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Rock gardens and cliff stairs about 30 metres south of sunshelter

A Grade II Listed Building in Ramsgate, Kent

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Latitude: 51.3386 / 51°20'19"N

Longitude: 1.4328 / 1°25'58"E

OS Eastings: 639195

OS Northings: 165546

OS Grid: TR391655

Mapcode National: GBR X0M.328

Mapcode Global: VHMCW.SMB5

Plus Code: 9F338CQM+F4

Entry Name: Rock gardens and cliff stairs about 30 metres south of sunshelter

Listing Date: 4 February 1988

Last Amended: 22 May 2019

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1336319

English Heritage Legacy ID: 172055

Location: Ramsgate, Thanet, Kent, CT11

County: Kent

District: Thanet

Civil Parish: Ramsgate

Built-Up Area: Ramsgate

Traditional County: Kent

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Kent

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A pathway and imitation rockery landscaping leading from Winterstoke Gardens to Winterstoke Undercliff, built in 1936 to the designs of Alec Adlington and Pulham and Sons.


A pathway and imitation rockery landscaping leading from Winterstoke Gardens to Winterstoke Undercliff, built in 1936 to the designs of Alec Adlington and Pulham and Sons.

DESCRIPTION: chalk cliff face, with inbuilt slatted wooden seats. The central walkway follows a lengthy, dogleg pattern, with Pulhamite forming a rockery setting with textured rockwork surfaces imitating geological strata and irregular planting troughs to both sides. Alcoves for fixed wooden benches are placed at intervals along the route and some are approached by steps.

The construction entirely covers the cliff face and is blended with the natural chalk by irregular edges at either end. The sloping walkway with regularly-spaced, short flights of steps, leads up from the eastern side and then doubles back at the halfway point to rise to the Winterstoke Gardens. The walkway surface is scored in imitation of irregular, crazy paving. At the top there is a generous platform which projects out from the cliff to form the approach to the slope. Alcoves are let into the surface of the cliff along the path and accommodate fixed seats, and rockwork also forms a natural balustrade to allow views on the south side facing the sea.


From the mid-C18 Ramsgate became increasingly popular as a seaside resort, its expansion being accelerated by road improvements and faster sea passage offered by hoys, packets and steamers. An assembly room, warm water baths, subscription libraries and places of worship were joined by new streets such as Effingham Street and speculative crescents and squares on the East and West Cliffs such as Albion Place of about 1791-1798 and Nelson Crescent of about 1800-5. During the Napoleonic Wars Ramsgate became a busy garrison town and a major port of embarkation. Ramsgate’s importance in the 1820s is attested by its patronage by the British and European royal families and the creation of a separate parish by Act of Parliament, served by the large Church of St George (1824-1827). The harbour is the only one in the British Isles which has the designation ‘Royal’, granted by George IV.

The arrival of the South Eastern Railway’s branch line in 1846 opened up Ramsgate to mass tourism and popular culture, bringing a range of inexpensive, lively resort facilities intended for the sorts of middle- and working-class holidaymakers depicted in WP Frith’s painting ‘Ramsgate Sands’ of 1854 (Royal Collection). Wealthier visitors were accommodated at a respectable distance from the town in developments such as EW Pugin’s Granville Hotel of 1867-1869. Competition with other Kentish resorts stimulated a series of large-scale improvements in the late-C19 and early-C20 including the construction of Royal Parade and landscaped stairs and pathways at the eastern and western ends of the seafront to join the upper promenades to the Undercliff walks. New schools, hospitals and services were also built. The thriving town attracted diverse faith communities; Moses Montefiore founded a synagogue and a religious college at East Cliff Lodge, while AWN Pugin St Augustine’s Church and the Grange as part of an intended Catholic community on the West Cliff.

In 1940 the harbour was the point of return for many of the small boats involved in the evacuation from Dunkirk and war-time precautions included the digging of extensive air raid shelter tunnels in the chalk beneath the town. Ramsgate remained a popular holiday destination until the advent of cheap foreign travel in the post-war decades. Falling visitor numbers were exacerbated by the decline of the town’s small trades and industries, fishing and boat-building. However, a ferry and hovercraft port and the large marina created in the inner harbour in the 1970s have continued to bring life to the area.

Rock gardens first seem to have appeared in England from the C17 as a suitable setting for exotic plants. The influential landscape designers Humphry Repton (1752-1818) and John Claudius Loudon (1783-1843) both promoted the idea of naturalistic rock formations in a landscape and this coincided with the importation of new species of plants into England from mountainous areas.

From the 1840s a number of companies began experimenting with cements to cover a base of hard core in imitation of large-scale rock formations. James Pulham and Son of Broxbourne in Hertfordshire were amongst several such makers, and also specialised in terracotta ornaments. The longevity of their company which lasted from about 1845 to 1945 under the leadership of three generations of Pulham, all named James, marked them out, as did the quality of their products. Their work and patrons included relatively modest suburban villas as well as bankers, ship and railway owners and the royal family. Work at Sandringham, Windsor and Buckingham Palace earned the company a royal warrant in 1895. ‘Durability Guaranteed’ was one of the company’s claims, and this has largely proved to be true. Whether real stone or artificial, an aim of designers was to replicate the appearance of genuine rock formations with geological strata. Pulhams' was noted for this and from the 1880s they experimented with different colours and textures of cement. The structure of their designs was a core of over-burnt bricks, waste stone and slag, or other industrial waste that was locally available. Overhangs were of real slate or sandstone and the whole structure was finished with two coats of render, between 6mm and 15mm thick.

The various constructions of rockwork at Ramsgate, realised by Ramsgate Corporation from the 1890s, with the last work on the Winterstoke Chine in 1936, form one of the largest groupings of their designs and provides a good cross-section of their work and the compositional possibilities offered by different locations and gradients.

Winterstoke Gardens, with rockery work by Sir John Burnet and Partners and Pulham and Sons, was laid out in 1923. A gift to the borough from Dame Janet Stancombe-Wills, it cost £10,000. As a continuation of this planned landscape, this case considers the portion of cliff face and the sloping pathway which forms Winterstoke Chine, connecting the Eastcliff to Winterstoke Undercliff, were added in 1936 to the designs of Pulham and Sons with the borough engineer, Alec Adlington at a cost of £23,000.

Reasons for Listing

The rock gardens and cliff stairs about 30m south of Sunshelter, Victoria Parade, Ramsgate is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* they are comparable in interest to other designated examples of Pulhamite structures and representative of the Pulhams' innovative design and construction of garden and park structures.

Historic interest:

* the structure forms part of an important grouping of Pulhamite structures which are spaced along the seafront at Ramsgate and which were built in the period between 1893 and 1936.

Group value:

* with the sunshelter, rockery and ponds of Winterstoke Gardens (all listed at Grade II).

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