The King’s Hall is an architectural gem, captivating visitors with its original Edwardian features and idyllic seafront views.
There had been earlier buildings in this natural hollow in the Downs which, during the Napoleonic wars, had been a military camp and gun site. There was a tiny bandstand even before Mr Thomas Dence, in 1903, offered to build opposite his house a bandstand and small hall. This building, called the East Cliff Pavilion, was extended still further by excavating into the cliff. It grew into a concert hall for orchestras and military bands and so the King’s Hall was born.
The opening of the King’s Hall on 10 July 1913 was a rare occasion for Herne Bay, a day when the town had a royal visitor. Princess Henry of Battenberg, youngest daughter of Queen Victoria, came on behalf of Queen Alexandra to name the proud new concert hall the ‘King Edward VII Memorial Hall’ after her late brother. With its name shortened to The King’s Hall, the building has been the centre of much of the town’s social life for almost a century.
Early photographs show it as a palm court, with windows overlooking the Downs and the stage on the south side of the building. But as this stage proved too small for shows of any size, it was moved to the east side, as it is now, and the north front of the building, previously the East Cliff Pavilion which was was built in 1903, became the foyer we see today.
The pretty Edwardian bandstand on the stepped and sloping roof became a large arena for military band concerts. Deckchairs even packed on to the wrought iron verandah overlooking the sea. Between the wars, Herne Bay became one of the first seaside resorts in the south of England with military bands playing daily to huge audiences. Other groups such as the Jollity Boys entertained on the Downs where hotel guests, in evening dress, strolled after dinner. In the late 1960’s, the bandstand proved too expensive to maintain and was demolished.