The Rink That Became The Regent in Deal

Two years ago we published a fully illustrated book which traced the history of entertainment at what became the Regent.

 

‘From the Rink to the Regent: Seafront Entertainment in Deal since the 1870s’, tells the story of entertainment on a site which had once been part of the Naval Yard. The building that had been the Regent Bingo Hall stood empty and forlorn next to the Deal Timeball Tower. The building was built in 1928, with a façade added in 1933, when it became a cinema. But the history of entertainment on the site began sixty years earlier.

 

The Naval Yard was sold by the Admiralty in 1864. New streets and houses were built, but for many years, land running alongside South Street was used as a rubbish tip. In 1874, a splendid roller-skating rink was constructed, complete with plants, terraces, a fountain and a refreshment room. Regular band concerts added to the fun. In 1900 entrepreneurs built a covered stage and put on variety performances at what they christened the Alcazar. But soon the rink was again being used for concerts, roller skating and roller hockey. How could Deal attract holiday makers in competition with resorts like Margate and Broadstairs?

 

What was needed, some thought, was a proper covered Pavilion. The town was bitterly divided and it was not until 1928, after more than 20 years of wrangling, that the Pavilion was finally built. It offered concerts, exhibitions, dances, miniature golf, boxing and wrestling. But it could not be made to pay its way. Fortunately, two Margate businessmen offered to turn it into a cinema. In 1933 the building was reborn as the Regent Cinema – then the fourth in Deal, and the largest until the Odeon opened in 1936.

 

The Regent prospered until the 1950s, when national cinema attendance began to decline. In 1960 the owners turned it into a bingo hall. The interior of the building was remodelled and a licensed bar added next to the stage. Bingo enjoyed a golden age during the 1960s and 1970s. Eventually, its popularity began to wane. In 2009, the owners called it a day. The Regent was closed and boarded up. In 2011, Dover District Council sold the building to two local businessmen on the basis that the Regent would be turned back into a cinema – an excellent idea, in many people’s view. In 2019, DDC approved the owners’ plans for a two-screen cinema and restaurant on condition that work would begin within three years.

 

When we published our book in 2020 we hoped to produce a second edition before too long. This would bring the story up to date and describe the opening of the new cinema. But more than three years have now passed without work having started, and the building continues to deteriorate. What a crying shame.

 

by Andrew Sargent and Colin Varrall

 

‘From the Rink to the Regent: Seafront Entertainment in Deal since the 1870s’ is now available at Ropers in Deal High Street, Deal Timeball Tower and the Deal Museum, and through Amazon and eBay. All profits from sales are being shared between the two museums.

 

Originally published on Page 16 of Deal CommunityAd Magazine, Feb/March 2023 – Issue 40

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