Sunday, 13 April 2008

The Pre-Raphaelite Studio in Birchington

I was taken out last week by my trusty guide to Thanet and shown the derelict Pre-Raphaelite artist studio in Birchington. It's sited on the cliff face in front of the Towers Bungalows private estate, which were some of the first bungalow houses built in Great Britain. I've only just come to the story, and I'm not sure that what remains of many of the Towers Bungalows are the original structures.

It seems the building where the Pre-Raphaelite artist Rossetti stayed and died was eventually demolished in the 1960s and seven houses were then later built on the site. But the first bungalows in the UK were built in Westgate and Birchington along that stretch of cliff, utilising new pre-fabricated building techniques and enjoying a new relationship with the sea, views and healthy living. The money to finance construction came off the back of the colonies with the involvement of the East India Company and the bankers Coutts, the architects also came from London. They built the houses for the new breed of upper middle classes brought along to the coast by the new railways.

Back to the derelict studio. It seems a real shame if this is going to simply deteriorate and disappear. It's an interesting piece of history and a fantastic site. Surely it shouldn't just crumble to pieces? The view from there is really beautiful and one can imagine why it was a perfect studio space. I imagine it is perhaps owned by one of the properties to the rear. But no confirmation on that as yet.

I found mention of the history via the ever useful Google Books in a publication called The Bungalow: The Production of a Global Culture by Anthony D. King.

Further reading: The First Bungalow Estate by Alan Kay
The Rossetti Bungalow by Pat Orpwood


  1. Great detective work - I was aware of the Rossetti's connection with the area, but never really considered that there might still be remains of this part of Thanet's artistic heritage.

  2. I lived in this house with my family for some years and then brother purchased it from my parents and sold the house this year. We had Channel 4 come in and film about bungalows. The original owners where very big socialites and gave big party's with celebrity guests inc Noel Coward. We also believe that the Play The 39 steps was inspired by the 39 steps down to the studio from the garden. They is believed to be a replica of the studio built in Hyde park. Hope this helps in the history of the building. Jonathan Richardson

  3. Thanks, Jonathan! I would love to see it restored. What an amazing place. You don't have pictures do you?