The Ramsgate Clock House at the harbour has been returned to Thanet District Council by leaseholder The Steam Museum Trust (SMT).
Thanet council owns the freehold of the Clock House – where the maritime museum is based- which is Grade II* Listed.
Thanet council granted a 25 year full repairing and insuring lease for the site to The Steam Museum Trust (SMT) in April 2012 at a peppercorn rent. This lease was set to expire on January 31, 2037.
The terms stipulated that the Trust was to start repair works between April 2013 and March 2017 but no work was undertaken until The Ramsgate Society took the initiative, securing a grant of £22,812 from the Historic England Heritage at Risk Response Fund for repair work to the roof in 2021.
The Clock House was placed on the Historic England Buildings at Risk register in 2019 and a number of exhibits were lost or damaged in a fire in November 2021.
The property has now been returned to the council in preparation for its refurbishment as part of the Levelling Up Fund programme in Ramsgate.
The council secured £19.8m of funding for Ramsgate through the government’s Levelling Up Fund. £1.48m of that funding has been allocated to start the refurbishment of the Ramsgate Clock House.
The council says the ambition is to bring the Clock House back to life as a heritage hub for the town, as well as creating a hospitality space in a new extension.
The initial designs were on display at the public engagement event held in July this year at the Crane Shed in Ramsgate Harbour.
In partnership with the Ramsgate Heritage Regeneration Trust (RHRT, operating as Ramsgate Tunnels), a further funding application was submitted to the National Lottery Heritage Fund in July. The application is for an additional £2.5million of capital funding to support the scheme, and £500,000 to deliver heritage development and activities. #
The National Lottery Heritage Fund process is over two stages; the first phase includes developing and finalising the design of the building, engaging with Ramsgate’s communities on its heritage and taking the plans through the planning process, including listed building consents. The outcome of this application is expected to be announced in January 2024.
Now that the council has taken back the management of the building, detailed surveys and investigations can be undertaken.
The council will also assess and carry out urgent works required to stabilise the building, to prevent further deterioration.
John Walker, Chair of the Ramsgate Society, said: “The Ramsgate Society has been engaged in the plan to renovate and restore the Clock House since 2016. The project took a big leap forward when Thanet District Council secured a substantial grant from the Levelling Up Fund in 2021.
“Since then a great deal of work has been undertaken by the council’s project team and the recent surrender of the lease by the Steam Museum Trust has enabled further progress. We look forward to working with the council to deliver this much needed museum and heritage centre which will act as a focal point for visitors to Ramsgate.”
Cllr Ruth Duckworth, Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Property, added: “I am so pleased that the project to refurbish the Clock House is moving to its next phase. The Clock House is an important part of Ramsgate’s heritage and will provide the ideal starting point for visitors to the town.”
The Maritime Museum previously displayed a large number of items, until its closure in 2021. Many of these were on loan from the HMS Stirling Castle collection. These items have been returned to the National Royal Navy Museum for conservation. It is planned that a number of the items will be returned to the museum when the renovation is complete and there are suitable conditions for their display.
The remaining Maritime Museum collection was transferred to the council when the lease was returned. These items will now be reviewed and assessed, and moved into safe storage in readiness for their return to the refurbished museum.
Over the coming months, the collection will be catalogued. There will be opportunities for the community to be a part of this process, and further details will be provided in the new year.
Curl La Tourelle Head Architecture is working on the Clock House/Pier Yard project.
The firm aims to make the area largely pedestrianised with repair and conservation works on the Clock House with the addition of low energy use, waste minimisation, low carb emissions and green energy generation.”
The Clock House building will include extensions to give more space to the maritime collection and a café/restaurant will be included.
Designs were originally drawn up by The Ramsgate Society and these have been partially incorporated into the new plans.
At the drop-in event in July, Amrit Seera, of Curl La Tourelle Head Architecture, said: “We looked at the Ramsgate Society design, looked at the pros and cons, and used those that we thought were successful. We have had surveys, talked with stonemasons, talked to Historic England and have developed the plans on this.
“We have looked at models of one storey vs two storey, where lifts and stairs would go, the Clock House extensions for the museum and hospitality and making sure it is respectful of the beautiful, existing building.
“There is a lot of conservation and repair work needed.”