If you are planning a visit to the Dreamland Park please visit their website dreamland.co.uk
The name ‘Dreamland’ has been synonymous with Margate for nearly 100 years and has provided enjoyment for millions of people during that time. In 1989 the BBC comedy Only Fools and Horses filmed their Christmas Special ‘The Jolly boys Outing’ which included the cast riding on many of Dreamlands well known rides including the Scenic Railway. However, during the 1990s and 2000s the popularity of cheap foreign holidays meant that the site became financially unviable. The owners took the decision to close the site and planned to build houses on it. The original idea was a retail park.
In April 2002 following a successful campaign to ensure the future of the Scenic Railway it received Grade II Listing. The Save Dreamland Campaign was set up in 2003 to ensure the future of Dreamland. The Dreamland Trust was part of the campaign to save Dreamland and worked with Thanet District Council and the Prince’s Regeneration Trust to secure funding to save the amusement park and the Dreamland buildings.
In 2013 Thanet District Council compulsory purchased the site to ensure the land and buildings could not be used for a retail park or housing, but rather to reinstate the pleasure park and other facilities that had once run on the site.
The project to reopen all areas of the site is a huge undertaking in terms of time and money. But through public and private funding the council is working hard towards having all elements of the site up and running.
The Dreamland site includes a range of different areas and buildings all of which have a unique and important role in Margate’s past and future.
- Dreamland Pleasure Park Land – (including the grade II* listed Scenic Railway)
- Grade II* listed Cinema Building – including the former Sunshine Café, former Bali Hai public house, Bingo Hall and Cinema
- Grade II listed menagerie cages and folly
The council, working in partnership with The Dreamland Trust, secured a funding package of £18 million, which includes external funding from The Heritage Lottery Fund and the Sea Change grant, to deliver the first phase of the project.
Phase One of the Dreamland redevelopment focused on returning a pleasure park to the derelict site. At the centre of this ambitious venture was the refurbishment of the Grade II*listed Scenic Railway which was damaged in an arson attack in 2008.
The refurbishment of the Scenic Railway started in September 2014 and involved the placement of foundations on which the newly fabricated timber trusses were erected. Secondary timber structures were then fixed to the main structure.
Along with the Scenic Railway the Ballroom, Hall by the Sea and Arcade were also renovated to their former glory, allowing a range of other events and activities to be held on the site.
In June 2015 the park was reopened by council appointed operators Sands Heritage Limited. The newly reopened park featured a range to heritage based rides which took visitors down memory lane and back to Dreamland’s heyday. The Scenic Railway officially opened in September 2015.
With Phase One of the project complete and the Pleasure Park’s popularity growing the focus now moves on the former cinema and restaurant building. Both of these areas sit inside the Grade II* listed Dreamland Cinema complex, which also houses two cinemas and bingo hall.
In August 2016 Thanet District Council appointed experienced local contractors Coombs to lead on a £1.8 million restoration of the former Sunshine Café and cinema entrance foyer at Dreamland.
This work is funded by a successful Coastal Communities Fund bid which the council secured in 2014.
As part of this contract, work to the former Sunshine Café will create a lettable space and will also include repairing the original building fabric; installing and replacing windows, re-roofing, restoring the building’s ‘fin’ and brick fascia, installing a lift, new external signage and installing neon lighting.
Restoration of the foyer to its original 1930’s design is planned. This will include new brass hand railings, metal entrance doors, plastering to walls, Venetian plaster work to the ceiling, bespoke lighting and signage, internal doors and windows.
This work will enable the former Sunshine Café to be brought back to life as a new restaurant for Margate. The council is working towards identifying a potential operator for the restaurant.
It is hoped this will pave the way for further development of the entire Art Deco Cinema Complex – which forms a major part of the overall site and will come as part of a future phase of the wider Dreamland redevelopment.
Work is continuing to progress on site and the contractors have uncovered some of the original features, including metal work and advertising poster.
What is the link between Dreamland and Sands Heritage Limited (SHL)?
Sands Heritage Limited operates the theme park under the terms of a lease and other agreements granted to them by the Council.
Who owns the park and the rides?
The Council owns the park and a number of rides including the scenic railway.