A potted history

Trick Cyclist
Photo from a private collection

This photograph shows the famous Australian trick cyclist Banner Forbut performing outside the Ritz Roller Rink in West Street, Brighton. Banner Forbut was appearing as a speciality act at the Sports Stadium ice rink in Tom Arnold’s 1953 “Ice Circus”. The policeman directing him is wearing the traditional white helmet that the Brighton police force wore every summer.

Built in 1867
The Ritz Roller Rink in the background started life as the West Street Concert Hall and was built in 1867 for a Mr William Child, with a white stucco facade four-stories high and designed in the Italianate style, similar to the Grand and Norfolk Hotels nearby.

In 1872 the building was hired by the British Geographical section, at which the explorer and missionary H. M. Stanley, who found Dr Livingstone in Africa, read a paper on his discoveries in Northern Tanganyika.

Fire in 1882
A disastrous fire seriously damaged the hall in 1882. It was later to reopen as an ice skating rink in 1892. Seventeen years later the hall took the legendary name of “Sherry’s”, beginning its long career as a Brighton’s premier “Palais De Dance” venue. The height of its popularity came during the Second World War when service men would make a bee line for the venue, making “Sherry’s” the Mecca of dancing on the south coast.

Dancing in the 40s and 50s
The atmosphere at the dance hall on any Saturday evening during the 40’s and 50’s was heightened for many of its patrons by its associations with Brighton’s underworld of crime and gangsterism. The whole Brighton underworld scene was to be eventually immortalised by Graham Greene in his novel “Brighton Rock” of which “Sherry’s” certainly played an active part!

Ritz Roller Rink
The building eventually became a roller rink (Ritz Roller Rink) in the mid fifties and remained so for many years, finally turning full circle, the venue is now a night club and dance venue once again!

Comments about this page

  • I have a farthing set in a surrounding with Sherry dance hall saying ‘Keep me and you will never be broke.’ Is it worth anything?

    By ronald weeb (01/05/2008)
  • My father, Johnny Ceaplen, had a band which played at the Ritz Roller rink when it was a dance hall. He also played at many pubs and dance halls around Brighton.

    By Maxine Niner (08/12/2008)
  • My nan and grandad met in Sherrys when my grandad was posted here in the war, they have been married for 63 years now. My grandad is in his 90’s my nan late 80’s. I would love to know what it is now.

    By Sarah Wall (20/06/2009)
  • I was a regular at the Ritz roller rink in the fifties, I helped to run the speed club on saturdays between skating sessions, played roller football and roller hockey. Met my wife Lorna there in 1957; unfortunately I lost her in 2004.

    By Dave strong (26/01/2011)
  • I went to the Ritz roller rink on many occasions and would love to get in contact with people who used to go there. I met my wife Mary there and we are still happily married. If you recognise my name or used to go around the fifties email danielle–anderson@hotmail.co.uk and get in contact.

    By David Anderson (05/03/2011)
  • Me and my mates used to love going to the roller rink. It was great fun.

    By Alan Read (30/05/2011)
  • Great great aunts of mine, Gwen Rogers’ Romany Players played at Sherry’s, I believe in the 1920s and/or 1930s. Is there any record or memory from anyone regarding their appearances, possible pictures etc.

    By John Rogers (05/12/2011)
  • Re the Romany Players. Anyone with info, in addition to using this site, please feel free to e-mail me: jacko2010@hotmail.com John Rogers

    By John Rogers (06/12/2011)
  • In the mid-to-late 70s, Sherry’s was my 2nd favourite place….after the Goldstone! Happy days.

    By Ken Valder (08/12/2011)
  • I also used to frequent Sherrys, it had a fantastic atmostphere and used to get absolutely packed. I saw the Bay City Rollers perform there, I also remember the baskets of food. Sometimes we would go from there onto the Top Rank Suite, another great venue with the resident band and DJ. Oh what happy days they were, and oh if only we could turn back time 🙂

    By Marion Bell nee Long (31/03/2012)
  • The potted history above states that the building which became Sherry’s re-opened in 1892 as an ice skating rink, but Carder states only in his Encyclopaedia that ‘the roller-skating hall was reconstructed in 1892′. The ’17 years’ mentioned by the late Trevor above take us to 1909 (Sherry’s actually opened in 1919). Carder adds that in 1911 the building was converted into a 2,000-seat cinema, the Grand Picture Palace, renamed the Coliseum in 1918. After another serious fire it reopened as Sherry’s on 11 November 1919.

    By Douglas d'Enno (31/03/2013)
  • Hi Douglas, Trevor’s research was not entirely incorrect – after rebuilding in 1892 the premises were listed as “The Grand Skating Rink and Restaurant”, proprietor J.B. Mellison. By the turn of the century it was simply listed as “The Grand Concert Hall”. Although it had been used to screen films from around 1905 onwards, in 1911 it was converted to a 2000 seat cinema. Following litigation by Gaumont for non payment of film hire, the cinema was forced to close in 1917. The attempt at reviving its fortunes was curtailed by a serious fire and as you correctly state, “Sherry’s” opened in 1919. It would seem that Trevor’s maths may have let him down in this respect! Regards, Andy

    By Andy Grant (01/04/2013)
  • Further to my previous comments, the building that was home to the Grand Concert Hall, skating rink and restaurant extended all the way from West Street, through to another entrance in Middle Street, next to the Castle Hotel. After the 1892 reconstruction, the skating rink had a floor of 9,950 sq ft of ‘the finest maple’ and was opened for three sessions a day, attended by expert instructors and with a famous military band playing. Although the building was used to screen films, the skating rink continued to be used until the conversion in 1911. Thereafter it became the Grand Picture Palace (although often still listed as the Grand Concert Hall) until becoming the Coliseum. When Sherry’s took over, it was originally described as an Academy of Dancing. The adverts during the 1920s gave their address as Middle Street and it was then a ‘Palais de Danse’, opening twice daily at 3:30 and 8:00pm, with a gala night on Saturdays going on until 1:00am. Regards, Andy

    By Andy Grant (02/04/2013)
  • Re post above the Romany Players, the e-mail address jacko2010@gmail.com is inoperative. If you have sent an e-mail to that address, please resend to johnnyrogers2013@gmail.com

    By John Rogers (24/11/2013)
  • Before the war, and probably during, professional dancers were available for hire as partners. My mother often used to mention ‘Sonny Whip’, apparently one of the favourites.

    By Geoffrey Stoner (25/08/2016)
  • I have an old salver, with Sherry’s name on the top. I am told it w as from the club, sometime in the forties? Has  an Assay mark on the back, A30 plus two marks; the name G G Honour & Sons , London

    By Tyler (13/09/2016)
  • My father in law told the family that he used to dance on stage to win dancing competitions some times with his brother in law Philip Hopper. My father in law was Known as Bosh Alexander we believe he won quite a number of the competitions at as was known then as Sherry’s.

    By Denis A Lewry (22/04/2019)

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