THE THEATRE ORGAN

Robert Hope-JonesRobert Hope-Jones (1859-1914), Father of The Theatre Organ

PART TWO: BUILDERS OF THE THEATRE ORGANS

THIS PAGE IS WRITTEN IN CONJUNCTION WITH GLEN TWAMLEY (FRIENDS OF BEER WURLITZER)

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PAGE THIRTY-SIX:
THE COMPTON THEATRE ORGAN

SURVIVING 

John Compton Collage BlueJohn Compton, Pioneer, Innovator and Organ Builder

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THE COMPTON ORGAN
OF THE DREAMLAND CINEMA MARGATE

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Dreamland2 CollageDreamland Cinema and Amusement Park

The Dreamland Cinema in Margate was one of my favourite cinemas and was often referred to as The Hall by the Sea.  At one time, my parents would take me to Cliftonville, which is close to Margate, for our summer holidays.  I remember being impressed with the exterior of the cinema and always wanted to go inside.  I eventually did and saw Walt Disney’s film, Treasure Island.  This film was especially memorable thanks to the remarkable performance of Robert Newton, as Long John Silver.

Dreamland & Treasure Island Collage

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The cinema opened in March 1935.   Its exterior design was noteworthy as it was the first cinema to be built with a large fin tower that could be seen from some distance by those walking along the promenade.   In addition to the cinema, there were several bars, a ballroom and a cafe with a view of the sea.  The cinema was closed between 1940 and 1946, as a result of the Second World War.

In April 1973, the cinema was converted into two small cinemas in the former balcony and a live theatre in the stalls.  Unfortunately, this conversion was not a success and in January 1975, the building was closed and converted into a Bingo Club.  A third screen was added in the former balcony bar in 1981 and operated until 2007 when the Bingo Club and the two cinemas closed.

Dreamland 3

The building remained closed until 2011 when a restoration process was began.  The cinema had been given Grade II Listed Status by English Heritage, which had been upgraded to Grade II* in 2008.

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Although I do not remember details of the interior decor, I do remember that I found it to be very grand with colours that were similar to those used in the Odeon Theatre Hackney Road, another great favourite of mine.

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The cinema has an Compton Theatre Organ with a Special Illuminated Console Case in Rainbow Style  and 4-manuals, 19-ranks with a grand piano attachment and was installed in March 1935 .  Sadly, I do not recall ever hearing it played.  The Organ was opened by Lewis Gerard and seems to have been played until the closure of the Bingo Club where it had been used occasionally for concerts.

Dreamland Compton redThe Dreamland Cinema Compton Theatre Organ Console and Illuminated Bench

The Organ is still present at the Cinema today and is in actuality a hybrid.  Noterman Organs had installed an Organ in the cinema, however for the most part, it was replaced with a Compton instrument, but some of the original pipework was retained.  As result, the Organ now present is known as a Compton/Noterman.

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Alphonse Noterman (1868-1919) was a Belgian Organ Builder who worked with the famous Organ Builder Cavaileé-Coll in Paris.  He came to London where he established a business in Shepherds Bush in 1898.  Following his death, the firm was run by his two sons, A.A. (Arthur) Noterman (died 1950s) and Gaston Noterman (~1892-1954).  In the 1980s, the company was taken over by David Pawlyn who went on to hold an important place in British Theatre Organ History for his involvement in a number of Organ restorations.

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I would like to thank Mr. Ian McIver for providing information and photographs.  I would also like to thank Mr. Stephen Dutfield for allowing the reproduction of some photographs from The Compton List here and for the information provided there.

Many thanks are due to Mr. Paul Bland for his help and encouragement during the writing of this piece; I also would like to thank him for the information that he has provided and for the photographs that he graciously allowed to be reproduced here.

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