Margate Washhouse

Status: Let

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We uncovered the layered history of this single storey building on the oldest part of Margate High Street. The shop, along with many others at the lower end of the road, was originally a Bathing Rooms which, prior to the creation of Marine Drive (1880-1890), would have backed on to the sea. Bathers would have exited the building onto a balcony at the rear and then descended a wooden staircase to the beach. From there, a ‘bathing machine’ would have taken them out to the water.

Likely the replacement for a similar structure destroyed in the storms of 1808, the existing building dates from shortly after that. Amongst its many subsequent incarnations, the shop has operated as the premises for at least three different bootmakers, as a self-service launderette and as an amusement arcade.

Working with Studio Sam Causer who carefully surveyed the structure and uncovered its history, we delicately removed recent low quality interior layers to uncover surviving earlier finishes. A design scheme and pattern of use evolved which took best advantage of the opportunities and discoveries offered up by the building.

We have recently reinstated the lost roof lantern and, In the long term, we plan to reimagine the lost shop front, and provide safe access to the atmospheric glazed brick basement.

As the scheme evolved and works were planned, the building was occupied in its ‘rewound’ state, initially by community groups, artists, exhibitors and ‘pop-up’ traders, and now by Werkhaus Margate whose brand engages with the building’s unfinished aesthetic.