Lights go up on Margate’s Dreamland once again

One of Britain’s oldest theme parks has been given a new lease of life after years in disrepair.

The cinema complex part of Margate’s 1920s amusement park in Kent received £1.89m backing from the Coastal Communities’ Fund and has been restored by the Thanet District Council and local contractor Coombs (Cantenbury).

The refurbishment of the the art deco- influenced Grade II* listed landmark on the town’s seafront involved major structural works relating to the corroded steel frame and cracked porous brickwork, which required extensive rebuilding. The council and the contractor also restored the interiors, fixed leaking roofs and carried out asbestos removal.

Iron specialists Newton Forge repaired the cast iron outer frames of the windows and manufactured new steel sections to upgrade the inner frames that can now take double-glazed units.

Work was also carried out to create an accurate replica of the bronze doors and fanlights to the entrance foyer. The original doors, which were removed in 1970, were recreated by historical metal work specialists Bassett and Findley.

Other repairs to the building included restoration of the famous neon lighting on the building’s ‘fin’, which now lights up the sky again. This was possible after advanced colourisation specialists used an algorithm to dissect colour shades from black and white night photographs of the original signage. To ensure accuracy, the results were then cross checked with descriptions of the lights from that era. A full-size model of some of the neon lettering was made to test colours and lighting intensity, and the scheme was developed in consultation with Historic England.

Artist Tracy Emin switched on the lights of the restored cinema a few days after the town was named host of the Turner Prize.