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Working to save the Dreamland cinema building
Dreamland sign
The Dreamland site is an historical and cultural icon on Margate seafront

Work has begun to repair the exterior of Dreamland's Grade II* listed cinema building and to help to protect the 1930s interior.

The iconic building on Margate's seafront is shrouded in scaffolding as work has begun to stop the building from crumbling.

The restoration work will preserve the structure and also make it safe.

Roof repairs will prevent water ingress and protect the interior designs which are danger of being lost to decay.

The cinema's opening night was 22 March 1935 when an audience of 2,200 watched Greta Garbo in The Painted Veil.

Cutting edge design

Dancing nymph
Original dancing nymphs are still in place behind facades

The design was one of only six by Iles, Leathart and Granger and much of it is still in place behind false ceilings and facades.

Nick Dermott is Thanet Council's heritage adviser:

"Naked nymphs are part of the original decorative scheme, there are many of them here. Most of them have been covered up but there are still two uncovered.

"They are hollow - concave rather than convex - and they are dancing nymphs."

The director's box was the place where the owners would count the money. It was decorated to look like the stern of a galleon with the apparent woodwork made of fibrous plaster, and false leaded windows.

Outside, the windows were boards painted to look like waves. A small boy was employed to move the boards up and down on ropes when the room was occupied, to give the effect of being at sea.

Hidden treasures

In the 1970s the cinema was converted into a bingo hall and two small auditoriums but under the stage where the screen would have been still sits a Compton organ.

"In front of the stage in the ceiling are the grills that let the sound out from the organ chamber which is on a building on top of the cinema," said Nick.

"It [the building] contains not just organ pipes but also cellos, stringed instruments and drums.

"The consol had a lighting system which could give rain drop effects on it so it changed colour and all the lighting in the room changed colour in time with the organ."

The Dreamland site

Dreamland cinema
Work to restore the interior will begin once the park is functioning

The Dreamland site covers around 20 acres all of which goes back via the famous narrow entrance on the seafront.

"It was built up against two previous structures," said Nick. "One dates from the 1860s which is the remains of Margate sands railway station - a railway station that never opened - which is now the ballroom.

"The other is a World War I American seaplane hanger which was brought here in 1919 and that's still here as well.

Once the exterior of the Dreamland cinema building is waterproof, work on the interior will not start until the amusement park outside is functioning but Nick said it can be restored and "when it is it will be worth the wait".

"There's nothing of any significance in here after 1935 but there's enough evidence in terms of the fabric of the building, in photographs and we also have the original drawings, to put it back as it was in 1935.

"Good buildings attract people and this will be a sensational building."




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