'The Shell Lady of Margate' – Margate, England - Atlas Obscura

'The Shell Lady of Margate'

Margate, England

Overlooking the seaside town of Margate stands a tribute to an artist's lover. 

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The seaside town of Margate has long had a connection with artists, from the more contemporary Tracy Emin, all the way back to J.M.William Turner.

“Mrs. Booth,” or “The Shell Lady” as she’s affectionately known, was created in 2008 by sculptor Ann Carrington. The sculpture is a tribute to Sophie Booth, landlady and lover to J.M.William Turner.

Booth was born in Dover in 1798 to German parents. She then moved to Margate where she married a local fisherman John Henry Pound in 1818.  In 1821, he drowned at sea leaving her with her two sons Daniel and Joseph. Joseph died before he was six years old.

Later, she married John Booth and they opened up a guest house on the seafront of Margate. They had a son, John Pound Booth in 1826, but he died of cholera at the age of 10.  

It was around 1829 that Turner started visiting Sophia’s guesthouse, the quality of light around that area intrigued him and inspired many of his paintings. After John Booth’s death in 1833, Sophia was a widow once again, and so she and Turner became life partners. While they never married, the two were known as Mr. and Mrs. Booth.

The sculpture stands at 12 feet tall and is composed of bronze. The sculpture is known as “The Shell Lady,” because it takes inspiration from the shell lady souvenirs sold at gift shops across Margate. The site of the Turner Contemporary Art Gallery was once the location of the famous guesthouse in which Turner stayed.

Know Before You Go

Parking is near the gallery. There are some cafes and places to eat right next to the statue. Can be very windy.

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