The Margate Caves will reopen to the public this year following a lengthy campaign to save the site from redevelopment.
Originally dug as a chalk mine in the 18th century, the Caves have been welcoming visitors since 1863 but were closed in 2004. Since 2011, campaigners determined to save the Caves have gained major funding from the Big Lottery Fund and Heritage Lottery Fund, boosted by lots of local fundraising including a Secret Postcard Auction and a Crowdfunder campaign.
The money raised has enabled the The Margate Caves Community Education Trust (TMCCET) and the Friends of Margate Caves to contract geotechnical engineers to conserve the Caves and ensure they conform to all modern Health & Safety criteria, while a specialist conservator will bring the site’s vibrant murals back to life, undoing years of damage.
Alongside the building and Caves works, our funding also supports an activity programme that takes the Caves out to the local community, the development of a learning scheme for schools and the formation of a volunteer training hub at the Caves.
At the heart of all this will be our new Visitor Centre. Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Big Lottery, the building’s dramatic exterior will provide a new landmark on the route between Margate’s Old Town and nearby Dalby Square, Northdown Road and Cliftonville.
The building will provide access to the restored Caves, and features a shop and café. Here we’ll tell the story of the Margate Caves and how landscape, ecology and geology have impacted on the town’s rich social and cultural history.
At the back of the visitor centre are our community rooms, flexible spaces providing either one large or two classroom-sized rooms, which can be used for a range of activities and will be available as a base for schools visiting Margate or for local groups to meet in.
The building has been designed by award-winning Kent-based architects Kaner Olette.