Leaving London: ‘Why I swapped a modernist palace in Belsize Park for a new life in Ramsgate’

Emily Bradbury in Ramsgate  (Emily Bradbury)
Emily Bradbury in Ramsgate (Emily Bradbury)

If you had asked her just a few years ago whether she would ever leave her beloved London, Emily Bradbury’s answer would have been: ‘No chance’.

Her life in the capital was rather fabulous. She and her husband, John, The Specials’ drummer, lived in a fantastic house in Belsize Park — a modernist 3,500sq ft steel and glass palace they had built on the site of a former garage.

And as a jewellery designer, her pieces have been worn by stars ranging from Cara Delevingne to Mark Ronson.

Then, out of the blue and aged only 62, John died. Bradbury’s world view changed overnight.

Ramsgate (Joanna Bongard)
Ramsgate (Joanna Bongard)

“We had been together since I was 18 but literally the day he died I thought: ‘I am not going to be complacent and stay here in this house and carry on living the same life. I am going to fight for a new life,’” says Bradbury.

That was 2015 and over the next few years she began planning her future. A friend who had moved to Broadstairs in Kent suggested Bradbury take a look at Ramsgate as an option.

Though she had barely heard of the town, she decided to take the advice. “I fell in love with the first Georgian house I saw there,” she says.

Rather than throw caution to the wind, Bradbury chose in 2019 to rent the four-storey townhouse first while she got the feel for provincial life.

Bradbury’s Belsize Park house (Handout)
Bradbury’s Belsize Park house (Handout)

She then decided to move down full-time, rented out the Belsize Park house and shifted her life and business (truerocks.com) to the coast.

“I had been in London all my life,” says Bradbury, 62, whose fashion career began when she opened the Stark Naked punk boutique in Camden Town in 1977.

“The thing I really like about Ramsgate is that it is not a destination,” she says.

“Ramsgate is quieter, it feels like there is undiscovered potential here. And there are lots of little bars and a very creative community with a lot of artists and musicians, so it feels very Londonesque but on a much smaller scale, which I really like.”

Bradbury is now in the process of giving her townhouse a few tweaks to reflect her style — including a pink concrete outdoor kitchen — and loves the town’s burgeoning café culture, regularly popping into Eats ’n’ Beats for a Margarita and music.

“I never thought I would move out of London in a million years,” she says. “I was on a mission to create a new life for myself, and I am very happy with what I have done.”