Steam Museum Trust returns lease for Ramsgate Clock House to Thanet council

Ramsgate harbour and clock house Image HE Comms

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.

Ramsgate Maritime Museum

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.

How the Clockhouse and Dry Dock once looked

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.

One of the Sally Line items destroyed by the fire in 2021

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.”

Early designs revealed for £19.8m Levelling Up Fund projects at Ramsgate port, harbour and Newington Community Centre


  1. I wish Thanet District Council had done as much for Ramsgate only cinema at the Granville Cinema, now defunct…

  2. So, the Steam Trust was obliged by their lease to repair and maintain the Clock House. They did nothing and it took TDC until now, over a decade, to take it back, watching the increasing disrepair and degeneration! They knew but took no action – why?
    How is it that Steam Trust walk away from this with no action against them?
    Ramsgate Society, through the amazing support of a small group of volunteers and a single heroic volunteer co-ordinator kept the museum open. All the entrance money went to the Steam Trust, but for what? The did nothing to care for the building and did nothing to keep the museum open (another lease obligation).
    Steam Trust got the dock, associated with the Clock House, for the Cervia tug. What would dock fees have been I wonder? How much did Steam Trust save and acquire from not paying dock fees and museum entrance?
    How much did TDC loose?
    Will there be an investigation into this as it was fraud or rank incompetence. Either way TDC owes us answers to this debacle. And we’re expected to trust them managing a multi-million pound Levelling Up project!
    Icing on cake – Cervia asking for money to restore it. Perhaps they should use all the dock fees they saved and the museum entrance fees they took!

    • Little you can do when it was a charity with few assets that seems like it might have folded given over overdue their governing docs are !

    • Simples, by decree The austerity Government instructed Councils Nationally to dump anything that that costs money. This is one of many that came back to slap them in the kisser!!

  3. The original trust that ran the museum was unincorporated, and the person behind the steam trust, threatened the trustees with legal action, for which they would have been personally liable.
    The steam trust got control and TDC as always, allowed the steam trust to breach the lease at will, and there you have it.
    It’s a typical tale of Thanet, with the usual cast of self regarding pantomime villains, and a hapless, hopeless, council playing Baron Hardup.

  4. Nothing is safe in the council hands-Winter gardens shut down-motor museaum closed for years empty shops in the town center-litter -What a sad dump Ramsagate now is-Nothing like i remember when i was a boy.

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