Today’s Palace of Fun began life in 1910/11 as a particularly fine Winter Garden. Designed by C. E. Clayton — a Brighton engineer and architect — the building was adapted for use as an amusement arcade early on in its life, certainly by the late 1920s.
Picture 1 : Finishing touches –
Possibly photographed just before its completion, men can be seen on ladders and even on top of the dome (“health & safety” perhaps lacking here) ;
Picture 2 : Night-time transformation –
The roof and dome originally consisted of glass panels, similar to those of a conservatory. Once dark, the illuminated view must have been spectacular. Notice at the time the amount of glass also given to the sides of the building ;
Picture 3 : Daytime interior view –
Striped awnings eased patrons from too much sunlight and heat on fine days ;
Picture 4 : Evening interior view –
The awnings removed show the upper roof glass. Another view of the fountain and the general seating arrangement plus the stage and Steinway piano. This building was for a time known as “Brighton’s Crystal Palace” ; it looks magical.
Winter heating was provided by means of hot water pipes. Some of the decorative interior ironwork remains, well restored and repainted in the early 1990s ;
Picture 5 : Vaudeville Season 1912 –
Variety indeed ! Admission was threepence or sixpence : “a few fauteuils at one shilling, including pier toll”. Tea and refreshments served during the performance ; &
Picture 6 : Brighton Municipal Orchestra [?] –
The Winter Garden was also home to more serious music. Typically, on Sunday, 1st September, 1918, the Brighton Grand Orchestra, of 36 musicians, conducted by Mr. James Sale, gave three performances — 11.30 to 1.0, 3.15 to 4.45 and 7.30 to 9.30 — impressive programmes including works by Handel, Strauss, Rossini, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Massenet and Delibes. The morning programme included “Brighton Palace Pier Valse” composed by M. Speelman, first viola player in the orchestra, and dedicated to the directors of the pier company. In a notice “Mr. Sale regrets that he cannot promise to perform the numerous ‘requests’ he receives, unless his patrons favour him with a three days’ notice. He desires to adhere as strictly as possible to the daily advertised programme.”
A well-preserved 1921 recording of James Sale with this orchestra playing selections from the musical “Mary”, by the United States composer Louis A. Hirsch, can be heard (at the time of writing) on YouTube. It is marvellous hearing something along the lines of what was often heard within this remarkable building all those years ago.