From band enclosure… to swimming pool… to family entertainment centre

Worthing’s original seafront bandstand was a modest, moveable structure, which was replaced in 1897 with a handsome birdcage bandstand.

These first two bandstands featured in Looking Back on November 27 last year.

Worthing's former band enclosure

Worthing's former band enclosure

In 1925–6, the architects Adshead & Ramsey were commissioned to replace the pier kiosks and the birdcage bandstand with, respectively, a music pavilion and a band enclosure.

This project, which transformed the appearance of Worthing seafront, was the theme of the article in this series on September 25.

Adshead & Ramsey’s new band enclosure, which cost £25,000 and seated 2,184 people, opened on August 1, 1925 – but only four years later the firm’s original square bandstand (seen in the four photographs along the top of this article) was replaced by the round bandstand (seen in the other photographs), which survives today.

I have not been able to establish why the bandstand was replaced so soon after it was built.

It occurred to me that a possible reason was that the first version had flawed acoustics, and Sam Skilton, marketing manager for the firm that currently runs the site, tells me that this is their theory, too.

An alternative possibility is that the 1925 bandstand may have been replaced for aesthetic reasons.

It looked a bit like a garden shed. The 1929 version is more harmonious and attractive.

It is odd today to think of 2,000 people sitting to listen to a brass band playing on Worthing seafront.

However the postcard on the left demonstrates that the enclosure was indeed sometimes full to capacity.

Changing Times

Sadly, it was only a few decades after the new band enclosure was built that open-air music at seaside resorts began to go into near-terminal decline.

The Second World War was one factor.

Military bands had other things to do than play on seafronts, and many of the musicians in civilian bands were also away at the war.

Then, by the time the war ended, tastes in music – and the way it was listened to – were changing.

The gramophone and the wireless had been around for four and two decades respectively, but television advanced rapidly during the 1950s and the introduction of the vinyl microgroove record – which gradually replaced 78 rpm records during the same decade – meant that better sound and longer playing time were now available in the home.

Finally, cheap package holidays meant that foreign travel began to be an affordable and (to many) a more attractive alternative to a week or two at the English seaside; and in addition some resorts – Worthing among them – made a deliberate decision not to encourage day-trippers.

As a result, various traditional seaside entertainments – including Punch and Judy shows and donkey rides – gradually disappeared from most British beaches; and in 1957 Worthing’s band enclosure was converted into an unheated swimming pool and renamed the Lido.

The swimming pool remained open until 1988, and then for a year was used to house dolphins from the Brighton Sea Life Centre, whose usual accommodation was being rebuilt.

Then, in the winter of 1989–90, the pool was covered over and the present family entertainment centre developed on the site.

Looking Ahead

And now the story of the old band enclosure may be about to take another turn.

A year ago the lessee of the Lido submitted plans to Worthing Borough Council to install a retractable roof at a cost of £1.25 million.

The plan also involves installing amphitheatre-style seating around the stage – happily the old bandstand will survive – and there will be a flat area behind the seating for fairground rides and amusements.

Worthing Borough Council has given permission for the project to go ahead, but the funding is not yet in place.

In the meantime, there is regular live music on the stage of the old bandstand during the summer season.

Those that enjoy fifties and sixties rock ’n roll are particularly well catered for this summer, with Bognor-based band the Ace Tones scheduled to make three appearances – while on June 21 a more traditional seaside sound will be provided by the Davison Worthing Youth Concert Band.

The 2015 schedule can be viewed on the Lido’s website, www.theworthinglido.co.uk.

Sam Skilton says more bands will soon be added to the rota – and indeed he encourages other musicians interested in performing at the Lido to contact him. His email address is sam@theworthinglido.co.uk