Sepia tinged window into town’s musical past

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LB Music 9 SUS-151019-112854001

This week, in his ongoing series, Ion Castro takes a detailed look at the Hastings and St.Leonards Municipal Orchestra publication, which ran from

October 29th 1930 – May 10th 1931.

He writes: “We have seen the ‘Official Handbooks’, what we would today call ‘Tourist Guides’ published by the Hastings and St.Leonards Borough and this volume follows a similar layout, even down to the sepia ink and parchment-coloured paper. The photographs were mainly by the Seymour Cousins Studio with a few from Judges.

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LB Music 8 SUS-151019-112841001

The volume ran to 32 pages and featured aspects of the newly-opened music venue at White Rock showing what the auditorium was like before it was converted into a theatre (with reputedly 1,066 seats).

The White Rock Pavilion had been opened by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII) on April 6 1927, having been built on the site of the East Sussex Hospital, opened in 1887 on the site of the 1841 infirmary. The replacement was the Royal East Sussex Hospital in Cambridge Road before it in turn was replaced by the Conquest Hospital on The Ridge.

This appears to be the first edition and other dated copies were to appear in the years leading up to the second war. There was a photograph of the new Musical Director Julius Harrison, with ‘A few words’ from him outlining his mission statement and the broad variety of musical entertainment he intended to provide at this new venue, a variety that would uphold the high traditions of his predecessor, Mr Basil Cameron but also ‘go one further’ to enhance the reputation Hastings holds throughout the country as a Centre of Musical Culture

There was to be a variety so that season ticket holders would be catered for. Ticket prices were from 6d (2½p) to 2/4d (12p). Season tickets varied from a weekly 10/6d (52½p) to £2/8/6d (£2.42½p) but this didn’t include admission to “Special” concerts, the Musical Festival - and the publication included a special forward for the event and was not to be confused with the ‘Competitive Musical Festival that had been running since 1905 and is still with us today having made the White Rock Pavilion (now theatre) its home, or the proposed Festival of Opera.

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LB Music 7 SUS-151019-112823001

The names and instruments of the orchestra of over 30 are listed and the programme of events for the season is included featuring conductors such as Sir Henry Wood (when the orchestra was augmented to 60 musicians) and visiting ‘World Renowned Artistes’ for the ‘special’ concerts. There is a reasonably comprehensive list of events for the 1930/31 season and a list of ‘Cinema Travelogues’ weekly throughout the winter. Tea Dances in the Ballroom were held in the Ballroom on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons and ‘popular Evening Dances’ on Saturday nights. Music was provided by “The Harmony Aces”. There was a list of nearby hotels and places of interest and advertisements with illustrations for corporation-owned entertainments such as parks and gardens, the caves etc.

Captions

‘A Beach Scene at St.Leonards’ Before Sidney Little’s improvements when this area would be covered by the new ‘Lower Promenade’ and Bottle Alley would join Warrior Square to Hastings pier. The photograph may have been taken from St Leonards Pier.

‘Exterior of Pavilion’ – eerie lack of any sort of vehicle

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LB Music 6 SUS-151019-112333001

‘Interior of Pavilion’ the circle seating at right angles to the stage has been removed

‘Balcony View’ The balcony has been enclosed allowing it to be used all year round and providing an intimate view of the pier.

‘Ballroom’ Now ‘the lower hall’

‘Tea Room’ note the ‘Lloyd Loom’ furniture - woven from twisted paper and very popular in the 1930’s

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LB Music 5 SUS-151019-112321001

‘Main Foyer’ somewhat austere but without any major changes

‘Indoor Bowls’ the game of Bowls was in its heyday and could be played all year round but its popularity has declined and the building is now a fitness centre.

All illustrations throughout this series are from Ion’s own collection and there’s more local history on his website, www.historichastings.co.uk

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