12 January 2016

Hove Bandstand

Judy Middleton 2001 (revised 2015)

copyright © J.Middleton
In the early days, the performers at Hove Bandstand had no protection from wind or rain.

Temporary Bandstand

Before Hove had a permanent bandstand on the seafront, there used to be a temporary affair that was erected on Brunswick Lawns for summer concerts. Although it only provided a stage and basic cover for the bandsmen, it actually looked rather elegant with its canvas dome and scalloped edges.

copyright © J.Middleton
There was a temporary bandstand on Brunswick Lawns during the summer months.

A similar scheme was in operation in St Ann’s Well Gardens. But as band concerts became increasingly popular with the public, it became feasible to erect a more permanent structure. St Ann’s Well Gardens had the benefit of such a bandstand in 1912 but the one on the Western Lawns preceded it.

copyright © J.Middleton
The bandstand in St Ann’s Well Gardens dated from 1912.

New Bandstand

It was in April 1911 that the Borough Surveyor suggested a permanent bandstand should be erected on the Western Lawns. The site he had in mind was the centre of a lawn, then occupied by bushes, situated near the seafront road between Walsingham Road and Carlisle Road. He stated that ‘the putting up and taking down of the temporary Bandstand hitherto used, is attended by considerable inconvenience, and further it is difficult to light in the evenings when the band plays after dusk.’

On 4 May 1911 Hove Council chose design number 279 from Macfarlane & Co. at a cost of £246-10s. It is surprising that the new bandstand was ready for use by 12 July 1911. Councillors must have been impressed because a month later they sanctioned the expenditure of a further £30 on having the edifice lit by electricity.

First Season

The 4th Dragoon Guards gave 27 concerts during the first season at Hove Bandstand. The amount of money raised by customers paying for the use of chairs to listen to the concert came to £123-10-9d. This was more than the revenue for similar concerts at St Ann’s Well Gardens or on the Brunswick Lawns.

The Poppy Entertainers

In 1914 Maud Watson and Phil Inglis, on behalf of the Poppy Entertainers, agreed to pay Hove Council £100 for the privilege of using Hove Bandstand for the 1914 season. They agreed that ‘the concerts given shall be of a refined character, and entirely free from all vulgarities and improprieties or anything of an objectionable character.’

Unfortunately there were several Hove residents who claimed to be outraged at the vulgarity of the Poppy Entertainers and urged the Council to rescind its permission. There were also many people who enjoyed their show and a petition was got up bearing 262 signatures in favour of allowing the Poppy Entertainers to remain where they were. But Hove Council decreed they should move for the rest of the season to number 6 Western Lawns, west of Langdale Gardens.

Wind Breaks

In November 1923 Hove Council decided that a revolving screen should be fitted to the bandstand, which would offer protection to the bandsmen from wind and rain on three sides. The screen was constructed of wood with the upper part glazed and was made in twelve sections, each section being 2 feet 7 inches in width. The screens could be moved horizontally in guide rails placed at top and bottom. Macfarlane & Co, who had supplied the bandstand, also provided the revolving screen at a cost of £146.

copyright © J.Middleton 
There was a good-sized audience for this concert at Hove bandstand and the newly erected glazed screen can be seen

It was not until 1927 that Hove Council thought it might be a good idea to shelter spectators from the prevailing wind too. Thus a glazed screen was erected on the west side of the bandstand lawn. Messrs Limpus & Son of 30 Western Road, Hove, were given the task of supplying the screen, which cost £635.

At the same time it was thought beneficial to install two extra leaves to the bandstand screen (four in total). They cost £48.

A further improvement was carried out in 1928 that enabled the glazed screens to be folded back to half its length during fine weather. This cost £35.

Coloured Lights

In 1928 there was a proposal for festoons of coloured lights around the bandstand but it was given the thumbs down at first. The reason being that as well as the cost of the lamps, a separate lead from the electricity main would be necessary.

Later on there was a change of heart because by the 1930s festoons of coloured lights were an attractive feature of the bandstand lawn.

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The new dance floor installed around Hove Bandstand can be clearly seen in this view, which was posted in 1939.

Dance Floor

In June 1934 Councillor Victor Hudson, Mayor of Hove, declared the band season open. He also inaugurated the new patent dance floor that encircled the bandstand. It was claimed to be the first of its kind and it also had the virtue of drying off very quickly after rain.

 copyright © J.Middleton  
The 1937 Band Season at both Western Lawns and St Ann's Well Gardens

Blaze of Colour

In the summer of 1937 Mr Bolton, Superintendent of Hove Parks, had arranged for the bandstand lawn to be a blaze of colour and 10,000 petunias were planted out in the gardens. ‘In the scheme, the plants had been arranged in two tiers of beds, oblong in shape, on the slopes all round the arena; and the colours used were violet, white and rose.’ There were a few small plants of kochia as a contrast. ‘One has only to stand and listen to the exclamations of both visitors and townsmen to realize how much this effort is appreciated.’ (Sussex Daily News 27 August 1937). The display was also featured in The Gardeners’ Chronicle.

Coronation Celebrations 1953

After the bleak years of the Second World War when Hove seafront was virtually forbidden territory, it is pleasant to report that Hove Bandstand was soon up to its pre-war standard. Although it must be admitted that coronation year celebrations can be seen as a glorious swansong.

The extensive programme is outlined below:

2nd June (Coronation Day) – There was dancing at the bandstand from 7.30 p.m. to 9 30 p.m. The band of the 12th A.A. Workshops Battalion R.E.M.E. (T.A.) provided the music by kind permission of the commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel H.A. Fletcher R.E.M.E. Admission to the band enclosure was sixpence and for the privilege of dancing you had to pay sixpence extra.

Coronation Week – Dance music was relayed each evening during coronation week from the bandstand to Brunswick Lawns.

Band Season 1953 – Music by the Sea – The season started on Sunday 14 June and continued for twelve weeks until Saturday 5 September.

Sundays – Fred Glover and his Grand Promenade Orchestra performed from 3.15 p.m. to 4.45 p.m. and from 7.15 to 9.30 p.m.

Weekdays – There was open air dancing every evening from 7.15 to 9.30 p.m. and Ken Wickham presented the following varied programme.

Mondays & Thursdays – Rex Owen and his Modern Music

Tuesdays – Hove Riviera Barnstormers (Modern and Square Dancing)

Wednesdays – Archie Newgeritz and his Old Tyme Band. Three hours of Old Time Dancing

Fridays and Saturdays – Hove Riviera Dance Orchestra (Square Dancing) Friday Night is Novelty Night.

End of the Road

In February 1965 Hove Council decided not to stage any concerts during the summer months. Councillors had come to the conclusion that it was not worthwhile expending £500 on making the bandstand presentable plus an additional £543 to stage the concerts especially since there had been a loss of £543 on the previous year’s concerts.

The structure was by then in a dangerous state and a magnet for vandals who regularly broke the glass panes. Alderman Arthur Brocke said ‘If there was an enormous demand for it and it still didn’t pay, I would say carry on. But the dead hand is on this one.’

The bandstand was demolished in May 1965.

 copyright © J.Middleton  
This splendid photograph shows the extended glazed windscreen and some rather splendid standard lamps.

 copyright © J.Middleton  
It is rather sad to see the site of the elegant bandstand today. The photograph was taken in 2009 but the last relic of the lamp column has since been removed.


Borough of Hove Coronation Celebrations (1953)
Encyclopaedia of Hove and Portslade
Hove Council Minutes
Sussex Daily News (27 August 1937)

Copyright © J.Middleton 2015
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