Dreamland’s rare menagerie cages have been restored

Three rare and historic menagerie cages, which sit against the boundary wall of Dreamland Margate, have been restored in a project led by Thanet District Council.

The structures, which date from 1874, are almost all that remain of ‘Lord’ George Sanger’s original Hall-by-the-Sea Pleasure Garden, now known as Dreamland.

The menageries will be accessible to the public via a new garden boardwalk, part of the re-landscaping plans for the park, being carried out by Dreamland operator Sands Heritage Ltd.

Rediscovered in 2008 during work to protect the Scenic Railway, Thanet District Council issued a preservation notice to protect the structures and in February 2009 they became Grade II listed due to their ‘exceptional rarity’.

The £100,000 restoration of the menageries has been jointly funded by Thanet District Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). The project has been managed by the council and completed to time and under budget.

Completed by Margate-based G & W Gardner Building Contractors Ltd, the work included stabilising the outer structure which is made of ‘Burr’ brick filled with lime mortar, as well as replacing the roof and the corroded iron cage bars.

Other than minor works to the western wall on the perimeter of the park, it is believed none of the menagerie cages have been maintained for some 50 years.

Alongside the menageries, a two storey structure known as the ‘Folly’ or ‘gardener’s cottage’ was also discovered and is now in the process of restoration. This brick structure, which is also faced with ‘Burr’ brick, contains a fireplace on the ground and first floors, a timber first floor deck and a timber staircase.

‘The first step’

Cllr Lin Fairbrass, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Community Services, said: “Restoring these extremely rare menagerie cages and ongoing work to the Folly is a significant first step towards a number of exciting restoration and preservation projects the council is undertaking to help reinstate the glamour and grandeur of Dreamland.

“Dreamland has been an essential part of Margate’s identity for many, many years and we’re delighted to be able to play our part in reinstating it as a world class destination, as well as a sustainable business that the local community can be proud of.”

Bernie Morgan, Chairman of the Dreamland Trust – who secured the Heritage Lottery Funding – said: “We have been working actively in partnership with Thanet District Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund to help fund the restoration of the Menageries to their former glory, in the same way we are funding the restoration of many of the vintage rides. It is wonderful news that another bit of Dreamland’s heritage will now be seen by visitors.”

Russell Tofts, Chairman of The Bartlett Society – whose mission is to study yesterday’s methods of keeping wild animals – said: “These remnants of “Lord” George Sanger’s original Hall-by-the-Sea Pleasure Garden are extremely rare, possibly unique. The word “unique” is overused these days, but I think there is no better word to describe these cages.

“Animal cages from earlier eras are hardly ever preserved due to the unacceptable idea of how wild animals were once kept, but it is vitally important that such structures, where they have survived to the present day, are preserved for future generations. Thanet council is to be praised for this project and we are pleased that these cages will be made accessible to the general public, with education boards explaining the history of the George Sanger menagerie and their significance.”

Dreamland Margate, which announced a complete renovation plan earlier this month,  will be opening up 195 seasonal jobs  and is holding a recruitment day this month.

History

‘Lord’ George Sanger, who was known as the most successful circus entrepreneur of the 19th century, bought the land (now Dreamland) in 1874 as a headquarters for his circus empire and housed lions, elephants and various other exotic animals. In 1905, Sanger sold his circus and menagerie, dispersing the animals. The menagerie was re-opened in 1913 and restocked with animals from the German animal dealer, Carl Hagenback.

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