Come One Come AllWhitsun weekend saw the opening of our vintage style Visitor & Learning Arcade in Dreamland’s former Bali-Hai bar with over 5,000 visitors coming through the door in the first week.  The young and not so young queued outside waiting for the count down with Chairman, Nick Laister; Hon Secretary, Susan Marsh and Board Director, Sarah Vickery who jointly cut the red ribbon and led the community through the doors.

The arcade houses the Dreamland Expo: a past, present and future – an immersive and interactive experience for all the family evoking Dreamland’s heyday, charting the revival of one of the UK’s best loved amusement parks and looking forward to things to come in the exciting lead-up to Dreamland’s Phase One opening in 2015.

Describing Dreamland’s rich heritage the arcade also plays host to a collection of 1950s and 60s arcade games and pinball machines, amusement park artefacts, fairground paraphernalia, bijou cinema, more…

VLA cinema

Last November, the local community raised funds to open the arcade at an art auction organised by Fontaine Decorative and this spring an army of volunteers, led by John Cripps, worked tirelessly to transform the space for all to enjoy.

The Arcade is provides a unique setting for community activities, school trips, presentations and special events – for more information please email arcade@dreamlandmargate.co.uk.

VLA interior

FREE ENTRY open daily from10am until 5.00pm – no need to book, just rock up and have fun! Wheelchair accessible.

Visitor & Learning Arcade, Marine Terrace, Margate, Kent CT9 1JX +44 (0) 1843 297755


The Grade II*-listed Scenic Railway running gear is currently being surveyed and tested in Doncaster by the engineering company, WGH Engineering Ltd.  We took the opportunity to interview the team when they came to Margate to remove the gear last month and boy, is there story interesting!

Our history goes back to the coal mining industry from the late 1960’s through to the early 80s when we designed and built rope haulages, rope hauled vehicles, self-propelled vehicles and locomotives for use on narrow gauge underground tracks.

We operated around the world but the NCB, as it was then, in the UK was by far our largest market. However after the miner’s strike in 1984 it became obvious that the whole mining industry was going to change dramatically, it was certainly going to contract and was definitely not going back to how it had been.

We decided then that we needed to start looking for a new outlet for the skills we had gained over the previous 20 years and pared back the business to its most basic level. The conclusion was that we designed equipment to run safely on very difficult and challenging tracks.

A railway track underground in a mine is nothing like the underground in London, it is much tighter and built on continually moving ground that can change daily. Even with good maintenance the track conditions are very challenging with lots of very tight curves, twist and misalignment, very similar to a roller coaster!   That literally was how we identified a logical extension to the business, which over the next five years actually replaced the mining sector entirely.

As WGH we have been successfully designing and building all manner of leisure rides; roller coasters, log flumes, suspended and ground mounted track rides and much more since1989.

Currently we have dismantled and examined most of the haulage equipment to establish firstly how the system worked and then what can be salvaged and reused.

We have also built two timber bogies based on various photographs, drawings and some intuition to again determine how they worked and identify the important dimensional interfaces between the vehicle and the track.

We have been analyzing the performance of the vehicles on the track using our standard data as we would normally but then comparing our findings with timed film evidence of the actual ride to try to trim our assumptions to match the actual conditions of this particular ride.

This is taking shape and we can now see where the problem areas are likely to be.

From left to right: size twin pivot intermediate timber bogie. Final dive shaft with the driven chain sprocket and rope drive pulley.  Main flat belt drive wheel dismantled for inspection.


And back in Margate, the Scenic Railway design and build contracts are now out to tender with the council anticipating a selection by early August and expressions of interest to restore the Corbierre Wheel and Junior Whip have now been received by the council who are in the process of evaluating the restoration method. The main works contract was put out to tender at the beginning of June and the park operator opportunity is out to tender with a deadline for responses by 25 July – visit Thanet District Council website for details.


Every month we will be featuring a story from the Dreamland Archive penned by our very own Mr Graham Ward. This month Graham talks about…


Originally constructed in 1866 as a railway terminus by the Kent Coast Railway Company, the Hall-by-the-Sea was taken over by Spiers and Pond for a period of seven years, and became a place of entertainment that catered to the delights of Margate’s residents, as well as for the burgeoning number of day-trippers to the resort who were arriving by sea from London. At the end of the tenure, the railway authorities failed to find a buyer, but it was subsequently purchased by Thomas Dalby Reeve, the ex-mayor of Margate, for a sum of £3,750.00. The property acquired included the Hall premises and some allotments at the rear, On Dalby Reeve’s death in 1875, ‘Lord’ George Sanger took sole ownership of the property, and the site remained in his hands until 1919, when it was bought by John Henry Iles.

Sanger was an illiterate showman of vast business acumen and energy. The son of an itinerant showman, James Sanger whom, it is said served as a press-ganged sailor on Nelson’s ‘Victory’ at Trafalgar, it is claimed that George Sanger’s earliest shows featured a flotilla of miniature ships that fired tiny fireworks whilst being towed by goldfish! Sanger, with his brother John, began a travelling circus which toured the United Kingdom. In 1849, he married the celebrated ‘Lion Queen’ Ellen Chapman. She would later appear in Sanger’s circus parade as Britannia, with a live lion at her feet. When the circus came to Margate in 1870, Sanger met Reeve, the then-owner of the Hall-by-the-Sea, and the two men entered into a partnership. After Reeve’s death in 1875, Sanger became both owner and proprietor. He ran the venue as a music hall and bar, with dances in the evenings, later opening a roller-skating arena to cater for the latest craze then sweeping the country. Installing 8000 square feet of maple flooring, and with daily demonstrations by one ‘Professor’ Chambers, named ‘the Skateorial King’, who schooled the more faint-hearted participants in the new art, the skating enterprise was a huge success. Sanger’s first enterprising act was to reduce the price of admission to the dancehall from five shillings to one, which resulted in a huge influx of attendees to the Hall-by-the-Sea. He then turned the land behind the Hall into an ornamental pleasure garden, complete with ‘ruined abbey’ folly, a lake, statuary and, most notably, a menagerie. Sanger’s principle motive for the opening of the zoo was as a breeding and training place for the animals he employed in the travelling circus and at Astley’s Amphitheatre in London’s Westminster Bridge Road, which he had taken over in 1871. He was credited as the instigator of the famous ‘Three-Ringed Circus’ concept, and introduced the first Wild West shows into England.

Sanger’s Hall-by-the-Sea Menagerie occupied the western half of the present Dreamland site. The railway embankment was remodelled into a series of terraces which featured walkways with trees, interspersed with copies of Roman statuary made from cement and painted to resemble marble. Against the western and southern boundary to the park, a wall was built which served to prevent views of the railway line that served the Margate terminus. Against this wall, Sanger built the abbey folly, a groundsman’s cottage and three animal cages designed, it is said, to contain live bears. Sections of the wall, a small portion of the cottage and the cages still exist, and were listed in 2009. The cages, which date from the early 1870s, are an extremely rare survival from the Victorian era. The menagerie contained lions, tigers, baboons, leopards and wolves. There was a slaughterhouse behind the main building which was screened by trees. The pleasure gardens contained a series of ornamental lakes, stocked with waterfowl. Tea gardens and refreshment kiosks were situated nearby, and there was also an area given over to amusements such as swing boats, roundabouts and an early waxwork show. At night, the gardens were illuminated with hundreds of Chinese lanterns suspended from the trees, and there were regular firework displays to delight the nocturnal visitors.

Sanger made Margate his home, and he lived there until his death in 1911, when news of his demise made headline news throughout the world. HIs funeral cortege was as elaborate as his circus parades, and he is interred in an elaborate tomb in Margate cemetery, next to which is that of his brother John, which is crowned by an impressive marble Mazeppa stallion.

In 1919, John Henry Iles bought the Hall from Sanger’s daughter and son-in-law. An advertising executive with a penchant for brass band music, Iles visited Coney Island in 1906, and was impressed by the brash new face of the pleasure complex as seen there. Particularly taken by the novelty and perceived profitability of the Luna and Dreamland theme parks, he also acquired the European rights to construct scenic railways, which were then very much a feature of the American park experience, and he subsequently built the first at Blackpool’s South Shore, quickly followed by that at the Franco-British Exposition of 1908. Iles renamed the Margate site Dreamland and made the Scenic Railway it’s thrilling centrepiece attraction. He also had major interests in Yarmouth, Aberdeen and Belle Vue, Manchester, and was responsible for the construction of the Margate Lido in 1926. An early afficionado of greyhound racing, Iles built a stadium in Ramsgate which was demolished only in 2001, and was also actively involved in the promotion of boxing, wrestling, football, zoos and chariot racing. It was his investment in the revival of the British film industry, notably as a major stakeholder in Elstree Studios, that finally lead to his financial downfall in 1938.


The Visitor & Learning Arcade was made possible by our local community, donators and committed volunteers who deserve a huge THANK YOU!  We would especially like to thank…

Stuart Atkinson and Kiel Shaw – Fontaine
Claire Blackwell
Claire Budd
John Cripps
Suzannah Foad
Abigail Simpson
Anne Swift
Blue Swift Gallery
Jim Moir
Joe Machine
Kate Smith – Updown Gallery
Keith Grossmith
Leigh Mulley
Mark Hampson
Matthew Penn
John Houston – Outside the Square Gallery
Paul & Magdalena Jebka-Scuffins
Robin Coates
Sophie Von Hellermann
Talma Gow
Tom Swift
Tracy Emin
Tracy Kendall
Anne Carrington
Arnold Schwartzman
Graham Ward
Kim Steward
Bluebird Coach
Coombs (Canterbury) Limited
Deborah Ellis – Madam Popoff
East Kent College
Eddie Gadd – Gadds Brewery
Michael Moyles Builders
Simon Cowell – Premier Flush
Allyson Jones – Morgan’s of Margate
Dan Thompson
Stephen Mina
Dom Bridges – Haeckles
Jo Willis
Lisa Hemingway – Cupcake Café
Lynne Hadley
Naomi Tomkin
Penny Miller
Peter King
Ron Mayoh
Nick Dermott
Carlos Dominguez – Cadaphoto
Chris & Jason – Rent-a-Bar
Eli Thompson – Westcoast Bar & Grill
Jerome Hillion – Jerome Hillion Hair and Make Up
Nova Clarke – Nova Clarke’s Workshop
Zoe Davis & Kristina Walker – Phases Dance & Fitness Studio
Lee Collier – Classic Cars
AG Studios
Age & Sons
DBA Editions
Jayne Bishop – Walpole Bay Hotel
Jilly Sharpe – Belvidere Place
Kelly Whiting – Beach View Guest House
Kim & Ted – IMMI Photography
Matt Lacey – Bannatynes
More than Yoga
Nick Cottington – Sands Hotel
Russell’s of Clapton
Two Spoons Catering
Andy Orrill – Stonaco Fabrications
Brian Thomas – SFL Construction Ltd
Harbour Arms
Julian Newick – The Lifeboat
Karl Wozny & Paul Emin – The Burger Bros.
Lee & Simon Eyles – IOT Scaffolding Ltd
Spencer Ray – TW Services
Kapo, Mandy & Gavin Kapucinski – Stylish Ice Cream Co.
Pete Heath and Phil Crow – Pinball Parlour
Alexandra Roarke
Annie Newstead
Beci Louise
Bobbie Mayoh
Claire Licence
Clark Miller
Harry Heath
Heather Keen
Iain Aitch
James Henderson
Jan Wheatley
Josh Woodcock
Katie Whicker
Lucy Austin
Samantha Vassiliou
Tia Jordan
Vincent Mirams
Rory Waitt
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