History

image depicting Coronation

Dorking Halls has always been at the heart of the community.

Dorking Halls opened its doors for the first time in 1931. The building of the venue was made possible by shareholders Howard Martineau, a friend of renowned composer Ralph Vaughan Williams and Dame Frances Farrer of Abinger - who became the first LHMF Chairman and President. They were joined by a number of other Dorking gentry.

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.

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, 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.

The new venue famously allowed Ralph Vaughan Williams to stage Bach's dazzling St Matthew Passion.

Dorking Halls remained the property of the Leith Hill Music Festival until the Second Word War, when the Halls was 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 it was 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 flower shows to scouts, the weekly Masons meeting and dance evenings. Due to its success, the council decided to start bringing in professional, higher-profile acts and productions.

The council carried out a large-scale refurbishment in from 1994 - 1997, creating the fully equipped entertainment and conference complex we know and love 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 we installed digital technology and 3D cinema. We now have three cinema screens showing all the latest films as well as our increasingly popular event screenings.

Ralph Vaughan Williams Statue

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' significant 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 maintained strong connections with the area.

He was conductor of the Leith Hill Music Festival from 1905-1953.

The statue was built by William Fawke, who was also commissioned to build the Thomas Cubitt statue in Pimlico, London, of which there is a twin cast opposite Dorking Halls.

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 buildings in Belgravia centred around Belgrave Square and Pimlico and was also responsible for the east front of Buckingham Palace.