Above - A Google Streetview image of the Theatre Royal, Margate - Click to Interact
The Theatre Royal that stands on the corner of Addington Street and Prince's Street, Margate today was constructed at a cost of £10,000 and opened on Monday the 20th of July 1874 with a production of H. T. Craven's comedy 'Coals of Fire' and the farce 'The Widow's Victim'. The Theatre was designed by the architect Jethro. T. Robinson, who was the Father in Law of the renowned Theatre Architect Frank Matcham. Robinson also designed London's Hengler's Grand Cirque, the Park Theatre, Camden, the Pavilion, Whitechapel, the Albion Theatre, Poplar, the Grecian Theatre, Shoreditch, the Old Vic reconstruction in 1871, all in London, and the early Theatre Royal, Hull.
The Margate Theatre Royal was actually a reconstruction of an earlier Theatre Royal on the same site, with additional land obtained by purchasing adjoining properties. The original Theatre on the site was opened on June the 27th 1787 with a production of 'She Stoops to Conquer' and 'All the World's a Stage'. This Theatre was converted into a Chapel in the 1840s.
Right - A Bill for 'Black Beard the Pirate', 'Spanish Lovers', and 'Presumption or the fate of Frankenstein' at the earlier Theatre Royal, Margate on the 1st of September 1824 - Kindly donated by Shirley Cowdrill.
The freehold for this earier Theatre was then bought in 1873 by Robert Fort who had been running Forester's Music Hall and Rosherville Gardens. On buying the Freehold, Fort said that he was: "pleased to retain Miss Thorne as his tenant, the management of the Theatre having been in the hands of her family for the last twenty years."
The ERA reported on the new Theatre Royal in their 26th of July 1874 edition saying: 'The new Theatre, built by Mr Robert Fort at an expense of nearly £10,000, was opened for the season on Monday last under the most favourable circumstances. The unsightly looking front of the old Theatre is now replaced by a handsome entrance raised to a height of fifty feet, and separate entrances to the boxes, dress-circle and pit have been arranged at the circular corner in Addington-street.
Refreshment-rooms are fitted in a most elaborate style at back of dress-circle and pit, in front of which is a broad and carpeted promenade, from whence a full view of the stage may be obtained. Every consideration has been shown in providing cloak and retiring rooms. The dress-circle and stalls afford accommodation for 750 persons; pit and upper circle, 900; and the gallery, 350.
The stage is of large dimensions, fitted up with all the modern improvements for the production of comedy-dramas and burlesques on a grand scale. The fronts of the boxes, circles, proscenium, and ceiling are of the most chaste design, being finished in white and gold. The decorations have been carried out by Messrs Pashley, Newton, Young, and Co., of Red Lion-square, London; the building erected by Messrs Paramor and Son, contractors, Margate; the upholstery furnished by Messrs Andass and Leggott, of Hull; the magnificent act drop and appropriate scenery executed by Messrs Bull Brothers, Great Queen-street, London. The whole of the works have been carried out from plans and specifications prepared under the supervision of the architect, Mr J. T. Robinson, Haverstock hill, London, and Margate now boasts one of the most elegant and comfortable Theatres in the kingdom.' - The ERA, 26th July 1874.
The newly reconstructed Theatre opened on Monday the 20th of July 1874 with a production of H. T. Craven's comedy 'Coals of Fire' and the farce 'The Widow's Victim', and then went on to remain in theatrical use until it became a Cinema between the wars.
Left - A programme for Agatha Christie's 'Towards Zero' at the Theatre Royal, Margate. In the cast were Monte Crick, Marlene Kaplan, Susan Hardie, John Ruck Keene, Fath Noble, Pamela Greenfield, Oswald Lawrence, Reginald Birks, Philip John, and Colin McIntyre.
In 1962 Theatre World Magazine reported on the reopening of the Theatre by Gerald Frow and his wife Sally Miles. Entitled: 'The Royal Lives Again' the article went on to say:-
'OUT of the gloomy wreckage of abandoned and torndown theatres scattered all over the country, there are lights of hope and faith and challenge: as at Coventry, with the Belgrade; at Guildford, with the Yvonne Arnaud; at Croydon, with the Peggy Ashcroft; at Chichester, with the Festival Theatre. All these are new projects. At Margate, however, one of the most charming and most historic playhouses we possess, the Royal, which received its Royal Charter from George III in 1782, has been brought to life again in vivid fashion by Gerald Frow and his wife Sally Miles. These young enthusiasts, with very little money at their disposal, have performed what seems like something akin to a miracle by reopening the Royal when it looked as if it would open no more, and by forming the Margate Stage Company, a regular troupe, which began with Arden of Faversham on April 25.
The Margate Stage Company plan repertories of several plays, the initial programme consisting of Arden of Faversham, Ostrovsky's The Diary of a Scoundrel; Capek's R.U.R.; Dennis Cannan's Misery Me! and an adaptation with music of Dumas' The Three Musketeers by Gerald Frow.
Mr. Frow and Miss Miles have published a manifesto outlining the object and policy of the Margate Stage Company. Salient points include the establishing of the Royal "as an exciting, vital, stimulating and entertaining theatre in its own right"; the forming, training and developing of a permanent company serving the Royal - actors, directors, designers and management - as a team; the carrying out of a clear policy of making theatre theatrical by a return to the use of theatrical conventions in staging, direction and settings; and the task of putting the Royal on the map.
Right - Gerald Frow and Sally Miles during the redecoration of the Theatre Royal, Margate - Theatre World, June 1962 - Courtesy Maurice Poole.
The building was in a very neglected state when Mr. Frow and Miss Miles took ever, but, with the help of volunteers and the whole company, it was transformed in time for the first night, when Sir Donald Wolfit performed the opening ceremony in a playhouse of exceptional beauty and charm. Great attention is being paid to making and keeping the theatre as attractive and striking as possible, both inside and outside. This includes the posters. Mr. Frow says: "Posters carry the theatre's image to the public mind. Badly designed posters, badly composed advertisements, tatty handbills, are worse than useless. Everything sent outside the building must give the idea that the theatre is a lively, exciting, stimulating place, the sort of place one would like to go to for a night out. Ask any industrialist you like what he thinks about the packages of a product. Why the hell does the theatre think it can get away without it?" For this reason, too, special efforts are being made to give the foyer a really warm and welcoming atmosphere.
The Margate Stage Company hope that eventually they will be able to work completely on plays specially written for them. They feel sure that this is the only way to obtain the best possible results from all concerned. Two writers are already working with the team-company; one is a stage manager, the other runs the bars. But they are being given every encouragement to write.
Left - The Theatre Royal, Margate - Theatre World, June 1962 - Courtesy Maurice Poole.
Regarding the development of style in the Company. Mr. Frow says : "The formulation of a style, its development and maintenance, allows a company the freedom to use Theatre. In a real theatre, if it is being really theatrical, your audience, knowing an actor to be young, seeing even the string holding his beard on, will, for the purpose of the play, accept him as an old man. That is acting, that is theatre. It is quite acceptable to any audience providing that the style is clear and consistent. After all, the principal boy in pantomime is always a girl, yet no one worries. It is a theatrical convention, a style."
I have so far seen only the opening production, a peculiarly suitable choice because the murder of Arden of Faversham occurred in real life a few miles from Margate more than three hundred and fifty years ago. As the young company comprising Tony Beckley, Patrick Crean, Clive Elliot, Michael Warchus, Edward Phillips, Ron Welling, Zoe Randall, Louane Harvey, Christopher Tranchill. Ronald Cream and Powell Jones in the principal parts trod the ancient boards that were once taken by Kean and Macready, Siddons and Bernhardt, the indomitible Sarah Thorne, and the brilliant Vanbrughs, I had a deep sense of Occasion. The theatre was filled by an astonishing atmosphere of excitement and expectation. One felt that here, indeed, a theatre was being reborn. And it was evident, even at this early time, that the Margate Stage Company, in addition to being keen, hardworking and versatile, is really gifted. The team, which has worked so hard on and off the stage for weeks on end, already gives an impression of a dedicated group.
Right - The Auditorium of the Theatre Royal, Margate - Theatre World, June 1962 - Courtesy Maurice Poole.
The lease of the Royal is for eighteen months, with an option of a further five and a half years, so that seven years' continuous work will be possible. Mr. Frow, Miss Miles and their colleagues have received no financial support whatsoever. From now on, they rely entirely on paying audiences for their finance. They are all for doing this. At the same time, it is to be hoped very much that before long they do receive assistance from the Arts Council or from some other body, to help with their work in general and with all sorts of improvements in the theatre that are still needed. They have saved our second oldest theatre. They have started a new company. They must have every every possible support.'
The above text in quotes was first published in Theatre World, June 1962 - Courtesy Maurice Poole.
Above - Three images from productions at the reopened Theatre Royal, Margate -From Theatre World, June 1962 - Courtesy Maurice Poole.
There was theatrical use again at the Theatre Royal occasionally between 1992 and 1994 and then it was in use as a theatre club in 1995 before turning over to Bingo use in 1996.
However, the Theatre reopened in 1998 with a new licence for 'limited capacity public performance'. The Theatres Trust says of the Theatre today: 'Robinsons auditorium is delightful, like a smaller version of his earlier London Old Vic auditorium of 1871... Of even more particular note is its comparison with a contemporary etching of his Alexandra Theatre, Camden (1872) of which it is a scaled down version but clearly employing identical decorative detailing from the proscenium arch to the balcony fronts and ceiling.' The Theatres Trust.
In 2007 the Theatre was bought by the local Council and then leased back to the Theatre Royal Trust on a low rent. The Theatre was then improved and essential work to the fabric was carried out to protect it for the future, and it reopened in September the same year, and has become more and more successful over the following years.
The Theatre today is a Grade II Listed building with a capacity of 350, although it could be expanded to 550. You may like to visit the Theatre's own website here.
If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.
Above - A Google Streetview image of the Tom Thumb Theatre, Margate - Click to Interact
The Tom Thumb is the smallest Theatre in Margate and one of the smallest venues in the UK with only 58 seats and a tiny stage. The Theatre was created in 1984 by Sarah Parr-Byrne and her mother, who lived in a small flat above, and was a conversion from a Victorian Coaching House. The Theatre had its own Company of performers and for a time they also ran a children's drama academy and theatrical agency from the building.
The Theatre, which had red velvet seats and one dressing room, regularly staged plays and music hall productions but closed in 2005 after the final performance of 'The Importance of Being Earnest'. A few years after her mother died, Sarah Parr-Byrne put the Theatre up for sale in 2008 and it was bought by a private family in May 2009. They refurbished the building and had new lighting and sound equipment installed, and the Theatre officially reopened in December of the same year with a production of 'A Dreamland Christmas Show'.
You may like to visit the Theatre's own website here.
If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.
Formerly - The Royal Assembly Rooms and Royal Hotel / The Grand Theatre
Above - An early photograph of the Margate Hippodrome
The Margate Hippodrome was situated in Cecil
Square and constructed by S. F. Davidson, who was also responsible for
the reconstruction of Holder's
Grand Concert Rooms in Birmingham in 1897.
The Theatre was designed by the architects Hope
and Maxwell, and originally
opened as the Grand Theatre on Monday the 1st of August 1898
with a production of 'The Shop Girl. The Theatre was actually a reconstruction
of the former Royal Assembly Rooms which had been destroyed by fire
on the night of Friday the 27th of October 1882
along with several houses, the adjoining Royal Hotel, and Edgbaston
House. The Royal Assembly Rooms were first constructed in 1769 and until
the fire had been a focal point for numerous entertainments and balls.
Arthur Lloyd is known to have
performed at the Assembly Rooms in 1879.
Above - Destruction by Fire of the Assembly Rooms, Margate - From The Illustrated Police News 11th November 1882
The ERA reported on the Grand Theatre's opening in their 6th of August 1898 edition saying:- 'The Royal Assembly Rooms, situate in Cecil-square and Cecil-street, Margate, have been converted by Messrs Morell and Mouillot into a handsome, commodious, and well-appointed theatre, which was opened on Bank Holiday'.
Among those present was Mr J. L. Toole, looking immensely improved by his sojourn in this health-giving watering-place. (N.B. See bracketed paragraph below) The main walls of the old building form the greater portion of the exterior of the new theatre, which has one entrance in Cecil-square and two entrances in Cecil-street, both leading, to the ground floor, where the American system of divided parterre stalls has been adopted. Here a large number of tip-up chairs, upholstered in crimson plush, have been provided, and as the incline from the orchestra for the first 20ft. of the floor is 1ft in 16ft., and from thence to the back of the theatre, 1ft. in 10ft., everyone is given an easy view of the stage, an advantage not always found in older theatres. The grand circle is of considerable width, and finished next the stage with private boxes, two of which occupy each side of the proscenium. In the grand circle there is again a good rake to the floor, which gives an unimpeded view of the stage, and here again the seats are superbly upholstered in crimson plush. Above the grand circle is the upper circle, and at the back the gallery, the whole so arranged that all have a view of the stage.
The smoking-room on the first floor has been redecorated and fitted up as a handsome refreshment saloon, and there are also commodious bars on the ground floor and for the gallery occupants. On each side of the house ample cloak-room accomodation has been provided both for ladies and gentlemen.
The prevailing colour of the decorations of the auditorium is a soft tone of creamy white, with just a suspicion of faint red and blue of the possible shade, the whole set off with enrichments of gold. The panelled ceiling is ornately painted to harmonsise with the general surroundings, and the principal lighting is by a star light, with bracket lights at the sides and in the approaches. The boxes and proscenium opening are draped with heavy crimson plush curtains, trimmed with old gold ball trimming, which, by contrast with the delicate tone of colour employed in the general decorations, give an effect of superb magnificence to the whole interior.
Right - A 1939 poster for the Margate Hippodrome, formerly the Grand Theatre, advertising Mddle. Adrienne in 'The Sensational Dance of the Seven Veils' along with a 'Strong Supporting Cast of West End Variety' - Courtesy Maurice Poole.
The building has been remodelled and partly re-erected by Mr S. F. Davidson, builder and contractor, of Newcastle-on-Tyne, from the plans of Messrs. Wm. Hope and J. E. Maxwell, of Newcastle-on-Tyne, who hold a high position as theatre and music hall designers. The decorative work has been carried out by Mr Dean, of Birmingham, and the gas arrangements by Messrs Stott and Son, Oldham. Mr Egerton, Bradford, has been entrusted with the scenic work, and for the present the handsome plush tableaux curtains take the place of the usual painted act-drop.
The stage is 60ft. by 40ft., admirably planned and well appointed, and will accommodate a very large company, whilst every attention has been paid to the much-debated question of dressing-room provision. In case of panic the audience will find ample emergency exit arrangements, and a most successful and moderate system of fire appliances has been put in, fitted with instantaneous hose-couplings by the firm of George Glydon and Co., Birmingham, fire appliance manufacturers and engineers. Over the stage is the motto - "Our true intent is for all your delight."
This handsome place of amusement was opened with the musical farce The Shop Girl, played by Messrs Morell and Mouillot's No. 1 company. Prior to the performance the curtains were drawn, disclosing the whole of the company of fifty performers on the stage, Miss Lillian Digges, coming to the front, sang the National Anthem, the refrain being taken up by the full company and joined in by the large audience, which remained standing. The Shop Girl was seen for the first time in Margate, and, with such an excellent company, it is needless to say the performance was much enjoyed. Mr Stephen Adeson made a vivacious and energetic Charles Appleby, a part in which he was quite at home, and who, in conjunction with Miss Lillian Digges as the Shop Girl, shared the honours of the evening. They were remarkably successful in their duet and the numbers specially allotted to them, the topical song "Something to play with" being redemanded over and over again, a fresh verse having to be substituted each time. Equally successful were Mr Tom Fancourt as Miggles and Miss Jennie Ruble as Miss Robinson, their dummy dance bringing down the house - and some of the new ceiling at the back of the parterre - both literally as well as figuratively. Mr Russell Wallett invested the part of Mr Septimus Hooley with dry humour, whilst Mr M. Vincent made a capital Bertie Boyd, known as the "beautiful, bountiful Bertie." Mr Wentworth Paul did admirably as Sir George Appleby, and Mr Charles Cameron was excellent as Colonel Singleton, the other in search of the foundling, Count Vaurienne, being remarkably well played by Mr Charles D. Cleveland, who made a most amusing and vivacious little Frenchman. Mr Wellesley Smith was very successful as John Brown, the millionaire, and a capital portrayal of the hypocritical Tweets was given by Mr H. Wright. Lady Dodo Singleton was charmingly played by Miss Kathleen Gerard, and Mrs B. M. De Solla gave a good representation of the soured Lady Appleby. Miss Clara Clifton was a big success as Ada Smith, her foundling song being vociferously encored, and a very attractive feature was the dancing of Miss Topsy Sind, whose skilfully danced hornpipe evoked an outburst of spontaneous and long-sustained applause, necessitating a repetition of the dance. As the daughters of Lady Appleby, the Misses Palmer, Mayfield, and Herbert were charming, whilst the other parts were all well sustained. The solos were all splendidly sung, and the trained and harmonious chorus did their work skilfully and tunefully, whilst the well-ballenced band, under the direction of Mr Aynsley Fox, rendered yeoman service, and added much to the enjoyment of the production.'
The Grand Theatre was later taken over by Walter de Frece and renamed the Hippodrome Theatre when added to Frece's circuit of Variety Theatres under the Company name of the 'South of England Hippodromes Ltd'.
The Theatre eventually became a Cinema and ended its days as a Bar before it was demolished in 1958.
If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.
(The article above in the ERA about the Theatre's opening on the 1st of August 1898 says that: Among those present was Mr J. L. Toole, looking immensely improved by his sojourn in this health-giving watering place, but what it doesn't say was that Toole was visiting Margate because his sight had been failing for some time owing to cataracts and he was there to undergo an operation at the Margate Hospital. The preliminary or preparatory operation to his left eye took place on 20 Aug 1898. The operation was performed under cocaine, and it was both painless and satisfactory. He was reported afterwards as being comfortable and quite cheerful. So this reporter seems to have got a little ahead of himself when he says that Toole was already looking better at the Theatre's opening on the 1st of August, although the sea air may have helped.)
Above - A Google Streetview image of the Margate Winter Gardens - Click to Interact
The Winter Gardens was built on the site of an old Fort and designed and constructed by Stanley C Ramsey & E Borg, opening in 1911 as a Concert and Dance Hall with an open ampitheatre behind. Part of this ampitheatre was converted to a sun lounge in 1935 but the whole thing was roofed over in 1963 and reopened as the Queen's Hall.
Right - A Poster for the Harold Fielding's 'Music for the Millions' at the Margate Winter Gardens for the week beginning Monday 20th of July 1959 - Courtesy Chris Woodward. On the Bill were Jimmy Young, Jon Pertwee, Raicz & Landauer, Margo Henderson, Arthur Worsley with Charlie Brown, Ron Rowlands, Alain Diagora, and Leslie Wheeler and the Winter Gardens Orchestra.
The Winter Gardens itself, which is still extant, has a procenium stage and balconies with 'Bleacher Seats' and a sprung dance floor.
The Queen's Hall also has a procenium stage, although smaller than the Winter Gardens, and a small balcony with kitchens underneath.
Both the Winter Gardens and the Queen's Hall have their own dressing rooms.
You may like to visit the Winter Gardens' own website here.
Formerly - The Hall by the Sea
Above - A Google Streetview image of Margate's Dreamland - Click to Interact
Margate's Dreamland was constructed on part of the site of a former terminus for the London, Chatham and Dover Railway Company. The Terminus itself was never used for its original purpose and was instead converted, in 1866, by Edward Clark into a Music Hall called the 'Hall by the Sea'. There are some interesting images and programmes for The Hall by the Sea at the Website of Margate in Maps and Pictures here.
The ERA reported on the opening of the Hall by the Sea in their 22nd of July 1866 edition saying:- '...At the famous Assembly Rooms, which have been so long under the genial government of Mr. Gardner, and are so well regulated as to the proprieties, by its courteous Master of the Ceremonies, Mr. John James, the most fastidious of families could enjoy a delightful evening of song and dance, whilst at the once popular Tivoli was there not the presence of the famous Sinclair, the Apollo of a past generation of playgoers, to maintain the vocal celebrity of the spot?
"To the tune of the waters and tremulous glee,
as Leigh Hunt put on the poetic record years ago, and now Margate boasts of still greater facilities for enlivening its visitors after this same pleasant fashion. Messrs. Spiers and Pond, most enterprising of caterers, have converted some spacious premises belonging to the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway, into the largest Music Hall on the sea coast of England. They have happily christened their tastefully decorated edifice "The Hall-by-the Sea,' a title which falls upon the ear in the sultry season with a deliciously cool breezy sound, and on Saturday, the 14th instant, this new undertaking was inaugurated with all befitting ceremony.
A delightful voyage down, in that magnificently appointed new saloon boat, the Albert Victor, increased the enjoyment of a number of distinguished guests, who had been specially invited to assist in the inauguration, and all their expectations of the Marine Concert Hail were evidently exceeded when they saw the tasteful and commodious structure itself. Intended by the Railway Company originally as a local station, now transferred a short distance to the westward, the building has been converted by the artistic skill of Mr. Hurwitz, the well-known decorator of Southampton-street, Strand, into an exceedingly pretty Hall About 250 feet long, by some fifty feet wide, the light and graceful appearance of the decorations, with which the original design of the architect has been so ingeniously concealed, must excite a feeling of genuine admiration. Pink and white drapery, looking-glasses, statues, and flowers, are most effectively employed in combination, and the roof, of a light blue colour, is profusely spangled with bright gold stars. The arrangements for dancing and refreshment are excellent, and the ventilation is perfect.
The approaches from the Parade are ornamented with parterres of flowers, and a fine piece of sculpture, associated with a fountain, occupies the centre. Those with punning proclivitives immediately detected in Neptune's trident a symbol of "Spiers,' and in the basin which receives the sparkling element a suggestion of "Pond."
The high character of the musical entertainment to be hence offered to the summer sojourners at this popular watering-place was indicated by the special engagements that had been made for the opening night with such distinguished vocalists as Madame Parepa, Miss Rose Hersee, Mdlle. Liebhardt, Mr. George Perren, Miss Eyles, Mr. W. H. Weiss, and Mr. Farquharson. Among the solo instrumentalists were Herr Strauss, who executed a difficult fantasia on the violin, Miss Kate Gordon, who, with the left hand only, exquisitely played some variations of national airs on the piano, and Miss Kathleen Ryan, who gave promise of yet high excellence as a pianiste, by her rendering of Weber's "La Gaite." The reception accorded to each artiste was most flattering, and the delightful singing of the accomplished and cheerful-looking Madame Parepa, the bird-like trilling of Mdlle. Liebhardt, who was deservedly encored, and the songs so effectively rendered by Mr. Perren and Mr. Weiss evoked long and loud applause.
The Hall was crowded by a highly fashionable auditory, the admission being by five shilling tickets for the reserved seats, half-a-crown for the central seats, and one shilling for the promenade, and at eight o'clock, when the concert commenced, every seat was taken. At the end of the first part of the programme Messrs. Spiers and Pond were enthusiastically called for, and on their appearance on the orchestral platform were heartily congratulated. The familiar name of M. Jullien, who was the conductor on the first night, is retained in association with the promenade concerts which are henceforth to be the leading attraction, and the worthy successor to the great "Mons" has been placed at the head of a very numerous and highly efficient band.
On Monday, and during the past week, the vocalists have been Miss Rose Hersee, Mr. Arthur Matthieson, and Mr. Farquharson, whilst Mr. Jarvis has proved himself to be an admirable Master of the Ceremonies. As an exceedingly important addition to the amusements of this very accessible watering-place, the "Hall-by-the-Sea" will provide Margate visitors with every facility for realising the suggestive fancies conveyed in Tennyson's "Song of the Sea Fairies," and they may now become practically acquainted with the charming effect produced when "the sharp, clear twang of the golden chords rims up by the ridged sea." The undertaking, which has had the advantge of Mr. E. Hingston's valuable experience as Manager, locally assisted by Mr. R. Thorne, has been commenced with great spirit, and bids fair to be a prolonged success.
At intervals round the Concert Room are some beautifully-executed specimens of statuary and casts. The entire effect of the Hall is greatly enhanced by these examples of the Fine Arts. They were all modelled in the well-known studio of Signor Domenico Brucciani, of Russell-street, Covent-garden, under whose supervision some of the most elegant casts and models of the day are produced.'
The above text in quotes (edited) was first published in the ERA, 22nd of July 1866.
The Hall by the Sea was purchased by Lord Sanger in 1874, who, along with surrounding land, rebuilt it into the headquarters for his Circus empire. The Hall was used for variety, concerts, and dancing and the land behind was used for Sanger's menagerie, exhibitions, and waxworks. A skating Rink was added in 1893 but this was converted into a Ballroom not much later.
The amusement park was destroyed by a major fire in 1930 but the Hall and Ballroom survived. A new frontage was then created by Leathart and Granger and the building renamed 'Dreamland'. This had a large cafe on the first floor with shops beneath. And the main entrance on the corner of the building led to a large domed rotunda foyer which in turn led to the auditorium and ballroom. The Hall itself had full stage facilities which still remain to this day.
The cafe was converted into a music hall in 1955 and this ran until 1968 but was then converted for Bingo use. The main auditorium's balcony was later subdivided into two cinemas in 1973, and the stalls were converted for live theatre use at the same time. However by 1975 the Theatre had been turned over to Bingo too. The early Compton Organ in the main house still survives.
You may like to visit Dreamland's own website here.
The Sarah Thorne Theatre Club
Above - The Memorial Theatre, Broadstairs - Courtesy David Rankin and Michael Wheatley-Ward
The Memorial Theatre is situated in Broadstairs, between Margate and Ramsgate on the Kent coast. The Theatre was built by public subscription during the 2nd World War but didn't finally open until the 25th June 1957. Geoffrey Sedgwick, a noted Principal of Adult Education, kept the place alive from 1957 to 1981 but after that the Theatre was only used sporadically.
Due to falling demand, and particularly after some Arts Council productions, the Public Entertainment licence was not renewed in 2004.
After Michael Wheatley-Ward was made redundant from the Theatre Royal, Margate, he discovered the Memorial Theatre and founded the Sarah Thorne Theatre Club there along with colleagues from the Theatre Royal who were also made redundant at the same time.
Right - The auditorium and stage of the Memorial Theatre, Broadstairs - Courtesy Stephen Bradley and Michael Wheatley-Ward.
The Theatre reopened in 2007, 50 years after its original opening, and is now the only solvent venue in the area. Michael says: 'Due to our success we have been offered the freehold by Kent County Council and a special Charity Trust has been formed to take that on, called the Hilderstone Arts Trust. It's not over impressive with decoration but it has a remarkable atmosphere, very acoustic and now attracts regular audiences for the first time in its history.' - Michael Wheatley-Ward.
You may like to visit the Theatre's own website here.
The first Theatre in Margate was a barn situated in the place still called "the Dean," and which was opened in 1762 by one William Smith, an Essex wool-comber, who conducted the Margate, Canterbury, Deal, Dover, Maidstone, Faversham, and Rochester Theatres. This circuit he continued till 1768, when the Essex wool-comber relinquished the east part of Kent, and exhibited only in the west.
Thomas Burton, ostler at the Ship Inn, Faversham, who used to be the regular candle snuffer at to the Faversham Theatre under Smith, then assumed the managerial reins. Burton had a daughter who was deemed in these parts a star of considerable magnitude, and who afterwards contrived to procure an engagement at Drury-lane, where she played two seasons. Her father, Thomas Burton, died in 1771 at the " Hole in the Wall," at Margate.
Then William Brown, a currier, and John Richardson, a tailor, both of Canterbury, opened the Theatre, which they had removed to a stable at the back of the Fountain Inn. Richardson soon after resigned, but Brown retained the circuit till 1778, when the eccentric Charles Mate became Manager. Having passed the early part of his life at sea, Mate retained something like the roughness of the element to which he had been early inured. Natural gifts helped him to make some show as a comic actor, but he set up for theatrical instructor in tragedy, and it is recorded that, when a young fellow of the town got permission to play Hamlet, and asked the Manager how he ought to look on the appearance of the Ghost, Mate exclaimed "Look ? Look ? Why you must look as much as to say, ---- my eyes, here's a rum rig".
He rented on lease of Mr Cobb, the banker and Magistrate at Margate, the large stable at the back of the Fountain at twenty pounds per season, expending about two hundred pounds in the fitting-up. The building was sixty-five feet in length, twenty-five of which he converted into a raised stage, and the remainder into box, pit, and gallery. Notwithstanding the neighing of horses and barking of dogs in the stable, over which the stage was built, the place occasionally overflowed with the best company. The performers used to come to the front of the house in the public street in their tragic and comic robes, with periwigged heads and painted faces, till they had collected a sufficient number of auditors to pay their night's expenses. The house held £33; at boxes, 3s; pit, 2s; and gallery, 1s; and was conducted on a sharing scheme.
Mate kept the circuit till 1784, when Mrs Baker commenced an opposition. A rival building was opened near the church, and Mate was about to retire from the contest when a meeting of the townsfolk was called by Mr Cobb, who entreated them to sign a petition to Parliament, prepared by Mate, for a patent. Mr Robson, who had been thirty years before a singer of some eminence at Covent-garden, and who was at that time an inhabitant of Margate, came forward to assist Mate in the prosecution of his project. The petition was favourably received, and a patent, which limited the performance from the 1st of May to the 31st of October, was secured.
Rid of their opponent, Mrs Baker, they purchased a piece of ground at the north-east end of Hawley square, for £80, in order to erect a respectable edifice, and the foundation-stone, bearing the following inscription, was laid on the 21st September, 1786, in the presence of about five thousand persons: "This first stone for a Theatre Royal was laid in due form, attended by the Brethren of the Thanet Lodge, by the Proprietors, Thomas Robson and Charles Mate, the 21st of September, A.D. 1786 (A.L. 5786), in the reign of King George the Third, Duke of Cumberland, Grand Master."
The Theatre, which cost about £3,000, was opened June 27th, 1787, with She Stoops to conquer and All the World's a Stage, a prologue from the pen of Miles Peter Andrews being delivered by Mr Booth, to whom Robson disposed of half his moiety for £1,000, ultimately parting with the remainder to Mr King, of King-street, Covent-garden.
Right - An early postcard depicting the Theatre Royal, Margate.
Eventually Mr Grubb, one of the Drury-lane Proprietors, purchased Mate's share of the property for £2,200. Mr Russell had the Management in 1708. The house was then calculated to hold eighty pounds. Edmund Kean, George Frederick Cooke, Charles Young (the tragedian), Mrs Jordan, and many of the greatest celebrities of bygone histrionic days, acted in the old Theatre, which was also associated with the earliest as well as the latest successes of the late Mr F. Robson.
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