Westgate on Sea 1865-1940 : fashionable watering-place and London satellite, exclusive resort and a place for schools.
Exclusive coastal watering-places, successors to the inland spas, attracted a similar clientele,
fashionable, well-heeled and fickle. Many such places were developed in the nineteenth
century; few held the truly fashionable for long, for fashion is always fleeting. Jealously
guarding their reputations, they concentrated on survival in a highly volatile market and
had no interest in competing for the favours of the short-stay visitor or excursionist.
Westgate on Sea, on the north coast of the Isle of Thanet in Kent, was one such
watering-place, attracting, in its early years, titled visitors and royalty, the fashionable and
the artistic. Now part of Thanet District, Westgate can be passed by unnoticed by the
stranger travelling on the A28 to Margate. Yet for seventy years, despite the proximity of
that truly plebian resort, Westgate remained independent and exclusive, bolstered by the
presence of a uniquely large number of private schools, which became its lifeblood.
True child of the railway, created from a virgin site with metropolitan capital,
Westgate had features which, when seeking to place it in the context of other exclusive
developments, made it necessary to look for parallels beyond similar-sized resorts such as
Grange-over Sands, Seaton and Frinton to suburbs such as Edgbaston and Hampstead, for
Westgate was, to all intents and purposes, a London satellite.
Using evidence from many sources, both public and private, I have sought in this
eight-part thesis to prove the uniqueness of Westgate's development and to see how, by
determination and manipulation, Westgatonians were able to maintain a high 'social tone'
for so long. By examining other such places, I hope to contribute something towards the
story of the small 'exclusive' development, part of the rich urban scene and so important in
the lifestyle of the Victorians and Edwardians and so far not fully researched.