Today (March 25) marks the start of the 100 day countdown to the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Scenic Railway and Dreamland park, on July 3, 1920.
And, despite the park being unable to open for the Easter season due to the coronavirus outbreak, bosses are urging people to stay positive and join them in a rendition of ’We Will Survive.’
Dreamland is sharing an adapted version of the Gloria Gaynor hit in an effort to cheer up town businesses.
A spokesperson said: “In these difficult times, it’s good to sing, to stay positive and to smile as much as possible. Margate people and businesses are facing a tough time, but we will survive together. Have a dance in your kitchen and keep your dreams alive!”
All events at the park scheduled for the next six weeks have been postponed and park staff are working closely with promoters to confirm alternative dates, and will update ticket holders by email as soon as possible.
Summer events are not, currently, being postponed. Keep up to date here
While a leisure venue has existed on the Margate site since the 1870s, it was not until 1920 that John Henry Iles transformed it into the pleasure garden and amusement park Dreamland – and opened the famous Scenic Railway to the public.
Where did it all start?
1870: A restaurant and dance hall, known as the Hall By The Sea, was bought by entrepreneur George Sanger and Thomas Dalby Reeve, then Mayor of Margate.
After Reeve’s death in 1875, Sanger went it alone and the hall and land behind became pleasure gardens with a mock ruined abbey, lake, statues and a menagerie.
1920: Dreamland opened on the site of a seafront zoo and gardens. It was owned by showman CC Bartram and businessman John Henry Iles who owned rights to the Scenic Railway.
1938: Dreamland was taken over by Iles’s son Eric but closed following the outbreak of the Second World War.
June 1946: Dreamland reopened on June 6, with money from Billy Butlin, who was chairman of Dreamland from 1946 to 1950.
1980s: The site was taken over by the Bembom Brothers who turned it into a white-knuckle theme park
1996: The Bembom family sold the site to Jimmy Godden who secured grants to assist in an initial £3 million redevelopment.
2002: The Scenic Railway was granted Grade II-listed status.
2003: Mr Godden announced that Dreamland would close and be redeveloped for shops and offices.
2005: Margate Town Centre Regeneration Company, (MTCRC) which had shareholders including Mr Godden, bought the park for £20 million. Dreamland closed to the public and all rides, apart from the Scenic Railway, were removed.
2007: Ideas were put forward for the site by Thanet council which included a mixed scheme with the majority of the site kept as an amusement park, along with homes.
2008: The Scenic Railway was partially destroyed by fire after an arson attack on April 7. The owners pledged to rebuild. Thanet council threatened to compulsory purchase the site if it was not repaired. Dreamland Cinema was upgraded to Grade II* status on April 25.
2009: The Save Dreamland Trust unveiled plans for a heritage theme park and a £3.7 million government grant was awarded to help bring the park back to life.
The £12 million project hit a financial problem. Thanet council stepped in to pay £4 million. The rest came from a £3.8 million government grant, £3 million from the Heritage Lottery fund, and local groups.
2011: A compulsory purchase order was served. Listed buildings were repaired after council served urgent works notices. Legal battles pushed the park’s opening date from 2012 to 2013.
MTCRC put forward alternative plans for the site in an attempt to stop the CPO.
2012: Jimmy Godden died. MTCRC became DreamlandLive. In August the government approved the CPO to Thanet council after an inquiry.
2013: After prolonged legal arguments a notice to quit the park was finally served. Designer Wayne Hemingway’s company was hired to create plans for the park.
May 2014: Another fire hit the park. Dreamland Expo: A Past, Present and Future visitor centre opened. Work to restore the rides began.
November 2014: Sands Heritage agreed in principal to be the park operator.
June 19, 2015: The Dreamland revived park reopened to the public.
December 2015: Sands Heritage Ltd entered into a voluntary debt plan.
May 2016: Dreamland put into administration.
June 18, 2016: Free entry to Dreamland and a weekend of first birthday celebrations.
July 16, 2016 – A record number of people visit Dreamland with 10,000 recorded in one day
July 2016 – The Scenic Railway is closed for repairs and the Octopus Garden children’s area is also shut for repairs after a leak.
August 4,2016 – Coombs, based in Canterbury, announces it will carry out £1.8 million restoration works at the former Sunshine Café and cinema entrance foyer at Dreamland.
September 2016: The opening of the iconic Hall By The Sea.
October 2016: Former Dreamland owners MTCRC offer £1m to take back the park and end the legal dispute with Thanet council over land compensation
January 2017: An extension to the administration period is granted meaning the park could continue to run. Arrowgrass increases its loan amount for the park to just under £10million
February 2017: A £15million overhaul of Dreamland is announced with more funding from Arrowgrass. Plans for new and restored rides, landscaped gardens, festivals and street food are unveiled
March 2017: Gorillaz announced to stage Demon Dayz festival in June, the park’s rare menagerie cages are restored, the neon signage is also restored and Arrowgrass announce another £10million of investment. Thanet council appoints real estate adviser, GVA, to find an operator for the former Sunshine Cafe building.
May 2017: Thousands turn out for the opening of the newly improved Dreamland and the event is attended by artist Tracy Emin. The bank holiday weekend attracted some 50,000 people to the park.
June 2017: Official opening of Ziggy;s rooftop bar and thousands enjoy the Demon Dayz gig.
October 2017: Dreamland exits administration and Arrowgrass hold talks about purchasing the Arlington freehold as part of a new masterplan for the site
March 2018: Dreamland announces a £5 park entry fee, which includes a single go on a ride of a visitor’s choice, or the daily Day Dreamer food and drink offer.
April 2018: Dreamland announces 9 new rides will be installed at the park over the summer
June 2018: The Dreamland Drop sky tower ride arrives at the park. Plans for a 120 bed seafront hotel are revealed
January 2019: Former Dreamland CEO Eddie Kemsley returns to head up the Margate amusement park once more
February 2019: The Dreamland hotel plans, which means the demolition of two buildings including Ziggy’s rooftop bar, are approved
April 2019: The £5 park entrance fee is dropped and footfall soared by more than 380% with 105,433 visitors between April 6 and April 22, compared to 21,988 visitors during the 2018 Easter break.
The same month Dreamland CEO Eddie Kemsley told The Isle of Thanet News Dreamland wanted to look at ways to increase the number of hotel beds in Margate and to hold more events out of the main season, creating a 12 month business and the permanent employment associated with that.
August 1, 2019: Thanet council Cabinet members agree the sale of the freehold for the entire Dreamland site -including the council car park and cinema building – to operaters Sands Heritage Limited.
The sale is subject to agreement from external funders regarding the removal of ongoing grant obligations upon the council, and subject to legal advice.
The sale will include the full complex, rides and the TDC restored cinema and Sunshine Café building, containing the ‘Dreamland Bars’, later famous for being the ‘Bali Hai’.
2020: Dreamland celebrates its park centenary. The Dreamland Trust is granted £99,600 of lottery cash for a new series of projects to interpret the history and heritage of Dreamland.
The project coincides with the 10th year of the Dreamland Trust, established in 2009 in the bid to save the amusement park and get it reopened to the public.