Sanger’s Hall by the Sea opened in June 1874 under the ownership of Thomas Dalby Reeve and George Sanger, in the unused ticket office of a railway station that was never completed. The Hall continued to run until the First World War (the Sanger family took sole ownership after the death of Reeves in 1875). The grand ballroom, which was also used as a restaurant and provided a venue for a variety of entertainments, including acrobatic performances, was said to be lit by 60,000 jets of gas (later replaced by electric lighting).
At the rear of the building were old embankments which had originally been intended for railway track. Sanger built walls around the Western boundary in the style of an ancient ruined abbey, which included a bandstand, and cages for wild beasts at regular intervals. Other attractions included an ornamental lake with fowl, fountains and ponds with fish, as well as archery ranges, coconut shies, fairground swings, a waxworks (run by George’s brother William) and a steam-driven carousel with gallopers. The success of the enterprise is attested by contemporary sources, such as Keble’s Guide to Margate and the Isle of Thanet, which noted approvingly:
Behind the spacious Ball Room there are tastefully laid gardens. The Menagerie containing the Zoological Collection is well arranged, being specially built by the proprietor only a few years ago. There are some very fine specimens of lions, elephants, camels, tigers, hyenas, leopards, wolves, horned horse, bears etc. The imitation ruins cleverly arranged around the walls have been styled the ‘Margate Abbey’ and add considerably to the appearance of the grounds.
Exhausted by her tour of the Zoological Gardens and the waxworks, Lucy sits for a while by the bandstand, where a woman is singing, accompanied by a a man on an accordion.
A young couple next to her begin to sing along, and soon Lucy is tapping her foot with them. The woman leans over and says, ‘They was playing this song when we met. Do you remember it, Cyril? How we danced!’
‘How wonderful!’ says Lucy, and she is surprised to find that she means it.
‘Do you like to dance, Miss?’ says the woman.
‘Oh well, I can’t say I have had much opportunity,’ says Lucy; ‘but yes, yes I do.’
‘We’re going on to a dance after this, as it ‘appens,’ says the woman. ‘You’d be most welcome to come along. I mean, if it’s the sort of thing a lady like you would consider.’
You suspect that such an event may not be quite respectable. Make the excuse that you must catch your train to Broadstairs.
Photograph source: Kent County Council – Kent Libraries, Registration & Archives: Margate Library