Ramsgate's impressive Royal Victoria Pavilion


Ramsgate's impressive Royal Victoria Pavilion

A striking example of seaside architecture, the Royal Victoria Pavilion in Ramsgate is a grade II listed building, built as a concert hall/assembly rooms and designed by architect Stanley Davenport Adshead, in the style of a Robert Adam orangery.

Closed in 2008 after time as a nightclub and casino, the dilapidated building became one of the most at-risk in the country, until refurbished and reopened in 2017 as one of the largest Wetherspoons pubs.

Conceived as a theatre and entertainment complex, with a first floor promenade and viewing platform, the pavilion was designed in 1903 for Ramsgate Corporation by Adshead, as his first architectural composition. He was a founder member of an architectural group dedicated to defining an Edwardian Classical-revival style, and is known to have favoured the designs of Robert Adam, the British neoclassical architect, interior designer and furniture designer of the 18th century. For the pavilion, Adshead drew inspiration from Adam's conservatory designs, and for the theatre interior, from the Queen's Theatre in Versailles, France. Adshead also designed Ramsgate library, which is listed at Grade II.

Because the original pavilion was to be built on the beach, it was necessary to construct pile foundations to reach the chalk substrate 15ft below the sand. Due to delays in construction, it was not opened until 1904, when Princess Louise attended the ceremony. In its early years, the building operated as both a cinema and variety theatre.

The principal interior space is now the large main bar (former theatre) which extends for the full length and depth of the central pavilion at ground floor level. There is an imposing set of stair with a timber wreath-type hand rail, and metal balusters. These lead to a mezzanine floor that runs around the periphery of the main pavilion, and is fronted by a metal balustrade. The sub-pavilion to the west end, is fitted out as a seating area. At its centre, there is a ring of Doric columns, which originally supported a dome (now replaced with a flat roof).

As with every Wetherspoons, the bespoke carpets in The Royal Victoria Pavilion have been individually designed, inspired by the history of the building, and in this case reference Adam's decorative work.

From the 1920s and 1950s, band concerts took place in the pavilion, including frequently the bands led by Alfred Taboriwsky, who was Music Director at the Hammersmith and Birmingham Palais de Dance for many years. It is claimed that Taboriwsky was asked to perform a party folk song during The Blitz in 1940 which resulted in the performance of “The Hockey Pockey”. The title supposedly came from an ice cream vendor whom Tabor had heard as a boy, calling out, “Hockey pokey penny a lump. Have a lick, make you jump”.

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