We’re incredibly saddened by the death of Chris Pearson, who died on 13 February at the age of 68. Chris served as archivist and researcher for both the Shell Grotto and the Margate Caves, and was a generous friend to many.
Chris was a tenacious and thorough researcher, always seeking out primary sources and with a remarkable talent for unearthing new information. It was Chris who first established a link between the Caves site and noted 18th-century natural philosopher and educator Margaret Bryan.
Artist Paul Hazelton says: “I had the very good fortune of benefitting from Chris’s immense generosity and passion for local history when he assisted me during my art residency at the Margate Caves in 2019. His contribution, helping unravel the enigma of Margaret Bryan, who ran a school for young ladies above the Caves, not only aided me with my work but also enriched Bryan’s legacy.” Science historian and author, Dr Patricia Fara, who is an authority on women’s contribution to science, acknowledges that Chris “certainly compiled more information about this elusive woman than anyone else”.
Chris also located the family of another elusive Caves’ figure, the recently deceased artist Karol Edward Osten-Sacken (known as KEOS), who painted and restored some of the murals in the Caves in the 1980s. “Chris had a very particular and rare ability to connect some of the dots that others could not,” observes Paul.
Margate Caves Manager Kayleigh McMahon says, “Chris was a valued member of the team at the Caves, a kind and gentle man always willing to share his extensive knowledge. His contributions to our archive are unmatched and his enthusiasm for research was awe inspiring. It is not an exaggeration to say we will be a little lost without him. Throughout his time at the Caves he carried out many duties, from researcher, to archivist, to teacher - whichever hat he was wearing his passion for the Caves helped us get where we are today.”
When he died Chris was working with Rod LeGear, Vice President of Kent Archaeological Society and Chairman of Kent Underground Research Group, on a paper for the Kent Archaeological Society about Margate Caves. This was to replace a 2009 paper that had – typically enough - been made out of date by Chris’s own in-depth research. “As promised to Chris, it will be completed and all being well should be published later this year,” says Rod, adding, “In more than 50 years of publishing papers and articles, I have never written anything with anyone. Chris was the only person I felt comfortable enough with.”
Isle of Thanet News story here.
Chris at the opening celebration of the Margate Caves. Photo: Frank Leppard.