The Assembly Room Fire and the new Grand Theatre

Anthony Lee

Visitors to early spa towns like Bath found not only health-giving waters but also amusements such as theatres, circulating libraries, assembly rooms, and subscription balls. To compete with these established spa towns the developing sea-side resorts had to provide similar distractions to keep their visitors amused. The first Assembly Room at Margate was built by the Widow Barber at the Black Horse on the Parade in about 1754;1 the Black Horse was renamed the New Inn when it was taken over by John Mitchener in 1761 and the York Hotel in 1793.2 John Mitchener carried out many improvements to the hotel and the assembly rooms, but, from 1769, he faced serious competition from a new hotel and assembly room that had been built in New Square, later named Cecil Square. This new hotel was known first as Smith’s Hotel, then as Fox’s Hotel, Smith’s Tavern and Benson’s Hotel, but, after 1794, as the Royal Hotel. The new Assembly Room was described in The New Margate and Ramsgate Guide:3

The assembly room is a noble building indeed, one of the largest and most elegant rooms of the kind I ever saw; it has two rooms adjoining it, in which the company play at cards; underneath it is a piazza the whole length of it, which is eighty feet, where the company frequently walk in wet weather. Balls, during the season, are twice a week, with public tea drinking, every Thursday: a band of music attends and plays, every day Sundays and Wed­nesdays excepted, from twelve till one, in the assembly room, for the entertainment of the subscribers.

Assembly Room
Figure 1. Assembly Room, Margate, viewed from Cecil Square. Published at Wises Manufactory Tunbridge Wells.
Assembly Room
Figure 2. Royal Assembly Rooms, looking towards Cecil Street from Cecil Square. Steel engraving published by Kershaw and Sons, ca 1860.
Assembly Room
Figure 3. Stereocard of Royal Hotel, in a view similar to that shown in Figure 2.

At the front of the building, facing Cecil Square, was the hotel, and behind was the Assembly Room (Figures 1-3). The Ballroom itself, on the first floor and running parallel to Cecil Square,  was 87ft long and 43ft wide; it was richly decorated with mirrors and busts with five large glass chandeliers, later converted to gas, and then referred to as ‘gaseliers’ (Figure 4). During a refurbishment in 1868 the original mirrors were replaced by ‘leviathan mirrors from the Agricultural Hall in London, decorated with plaster enrichments by the Adam’s Brothers’, shown in Figure 5.4

Assembly Room
Figure 4. The Grand Assembly Room, from A new Catalogue for Silvers Circulating Library, 1787.
The Ball Room
Figure 5. The Ball room in 1882, before the fire. From the Thanet Free Press, November 3, 1882.

The Assembly Rooms continued in use until 1882, but were then destroyed in a major fire, the subject of this article. By then it was being run by a colourful character, Henry Edward Davis. He was the son of a City of London wholesale silk merchant, born in about 1842.4 As a young man he travelled to Australia and America before becoming proprietor of Deacon’s Music Hall in Islington. In 1869 he was proprietor of the Pier Hotel at Margate,5 and in 1875 he took over the lease of the Theatre Royal, Margate for a few months. 6 Giving that up, he became proprietor of the Oriental Music Hall in Margate, of which little is recorded except that it opened in about 1873: the magazine Fun in August 1873 described the Oriental Music Hall as ‘a new venture, which only needs to be known to be popular’. 7 Davis changed the name to the Prince of Wales Concert Room and in May 1876 advertised it as available for hire in the theatrical trade magazine, The Era: 8 

Margate. Prince of Wales Concert Room
(sole proprietor Mr H. E. Davis)

The above commodious Hall, centrally situate and in close proximity to the Jetty, Pier, Fort, Cliftonville, and principal promenades, is now available for first-class concerts and other entertainments during the ensuing season. For vacant dates and full particulars apply as above.

The Prince of Wales Rooms are listed in the 1883 Isle of Thanet Directory as being on the north side of King Street, at No 5.9

At some time in the late 1870s or early 1880s Davis became proprietor of the Royal Assembly Rooms; an entry in Keble’s Gazette in August 1881 described him as ‘arranging acts on behalf of the Assembly Rooms’,4  and he was listed as proprietor in Kelly’s Kent Directory for 1882. 10 By now the glory days of the Assembly Room were over. Malcolm Morley in his history of Margate’s theatres described the changes under the management of H. E. Davis: ‘Gone were elegance and studied deport­ment, in their place was the hurly-burly of market day. The premises were let for meetings, mostly concerned with local politics, auction sales and live stock, such as the poultry show famed throughout Kent’. 6 Later, in partnership with Daniel Ross, he ran both the Royal Assembly Room at Margate and the Southampton Restaurant in Chancery lane in London; this partnership ended in September 1893 and in 1894 Davis was made bankrupt.11,12 Nevertheless, having moved to Gravesend, he was elected onto Gravesend Council in 1896, and served as mayor of Gravesend six times between 1902 and 1923. He died in 1933 at the age of 91.4   

During his time in Margate Davis ran a volunteer Fire Brigade, established in Margate in 1874, purchasing his own Merryweather fire engine; his volunteer force ran in parallel, and sometimes in competition, with the town fire brigade for many years. 4 This was more than a little ironic since it was during the time that he was proprietor that both the Assembly Room and the adjacent Royal Hotel were destroyed by fire, on the night of 28 October 1882. The fire was reported on extensively in the local and national  press. The South Eastern Gazette published their report under the headline ‘Alarming Fire’:13

On Saturday the most alarming fire ever known in Margate took place, but, fortunately, no lives were lost. The destruction of property is estimated at no less than £40,000 or £50,000, and there were entirely destroyed Miss Smart’s school in Cecil-street, known as Edgbaston House, the Royal Hotel, the Royal Assembly Rooms, and spacious  residences in Cecil-square and occupied by Mrs Beverley and her mother, the vicar, his wife and family (including twins only two or three weeks old), Mr Cobb (head of the brewing and banking firm of Cobb and Co.), and Capt and Mrs Swinford  (Mr Cobb’s daughter), being the whole of the south or top of the square. As nearly as can be ascertained the facts are as follows —

At about half-past eleven or twenty minutes to twelve on Friday night the Freemasons left their lodge, and, noticing a smell of smoke, two or three of the craft, ascertaining that it emanated from the Assembly Rooms, called the proprietor (Mr Davis, who is also captain of the Fire Brigade). It was then found that there was a fire at the rear of the Assembly Rooms, supposed to have been caused by someone throwing a lighted fusee on the floor of the lodge. At this time, there was but little fire, and the flames could have been got under had there been a sufficient supply of water. As it was, the entire building was in flames in a very few minutes; it was composed, to a large extent, of lath and plaster, the outer walls shortly afterwards falling with a loud noise.

Then, the wind being easterly, veering to north-easterly, and it blew with great force, the flames speedily communicated with the Royal Hotel, which was also destroyed. Next, the buildings on either side of the Rooms and Hotel, one occupied by Mrs Beverley and the other (known as Edgbaston House School) by Miss Smart. Here, too, the flames speedily acquired the mastery, but, fortunately, they did not communicate with the next house to Miss Smart’s (Mrs Denty’s), on the roof of which firemen were stationed, throwing from thence two jets of water on to the doomed building. Not so with Mrs Beverley’s, for the adjacent house (the vicarage) was soon in flames and entirely destroyed. Then, for some minutes, it was thought that the next house (Mr Cobb’s) would be saved, in consequence of the substantial party wall. But in this case also the flames, aided by the strong wind, gained the mastery, and this house, one in the rear (also belonging to Mr Cobb), and Mr Swinford’s, the last of the block, were burnt to the ground. For some time, fear was entertained for Mr Cobb’s stables and Mr Bayley’s (the Mayor’s) stores, which adjoin each other, and an attempt was made to cut off the communication with the next dwelling-house, on the High-street side, by the pulling down of the entrance to the stables. This, however, could not be done, and the entrance remained; but, in consequence of the gable end of Captain Swinford’s  house remaining intact, a further spread of the fire did not take place.

Later in the day, viz, at about four o’clock in the afternoon, this gable end was demolished by the Mayor’s orders (at least so we are informed), and, there being thus a free current for the wind, and the embers having been fanned into a flame, the maroon was fired for additional assistance. At the time of writing all further danger is not at an end. The occupants and many of their most valuable and valued goods (including the parish records) were removed by many ready helpers, and those so suddenly rendered houseless found doors willingly opened for their reception.

We should state that the brigades from Westgate, St Peter’s, and Ramsgate, in addition to our own brigade and two engines, were quickly on the spot; and that one of the Ramsgate firemen, named Brockman, received injuries of an internal character, by falling from a ladder, and was conveyed to the Cottage Hospital by the Ambulance Corps. The police force, coastguardsmen, and others also rendered much valuable assistance. The fire raged with great fury from the time of outbreak till ten o’clock.

Further details are provided by the description of the fire in the Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald:14

MARGATE. GREAT FIRE. A destructive fire occurred at Margate early on Saturday morning, with the result that the whole of the south side of Cecil-square has been gutted. The fire broke out in the Assembly Rooms, occupied by Mr H. E. Davis, captain of the Fire Brigade, well known as the once favourite resort of George IV. An electioneering meeting in support of Captain Davis' candidature for the Town Council had just previously been held. Flames were seen issuing from the Assembly Rooms roof, which quickly spread, a strong wind blowing at the time. The Royal Hotel adjoining, and a ladies' large school belonging to Miss Smart, with four other large houses completing the square, one being the Vicarage and two others occupied by Captain Swinford and by Mr Cobb, head of the banking firm of Cobb and Co., were speedily in flames. The vicar and his family escaped only in night dresses and overcoats. The Margate, Westgate, Broadstairs, and Ramsgate engines were soon on the spot. One of the Ramsgate Brigade men, named Brookman, fell from a ladder, and was so seriously injured that he had to be conveyed to the Cottage Hospital.

The fire was discovered by some Freemasons when leaving their Lodge opposite the Assembly Rooms. They awakened the proprietor, and going into the yard, they found the little lodge full of smoke. The instant they opened the door the flames shot to the roof. Before maroons at the police-station could be found to call together the Fire Brigade the side of the Rooms facing Queen-street was ablaze. In half an hour the whole of the building was in flames, the gale which was blowing carrying the sparks as far as the railway station. The wind blew strongly in that direction, rendering the efforts of the Fire Brigade almost useless, and it was feared at one time that the whole of Queen-street and Wellclose-square, together with a portion of High-street, would be destroyed. Fortunately the gale moderated, while the heavy rain which fell assisted the firemen in their work. The fire was eventually extinguished, although it was found necessary to partially blow up and pull down a house situated between Mr Cobb's and the first house in Queen-street, to prevent the spreading of the flames. The damage is estimated at from £60,000 to £70,000. The premises are insured for £27,000, and the contents for £16,000, being about two-thirds of the damage that has been sustained. The Sun Office is the principal loser, the remainder being divided between the North British, Norwich, Law, Liverpool, and Globe Offices.

Fresh outbreaks of the fire kept the firemen at work to Sunday evening, the brigade and the police having been on continuous duty since midnight on Friday. About forty people are homeless, and have lost nearly everything except the clothes they are wearing. The coastguard men have demolished the tottering walls which blocked Queen street. The scene of the fire was visited on Monday by thousands of people, visitors coming for the purpose from Canterbury and Deal.

The Report in the Daily News stressed the past history of the Assembly Rooms:15

The destruction by fire of the old Royal Assembly Room in Margate will be regretted by visitors who have a kindly eye for associa­tions with the past. It was erected in 1769, together, as an adjoining mural tablet records, with the solid, comfortable-looking, red-brick houses of "Cecil-square," of which the Assembly Room formed one side. This spot, now hidden away behind the houses in the upper part of the town, was long afterwards the very centre of the life and gaiety of this seaside resort. As it appeared then so the Assembly Room continued to appear till the other day, with its conspicuously broad front and its row of quaint white wooden pillars extending over the roadway of the square; but its former functions had suffered de­cline, and of late it had been mostly used for occasional concerts and semi-dramatic entertainments. A guide to the sea-bathing places of England, published in the year of the Battle of Waterloo, describes its principal room on the first floor as “a splendid apartment eighty-seven feet long, forty-three feet broad, and of proportionate height, adorned with busts of his present Majesty and the late Duke of Cumberland.” It was a cherished tradition of the place that the "first gentleman in Europe" had more than once danced a cotillion on its chalked floor; not to speak of other distinguished though less exalted "votaries" — as our great grandfathers liked to express it — "of the Terpsichorean art." It was the under­standing that the season could by no possi­bility commence earlier or later than the King's birthday, the fourth of June, and that the last ball night must be in October. Nor was it less de rigueur that the first dance should commence at eight o'clock, and that the ball should finish at twelve precisely, even though that should entail breaking off in the middle of a dance. Margate was severe moreover in the matter of etiquette; for it was sternly exacted “that on ball nights no ladies be admitted into the great room in habits; nor gentlemen in swords, boots, or pantaloons — military gentlemen only excepted." Those visitors who preferred to play at whist or quadrille in the card rooms were required in all cases to pay eleven shillings for two packs of cards, and seven shillings for a single pack; and on no account was any one permitted to use a pack left by another party. Those were days when “excursions” were unknown, and going to Margate, whether by coach or by the old "Hoy” whose captain and passengers have been so picturesquely described by Charles Lamb, was a serious business, implying, as a rule, an intention to make a sojourn of more or less duration.   For such visitors evening amuse­ments were as essential as the sands and the fresh air for the morning walk.  Altogether the old Assembly Room may be said to have done  useful service in its day, entitling it to respectful sympathy under the calamity that has at  last overtaken it.

The final report, that from the Illustrated Police News, presents a summary view of the fire:16


Seldom if ever, in the history of  Margate has such a calamity visited the borough as that which occurred on Friday week. The calamity is not only disastrous on account of the amount of property destroyed, but also on account of the historical link with the past when perhaps Margate took a higher rank as a fashionable watering place than she had ever done before, or has ever done since, when Royalty recruited itself by the pure air, the sea bathing, and the amusements which were then provided — which, as with a breath, has been destroyed in one night. To Londoners the Assembly Rooms, Margate has long been familiar; and from one end of the country to the other, its fame has spread, while for Margate it has done perhaps as much as any other places of amusement in providing  for the wants of the visitors seeking relaxations. For that reason alone the destruction which has overtaken the handsome and familiar rooms in which it has been the custom to hear the great works of our greatest masters given in a manner worthy of the works themselves, and where so many thousands have spent the evening in dancing to the strains of a first-class band, dinners, and public meetings, and entertainments of all kinds have for over a  century been held, will excite feelings of deep interest and regret. Unfortunately the conflagration was not confined to the Assembly Rooms, but spread in both directions — up Cecil-street  and along Cecil-square —  until six houses were included in the mournful catalogue of destruction, and now the southern side of Cecil-square is a heap of ruins. The origin of the fire will probably remain a mystery; it is believed that it may have been caused by some careless smoker emptying his pipe or throwing away his light either from the billiard-room or from the lavatory, the entrance to which was under the main staircase, where it is said that there was a grating over a cellar which contained a quantity of straw and rubbish. However that may be, when once the fire had obtained a hold no earthly power could have saved it from destruction; the building an old one, above the ground floor was of wood — lath and plaster chiefly — and with such materials to hand the devouring element had little difficulty in igniting the whole rooms. A remarkable circumstance connected with the ignition of the rooms was that the fire passed with such wonderful rapidity against the wind from the western to the eastern end of the building. But in addition to there being all the conditions necessary for the preparation of a great conflagration, the wind was blowing a gale, carrying the sparks for hundreds of yards to the west, spreading the flames and the heat to an alarming extent, even to the broiling of the houses on the opposite side of the square, rendering it impossible for persons to stand in Queen-street or the Upper Marine-terrace; while to this must be added, as an aggravating evil, the alleged shortness of the water supply, which greatly nullified the efforts of the firemen and their numerous  ready and willing assistants, though undoubtedly the firemen were prevented from using their appliances with proper effect on account of the amazing heat which prevented them approaching very close to the flames, and the strong  wind which blew the jets of water away from the blazing mass, thus leaving the fire to work its way almost unhindered. With respect to the water supply it is difficult to tell where the fault lay. The Waterworks  department did their utmost, the pumping engines being at work all night and keeping up the store at 20,000 gallons, and it is believed that the pressure in the mains was 14 lb to the inch; the supply to all other districts but those in the immediate vicinity of the fire was cut off, and so the whole force was concentrated in two mains, from which however at least a dozen jets were taken, each of course diminishing the pressure upon the others. The hydrants, however, were only turned on at two thirds, and even then the pressure was sufficient to frequently burst the hose while two engines in the square could not use all the water which ran into the dam from which they worked. By the time the servants in the hotel had been awoke, and had thrown some wraps around them, the smoke in the stairs and passages of the hotel had become so dense that a candle would not burn, and they had to grope their way out of the house in the dark, and through the blinding smoke. The inmates of the hotel were received by Mr Searles, 12, Cecil-square. In a very short time the whole side of the rooms facing Queen-street was in flames. In less than half an hour the whole building, roof and all, was ablaze, and it was very evident that nothing could save it. The efforts of the brigade were first devoted to preventing the fire spreading up Cecil-street, but the paucity of water then did much to frustrate their efforts. The fire soon spread to the Royal Hotel and to Edgbaston House, so well known as a scholastic establishment for young ladies, conducted by Miss Smart; the boarders were safely got out, and after being housed by Mrs Foord for a time were taken to the Grosvenor. Some attempt was made to save some of the furniture, but this was only very partially successful, only a few books, papers, and some valuables being saved, and the great bulk of furniture in both places has been destroyed by fire and water. When this block of buildings was blazing, the sight was grand in the extreme — perfectly indescribable in fact — showers of sparks (many of them a foot in length) filling the air all around and being carried by the driving wind in fantastic eddies over the western part of the town, while the glass of the gaseliers and the looking-glasses which adorned the walls were heard amidst the roar of the flames to be cracking with a continuous rattle of explosions. When the great geselier in the centre of the room fell with a crash, a sensation of horror ran through the crowd, and soon after the roof and walls fell in with a crash, the dense smoke and blinding showers of sparks filling the square and making it difficult for a time to breathe. The fire soon extended to the cellars where the bottles could be heard for a long time exploding like the firing of skirmishers in an army. The wall between the rooms and hotel stood for a long while, but eventually fell with a deafening crash.

Assembly room fire
Figure 6. Destruction by Fire of the Assembly Rooms Margate, from the Illustrated Police News, November 11 1882
Assembly room fire
Figure 7. The Conflagration. From the Thanet Free Press, November 3, 1882.
Assembly room fire
Figure 8. Royal Assembly Rooms on Fire October 27, 1882.

The fire was illustrated in drawings in the Illustrated Police News (Figure 6) and in the Thanet Free Press (Figure 7) and was also the subject of an oil painting now in the Margate Old Town Local History Museum, of which photographic reproductions were sold (Figure 8).  Figure 9 shows a drawing of the Assembly Rooms and Cecil Square after the fire, and Figures 10 and 11 show photographs of the scene.

After the Assembly room fire
Figure 9. Scene after the Fire. From the Thanet Free Press, November 3, 1882.
After the Assembly room fire
Figure 10. The remains of the Royal Hotel are shown on the left with the first of the Georgian houses on the right.
After the Assembly room fire
Figure 11. Looking towards Cecil Street. The arched doorway on the right is that of the third of the Georgian houses.

The fire left a major problem for the town. Not only had a major theatrical building been lost, but the burnt out buildings were an eye sore in the town’s major square.  At the end of November 1882 it was reported that the proprietors of the Royal Hotel and Assembly Rooms had decided to rebuild their premises, in red brick.17 This, however, seems to have been just a rumour since in January 1883 it was suggested that the proprietors were likely to sell the site:18

It is reported that Mr H. E. Davis, who has offered to the directors of the Royal Hotel and Assembly Rooms Company the sum of £2,000 for the site of its late premises which were consumed in the conflagration of October 27-8th last, and has subsequently increased his offer to £2,300, has now made an alternative offer, whereby he proposes to sell his interest in the lease of the destroyed premises for £1,000. It is anticipated that this offer on his part to sell out his interest will be accepted. Thirty-four architects have, we believe, sent in plans to the proprietors of the Hotel and Assembly Rooms, in response to their invitation for plans to be supplied gratuitously. The chances are that in the event of the company accepting Mr Davis’s offer to sell them his lease they will not re-build, but that the site will come to the hammer, and a large portion of it, it is to be hoped, may be purchased by the Town-council for the improvement of Cecil-square. The widening of Queen-street at the expense of the Tramways Company seems to be a contingency of a very remote character, but now that it is possible, and if rumour is true, even probable that Mr F. C. Cobb will not re-build his premises, the opportunity for widening Queen-street and squaring Cecil-square is one that may never occur again.

Indeed, in February  an advertisement appeared in the national press for the sale of the site and materials  of the Royal Hotel and Assembly Rooms (Figure 12): 19

Important to Hotel, Concert and Assembly Rooms Proprietors, and Others.

SALE of the SITE and MATERIALS of the ROYAL HOTEL and ASSEMBLY ROOMS and  the SITE and CARCASS, as now standing of EDGBASTON HOUSE (adjoining Lot One), forming part of the remains of the late Fire.

Mr G. STANER has been favoured with instructions from the trustees to sell by auction, at The Mart, Tokenhouse-yard, London, on Monday, February 19th, 1883 (unless previously disposed of by private contract), at one o'clock, the above valuable property, in two lots (subject to a right which the vendors reserve of putting the whole property up in one lot).

Lot 1. — A large and valuable piece of freehold building land, situate in Cecil-square, Margate, in a commanding and open position, having two frontages of about 90ft by 73ft respectively in Cecil-square, and also about 104ft in Cecil-street, the total area being about 10,200ft; in a direct line with the London, Chatham, and Dover and South-Eastern Railway Stations, close to the High-street, General Post-office, and most of the principal offices of the town and being the site of the late Assembly Rooms and Royal Hotel (recently destroyed by fire), for more than a century past the central source of attraction and resort as a select Hotel and Assembly Rooms in this well-known watering-place, together with the full licence and the music and dancing licence attached thereto.

Lot 2. — A valuable freehold plot of land and the carcass, as now standing, of Edgbaston House (a small portion only being destroyed), having a frontage to Cecil-street of 48ft and a depth of 96ft. Conducted for many years as a select Ladies' School, and adjoining the first lot.

Plans and conditions of the whole will shortly be ready, and may be obtained at the Mart, Tokenhouse-yard; of Mr Boys, Solicitor, Margate; and of the Auctioneer, at the Auction and Estate Offices, 111, High-street, Margate.

Advert Assembly Room sale
Figure 12. Advertisement for the sale of the Royal Hotel and Assembly Rooms site, from The Era, February 3, 1883.

A group of London businessmen got together and purchased the site, and, in  December 1883 issued a prospectus for the Royal Hotel and Assembly Rooms Company:20


Incorporated under the Companies Acts, Limiting the Liability of Shareholders to the amount of their Shares.
CAPITAL £65,000.
In 13,000 shares of £5 each, payable £1 per Share on Application, £1 on Allotment.
Further Calls not to exceed £1 per Share, which will be made as required, at intervals of not less than three months.
Where no Allotment is made the Deposit will be returned in full.

CHARLES F. ASH, Esq, 20 and 21, Upper Thames-Street, Iron Merchant.
WM. J. DUNCUMB, Esq, Woburn Lodge, Weybridge, Surrey.
WILLIAM FOOKS, Esq, 19, Chancery-lane. Barister-at-Law.
Col H. E. GLASS. Bentley Lodge, Upper Norwood, and the Junior Army and Navy Club.
G. PEARCE  POCOCK, Esq, Brooklands, Sturry, in the County of Kent.
ALFRED TEGNER, Esq, Billiter House, Billiter-street, Shipowner.

Messrs COBB and Co, MARGATE
Messrs BARNETTS, HOARES, HANBURY, and LLOYD, 60, Lombard Street.

>Messrs STOKES, SAUNDERS, and STOKES, 21 Great St Helen’s, E.C.

JOHN LADDS, Esq., 4 Chapel-street, Bedford-row.

This Company  has been incorporated, for the purpose of Rebuilding on an Enlarged and Improved  Scale the Royal Hotel and Assembly Rooms in Cecil Square, Margate, which were originally Erected in 1769  and had a prosperous career until destroyed by fire on the 28th October, 1882.

It is intended forthwith to commence the Erection of the Buildings, which it is anticipated will be so far completed as to enable the Directors to open the Assembly Rooms at the beginning of the season  in 1884, for the resumption of the entertainments with which the memory of the former Assembly Rooms was associated.

The Assembly Rooms will be kept distinct from the Hotel and have a separate entrance for the public, and be so arranged as not in any way to interfere with visitors at the Hotel.

A public journal in describing the late fire in which the former Assembly Rooms were destroyed and which it is intended to rebuild in the same proportions, stated as follows: —  “To Londoners the Assembly Rooms have long been familiar, and from one end of the country to the other its fame has spread, while for Margate it has done perhaps as much as any other place of amusement in providing for the wants of visitors seeking relaxation. For that reason alone . . . the destruction  which has overtaken the handsome and familiar room will excite feelings of deep interest and regret."

It is intended that the Building shall be erected and furnished with every regard to convenience. The Rooms will be let at moderate charges, including the use of a suite of Public Rooms with all the accommodations and comforts of a first-class Hotel.

Hot and cold sea-water baths will be fitted up in connection with the Hotel.

Margate is now one of the most popular sea-side resorts, where increased hotel accommodation is much required. And it is a well-known fact that, “For health, Margate is unrivalled."

The site in Cecil Square on which the former Hotel and Assembly Rooms stood, with additional land in Cecil-street and Cecil Square, and containing in all 1,600 square yards, upon  which it is proposed to erect the new buildings, will be held for a term of ninety-nine years at a peppercorn  rent for the first year, £200 for the second year, and £300 for the  third and subsequent years, with the option at any time within fifteen years from the date of lease of purchasing the freehold at the rate if twenty-two years’ purchase.

The Directors anticipate, when the buildings are completed and the undertaking in full working order, that the balance of profit left for division among the Shareholders, after making due allowance for expenses, will be sufficient to pay a Dividend which cannot fail to be satisfactory to the Shareholders.

Two of the Directors, Mr Fooks and Mr Pocock, were proprietors in the former undertaking.

An estimate had been made by Mr John Ladds, the Architect of the Company, that the cost of the erection of the buildings, in accordance with the plans approved by the Directors, will not exceed £17,316, and the Directors are satisfied that the balance of the Capital will be sufficient to furnish the Hotel and provide the necessary working expenses. No promotion money has been or will be paid.

The following contracts have been entered into, viz, Agreement for lease of the site of the former Hotel and Assembly Rooms,  and of the additional land in Cecil-street and Cecil Square, and for the purchase of the Wine, Spirit, and other Licenses, dated the 7th day of December, 1883, made between Albert Saunders  of the one part and Francis Wood of the other part; also Form of Lease referred to in the said Agreement, containing a right of purchasing the Freehold, which together with the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the Company and plans, may be seen at the offices of the Solicitors to the Company, 21, Great St Helen’s, EC, and at the offices of Mr BOYS, Solicitor, Margate.

Applications for Shares to be made on the accompanying form and sent, together with the Deposit, to the Bankers, Messrs COBB and Co., Margate, or to Messrs BARNETTS, HOARES and Co, 60, Lombard. Street.

Prospectuses and forms of application may be had on applying to the Bankers, the Solicitors, and at the Company's Offices, No. 65, Fenchurch-street.

Dated 11th December, 1883.

The directors of the company and their solicitors had already been in discussion with Margate Town Council about their plans. In May 1883, Messrs Stokes, Sanders, and Stokes, the solicitors, had written to the Town Council reporting that ‘the purchaser of the site of the Assembly Rooms had made up his mind that the public had no right to the colonnade; that he intended  retaining 8ft of it, and that the council could purchase the remaining 11ft for £250’.21 This did not go down well with the Council: ‘Alderman Pickering said there could be no doubt whatever that the public had full right to the colonnade, and that the proprietor of the site of the old building had no claim to it. It was quite out of the question that the council should pay him a farthing, and he hoped the committee, in the interest of the town, would firmly assert their right to the pathway in question. A resolution in accordance with this view was adopted’.21 The plans for the new Assembly Rooms were discussed by the Council in June and were approved by the General Purposes Committee, by 7 to 2, ‘provided that, as regarded the site of the colonnade, that approval was entirely without prejudice to the public right of way’.22  

By March 1884 rapid progress was being made:23

The contractor is proceeding with the works in connection with the erection of the new assembly rooms in a very energetic manner. He has employed two gangs of workmen; one is for the day and the other for the night, when the electric light is introduced. It is supplied by the Gulcher Patent Electric Light Company, and there are seven brilliant lamps, each equal to 500 candles. The engine is of 10-horse power. As the lamps are suspended in the open air they do not shed an absolutely steady light, but it is considered to be the best electric light for out-door purposes. Hitherto there has been a lack of skilled workmen for the night time, notwithstanding that every arrangement has been made by the contractor for their comfort. A place furnished with seats, &c, and having a fire, has been erected for them. It is the wish of the contractor to have 50 workmen engaged during the night time, but at the present only about half that number are engaged. As it is intended to have the large hall complete by the commencement of the season, it is desirable that as many workmen as are convenient shall be engaged upon it. The central hall will be 112 feet long to the rear of the stage, and 50 feet wide. Along one side of it will be two refreshment rooms, each 50 feet in length by 20 feet in width, and there will also be a smoking room, 30 feet long, billiard room, &c.

Assembly Room Plan
Figure 13. Plan of the rebuilt Assembly Rooms prepared for a sale in 1896.

By August 1884 it was reported that the new Royal Assembly Rooms were open for the season, with a concert at 8 pm and dancing at 9 pm, under the direction of H. E. Davis.24 The layout of the rebuilt Assembly Rooms is shown in the plan of  1896 (Figure 13) and presumably follows the original layout of the buildings, with the Assembly Room at the rear of the plot, running along Cecil Street. As shown on the plan, although the Assembly Rooms had been rebuilt, nothing had been done with the site of the former Royal Hotel, which remained vacant. This, in turned out, created a problem for the owners. The Royal Hotel had had a very profitable drinks license but to keep the licence alive, a temporary building or ‘shanty’ had to be built on the vacant land, allowing the  licence to be renewed each  year.25 The vacant plot in front of the rebuilt Assembly Rooms and the shanty are shown in a number of photographs of Cecil Square dating from this time (Figures 14 and 15).

New Assembly Room
Figure 14. Photograph of a ceremony in Cecil Square, showing, on the left, the vacant plot in front of the Assembly Rooms.
New Assembly Room
Figure 15. Photograph of a ceremony in Cecil Square, showing, on the left, the vacant plot in front of the Assembly Rooms and the temporary building required to maintain the drink license.

Possibly because the Assembly Rooms were not as popular as hoped, the rooms were put up for sale at the end of October 1884:26

MARGATE, KENT- A very extensive and important Freehold Property, comprising the site of the well-known Royal Hotel (which was destroyed by fire in 1882) and the Royal Assembly Rooms adjoining the latter recently rebuilt at a very large cost, and including a grand and very lofty concert or ball room, 111 ft  by 55 ft, stage or orchestra, retiring, refreshment, billiard, supper, and smoking rooms, &c. The buildings are fireproof, and of the most substantial construction, and include all needful accessories. The concert room is the largest room in the town, is well lighted and ventilated, and its acoustic arrangements are perfect. The floor is of solid oak, resting on thick blocks of india-rubber, and affording a fine surface for dancing. An audience of 1,000 to 1,100 can be accommodated. Since the reopening in July last, high-class concerts and public balls have been held nightly, and extensively patronised. Plans for the rebuilding of the hotel have been prepared, and can be adopted or not, as desired. It would be practicable to have the works finished and the hotel available for the spring season of 1885. 110 or more bedrooms, and a proportionate number of public rooms, can be made: A very large and old connection is attached to the hotel. Considering the position, its contiguity to the sea, the pier, jetty, and parade, and the total inadequacy of the few existing hotels to accommodate the crowds of visitors who, season after season, flock to this noted health resort, it is believed that in the hands of an enterprising and energetic man, or a company, an unusually profitable return could be obtained. Possession will be given. There are magisterial licences for the sale of wine, beer, spirits, &c, on the property, and also for music and dancing,

MESSRS DEBENHAM, TEWSON, FARMER, and BRIDGEWATER are instructed by the Proprietors to Sell, at the Mart, on Tuesday, November 25th, at Two, in one Lot, the above- named valuable FREEHOLD PROPERTY.

Particulars, plans, and views on the premises; of Mr John Ladds, Architect, 4, Chapel-street, Bedford-row; of Messrs Stokes, Saunders, and Stokes, Solicitors, 21, Great St. Helens; and of the Auctioneers, 80, Cheapside.

It is not clear what then happened, but the Assembly Rooms continued to function as a musical hall under H. E. Davis, who purchased it with a partner, for £9,600 in August 1892.27 Unfortunately, this appears to have over-stretched Davis’s resources and he was declared bankrupt  in 1894.27 In March 1896 the Royal Assembly Rooms were once again advertised for sale:28

Messrs Hedger and Mixer (in conjunction with W. W. Horne) will sell by auction, at the Mart, E.C., on Tuesday April 14, at one, this valuable fully-licensed freehold property, comprising the world-famed concert and dancing hall, also building site adjoining, suitable for the erection of a grand hotel; many of the rooms would command an uninterrupted sea view – Particulars of Messrs Criddle and Criddle, solicitors, Newcastle upon Tyne; C. Rogers, Esq, solicitor, 80 Chancery-lane, W.C.; W. W. Horne, 9 and 10, Pancras-lane, E.C.; and of the Auctioneers, 4, Charing-cross, Whitehall, S.W.

The rooms failed to sell at the auction,29 but in May were sold by private treaty:30

We understand that Messrs Hedger and Mixer, of Charing-cross, Whitehall, S.W. (associated with Mr Horne), have sold the Royal Assembly Rooms, Margate, and the building site adjoining. The old Assembly Rooms, erected in 1794, formed one of the most conspicuous objects in the centre of the town, and were for many years a fashionable and favourite resort; they were destroyed by fire in 1882, and the present buildings erected on the site shortly afterwards. The dancing hall, which is 112 ft long by 50 ft.wide, is one of the finest in the kingdom. We understand the new owners contemplate making additions and alterations which will greatly add to the attractions of this widely known place of entertainment, and thus ensure for it an even greater popularity in the future than it has enjoyed in the past. Although the price has not been disclosed, we believe it approaches £10,000.

The purchaser was a newly formed partnership planning a chain of playhouses along the south coast, that of H. H. Morrell and Frederick Mouillot.6 They quickly went about a major rebuild, renaming the Assembly Rooms the New Grand Theatre.31 Having completed the building, Morrell and Mouillot had to obtain a licence for the performance of stage plays, in which they were opposed by Sarah Thorne of the Theatre Royal. The case was argued at a special meeting of the Town Council in July 1898:32


A special meeting of the Town Council was held on Tuesday afternoon, "To consider an application  from Messrs Henry Harvey Morell and Frederick  Charles Arthur Mouillot, Joint Proprietors and Managers of the Theatre known as the “Grand Theatre,'' Cecil Street, Margate, for a Licence for the performance of Stage Plays within the said Theatre."

The members present were —The Mayor (who presided), the ex-Mayor, Aldermen Leetham,  Wootton and Coleman: and Councillors Rolfe,  Hughes, Carter, Manning, Ridgen, Simmons, Hosking, Macfarlane, and Bamber.

Mr H. Kisch, barrister, instructed by Mr Walter Hills, supported the application, and Mr H. F. Dickens, Q.C. and Mr A. J. Tassell, instructed by Messrs Mowll and Mowll, opposed.

Mr K. Kisch, opening the application, spoke of the experience the applicants had had in the proprietorship and management of various theatres. He then referred to the fact that Miss Sarah Thorne was the lessee of the only theatre in the town and that performances were held there under the Lord Chamberlain's patent. He also pointed out that the applicants held a full licence for the Assembly Rooms, which they could use as a music hall, but it was their intention not to do so, but to provide up-to-date theatrical plays. The Hall-by-the-Sea, the only other place of amusement in the town, did not cater for such visitors as would attend the applicants' theatre, where, if the license were granted, they would provide entertainments such as the better class visitors were accustomed to in London and other large centres. Miss Thorne provided entertainments by stock companies, as a rule, and not by actors of well-known repute, and travelling companies; and lately her theatre had been used for the training of actors and actresses, of which, however, he had no complaint to make. The applicants' house would afford accommodation to about 1,800 people, being nearly double the accommodation at Miss Thorne's house. He referred to the number of theatres in Scarborough, Blackpool, and other places, and argued that, in point of population, Margate was behind-hand in that respect, and no one could say that was an unreasonable application. Over 3,000 people had signed petitions in favour of the application. He read letters from Chief-constables and others speaking favourably of the manner in which the applicants had managed their theatres in other towns. He then called

Mr Walter Green, J P, who said he considered there was ample room for another theatre, without being detrimental to Miss Thorne's theatre. There were ample visitors to support two theatres. He thought the feeling in the town was in favour of the granting of the application. In cross examination, he said the number of visitors of the better class was constantly increasing, hence the necessity for a new theatre.

Mr H. F. Hermitage, J P, said he believed the new Theatre would be a great advantage to the town. He believed there was a general desire that there should be another theatre. He regarded Miss Thorne's theatre as a training ground for future actors and actresses. In cross examination he said he had frequently been to Miss Thorne's theatre and helped her to the best of his ability. He thought if the pieces were good and actors popular both theatres would be filled even in the winter.

Mr George Hardisty, solicitor, said he was an amateur actor. He had regularly attended Miss Thorne's theatre during the last four years; and had introduced pupils to Miss Thorne, generally, she had stock companies appearing there. Last year 31 weeks were occupied by stock companies, as against 21 touring companies. The stock companies did not chiefly consist of Miss Thorne's' pupils. He had seen all sorts of pieces there, chiefly common melodrama. In his opinion, there was room for another theatre, producing the popular London pieces. He considered Miss Thorne's performances would thus improve, and that the new theatre would be an advantage to her pupils. In the winter, he said in reply to Mr Macfarlane, there were several small touring companies. In cross examination, he said he did not mean to say Miss Thorne's theatre was filled in the winter. She did not need full audiences, because her pupils paid for her performances. He replied to several questions by Councillors Hughes and Carter.

Mr Wakeling Dry, said the majority of companies which appeared at Miss Thorne's theatre were stock companies or inferior touring companies. It had been used as a training school.

The architect gave details of the dimensions, etc, of the proposed theatre.

Mr Dickens strongly, on Miss Thorne's behalf, objected to the application. Of course, if there was great public demand for another theatre, the individual must suffer. Although for years past there had been a rush of visitors to Margate, there had been no application for a new theatre till these gentlemen desired to come to Margate, although they had, or were connected with 14 theatres in various towns. As to the petition in favour of the application, it was not worth the paper on which it was written, Miss Thorne had engaged good London companies, and there had been no complaint as to the pieces she produced. After criticising Mr Hardisty's evidence, he said Miss Thorne had had a long and hard time and had struggled to do her best to please the public. She had kept her theatre "clean," in every sense of the word; and was greatly respected, wherever she was known. Another theatre must have the effect of injuring her very gravely. Ought she to be expected to compete with people who had no interest in Margate, and who had 14 theatres and eighteen travelling companies? That she would have to contend with if the licence were granted. He did not think it probable they would have overflowing audiences at both theatres. While the new theatre would not get the anticipated support, Miss Thorne must inevitably be injured. If both did not succeed, and he did not think they would, the public would not be as well provided for as was now the case. As to Miss Thorne's being a training school, everybody began as amateurs; but she said to her pupils, “first learn and then come to me, and you can play." Many of her pupils had made good names for themselves, and high-class pieces had been produced by her for many years. Further accommodation in that respect was not required, and there was no demand for those who made the application to give performances here, and who would do harm to Miss Thorne, which she did not deserve.

 Mr Kisch, replying to the Mayor, said the applicants proposed to open the Theatre in August, and they would commence the hotel shortly afterwards.

The Council retired for deliberation, and on their return the Mayor, addressing Mr Kisch, said the licence was granted, subject to the applicants finding two sureties of £100 each, and becoming their own sureties in £500. There must be strict adherence to the rules prepared by the Council, of which he had had copy.

Mr Kisch said he was going to ask that the bar should be closed half-an-hour after the fall of the curtain: and he noticed in the copy he had received that the time of closing was stated to be 11.30.

The Town Clerk said that had not been finally settled.

Messrs Morell and Mouillott desire to thank the public of Margate, who so kindly signed the petition in favour of the granting of the license for the performance of stage plays the Grand Theatre.

The New Grand duly opened in August 1898, as described in The Era:33


The Royal Assembly Rooms, situate in Cecil-square and Cecil-street, Margate, have been converted by Messrs Morell and Mouillot into a handsome, commodious, and well-appointed theatre, which was opened on Bank Holiday. Among those present was Mr J. L. Toole, looking immensely improved by his sojourn in this health-giving watering-place. The main walls of the old building form the greater portion of the exterior of the new theatre, which has one entrance in Cecil-square and two entrances in Cecil-street, both leading to the ground floor, where the American system of divided parterre stalls has been adopted. Here a large number of tip-up chairs, upholstered in crimson plush, have been provided, and as the incline from the orchestra for the first 20 ft of the floor is 1ft in 16 ft and from thence to the back of the theatre, 1 ft in 10 ft, everyone is given an easy view of the stage, an advantage not always found in older theatres. The grand circle is of considerable width, and finished next the stage with private boxes, two of which occupy each side of the proscenium. In the grand circle there is again a good rake to the floor, which gives an unimpeded view of the stage, and here again the seats are superbly upholstered in crimson plush. Above the grand circle is the upper circle, and at the back the gallery, the whole so arranged that all have a view of the stage. The smoking-room on the first floor has been redecorated and fitted up as a handsome refreshment saloon, and there are also commodious bars on the ground floor and for the gallery occupants. On each side of the house ample cloak-room accommodation has been provided both for ladies and gentlemen. The prevailing colour of the decorations of the auditorium is a soft tone of creamy white, with just a suspicion of faint red and blue of the palest possible shade, the whole set off with enrichments of gold. The panelled ceiling is ornately painted to harmonise with the general surroundings, and the principal lighting is by a star light, with bracket lights at the sides and in the approaches. The boxes and proscenium, opening are draped with heavy crimson plush curtains, trimmed with old gold ball trimming, which, by contrast with the delicate tone of colour employed in the general decorations, give an effect of superb magnificence to the whole interior. The building has been remodelled and partly re-erected by Mr S. F. Davidson, builder and contractor, of Newcastle-on-Tyne, from the plans of Messrs Wm. Hope and J. E. Maxwell, of Newcastle-on-Tyne, who hold a high position as theatre and music hall designers. The decorative work has been carried out by Mr Dean, of Birmingham, and the gas arrangements by Messrs Stott and Son, Oldham. Mr Egerton, Bradford, has been entrusted with the scenic work, and for the present the handsome plush tableaux curtains take the place of the usual painted act-drop. The stage is 60 ft by 40 ft, admirably planned and well appointed, and will accommodate a very large company, whilst every attention has been paid to the much-debated question of dressing-room provision. In case of panic the audience will find ample emergency exit arrangements, and a most successful and moderate system of fire appliances has been put in, fitted with instantaneous hose-couplings by the firm of George Glydon and Co, Birmingham, fire appliance manufacturers and engineers. Over the stage is the motto —  "Our true intent is for all your delight."

This handsome place of amusement was opened with the musical farce The Shop Girl, played by Messrs Morell and Mouillot's No. 1 company. Prior to the performance the curtains were drawn, disclosing the whole of the company of fifty performers on the stage. Miss Lillian Digges, coming to the front, sang the National Anthem, the refrain being taken up by the full company and joined in by the large audience, which remained standing. The Shop Girl was seen for the first time in Margate, and, with such an excellent company, it is needless to say the performance was much enjoyed. Mr Stephen Adeson made a vivacious and energetic Charles Appleby, a part in which he was quite at home, and who, in conjunction with Miss Lillian Digges as the Shop Girl, shared the honours of the evening. They were remarkably successful in their duet and the numbers specially allotted to them, the topical song "Something to play with" being redemanded over and over again, a fresh verse having to be substituted each time. Equally successful were Mr Tom Fancourt as Miggles and Miss Jennie Ruble as Miss Robinson, their dummy dance bringing down the house — and some of the new ceiling at the back of the parterre — both literally as well as figuratively. Mr Russell Wallett invested the part of Mr Septimus Hooley with dry humour, whilst Mr M. Vincent made a capital Bertie Boyd, known as the "beautiful, bountiful Bertie.” Mr Wentworth Paul did admirably as Sir George Appleby, and Mr Charles Cameron was excellent as Colonel Singleton, the other in search of the foundling, Count Vaurienne, being remarkably well played by Mr Charles D. Cleveland, who made a most amusing and vivacious little Frenchman. Mr Wellesley Smith was very successful as John Brown, the millionaire, and a capital portrayal of the hypocritical Tweets was given by Mr H. Wright. Lady Dodo Singleton was charmingly played by Miss Kathleen Gerard, and Mrs B. M. De Solla gave a good representation of the soured Lady Appleby. Miss Clara Clifton was a big success as Ada Smith, her foundling song being vociferously encored, and a very attractive feature was the dancing of Miss Topsy Sinden, whose skilfully danced hornpipe evoked an outburst of spontaneous and long-sustained applause, necessitating a repetition of the dance. As the daughters of Lady Appleby, the Misses Palmer, Mayfield, and Herbert were charming, whilst the other parts were all well sustained. The solos were all splendidly sung, and the trained and harmonious chorus did their work skilfully and tunefully, whilst the well-balanced band, under the direction of Mr Aynsley Fox, rendered yeoman service, and added much to the enjoyment of the production.

On the fall of the curtain Mr Morell and Mr Mouillot had to face the audience, and Mr Morell said: — Ladies and gentlemen — One of the incidental worries of opening a new theatre is that the owners are generally expected to make a few remarks. These consist mainly of apologies and thanks. First of all I have to thank the builder and the architects, Mr Davidson and Messrs Hope and Maxwell, for the building they have been able to turn the old Assembly Rooms into, and I have also to apologise to my audience for the fact that it is not entirely completed. A theatre is never entirely complete, but that is a detail I need not here go into. However, one of the most heroic things we have attempted to do is to open a new theatre on an August Bank Holiday in Margate. We have done that, and although not finished, we have shown you our earnest desire in this matter to earn your approbation, and I hope we shall secure your support. Mr Mouillot briefly introduced Mr A. Armstrong, the resident manager, and the initial performance was brought to a close. The theatre has been well patronised during the week.

Finally, although it had been the intention of Morell and Mouillot to rebuild the Royal Hotel, they were persuaded by the Town Council to sell the land to the Council, who wished to widen Cecil Square. Morell and Mouillot planed to use the money they got from selling the land to build a colonnade along the Cecil Square side of the Theatre, with a bar opening into the colonnade. This plan, of course, depended on the drinks licence held by the old Royal Hotel being transferred to the Grand Theatre. Morell and Mouillot went ahead with the work, believing they had the promise of the Council to transfer the licence, but the Council went back on its agreement, and Morell and Mouillot had finally to go to court to get the licence:25


The case of Morell v the Margate Licensing Justices came on for hearing on Tuesday at the East Kent Quarter Sessions, Canterbury. When Messrs Morell and Mouillot purchased the Royal Assembly Rooms, Margate, they bought with them the whole of the site of the old Royal Hotel and Assembly Rooms, destroyed by fire in 1882, together with the licence which had been attached to the property for over 100 years. To keep the licence alive, on what was left as vacant enclosed land when the New Assembly Rooms were built, a “shanty " was erected, and the licence renewed year after year, until the last Licensing Session in September, when Messrs Morell and Mouillot were met with unexpected opposition. It had originally been intended to build a hotel on the vacant site, but they were approached by the Margate Town Council, who were desirous of effecting an improvement by the widening of Cecil-square, and long negotiations ended in Messrs Morell and Mouillot dis­posing of their land for £2,000, which sum they agreed to spend, and have actually employed, in the building of a colonnade on the Cecil-square side of the theatre. On their part, however, they made it a condition of the sale that the licence should be renewed to them, and that they should be allowed to open a buffet bar, shown on the plan passed by the Council, with doors opening on to the footway under the colonnade. On the assurance that the renewal of the licence was assured, as the members of the Council and the Licensing Committee were practically the same (although, of course, the latter could not pledge the Licensing Committee to any line of action), negotia­tions were concluded, and the contract entered into and their land was thrown into the square. Messrs Morell and Mouillot made the bar entrances, and then were met with   the statement that as the land had been sold to which the licence had been attached — they already had the usual limited licence for the interior bars of the theatre — and as it was not intended to build a hotel there, the licence was no longer needed, and the committee refused to renew it. Against this Messrs Morell and Mouillot appealed. Mr Kisch, barrister, appeared for the appealants, and Mr Hohler for the respondents. Evidence was given by Mr Mouillot and the Mayor of Margate, who cor­roborated the statement that the renewal of the licence was to be a condition precedent to the sale of the land. After a hearing lasting six hours his Honour, Judge Sir W. L. Selfe, said the committee had come to the almost unanimous conclusion that the appeal should be allowed and the licence renewed, with costs against the Corporation. An application to his Honour to state a case was refused.

Cecil Square and Assembly Room
Figure 16. Cecil Square from the Ordnance Survey map of 1873.
Cecil Square and Assembly Room
Figure 17. Cecil Square from the Ordnance Survey map of 1907.

Comparing Cecil Square in the maps of 1873 (Figure 16) and 1907 (Figure 17) shows just how much the old Royal Hotel had projected into the Square.

It seems that, unfortunately, the Grand was not successful as a theatre and in September 1905 it re-opened as the Margate Hippodrome, now as a Music Hall. This later history is told by Morley.6 



1. Kentish Post, January 2 1754.

2. Anthony Lee, Margatein the Georgian era,  Droit House Press, 2012.

3. The New Margate and Ramsgate Guide in letters to a friend, 1780.

4. Robert Varnham, Thanet’s Victorian Fire Brigades, Polly’s Publishing, Margate, 2010.

5. Bear’s Postal Directory for Margate, Ramsgate, St Lawrence, Broadstairs and St Peters, 1869.

6. Malcolm Morley, Margate and its theatres, Museum Press, London, 1966.

7. Fun, August 1873, p 68.

8. The Era, May 21 1876.

9. Isle of Thanet Directory and Guide for 1883-4, Hutchings and Crawley Ltd, 1884.

10. Kelly’s Directory of Kent, 1882

11. The London Gazette, September 12 1893.

12. The Pall Mall Gazette, February 2 1894.

13. South Eastern Gazette, October 30 1882.

14. Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald, November 4 1882.

15. Daily News, October 31 1882.

16. Illustrated Police News, November 11 1882.

17. Thanet Guardian, November 25 1882.

18. South Eastern Gazette, January 15 1883.

19. The Era, February 3 1883.

20. Derby Mercury, December 12 1883.

21. South Eastern Gazette, May 21 1883.

22. South Eastern Gazette, June 4 1883.  

23. South Eastern Gazette, March 31 1884.  

24. The Era, August 9 1884.

25. The Era, October 20 1900.

26. The Era, October 25 1884.

27. Daily News, March 14 1894

28. London Standard, March 14 1896.

29. The Era, April 18 1896.

30. The Era, May 16 1896.

31. The Era, August 6 1898.

32. Whitstable Times and Here Bay Herald, July 23 1898.

33. The Era, August 6 1898.