Hidden away in Margate History is the amazing Hall By The Sea.
Originally a Train Station and converted into a wonderous place for visitors and was the starting point of what we now know as Dreamland . It was where Dreamland Cinema now is !
The Dreamland site was a salt marsh known as the Mere that was inundated at high tide until 1809 when a causeway and seawall were built. In 1846 a railway terminus was built on the present Arlington site for the South Eastern Railway, followed in 1864 by a further terminus, for the rival London, Chatham and Dover Railway on the site of what is now Dreamland Cinema. The LCDR subsequently failed to secure Parliamentary approval for its Private Bill, so the station, already built in the expectation of receiving Assent to the Bill, remained unused and unconnected to the railway network.
Dreamland’s origin dates from 1863 when railway catering contractors Spiers and Pond opened a restaurant and dance hall in the unused railway terminus on the Mere causeway. Not being very successful, the ‘Hall by the Sea’ was bought by the Reeve family of Margate in 1870 for £3,750 who gradually also acquired the low-lying land at the rear of the Hall.
In 1870, circus entrepreneur George Sanger went into partnership in the Hall by the Sea with Thomas Dalby Reeve, the then Mayor of Margate. After Reeve’s death in 1875, Sanger became the sole proprietor of the Hall and the land behind it. The land behind the Hall, the former ‘Mere,’ was turned into . Cages and gothic walls on the Dreamland western and southern boundaries (listed Grade II) date from this time. The main purpose of the menagerie was to act as a breeding and training centre for the animals used in the travelling circus.
The first amusement rides were installed as early as 1880 when ‘Sea on Land’ machines were installed. Passengers sat in ‘boats’ that were made by a system of levers to pitch and roll as though at sea – a direct antecedent of the contemporary ‘flight simulator’ rides. In 1893 a large skating rink was built. Shortly after this, the park gained some notoriety as the venue for the murder of a sex-worker by the local circus strong man.
Sanger died in 1911 during a scuffle arising from the attempted murder of a friend (although Sanger himself may have been the intended target), and the park entered an uncertain period as part of the attraction was the charisma of the man himself. In the end, the site was purchased from his estate in 1919 for £40,000 by John Henry Iles who had already set up theme parks all over the world, including Cairo, Berlin, Petrograd and Pittsburgh.
Inspired by Coney Island which he had visited in 1906, Iles renamed the site Dreamland and initiated work on the construction of the Scenic Railway rollercoaster in 1919, having purchased the European rights to the Scenic Railway design from inventor and patent holder LaMarcus Adna Thompson. The ride opened to the public in 1920 with great success, carrying half a million passengers in its first year. Iles also bought other rides common to the time to the park including a smaller roller coaster, the Joy Wheel, Miniature Railway, The Whip, and the River Caves.
Thank you to Thanet HIdden HIstory for this fascinating insight!