WW Martin is Founded
William Woodgate Martin was born in 1837 to a farmer in High Halden, Near Ashford. Whilst a child, his father fell on hard times and the young William went to live with his grandfather in the local inn (The Chequers Public House) in High Halden. He started as an apprentice carpenter at the age of 14.
(William Woodgate Martin 1837-1934)
As the years passed he became very adept at building, and as a result, his grandfather set him up in business some thirty miles away in Collier Street near Cranbrook. This was, incidentally, to ensure that he did no impinge on his own business.
He dabbled in farming to a certain extent and would barter farmed goods for building materials and vice versa.
In later years, he suffered with asthma and was advised by his doctor to move to the seaside. He chose to live in Deal, right up to his death in 1934. In the meantime, he started his business in Ramsgate before the turn of the century, and was located adjacent to Hudson's Mill on the Margate Road and the town's original railway station. The company then moved to Dane Park Road, following a fire.
WW Martin's First Contract - St Lawrence College
Martin founded WW Martin in 1877, and his first formal works contract came two
years later, when the company constructed a school - now known as St Lawrence
College - in 1879 at Dane Park House.
Originally called ‘South-Eastern College’, Rev E C D’Auquier lead the Evangelical Church of England school with just 5 pupils. The school rapidly outgrew the single house when the number of pupils had risen to 125, leading to the main building of the present day college by 1884 which was also built by WW Martin.
(St Lawrence College's first building was at Dane Park House, and called "South Eastern College" - photograph circa 1933)
49 High Street Canterbury
is a cathedral city and UNESCO World Heritage Site, infamously rich in history.
The area has been inhabited since prehistoric times, yet, during the early 19th
Century Canterbury remained a quiet market town, as the industrial cities of
the north and midlands flourished.
1887, WW Martin was appointed by Pool & Son to deliver a grand retail unit -
'Military and Family Bootmakers’. Built from red brick and stone over three
storeys, the Gothic style building features elaborate terracotta panels. The gable
is flanked by protruding delicate pilasters, and on the first floor is a putto
above the oriel. The ground floor has 3 round-arched windows, and the building’s
finial is in the form of a gryphon.
The above left drawing is from 1910 and illustrates the shops' floor plan. Adjacent is a recent photograph of 49 High Street, now part of the Santander banking branch. Below is an advert from 1903 by the bootmakers, promising ‘American, Parisian and Viennese Goods of the best and newest designs in stock’.
National Westminster Bank, Ramsgate
WW Martin Ltd was renowned for building up Ramsgate and the surrounding
area in the late 19th and 20th Century, when the vicinity increased dramatically in
population due to the advent of seabathing - made famous by Princess Victoria -
and a seaside railway being built in 1846.
In 1875, French artist James Tissot painted Ramsgate Harbour from the
window of The Royal Albion Hotel, on Harbour Parade. However, in order for a
new road to be constructed for tram and horse use, the hotel was demolished,
and in 1893, WW Martin built National Westminster (NatWest) Bank on the newly
formed Madeira Walk.
(above is Tissot's plaque on the former bank which WW Martin Ltd constructed in 1893, with his infamous painting "A Passing Storm". Source: jamestissot.org)
The beautiful ornate bank was built over four storeys, including a rusticated
basement, with a separate three storey tower with cornice capped stacks on the slate
roof. The Italianate style corner building with its curving façade features
pilasters and alternating sashes, with double panelled doors and wooden
casements in the grand porch.
Back in 1893, there were evidently less rules and regulations in regards to Health and Safety - pictured above is the NatWest Bank being constructed, with WW Martin workers proudly standing on top of the scaffolding. No helmets or harnesses in sight!
The above view illustrates Ramsgate in 1910 with The National Westminster Bank on the street corner, with trams and horses descending from Madeira Walk. You can see an up to date view Here. The Grade II Listed building is now home to a Pizza Express, where its
diners can experience panoramic sweeping views of Ramsgate Harbour, which Tissot, and many others, loved to paint.
WW Martin builds The Isle of Thanet Joint Isolation Hospital
In the 1820s Ramsgate saw a
surge in development, when a young Princess Victoria frequented the town and
beaches for her holidays. The first railway was built in 1846, and in the
following decades, many notable names frequented Thanet including Vincent Van
Gogh, Karl Marx, Charles Dickens and James Tissot. This inevitably contributed
to people migrating to the area and amenities began to struggle.
One local facility, ‘The
Northwood Hospital for Infection’, was
deemed too small to fulfill the needs of the Isle, so in January 1900 WW Martin Ltd
was appointed to build “The Isle of Thanet Joint Isolation Hospital” at Haine
Road, Ramsgate after submitting a tender for £49,545.
(An ariel photo of Haine Hospital taken in May 1954. Source: Ramsgate History)
The hospital was opened in
1901, and there were 110 beds in the wards to cater for those infected with illnesses, including diphtheria, scarlet fever, chicken pox, polio, whooping cough and typhoid fever. Two years later the previous abandoned Northwood Hospital was burned to the
ground by the Ramsgate Fire Brigade to stop any infection
spreading from the buildings.
In July 1948, the newly formed NHS took over and by 1955 it became "Haine Hospital". Upon its closure in October 1986 the hospital was by then exclusively for the chronically sick and geriatric - the patients were transferred to Ramsgate Hospital on Westcliff Road, which has since been developed into residential units.
Haine Hospital stood derelict for many years, until 2004
when it was demolished. In 2005, Westwood Cross Retail Park was developed, covering 475,000 sq ft. A Marks and Spencer store now stands on the remains of the hospital's old mortuary.
A small part of the original hospital gateway still stands, and the engravings on the wall in the Foundation Stone were scribed by the military patients who were treated here during WWI and WWII.
(The remaining Foundation Stone at Westwood Cross)
St. Ethelbert's Church, Ramsgate
Georges Church was built in 1827, due to the current St Lawrence Parish being
deemed too small for the residents of Ramsgate. However, the town’s population increased
after the seaside railway station was built in 1846, and famous faces frequented the area
including Vincent Van Gogh, Karl Marx and Charles Dickens. Thus there was a
need for another place of worship in order to serve the expanding east side of
Frances Elizabeth Ellis (pictured below) was born in 1846 and devoted her life to founding
churches, orphanages, hospitals and hospices using her father’s inheritance. In June
1901, Frances appointed WW Martin as the main contractors to build a church on
Hereson Road in Ramsgate, and by 17th August 1902 ‘St Ethelbert’s
Church’ was completed.
Designed by Peter Pugin (son of Augustus Pugin,the architect famous for The
Houses of Parliament and Westminster Palace), the Church is of Gothic
architecture, decorated with Labrador granite columns. Externally, the church
is executed in stock bricks and stone dressings with lead windows. The open
timber roof is thickly traceried with Westmoreland green slating. The internal
wood-work is pitch pine and there is a solid wood block floor covering
St Ethelbert’s Church is but a stone’s throw away from the present WW Martin
offices on Dane Park Road.
The Great War
gained a reputation as the most bombed seaside town in the First World War,
suffering many Zeppelin and Gotha bomber raids and being shelled several times
from the sea. Meanwhile, overseas, Charles son of William Woodgate, lost an eye in battle serving for
Pictured below is a plaque listing the names of WW Martin
employees who served in The Great War
St Lawrence College Chapel Built
In 1879 WW Martin built St. Lawrence College - now a co-educational independent school - in Ramsgate. During the Great War over 130 former pupils were killed, and it was
decided by the school to raise funds in order to build a Chapel as a War Memorial.
Designed by the architect Sir George Aston Webb - whose other work includes the façade of Buckingham Palace - WW Martin
commenced the building process in 1926, and the Chapel was dedicated by the
Archbishop of Canterbury on 8 June 1927 .It was built of brown brick in English bond with stone dressings, and feautures a Westmorland slate roof.
We continue to work with St Lawrence College 138 years on from building the school at the 'Dane Park House' site.
N.B. The above photograph of the Chapel of St. Lawrence College was taken from 'Hudson's Mill' in 1949. This historical Grade II Listed former Flour Mill in Ramsgate is currently being developed into a number of contemporary residences by WW Martin.
WW Martin 50 Year Anniversary
All employees are pictured outside the Dane Park Road headquarters building as part of the 50 year celebrations prior to being treated to an outing to continue the celebrations.
WW Martin still resides in Dane Park Road premises which are steeped in history having been the home of the business since around 1900.
The Royal Esplanade, Ramsgate
The Royal Esplanade is situated in the
historic maritime town of Ramsgate in Kent, part of the Cliffsend and Pegwell vicinity.
In 1926, H.R.H The Prince of Wales openedwas then announced that the West Cliff area needed
developing in order to keep up with the demands of visitors and locals alike. The Scottish architect, Sir John Burnet
(whose other work includes The British Museum, Balliol College Chapel in Oxford
and Sydney Harbour Bridge) was appointed to design these regal facilities.
- (the below image is of the esplanade's opening ceremony, featuring the future King Edward VIII. Photo - A. H. Siminson)
The Westcliff Lift
Martin was selected to undertake several projects following the opening of the Royal Esplanade, and in 1928, built the West
Cliff Lift for £3,328. It was to "hold 20 persons, including the attendant, and travel at a speed of 200 feet per minute, with a shaft of 78ft". Located on Prince Edward Promenade, the lift was
constructed to provide access to the Undercliff Drive and sands from the cliff
top. The lift consists of a stone base and rendered shaft, with a glass front. It was listed as Grade II in 1988, and decommissioned in 1993.
(the above images are Ramsgate postcards, and display the Westcliff Lift shortly after completion in the 1930s. Source: Michael's Bookshop)
WW Martin appointed to deliver Bandstand and Boating Pool in Ramsgate.
The tea pavilions and bandstand were opened in August 1929. Designed in the 'general style of the Italian Renaissance', WW Martin constructed the buildings for £18,526 - two narrow single storey radial pavilions facing east and west. A majestic circular Bandstand was constructed in the centre with seating for two thousand people.
The Bandstand saw many musical events but was demolished in the early 1960s, and the stepped terracing was turned into a boating pool which is still in use today. In the 1980s the buildings were briefly used for a monkey sanctuary! But now the western building is a café, which facilitates the Boating Pool, and children’s play area. See a recent Street View here.
Similar to The Westcliff Lift, the development was Listed Grade II in 1988. Pictured below is the Banstand in 1929 and The Boating Pool in 2016* (*photo by Lee Pelling).
William Woodgate Martin Passes Away
William Woodgate Martin reached an advanced age of 96 and sadly passed away on Sunday 28th January 1934. Pictured below is a newspaper cutting of the Obituary from the local press.
WW Martin 100 Year Centenary
In 1977 and as part of the Centenary celebrations a photo of all current staff at the time was taken with a view to replicate the 1927 photo (see History tab).
The business was then under the control of the Grandsons and Cousin of William Woodgate Martin and if the photo is inspected closely, there are few familiar but younger faces of current and recently retired members of staff.
On 2nd December 1977 the local Isle of Thanet Gazette published well wishes from other local companies congratulating WW Martin on their 100 year anniversary. Below are quotes from companies.
"Our hearties congratulations to W W Martin (Thanet Ltd) on achieving their Centenary" - Hamilton Slade Co Ltd
"Wish to congratulate W W Martin on reaching their centenary and are pleased to be associated with them as sub-contractors for plumbing and heating on various building projects past and present" - H. J. Elson & Son
"Wish to congratulate the family business of W W Martin on reaching their centenary. Long may we continue trading together" - Southdown Tool Hire
W W Martin held a cocktail evening at the San Clu Hotel in Ramsgate, on 30th April 1977 for approximately 300 persons. These consisted of employees, sub-contractors, Architects, Professional Advisers and other associated companies.
Restoring The Prospect Tower in Belmont Park
General Harris (who later became Lord Harris of Seringapatam) purchased
Belmont House and its 265 acres of land for £ 8,960 in 1801. Six years later The Prospect Tower was built in the
grounds over two storeys, at a cost of £400. Harris called the tower his ‘whim’ and used the upper room as his own ‘den’,
into which the family were sometimes ‘allowed for tea’.
Lord Harris’ son, 4th Baron George Harris was one of the fathers of cricket, being Captain for England and Kent County Cricket Club from 1870 to 1889. He created a pitch in Belmont Park in 1871, and in 1878 took the England team to Australia for a test match which instigated the Ashes test series.
Harris commandeered Prospect Tower as a changing room until the 1920s, when sadly he was forced by age to retire from the game. The Tower remained vacant for many years and was eventually leased to the Landmark Trust, who proposed the property required extensive repairs after a violent storm battered the building in 1987.
(The above photos show depict how Prospect Tower was derelict and battered. Credit: The Landmark Trust)
WW Martin Ltd was appointed for this specialist work, and in 1990
developed Prospect Tower into guesthouse accommodation. There were some ominous
cracks in the walls which were stitched with metal ties, and two sections of
parapet and its wall below were completely rebuilt. A shower room and kitchen
were added, as well as water and electricity. The windows were repaired, keeping the old sashes and glass where
possible. On the ground floor the existing brick floor was re-laid, but with
new underfloor heating beneath it. The walls throughout the Tower were finished
in traditional lime-hair plaster, and painted with special porous paints,
coloured with natural pigments. The building is thus able to breath, and any
damp in the walls evaporates quickly, without causing problems. The below floor plan illustrates WW Martin's guesthouse design plan.
As a nod to George Harris and his ode to cricket, the original hooks which were used for the cricket equipment
still decorate the walls. WW Martin is also a Major Sponsor of Kent County Cricket Club, which demonstrates our commitment to Kent and our Community.
Restoration - St. Georges Church, Ramsgate
With the building of the Royal Harbour and the interest in sea bathing made popular by British Royalty, Ramsgate's population had rapidly increased to about 6,500 by the early 1820s. Subsequently, the current St Lawrence Parish was outgrown, and on the 23rd October 1823, a meeting of Ramsgate residents was held to 'take into consideration the great want of Church Room for the
inhabitants of this town and the necessity of supplying the deficiency'.
The decision was made to build a church to seat 2,000, and four years later in 1827, The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Manners Sutton, consecrated "St Georges Church". The church was built of brick with stone string courses, battlements, parapets, pinnacles and dressings.
(above postcard of St Georges Church shortly after it was built. Source: Ramsgate History) The most impressive feature of St George's is the octagonal stone Lantern with flying buttresses and balustrades which was built to be a navigational guide to shipping in the Channel. Fit for a Princess, Princess Victoria used the church as her place of worship whilst visiting Ramsgate.
Round the top of the Lantern are letters spelling the name 'St George'. The tower is 136 feet high and contains a set of tubular bells as it is not strong enough to carry a peal. The Vulliamy clock is one of the main timepieces in the town with dials facing south, north and west and was donated in 1829 at a cost of 250 guineas.
Like the rest of the church, over the centuries the Lantern had suffered greatly from the eroding effects of salt-laden winds, rusting iron dowels and pollution, to the point when it had become a 'dangerous structure' which needed repairing. WW Martin Ltd was appointed for this very specialist project, and restoration of the Lantern began in January 2001, and was completed in September 2004 at a cost of £1.2 million (see image below).
New Owners for WW Martin
John Higgens, Neil Peck, Ian Posnett and Mike Darling became the new majority shareholders and co-owners of WW Martin Ltd. With the blessing of the Martin family, the four new Directors and Shareholders purchase this well established business with a view to taking the company forward whilst maintaining the history and ethics of WW Martin.
Celebrating 140 Years
WW Martin celebrate 140 years
Established in 1877 and based in Kent, WW Martin has a strong history and an excellent track record in the construction industry. Over the last 140 years, the business has successfully worked on a multitude of projects for a multitude of clients. Based in Kent throughout this time, we are proud of our business and we are delighted to celebrate this milestone.
As we look forward to the year ahead, 2017 will see us continue our work on multiple sites throughout Kent and the South East. We will be starting and completing a variety of new build and refurbishment projects for our strong client base. Please see our project pages for more details.
2017 also marks our first season as a new main sponsor for Kent County Cricket Club, for whom we wish the very best of luck for the year. Our sponsorship for 2017 also includes our support of Ramsgate FC as well as many other local clubs and charities; maintaining our commitment to supporting the local communities in which we work. Please see our news pages for more details on each of these.
Fundamental to our business over the last 140 years has been our staff. We recognise this and continually invest in our people as we look to continue the traditions of our business. The last 12 months has seen us welcome a number of new staff to the team at WW Martin, helping us to strengthen and enhance the knowledge and skills we offer. We also continue to identify and offer people the opportunity to enter the industry, taking on 6 apprentices at the end of 2016, ready to develop in 2017.
Finally, we are planning a number of special events in 2017 to mark our 140th year and very much hope many of our industry colleagues and friends willl join us at these events to help us celebrate the year. More details of these events will follow in due course.
Thank you to everyone who we have worked with and who has helped us achieve 140 years.
Very best wishes for 2017 and beyond.