Central Bandstand, Herne Bay

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Central Bandstand
Bandstand with brass band and audience in 1925
The Central Bandstand in 1925
General information
Type Performance venue
Architectural style Art deco
Location Sea front
Address Central Parade, CT6 5JN
Town or city Herne Bay, Kent
Country United Kingdom
Coordinates 51°22′21″N 1°07′27″E / 51.3726°N 1.1242°E / 51.3726; 1.1242Coordinates: 51°22′21″N 1°07′27″E / 51.3726°N 1.1242°E / 51.3726; 1.1242
Completed 1st phase 1924
2nd phase 1932
Renovated 1998–1999
Cost £3,100 (2nd phase)
Landlord City of Canterbury
Technical details
Structural system Reinforced Concrete
Design and construction
Architect H. Kempton Dyson
Structural engineer H. Kempton Dyson
Tripadvisor.co.uk: Central Banstand

The Central Bandstand, known as the Bandstand, in Herne Bay, Kent, England, was designed by H. Kempton Dyson in 1924, extended with an art deco frontage in 1932, and refurbished between 1998 and 1999. It is one of the coastal landmarks of the town. When first built, it was a popular venue for visiting military band concerts and for tea dances. Edwina Mountbatten spoke there on behalf of the Red Cross in 1939. In the 1920s and 1930s a red carpet would be laid across the road and up to the stage for the conductor of the brass band to walk from the Connaught Hotel which was directly opposite the Bandstand.[1]

Location and construction[edit]

The Central Bandstand with its 1932 frontage has been described as an art deco landmark, and one of the first reinforced concrete structures in the UK.[2][3] It straddles the beach and Central Parade just east of the Clock Tower. The back or seaward half, built in 1924, was originally supported above the beach on concrete pillars sheathed in cast iron, so that the stage was level with the main thoroughfare.[4] The tide used to go in and out under the building until at least the 1950s. During World War II when the Pier was out of bounds, anglers were permitted to fish from the rooftop balcony.[5] As of 2013 the beach has risen so that the piers are no longer visible and the sea has receded away from the Bandstand.

With frontage, 1939

It was first called the New Bandstand, and then the Central Bandstand, to differentiate it from other bandstands in Herne Bay, especially the bandstand which stood on the roof of the King's Hall and has since been demolished. The north or seaward side of the Central Bandstand was built in 1924, with alterations in 1931.[5] The original architect was Herbert Kempton Dyson, M.I.Struct.E (1880–1944), who was a founder member of the Concrete Institute, and specialised in reinforced concrete structures.[3][6][7] The 1924 section has two outside seaward-facing balconies with space for deckchairs, including a cantilevered roof for the lower deck and for covering the stage inside. Metal, glazed screens at the east and west sides of the building crossed the promenade, and could be moved to protect the audience from wind, or retracted into the wings to allow promenaders to cross when no band was playing.[4][6] The seating area was a railed-off section of the promenade, and the seating on the roof above the stage included two copper-covered domes, plus two domes which doubled as refreshment kiosks.[4] The roof is now inaccessible for safety reasons.[4] By the late 1920s the audience area in front of the stage had extended across Tower Gardens to the edge of the footpath and road.[8]

The frontage, built of steel, cast iron, glass and teak and leaving the centre roofless, was built in 1932 at a cost of £3,100 to accommodate up to 1,000 people and was opened by the Royal Artillery Band.[5] Contemporary drawings indicate that plans were under consideration to roof over the whole building, but that never happened.[8]

Damage, closure and restoration[edit]

The structure was damaged in the gale, heavy seas and North Sea flood of 1953 and became weaker during ensuing years. By the 1970s it had fallen into disuse.[2][9] By 1974 the piles over the beach were corroded, and this led to the northern half of the interior being closed to the public in 1975.[10][11] In 1977 it had become dangerous to walk beneath the glass awning inside the building, and stones in rough seas had smashed the windows at the back; some window frames had come away. Concrete and iron pillars in the 1924 section had split, guttering had rusted and there was smashed glass on the floor, rotten woodwork and detached light-bulb holders.[12] The building had a "keep clear, dangerous structure" notice on it.[13] The assistant city architect Jed Baker said there had been insufficient funds for regular surveys and maintenance.[14] Councillor Arthur Porter wanted to demolish the building but Cllr Dick Peard and 13 others wanted it restored.[15]

Clipperview Ltd was granted a 20-year lease of the building in early 1987 and successfully provided entertainment for the summer, then in October the Great Storm of 1987 damaged the roof. Clipperview was obliged to undertake restorations in 1988 at a cost of £25,000. The kitchen and restaurant were improved, and heating installed in the lavatories.[16] However the restorations were not completed, and in 1990 the Council took legal action.[3] The reinforced concrete had corroded and cracked with sections working loose, cast iron work and steel beams were corroded and the building was vandalised; the Council could undertake only minor remedial work during the legal dispute.[3] Between 1992 and 1998 the Bandstand was empty, in need of repair and closed to the public.[2][5] In 1995 the Council briefly lost possession of the Bandstand due to a Court dispute concerning Clipperview. The building was formally returned to the town in August of that year and has since remained under control of the Council.[17][18]

On 23 September 1994 and in November 1995, City of Canterbury councillors met to decide whether to demolish the whole building at a cost of £275,000, retain just the original 1924 seaward side or refurbish the whole building at £300,000 plus future maintenance costs.[19][20][21] The walls, roof, floors, steelwork, railings and turrets were in need of repair; then new glazed windows, redecoration and a new sea wall would be required.[20]

Lottery plaque on Bandstand

The Green Party at Herne Bay supported a renovation scheme.[20] English Heritage said:

"The bandstand is critical to Herne Bay, being a prominent focal point . . .It is of immense historic importance to the history of Herne Bay . . . there should be a presumption in favour of retaining unlisted buildings which make a positive contribution to the character of a conservation area." [18]

English Heritage suggested that the Secretary of State would object to the demolition, and that there was a good chance of a successful application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for assistance with repairs.[19] A readers' opinion poll of the Herne Bay Gazette supported retention and restoration of the building, and local Liberal Democrats organised a petition calling for full restoration.[22] A public exhibition of the sorry state of the building and of demolition and repair options took place at the Bandstand; the poll associated with this received a strong public response in favour of renovation.[19][20][23] The Council agreed to renovate the building, but work was delayed from 1996 due to budget cuts.[24] In 1997 Whitbread considered investing £1 million to convert the building to a pub-restaurant, then suddenly withdrew from the scheme.[25] The building was refurbished between 1998 and May 1999 with the help of £340,000 lottery money awarded in 1997, although by 1998 the estimated total cost had risen to £962,000 due to "considerable unforeseen damage".[2][19][20][26][27][28]

During renovation by W.W. Martin of Ramsgate, the original cast iron panels were shotblasted and the teak window frames dipped and stripped. New public lavatories were installed. Interior glass screens could not be saved but were reproduced in clear and green glass. Side doors were opened to allow the seafront promenade to continue through the open-air centre of the building. The 1924 stage area was restored to original condition with screened windows looking out to sea, and the wooden cupolas rebuilt with additional copper panels on top.[2] The building was reopened for entertainment on 3 July 1999, followed by the official opening on 8 October.[3][29]

A condition of the 1997 lottery funding was that the building would be used for non-commercial activity, but by 2008 the Council was offering it for rent.[20][30]


Early days from 1920s to World War II[edit]

Edwina Mountbatten at the Bandstand, 1939

The northern section was opened in April 1924 by Lord Morris (1859–1935), member of the House of Lords and previous premier of Newfoundland.[4][31] The southern frontage was opened on a Sunday shortly before Easter, 1932 by the High Sheriff of Kent Major Sir John Theodore Prestige. Callender's Cableworks Band (1898–1961)[32] performed at the ceremony.[31][33] Before the Bandstand was built, bands such as the 6th Dragoon Guards would give concerts around the flagstaff which is situated just to the west of the present bandstand.[4] When first built, the Central Bandstand consisted only of what is now the north or seaward side, with stage, turreted side wings and an outdoor area to the north for the audience in deck chairs; the area was available for deck chairs until the 1970s. Visiting bands and school bands played there.[34] For example, the Royal Warwickshire Band visited in 1925. In those days a red carpet would be laid for the conductor to walk across from the Connaught Hotel which was and is, as of 2013, directly opposite the Bandstand.[1] The Reverend Daubeney at Herne used to arrange for his sermons to finish in time to allow the congregation to catch the bus to Herne Bay for the evening Bandstand concert.[1] This venue was so popular in 1927 that queues could stretch as far as the Pier, and crowds were often turned away.[35]

In the 1920s there were children's talent competitions, magicians then known as conjurers, and Punch and Judy shows.[1] On 26 and 27 November 1932 a gale caused waves to break over the sea wall, flooding buildings and throwing up tons of shingle: "The heavy doors of the central bandstand were torn from their hinges and many windows were broken."[36] Around 1939, Edwina Mountbatten, speaking on behalf of the Red Cross at the Bandstand, appealed on behalf of prisoners taken at the beginning of World War II.

Later years[edit]

View from stage, 2013

In January 1987 Clipperview leased and renovated the building then reopened it in April, with Margate Majorettes and Whitstable Brass performing.[37] The Herne Bay Visitor Information Centre was located in the south-east corner of the building from 1988 until the end of 2008; it was relocated to Council offices in Canterbury in January 2009.[38][39] As a consequence of the closure, the Herne Bay Times said that "Lily, the 12ft Herne Bay giant, and Belle, her 15ft friend, have been made homeless."[34] It is not known what these artefacts were. By 2000 skateboarders, rollerbladers and cyclists had damaged the stage, and had been banned from the building.[40] As of 2013 the front of the building hosted a bandstand cafe bar and an Indian restaurant called the Maharajah. In 2009 Makcari's coffee lounge and ice cream parlour took over the vacant space left by the information centre.[41]


Stage in 2013

The structure was intended for military brass band concerts. These were very popular from 1924 to the end of World War II, but were then discontinued, being by that time too expensive.[8] in the 1920s and 1930s during good weather there were two daily band performances to full house.[4] Tea dances, originally to the music of Wylie Price and his orchestra, were popular until the 1950s,[27] although a tea dance celebrated the 1999 reopening,[42] and a charity tea dance to the music of Colin Jay took place in September 2000 in aid of Shopmobility.[43] The traditional position for the Punch and Judy entertainment in summer has always been on the beach at the west side of the Pier, but since the cessation of military band concerts the Bandstand has provided a venue for Colin Bennett's puppets on rainy days.[5] By the 1960s, general audiences for musicians and entertainers were being lured away by cheap continental holidays, and by 1974 the building was being used for children's and seniors' entertainment, and it had a children's roller skating area.[3][10]

On 3 July 1999 the building was in use again for entertainment after restoration.[29] There were concerts and fairs in celebration, including performances by organist Richard Bosworth.[29] In July, as part of Herne Bay Festival, the Kohima Band of the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment gave the first brass band performance in the building for 20 years, followed by a set performed by Herne Bay Sea Cadets. At the same time the information centre provided a display showing the history of Herne Bay and its bandstand.[44] In August 1999 Whitstable Brass gave a concert at the opening of Thorley Taverns cafe-bar. Concerts were free and given in aid of charity at that time.[45]

During May Day bank holiday, 2006, the Snowdown Colliery Welfare Band gave a free concert at the Bandstand. However only half of the building had been freshly painted by the Council, which was responsible for decorating the east side. This caused embarrassment to the director of the Bandstand cafe bar, who had not been informed of the repainting plans or the concert.[46] East London Brass gave a concert on 5 July 2009.[47] Arcelia performed in the Bandstand for the 2012 Herne Bay Festival.[48] Punch and Judy provided entertainment in the Bandstand as part of Herne Bay Festival 2013.[49] As of 2013, the building is a centre for local cafe culture and summer concerts.[50]

Other uses of the bandstand[edit]

For a long time there was a storm warning cone on top of the bandstand: an upward-pointing cone indicated a northerly gale; a downward-pointing cone meant a southerly gale was coming in.[5] In June and July 2010, the Beltinge Art Group and the Herne Bay Art Group exhibited watercolours, acrylics and pastels in the building.[51] In 2013 the Bandstand hosted events associated with the centenary of the visit of Marcel Duchamp to Herne Bay in 1913.[52]

Central Bandstand in 2013


  1. ^ a b c d Herne Bay Times 10 July 1999 p10
  2. ^ a b c d e Herne Bay Gazette 6 May 1999: Art deco landmark will be Herne Bay's pride, by Dianne Stingemore
  3. ^ a b c d e f Herne Bay Times: After years of neglect, Herne Bay's bandstand plays on . . ., 7 October 1999, pp.16–17
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Herne Bay Times 8 March 2001: Look back: battle of the bandstands was a fight against changing tastes, by Harold Gough
  5. ^ a b c d e f Town and Around Herne Bay, issue 61, May 2013: Back from the Brink: The Central Bandstand.
  6. ^ a b Herne Bay Gazette 26 February 1998, p.8: Remember when? (The newspaper's source is John Hawkins, "Herne Bay in Old Photographs", Sutton Publishing Ltd, ISBN 9780862998912)
  7. ^ Institution of Structural Engineers: The Late Mr. H. Kempton Dyson
  8. ^ a b c Herne Bay Gazette 11 July 1996: Remember When?
  9. ^ Herne Bay Gazette 24 December 2002, p.10: Remember When: Number's up for the bandstand
  10. ^ a b Herne Bay Times or Gazette 20 December 1974: Repairs too expensive: bandstand to go?
  11. ^ Herne Bay Times or Gazette 17 February 1975: Unsafe bandstand will be fenced
  12. ^ Herne Bay Times or Gazette, 11 February 1977: Why the band can't play on
  13. ^ Herne Bay Gazette 30 January 2003: Remember when? Bandstand's future in doubt
  14. ^ Herne Bay Times 12 November 1976: Stop our assets going down drain
  15. ^ Herne Bay Times 25 February 1977: Protest mounts over closure of bandstand
  16. ^ Herne Bay Gazette 8 January 1988: It's business as usual after all
  17. ^ Herne Bay Times 10 August 1995: Bandstand battle ends
  18. ^ a b Herne Bay Gazette, p.5, 2 November 1995: Bulldozers await for our once-glorious bandstand, by Neil Lampert
  19. ^ a b c d Herne Bay Gazette 30 November 1995 p1
  20. ^ a b c d e f Herne Bay Times 20 March 2008, p.10: Is final curtain coming down on bandstand?
  21. ^ Herne Bay Times 13 July 1995: New threat to the bandstand
  22. ^ Herne Bay Gazette 9 November 1995: Protestors fight to preserve bandstand, by Dianne Singemore
  23. ^ Herne Bay Gazette 9 November 1995, reprinted 10 November 2005 as "10 Years" article
  24. ^ Herne Bay Gazette 25 January 1996: Bandstand restoration must wait for a year
  25. ^ Herne Bay Gazette 18 December 1997: Brewers bottle out of scheme, Whitbread drops $1m bandstand conversion
  26. ^ Your National Lottery good causes: Canterbury City Council 25 March 1997
  27. ^ a b "Herne Bay Cultural Trail". 10. Central Bandstand – Central Parade. Retrieved 16 April 2011. 
  28. ^ Herne Bay Gazette 15 July 1999: Probe bandstand overspend, says arcade owner
  29. ^ a b c Herne Bay Times: "Richard back at bandstand", 1 July 1999, p.5
  30. ^ Herne Bay Times (illegible date 13 Mar?) 2008, p.1, Seafront pavilion for rent, by Natalie Turner
  31. ^ a b Herne Bay Times 25 February 1977: In and around Herne Bay
  32. ^ Brass Band Results: Callenders Cable Works Band – amateur band employed by the Erith Works of the Callender Cable & Construction Co.Ltd
  33. ^ Herne Bay Times or Gazette 19 March 1932: Central Bandstand. High Sheriff of Kent to visit Herne Bay. Next Sunday's ceremony
  34. ^ a b Herne Bay Times 23 December 2008 page 5
  35. ^ Herne Bay Times 29 January 2009: "The Way We Were: Roll up, rollup for the magical musical tour" by James Scott
  36. ^ The Times 29 November 1932, p.14, issue 46303, col G: "Gale Damage, several lives lost, accidents on land and water"
  37. ^ Herne Bay Times 18 April 1987: Grandstand in the bandstand
  38. ^ Herne Bay Gazette, 14 March 2008: We'll raise cash to ward off closure
  39. ^ Herne Bay Gazette 1 January 2009: For your information, new centre to open
  40. ^ Herne Bay Times 4 May 2000 p.3: Skateboarders vandalise Bay's seafront gardens
  41. ^ Herne Bay Times 26 March 2009: Macari's to take over bandstand, by Joe Walker
  42. ^ Herne Bay Gazette 5 August 1999 p.10: Remember when?
  43. ^ Herne Bay Gazette 21 September 2000: Dancers pleased to take their partners
  44. ^ Herne Bay Gazette 8 July 1999: To do it! by Dianne Stingemore
  45. ^ Herne Bay Gazette 12 August 1999: Bandstand cafe is icing on the cake
  46. ^ Herne Bay Gazette 4 May 2006: Bandstand redecoration project hits a flat note
  47. ^ Herne Bay Times 17 June 2009: Bandstand with not enough bands
  48. ^ Arcelia
  49. ^ Herne Bay Festival 13: Central Bandstand Archived 21 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine.
  50. ^ Visit Canterbury: Herne Bay Clock Tower and Bandstand
  51. ^ Herne Bay Gazette, 17 June 2010: "Art brightens up the Banstand"
  52. ^ Duchamp in Herne Bay 1913–2013

External links[edit]