students with less money. I can’t see this information on the TMS website (including the news section), so where is this information available? Thanks in advance to anyone who knows!

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