The Village on the Beach
The land under the cliff in St Margaret's Bay was once almost a separate community in its own right. Only the Coastguard public house, originally 'The Green Man' and a few 1930's houses at the far end of the Bay have survived.
There was a Coastguard station on the beach from at least 1739, manned by a Chief Boatman and six officers. The 1841 census shows about twenty households on the beach of which about half were Coastguards and their families. Boats discharged coal onto the beach where it was stored in huts until taken away by cart, either up to the main village or along the Undercliffe road (now disappeared due to changes in sea level) to Dover or Kingsdown.
First inklings of a 'smart resort'
In 1884 the nature of the Bay began to change when the Coastguards were moved to new accommodation at Bay Hill, and the nine cottages they had occupied were sold and some became holiday homes. A new hotel, 'The Lanzarote' was built named after the optimistic view that the Bay climate was similar to that of the Canary Islands. The hotel,later renamed the Bay Hotel, became very popular with the fashionable and famous. In 1886 a group of substantial new houses were added to the buildings on the beach, known as the Adcock villas, after their builder, one time Dover Mayor, William Adcock.
in 1903 the Excelsior tearooms were added to the amenities on the beach, located at the base of the Zigzag steps. See the separate collection of the Excelsior tearooms images for more information.
Wartime comes: The end of the village on the beach
By 1939 this area was a thriving of somewhat select resort. The Bay Hotel had only recently been extended with sixty new rooms and a ballroom when war broke out. During the war the whole area was shut off from the public and taken over by the Army as a 'Battle School' for street fighting training. Most of the properties on the beach were badly damaged at this time and after the war controversial plans to build a new hotel,shops and a huge seafront cafe met with fierce opposition from many residents and after much discussion the remaining buildings were demolished and the area landscaped.