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About Dorking Halls
From the new home of a much-loved music festival to a 3D cinema, Dorking Halls has always been at the heart of the Mole Valley community.
In 1926, provision was made to build a new hall as a more suitable venue for the Leith Hill Musical Competition, as it was then known.
Howard Martineau - a friend of Ralph Vaughan Williams in the city, was one of the main shareholders as was Dame Frances Farrer of Abinger - who became the first LHMF Chairman and President. They were then joined by a number of other Dorking gentry who also became shareholders and thus the venue could be built.
The design, by the architect Mr Meredith, was comprised of three different-sized halls to make the venue as versatile as possible and downstairs changing rooms, a kitchen and an upstairs office which is now the Conference Room, were also created. The Halls were finally opened in 1931 and were amply equipped to host the Festival.
The main auditorium could originally seat 900 people with a large flat-floored area furnished with more than 600 orange plastic bucket seats and the upper balcony which had 215 fixed seats.
The original stage or platform, with a wooden stage extension could accommodate 300 singers plus a full orchestra. The acoustics were exceptional and there was also a fully-sprung dance floor.
All in all, a venue which amply accommodated, and was a setting worthy of playing host to, the Festival. It also allowed Ralph Vaughan William's dream to be accomplished - that of being able to stage Bach's St Matthew Passion - in 1931 which he dedicated to his beloved sister Margaret.
Dorking Halls remained the property of the Leith Hill Music Festival until the Second Word War. The Festival stopped and the Halls were commandeered by the Meat Marketing Board and the Army. Once the war was over, the Halls was left in a very poor condition and would have cost too much to restore, so were sold to the Dorking Urban District Council for the knock-down price of £15,000.
By 1946, lots of activities were happening every day - from professional groups to flower shows, scouts, the weekly Masons meeting, dance evenings and everyone was welcome. It was during these following years that the council decided to start bringing in more professional acts and productions.
The Halls' became dilapidated during the years so the council, realising that there was high local demand for the venue, decided to carry out a large refurbishment programme in 1994/5 to create a fully equipped entertainment and conference complex. These refurbishments were completed in 1997 to create Dorking Halls as it stands today.
Since the late 90s the Halls has seen more subtle renovations and changes to ensure it remains a popular venue for live theatre and music as well as a cinema.
At the beginning of 2011 the biggest change to Dorking Halls for some time was the introduction of digital technology and 3D cinema.
A statue of Ralph Vaughan Williams, donated by Adrian White, stands outside Dorking Halls. It was unveiled by Ursula Vaughan Williams in 2001 to commemorate Vaughan Williams' huge involvement with the venue.
Ralph Vaughan Williams was one of the great 20th Century British composers, an important teacher and lecturer in music. For many years he was a resident of Dorking and throughout his life, had strong connections with the area.
He was Conductor of the Leith Hill Music Festival from 1905-1953.
The statue was built by William Fawke, ARBS who was also commissioned to build the Thomas Cubitt statue in Pimlico, London, of which there is a twin cast opposite Dorking Halls as he was favoured in the town for his architecture on his Denbies estate.
Thomas Cubitt was the leading master builder in London in the second quarter of the 19th century. He was commissioned in 1824 by Richard Grosvenor, 2nd Marquess of Westminster, to create a great swathe of building in Belgravia centred around Belgrave Square and Pimlico and was also responsible for the east front of Buckingham Palace.
He was employed in the large development of Kemp Town in Brighton, and Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, completed in 1851.