a boatmans tales by s holbourn, the friend of all nations the margate surfboat.

A Boatman's Tales



It may be seen from figures available in the 1841 Thanet Census that the population of Broadstairs included 21 Coast guard families, in all amounting to 114 named persons. Given the decline in danger formally presented by the threat of foreign invasion and the alluring preoccupation engaging local people in smuggling this still amounted to a high proportion of the population, attendant upon the overall returns of a little over 3000 inhabitants in total. It has been observed that the Coast guard families housed themselves in tight enclaves, and it seems felt more comfortable isolating themselves from the rest of the community, distasteful as some of their duties may have appeared, as the town was strongly dependant on maritime trades and traditions.

Mr. D.R. Oliver, in his informative article on the 1841 Census for Broadstairs in a local history journal18 has noted the relative popularity of certain Christian names, citing those of a Biblical nature as rare ~ despite this fact my own family continued a long tradition of such names, including Solomon (senior) and Solomon (junior), both at times prominent Broadstairs Harbour Masters, and both alive in Bradstowe in 1840. In addition to which, obviously omitted on that Census their were also several Isaac’s, one, a Deal Pilot and Customs Officer, James Isaac Joseph Holbourn, who was not to be born until 1844, and the young Isaac Holbourn, (b.1779~d.1795), an uncle of that Stephen Holbourn, who, born in 1805, later married Ann Adams. An Elija of Broadstairs, one of Solomon’s wives should be included and in the Emptage family, close cousins, their was even an Israel, living at Margate. So perhaps comparatively rare, but not so much so that you would fail to notice them, over a number of decades, in such a tightly bound and small community.

Amongst the most frequently reoccurring19 names we find the families of Blackburn, Castle, Emptage, Goodwin, Holbourn, Jarman, Miller, Mockett, Pett, Pettit, Sackett, Sutton, and White most of whom shared a common link with local maritime affairs. Perhaps the most individualistically styled appellation of all those named was to be found embodied in the person of Mr. Culmer White who was to live until 1845, and died aged 89. His name combined a record of both families of Culmer and White, the ‘Islands’ most prominent Shipwrights, into one title. He was at the time of the 1841 Census, then living in the house of Joseph Jarman,20 boatbuilder and Harbour Master, who lived in Harbour Street. Culmer was a relative of the Culmer family, and also the brother of Thomas White.

The 1871 Census names Joseph Jarman aged 74 (thus born the same year as Solomon, in 1797) as the Harbour Master of Bradstowe, Solomon filling the job as one of his predecessors. Isaac Jarman an experienced boatman and his brother Captain T. Jarman prominent figures of the time were probably Joseph’s sons. Edward George Holbourn, was born in 1866, a Carpenter and son of the Carpenter Stephen Holbourn and Ann (nee) Adams,21 who in his maturity married Laura Jarman, whom I think was the daughter of Isaac? Laura’s two sons Edward Douglas and Geoffrey attended ‘Chatham House School’ in Ramsgate, where they both seem to have done well, they went on both to join the Royal Flying Corps. and served as Aviators during W.W.I., neither of them remaining in Thanet long thereafter.

Although their were numerous holiday makers staying in all three of the Thanet towns during the Victorian era, their was to be no railway link until 1863. This though, could not have been so bad for William Sackett and John Derby who operated as the Bradstowe Coachmasters. Nearby Whitstable had begun its railway service as early as 1830, one of the first in England, with its pioneering Stephenson’s Engine ‘The Invicta’ and by 1851 the basic local rail network had been put in place. This largely comprised the London to South Coast route with a coastal link from Chichester to Ramsgate, the cross country service between London and Dover and the mid Kent route linking Redhill, Tonbridge and Ashford, with a new terminal at Waterloo having been opened in 1848. It was not until 1860 that the Victoria Station was completed, followed by Charring Cross and Cannon Street. It was then possible for the ‘London, Chatham and Dover Railway’ to commence operations across North Kent. These developments gave rise to the seemingly irreversible growth out of isolation of these small settlements along the invasive, but potentially lucrative routes, and with the further innovation of the Motor Car the expansion from village to town in most of these places was certain, for better or for worse!

In 1841, forty four mariners were recorded as resident, then in Broadstairs, nine of these being specified as fishermen, and of course the residual boat building activity that remained after the Culmer~White yard closed was of necessity still continued, although their were only four Shipwrights recorded in the Census, Solomon Holbourn and Joseph Jarman presumably counted amongst them. Solomon had a brother Thomas, he to seems likely to have followed in his fathers footsteps, the father also being a St. Peters Shipwright, and is recorded as such in the Canterbury Marriage Register in the parish of St. Peters, Bradstowe in 1792 as the Bondsman at the wedding of a William Clothier, a Faversham mariner, to a Susan Stroud. I suspect a few others may have been elsewhere that day the Census came to Bradstowe.

The son of Peter named Thomas Holbourn who was born in 1752, had married in 1783 to Sarah Shepherd of Herne, the mother of Solomon (of Bradstowe) and his brother Thomas, but had died by 1833. Solomon’s son was born in 1831 and would not have been able to begin his apprenticeship until 1845 when he was 14. In this year he signed up with the trustees and directors of The Margate and London Steam Packet Company. ‘Steamer Point’ as the pier head at Broadstairs was then known, would have been fairly busy with shipping movements, with consignments of coal and other produce traded thereabouts. Their was also the regular visits of the Steam Packet from Ramsgate.

The Steamboats had begun to take over from the Hoys and sailing packets around 1814 and like all ‘new fangled devices’ were accepted readily by some and despised by others. However the sailing Hoys might take anything up to 72 hours to reach Margate from London, whereas the new Steam ships were capable of making at least nine voyages in this time! Mixed feelings must have been strongly expressed by the Thanet boatmen in general, as the unrivaled speed of the steam packet was outmaneuvering all other classes of vessel, and brought a new prosperity to Thanet. Sir Rowland Hill (founder of the 1840 Penny Post), whilst in Thanet during 1815 remarked ; ‘It is surprising to see how most people are prejudiced against this packet’. Yet regardless of this local sentiment, in about 1816 ‘The Times’ reported that the introduction of steamboats has given the whole coast of Kent (and) the Isle of Thanet in particular, a prodigious lift’. In 1820 it was said that “the inhabitants of Margate ought to eulogize the name of Watt, as the founder of their good fortune ; and Steam vessels as the harbingers of their prosperity” # It is curious however to find that a popular reluctance was to be found apparent in passengers in traveling beyond Margate, for fear of coming to grief upon the dangerous North Foreland shoreline. By the time Solomon had embarked upon his apprenticeship the journey time between London (Blackwall) and Margate was down to just four hours. So popular were the steam boat excursions that in 1841 there were six different companies competing for the Margate passenger traffic. It remains a remarkable tribute to the popularity of this pioneering service that even with the advent of the South Eastern Railway in 1846 the steamboats continued in service until their final demise in 1967, sadly the first and only time I recall traveling to Thanet by such conveyance. (from Gravesend).

# ‘The Maritime Heritage of Thanet’ : East Kent Maritime Trust. 1997. John Whyman. (Ed. : Michael Cates and Diane Chamberlain.)

A brief outline of the history of Broadstairs Pier is given in that rare volume ‘Broardstairs, past and present’ in which mention of a storm is made that occurred in 1767 during which Culmer’s work was all but destroyed. At this time it was of considerable importance to the fishing trade with catches as far afield as Yarmouth, Hastings, Folkestone, Dover and Torbay and elsewhere being landed. It had become indispensable to the point that the Corporation’s of Yarmouth, Dover, Hythe and Canterbury with assistance from the East India Company and Trinity House subscribed to its restoration with a payment of £2000/~ in 1774.

North Foreland Lighthouse, Broadstairs

Until its recent closure, the last Manned Lighthouse operational in the UK

In 1841 The North Foreland Lighthouse was maintained for Trinity House by keepers Hugh Palmer and James Chapman, as with the Coastgaurd these jobs were not often offered to local people, but a faint echo of past maritime tradition lingers on in the name of Chapman,22 which today is associated with the pioneering deeds of the Space Programme.

~ 1843 Lamb and White’s Patent Lifeboat at J. Samuel Whites.

With the resounding success of the ‘Mary White’ in 1851 and the subsequent presentation of the ‘Culmer White’ in 1853 soon afterward both the Coastguard and the R.N.L.I. were equipping their stations with White’s boats, from these humble origins and a developing reputation White’s boatyard grew to become John Samuel’s of Cowes, a flourishing tradition developed which lasted well into the 1960’s with 134 White’s Lifeboat’s ordered, completed and delivered. Whites patented lifeboats featured a “double skin of planking with waterproof material in between”, on the whole “a fine example of skillful craftsmanship” ~ regrettably however they would not ‘self~right’. Ironically, John White declared, a lifeboat “has no reason to capsize at all and there is no reason why she should”^ The first of these cost some £116/~, it was sent to Cardigan, on the Welsh coast #. Following Thomas White’s lead, the first Ramsgate Lifeboat was installed in 1852, this was to be called ‘The Northumberland’, and built by James Beeching, for the Ramsgate Harbour Commission. It was not until 1857 that Walmer at Deal received it’s first official Lifeboat, from the Royal Thames Yacht Club. All of these preceded the R.N.L.I. craft that are now such a familiar part of our coastal heritage. It is clear from the many boats given over to the service of rescue just how dangerous an area of the coast the Goodwin Sands were considered to be.

I have yet to establish if the Harbour Master on the mission to save the ‘Mary White’ was a Shipwright working for the Culmer~White yard, seemingly likely, or self employed as a boatbuilder. It is recorded that he married his first wife Mary Jackson and that their first child, a daughter, Ellen was born in 1829. Little is known of Mary, except that she was born about 1803, and probability suggests that she was a Schoolmistress, she gave Solomon three healthy sons after the birth of Ellen but herself is thought to have died at the age of thirty seven in 1840.

In 1824 one of the last ships of any significant size, 180 tons, the ‘Desperate’, a Gun brig for HM Service, was built and launched at Broadstairs. Thereafter local shipbuilding fell into decline, although in 1833 Master Shipwright John Culmer, then living at Eagle House took over the Broadstairs yard. As the principal employers ‘Whites’ felt it necessary to relocate their business to a larger site, this took them away from the Isle of Thanet, to the Isle of Wight. The shipbuilding yard in Broadstairs, one of the most historic corners of the town, was to become occupied principally by the play ground and garden belonging to a Mrs. Jackson’s School. As Solomon was Harbour Master and still a Shipwright it is not improbable that this is the same Mrs. Jackson, plainly a widow, that married Solomon, some time thereafter, although it is obvious the site retained the Jackson name. The site of the boatyard, once it became a part of Mrs. Jackson’s School and gardens remained so at least until 1881, as mention is made of the site as Mrs. Jackson’s in a report into complaints about unlicensed Street Hawkers23 from residents in the Council’s meetings books. Mary Jackson had been deceased forty one years if the account is correct, so I am left wondering if the School retained her name posthumously or if it wasn’t altogether another Mrs. Jackson*? As just a few years before the 1881 Census, in 1878, a Mrs. Jackson lived at York Gate House, I must conclude that indeed another Mrs. Jackson did exist, and that she was most likely to be Solomon’s daughter in law?

 *‘The London and Provincial Directory’ for 1832/4, under the curious heading of ‘Nobility and gentry’ holds that a Mrs. Sarah Jackson lived at no. 19 high street, Ramsgate. 

On account of the record of the 1871 St. Peter’s Census we know that Solomon then living at 4 Harbour Street was still a Shipwright at the age of 73, where he was living with Eliza, his second wife, then aged 58. By 1891 Solomon had died, leaving her a widow. She had moved by then to 27 Harbour St. it is probable they were buried in St. Peters, but as yet have not been located.

York Gate, Broadstairs.

The origins of the complaints about Street Hawkers seem to have come from Mr. Cock24 of Albion Street, he was perhaps understandably disturbed by the wafting odors of Mr. Wales’s fish barrow, which was stationed outside Cock’s house for several hours, presumably on a regular basis. The 1871 Census reveals Mr. Cock had moved from his former residence at no 7 York Place, which presumably he came to regret, and that he was then the Deputy High Constable, also that he was the immediate neighbor of the Harbour Master’s son, Solomon the boatman, and his wife Rose, and their six children, then at no. 6 York Place.

Mary (Jackson) Holbourn’s three sons, Solomon, above mentioned being the eldest all grew up to become Shipwrights, so plainly their was still plenty of boatbuilding and repairing to be done. Solomon and Mary’s boys were born, and named as follows :~ Solomon (b.1831), Thomas (b1833/4), and William (b1835), the eldest, Solomon was also to become a Broadstairs Harbour Master during his fathers lifetime and like his father, made a good name for himself at the job. The deputy constable’s son appears as Assistant Harbour Master on the list of those in attendance at Solomon’s funeral in 1901. Solomon married a Miss Fanny Rose Sharpe and they raised several children, some of whose descendants can be traced into modern times. The family trade as it was in his day was still the ancient craft of boatbuilding and his son Frederick George was to follow in his footsteps, as did William’s son Frederick George, although none of Solomon’s sons followed him as Harbour Master. His wife, Rose was born at St. Mary’s, Dover on the 16th of January, 1829, and Solomon’s father, previously described as an hero of the ‘Mary White’, no doubt inundated with his duties as Harbour Master and his job as a boatbuilder would have found it difficult to raise his children alone and as mentioned, records reveal that he had remarried to an Eliza Knock, said to have been born about 1813, Eliza also had a son by a former marriage, William, (b.1832) who appears on the 1871 Census as a Shipwright, and lodger. The name ‘Knock’ initially struck me as a misspelling of ‘Kinock’, but in reading the Church Warden’s list for All Saints Church at Whitstable I have found reference to a John Knock who was Churchwarden there in 1754, 1758, 1760/61, then again in 1767/8, again in 1772, 1776/9, and finally during 1787/8. Also Churchwarden’s noted on this list were Christopher Castle during 1684 and a Joseph Jarman in 1689.

Thomas Holbourn, Shipwright and brother of Solomon, led a foreshortened and disturbed life. His sister Ellen ended her days, a spinster institutionalised at the Saint Augustine’s Hospital, near Canterbury. Although she outlived him, their was also another child, brother John, who died in infancy. As for Thomas, as the inquest into his gruesome death reveals, he did meet with and raise a family by his wife. His wife was the daughter of a Mr. William Collins of Sittingbourne,25 Miss Elizabeth Collins of Sittingbourne, who was born in 1831, they married in 1857. It was in 1857 that Thomas was also to receive a medal for gallantry at sea, like his father Solomon in 1851 before him. This was on the occasion of the mission to assist and rescue the crew of the stranded American cargo ship, of 1,100 tons, as it floundered off Kingsgate during a heavy storm in 1857.

Again I am uncertain as to if he worked for the Boatbuilder’s ‘Culmer & White’, or not. The odds seem in favour of this, but between them Thomas, his brothers William and Solomon, and their father Solomon and uncle Thomas, were Shipwrights, all at about the same time. Five Shipwrights of a single family, all living in the same community may have been doing their own work, although no evidence of this has yet presented itself to me. Several branches of the family appear to have continued something of this tradition that itself seems to have persisted back into the days of King Henry VIIIths first Patent to Shipwrights with the granting of such a Patent to Robert Holborn on the 23rd April 1548.

Solomon, the boatman working at Chatham was a nephew of the freehold farmer of Herne, Thomas Holbourn who was born at Wingham. It is curious then that what looks like an account held by this Thomas’s son with the Margate bank of Mr. Cobb,26 refers to the request in 1796 for a transfer of money, as Thomas Holbourn of Yarmouth. This reference indicates to me that Thomas may then have also been engaged with the local fishing fleet, and had landed a haul at Yarmouth, there sold?


It was on January 5th at three A.M, on a bitter cold morning in Victorian Thanet, when it became apparent at the little Harbour of Broadstairs that a ship was in some peril in local waters. The ‘Northern Belle’ had set out from New York and made it across the Atlantic only to run into trouble at Thanet, so close to its destination of London. The ship had been cast ashore on a dangerous ledge of rock below the Foreness Point, at Kingsgate, between Broadstairs and the coast of Margate. On seeing the plight of the Northern Belle’s crew, the Coastguard had sent warning to Broadstairs, so that, despite the awful conditions prevailing, the ‘Mary ~’ and ‘Culmer White’ Lifeboats were hauled overland by horse drawn trailer, against the blizzard, to a point where they could be safely launched.

Whilst these preparations were hurriedly underway the ‘Ocean’, a lugger already at sea managed to bring off five of the crew to safety, but the remainder, some twenty five men were soon to see the Culmer~White Lifeboat’s coming to their rescue.

In the 1850’s with two life craft, it was quite sensible practice for the boatmen to have one Lifeboat ready at the Harbour and the other on its launching trailer stored up in the coachyard of the ‘Rose Inn’, which had been a Coaching Inn since 1784, with the horses stabled in nearby Albion Street, close to the Pier. In this way one boat could always be taken to any part of the Thanet coast without delay. On this dramatic occasion, so fierce was the wind however, that both Lifeboats had to be moved overland, one being reloaded from the Pier.

In accordance with the prominent local historian William Lapthorne’s careful reconstruction of the event, ‘On arrival at the beach the boats were launched, and with a total disregard for their own safety the crews pulled boldly through the boiling surf and, after making several hazardous trips, saved most of the crew of the stricken vessel.’^
^ The Mary White, having been dragged across fields of snow was able to bring of seven of the American crew, and then the Culmer White having arrived with a fresh crew made two further journeys, on the first attempt rescuing 14 shipwrecked men, and only then returning to recover the Captain and the Pilot. : The Maritime Heritage of Thanet, East Kent Maritime Trust 1997 (Howard Biggs) Ed. : Cates & Chamberlain.

Culmer's Boatmen, on the occasion of the rescue of the Northern Belle.

Cold, wet and exhausted but rescued, the American survivors were taken to ‘The Captain Digby’ ~ a lone clifftop Inne overlooking the bay and the scene of the disaster. All involved were there able to thaw out before a blazing log fire, in the bars ‘cozy parlour’ where food and hot Rum was served and warming blankets given around. The gratitude of the Americans saved was obvious, and in response to this event the American President, Franklin Peirce ordered 25 Silver Medals to be struck, which together with a sum of salvage money were awarded to each of the Lifeboat crews. It is believed that this is the only known occasion on which such a medal has ever been awarded to English Lifeboatmen.

The Parade of the Mary White after the rescue of the Northern Belle, 1857.

Perhaps the following day, but certainly very soon afterwards the ‘Mary White’ with both Lifeboat crews aboard was drawn through the narrow streets of Broadstairs, proudly displaying the American ensign of the ‘Northern Belle’. Several weeks later a plaque was raised above the bar at the Rose Inn displaying the names of all those party to the rescue. The plaque remained in its place, an entire Century until the 1950’s, when it was quietly removed from public display and lost to a private collector, although it still remains in Broadstairs. The ship’s bell, bearing the name ‘Northern Belle’ is kept by East Kent Maritime Trust and is sometimes on display at the Ramsgate Maritime Museum at that Harbour.

The Broadstairs Harbour Master in 1857 was Joseph Jarman, it was to him that the ensign was presented to hold, it was said ‘in trust and perpetuity to be flown on fitting occasions’. For a while, yet now no longer a tradition that survives, it was once deemed suitable, that such a fitting occasion was the Shrove Tuesday of each year ~ to hoist this flag on that day atop of the Harbour pole, just beneath the Union Flag and turn over the local fishing boats to the children for the day. How short-sighted then, that this cheerful boatman’s tradition has been allowed to lapse, and how typically transient in this age where time and again it has been shown that Tourism is given greater precedence than Fishing, a tradition in Thanet dating back to the earliest of records. The recollection of Thanet’s local officials in this matter being something for due consideration.

Again with thanks to the diligent work of W. H. Lapthorne, the following letter was unearthed from the United States National Archive in Washington. It is a memorandum from one Lawrence Macey, an official of that State department and which was sent to President Franklin Pierce ;
Dept of Trade, Washington,
To the President,
“I have the honour to report that information has been received from Robert B. Campbell, Esq., United States Consul in London, of the wreck of the American ship ‘Northern Belle’ near Kingsgate, England, and the rescue of her crew by the aid of Lifeboats under circumstances of peculiar peril.~
 ~The details are sent forth in the annexed list from the London Times of January 8th, I respectfully suggest that our Minister at London be instructed to present in suitable terms the acknowledgement. ~ L. Macey.
The response came as :
“Both recommendations are heartily approved. I deign to confer with the Award of State in relation to the appropriate Tokens to be presented to the gallant crew of the ‘Mary White’.”  3rd. July 1857.

The Medal of gallantry issued in 1857 by the American State to the Broadstairs Boatmen for their part in the rescue of crew of the 'Northern Belle'.

(W.H. Lapthorne.).

The names of those recorded of the Lifeboatmen on the rescue of the Northern Belle, wrecked of Kingsgate, Broadstairs that 5th Jan. 1857:~































It is not clear on which specific journey Robert Parker and Robert Gilbert participated, or if they assisted with the haul off, and remained ashore, but their names also appear on the Salvage list, along with a Fred Lawrence. It was recommended that Jethro Miller be awarded the only Gold Medal said to have been presented, although no account of this medal is available on the American list, that he was said to have declined the honour and accepted a Silver medal is notable and suggests the existence of the medal and that he preferred it to George Emptage clearly shows the gallantry mentioned about these men so frequently.

George Emptage was the only man to make all three journeys to and from the wreck. The story of this medal has been handed down through J. Millers family to the present day and as such is the only account of the noble gesture to hand, such being the scantiness of surviving records. Jethrow Pettit had been Coxswain of one of the White’s Lifeboats, this is certain, and he was also the brother~in~law of Jethrow Miller, his wife being Harriet Pettit, both from old established Bradstowe families. Pettit was also a cousin of George Fox.

Two years later in 1859 Jerimiah Walker distinguished himself again, his ‘humane, zealous and successful efforts in rescuing the Master and the crew of the ‘Northern Belle’ were followed, when as a seaman of the lugger ‘Petrel’ he assisted in the rescue of the crew of the Spanish vessel the ‘Julia’, which had become stranded off Ramsgate. For this assistance he was awarded a medal struck on the Authority of Queen Donna Isabella II of Spain, thus Walker is believed to be one of the few men to have received two medals issued by different Heads of State.

Some years later, after the premature death of Shipwright Thomas Holbourn, his wife and children were to be found in lodgings with the family of Mr. Pettit, Master Mariner. (b. Ventnor, on the Isle of Wight as revealed on the 1871 Census)

It is clear that over the years the record of those named for their part in the rescue of the ‘Northern Belle’ has been slightly confused on some accounts, this has been put down to grime and over painting of the original plaque. This record was matched up against the official salvage list, which is also at slight variance with the said plaque. The salvage list was compiled by General Robert Campbell, United States Consul in London at the time. He also launched an appeal to all Americans living in Britain, requesting them to give generously by means of subscription to a fund, raising money to provide for the widows and orphans of the nine man crew of the Margate lugger “Victory”, which was lost with all hands going to the aid of the “Northern Belle” (Lapthorne). John Laing, a boatman of Broadstairs, is the name given for the person who compiled the list held at the ‘Rose Inn’, he also wrote an article and sent it to the London Times detailing the event for the Nation of the fate of the Margate lugger ‘Victory’. The loss of the crew of the lugger must have been a hard blow for the robust boatmen of Thanet however, and later was the inspiration of the founding of a Surfboat service which over the next Fifty years became famous in its own right for the lives saved and the misfortune it suffered at the perils of wind and sea, I am of course referring to the ‘Friend of all Nations’ and the later ‘Friend to all Nations’

A tablet recording the names of those men lost on the lugger as she turned over, and went down was inscribed and placed on Margate Pier, but even this is lost today such is the complacency of Thanet’s District Council, who historically, it is plain to observe, have never really appreciated the service done for the towns by their heroic boatmen. Out of due respect for these men here is a list of their names :~











 Small consolation for the families of these men came when the General’s fund delivered the boatmen a sum of £2000/~ to be distributed amongst them. A reasonable amount of money in those days but in truth a pittance for their lives. William Emptage was a close cousin of Mary Anne Emptage, who it is shown below was to marry Solomon Holbourn’s younger brother, who was my Grand~fathers grandfather, the Shipwright William Holbourn.

The London Illustrated News carried a lengthy account of the rescue and I quote, in reference to the Culmer boatmen : ‘these men were not labouring under any species of excitement when they engaged in the perilous duty which they performed so nobly and well. They had no hope of a decoration when they bounded into the boats to storm batteries of billows far more appalling to the human mind than batteries surrounded by cannon and bristling with bayonets. The crew of the ill fated ship grasped their preservers warmly by the hand saying “none but Englishmen would come off to our rescue in such a sea.”

 At the time it was further noted ‘Not many weeks ago a similar greeting was expressed to our Lifeboat crew by two French passengers who, with eleven other, were rescued from a mountainous sea, and with their vessel, a steamer, were taken into Ramsgate in safety.’


~ A FRIEND OF ALL NATIONS:  The Margate surfboat story.


James Hogben had been Coxswain of the Ramsgate Lifeboat “Northumberland” for nine years. On New Years Day 1861 an event at sea of considerable loss of life occurred with the wreck of the ‘Guttenburg’. Thick fog in a hurricane force wind compounded by snow drove the German brig of 170 tons onto ‘south sand head’ to capsize during the storm. Incredibly the “Guttenburg” had been carrying 14 survivors from the ‘Canton’, which she had found dis~masted and waterlogged of the coast of Newfoundland but had managed to deliver to safety into the hands of the Walmer lugger ‘Cosmopolite’ in a chance meeting off Dover. After which the ‘Guttenburg’ then struck the Goodwin Sands. Distress signals had been fired but were not seen because of the appalling weather, except that a few men on the beach at Deal had spotted the signals, a rescue may not even have been attempted at all. It was the Deal boatman Stephen Pritchard who had the foresight to telegram Ramsgate Harbour and ask for the Lifeboat there to be launched.

Thus the “Northumberland” pulled by the Ramsgate Steam Tug ‘Aid’ began to make a rescue attempt, but the boatmen and Harbour Tug men were prevented from leaving the Harbour by the appointed Harbour Master, simply because he had not received the distress call by the proper means, and regulations had not been observed. He was later to be charged with neglect, but managed to retain his post! It is not unjustified to concur that his initial reluctance was condemned by circumstance to ensure that the loss of life incurred was so great. Of those lost to the waves 23 male passengers and crew to this day go unnamed, in addition to which an additional six feminine passengers were lost. It is known that the Deal pilot Henry Pearson was aboard, and drowned in the sea. James Hogben had been Master of the “Northumberland” since 1852, a mariner all his life, but events in Ramsgate Harbour had been all too much that night, the Harbour Masters defiant ‘faux pas’ led James to throw up his hands with incredulity ~ he never went to sea again! Given the fact that he had already been out in the “Northumberland” earlier that same day under similar conditions then prevalent and that he was actually quite ill and needed rest his retirement was perhaps quite understandable.


Isaac Jarman was duly chosen to occupy the retired Coxswain’s position, also a man of many years sea fairing experience, he had himself even become shipwrecked, ~ twice! Issac held the position of Ramsgate Cox’n. for ten years, and was followed in 1871 by Charles Fish. Despite all the great many achievements of the boatmen during this decade Isaac Jarman’s brother Captain T(homas) Jarman was lost with his crew at sea just off the coast at Ramsgate.

Isaac Jarman.

The youngest son of Solomon and Mary Holbourn, William, does not appear to have found the opportunity to distinguish himself in the same way as his elder brothers. Records indicate that he was known as a ‘Journeyman’, this being someone who was professionally qualified although self employed. He married that local girl, Mary Anne Emptage, who was from a well known family of Thanet boatmen. They moved away from Thanet to Whitstable to raise a family and start a business of their own, a Chandeliers shop and Wood yard, but were caught up in the ‘Great Fire28 of that town in 1869, which destroyed some seventy one buildings, particularly the boatyards along the shoreline, which as well as being largely constructed of wood were also painted in tar, as protection against the elements, but highly inflammable. The fire and its consequent effect on the town was the reason that they, for a while, returned home to Thanet, where they were recorded on the 1871 Census, of Broadstairs as living at no. 5 Clavenden road, a property of some character. They were later to move to Gillingham Green, where, according to the 1881 Census Mary Anne raised the children and William worked away in Essex.


Coming Home 'All Saved'



'Through the eye of a Census.’ (Bygone Kent, Vol. 9 No.8).






 The Cobb Mss. includes at least nine separate accounts for the Blackburn Family between 1785 and 1837.( Edward, Isaac, John and Thomas appear on the 1802 Kent Poll) Isaac of Plymouth, Josiah of St. Peter’s Thanet, and Josiah of London. Concerning Peter of Ramsgate it is noted that he was the brother in law of Francis Cobb. It is further noted during the period 1796 to 1827 that ‘financial affairs’ were leading to ‘bankruptcy’ with the letters starting friendly and becoming formal, the last containing a reference to T.F.Cobb’s marriage. Also mentioned is Thomas Blackburn of St. Peters, the brother of Josiah and Peter, and brother in law to Francis Cobb. During the period 1785 to 1825 Thomas was involved in banking affairs and the democratisation of business between Cobb’s and ‘Blackburn & Austin’.














The Cobb Mss includes a reference to a Joseph Jarman (of Oxford) for 1814 when he made a transfer of five hundred pounds through Cobb’s Bank. Daniel, Thomas, William and John Jarman are recorded on the 1802 Kent Poll, a general index of the names of freeholders in the parishes of the County.





In 1835 Cobb’s Bank of Margate transferred an amount of money for a Miss Adams to Ludlow. She is recorded as having been involved in the running of a Sunday School subscription fund. A Will. Adams (of London) who in 1819 placed a payment of bill on Richard Nash,. His son is presumed to be William Adams of Margate, who with George (perhaps his uncle) appear to have run a plumbing business between 1812 and 1851. Edward R(obert) Adams of London makes a payment on the account of a J.S. Rains in 1819. The 1802 Kent Poll records including the above a list of 11 names being ; Arthur, Edward, Fitzherbert, George, John, James, Moses, Richard, Robert, Thomas, and William.





 Cobb records John Sackett of Margate for 1793 to 1830, and the Ramsgate Pilot Richard Sackett for 1825. P. Sackett of Ramsgate makes a transfer of twenty five pounds in 1798.The bankrupt estate of John Sayer is mentioned in a note relating to the account of J. Sackett and W. Lansell of Margate in 1818.





The very real danger of the devastating power generated by the ‘Solar Winds’ upon Earth’s magnetic field being the subject of the worlds first inter planetary probe.





Bank correspondence detail is indexed by name in the Cobb Mss. which mentions John White of Broadstairs from 1788 to 1793, Thomas White (of Margate) in 1844 and Thomas White of Broadstairs for 1802. A further reference is made to a William White of Deal concerning mainly probate and charitable matters from 1790 to 1829.





‘Ramsgate (The Kent Coast at its best) Pictorially Presented’ a ‘guide book’ of the 1930’s, on its section on Broadstairs reflects those complaints vividly, describing the town as : ‘a very conservative place which, for example, has enjoyed a sequence - not revival - of nigger minstrelsy (which) is outstanding in these days. (concluding) Tradition and progress is a judicious mixture at Broadstairs.’ A.H.Simison, a photographic chemist of St. Lawrence, Ramsgate, the publisher of this photo tour of Thanet describes Broadstairs as having developed ‘always with a consistent policy of retaining those characteristics for which it has for so long been renowned.’ !






 A Robert M Cock of Broadstairs held an account at the Margate bank of Francis Cobb 1834\39. Cobb Mss. (from the bookcase of David G. Scurrell.)






 Perhaps no more than coincidence, but it is interesting to note that on the 17th July, 1860 Katie Dickens, Charles Dickens daughter married Charles Allston Collins (The wedding took place at St. Mary’s Church and many of the guests were household names of the mid ~1800’s) Collins was an artist and a member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The son of a William Collins and the younger brother of the famous author William Wilkie Collins. In 1857 Dickens had moved into his newly purchased home at ‘Gads Hill’ Higham, near Cliffe at Hoo. I do not know if he was thus likewise also in some manner related to Elizabeth Collins of Sittingbourne~ : ‘A Mosaic history of Higham.’ 1974 (Celebrating ‘twelve hundred years of Christian Worship on the site of St. Mary’s Church, Higham.’) Andrew Rootes & Ian Craig. Gravesend.









 This document lists the names of many people local or otherwise that have held accounts with the Margate Banker Francis Cobb and covers the period from 1780 to 1870. Amongst Mr Cobb’s many clients were Mary Bayley (of Chatham) in 1784, revealed is the imminent return of her husband, due in on the ‘Dolphin’, and a George Bayley of Margate. William and Cheverle Epps of Canterbury held an account between 1787-1795. William Gibbs (of Pentonville Gaol) is cited regarding the forwarding draft; John Mockett held a large business account from 1816-1836 whist William Neame placed money in keeping for his mother and sister in 1851; and George Quested of Ringwould, whom is mentioned in connection with his hopes of obtaining a Brewery post and the settling of an outstanding account. The Solly account reveals a Thomas Solly of Derryman, Ireland, and authorisation is given to his brother to continue his business for him from 1828. George (senior) of Sandwich, and George (Junior) of Monkton had bank details from 1832 to 1867 T.W. Solly of Monkton Court (enclosing Fifty pound ;1838) and William Solly of Broadstairs (1833) are also mentioned. Perhaps most interesting of all might be the account of the Duke of Richmond (Earl of March). Cobb was engaged in the sale and transfer of weapons as his agent in 1816.