Our History

Serving the community for more than 85 years

Designed by architect Percy W. Meredith, our striking Art Deco venue was built in 1931 to house the Leith Hill Musical Festival and host renowned composer Ralph Vaughan Williams’ staging of Bach’s St Matthew Passion.

The venue was designed to host a range of community events. It comprised three Halls: the Masonic, the Martineau and the impressive Grand; all of which remain today.

The Grand can seat 900 people, and its original stage could accommodate 300 singers and a full orchestra. The acoustics were exceptional and there was also a fully-sprung dance floor.

The Halls remained the property of the Leith Hill Musical Festival until the Second Word War, when the building was commandeered by the Meat Marketing Board and the Army. Once the war was over, the Halls was left in 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.

The council, which still owns the venue, brought it back to life, and by 1946 activities were happening daily, including flower shows, Scouts and dance evenings. Due to its popularity, the council began welcoming professional, higher-profile acts and productions.

The Halls underwent a large-scale refurbishment between 1994 and 1997, creating the modern, fully-equipped theatre, cinema and conference venue we know and love today.

Improvements are ongoing. In 2017 we refurbished our mezzanine, café and Box Office area to reflect our Art Deco heritage. This year the building is being repainted and eagle eyes will have spotted a smart, modern new logo.

 

Dorking Halls Patron Brian Kay

Our patron, conductor and broadcaster Brian Kay

Brian is an old friend of Dorking Halls, and conducts the prestigious Leith Hill Musical Festival here each spring.

He said: “To stand where renowned composer Vaughan Williams stood (and even to conduct from his own antique music stand) is a very special moment for me each year and the Halls provides the perfect venue for a festival involving so many people – 700 singers and a full house, three nights running.

“The special atmosphere in the Halls gives the festival a real buzz – even more so since the building has been refurbished. It feels like a home-from-home. Long may our happy association continue.”

Brian Kay divides his time between broadcasting and appearances on the concert circuit. Many will know him from his Light programme on BBC Radio 3, and BBC Radio 2’s long-running series Friday Night is Music Night.

 

Ralph Vaughan Williams Statue

Ralph Vaughan Williams Statue

Have you spotted our Ralph Vaughan Williams statue? Donated by Adrian White, it was unveiled in 2001 by poet and wife of Ralph Vaughan Williams, Ursula Vaughan Williams (1911-2007).

Ralph Vaughan Williams was conductor of the Leith Hill Music Festival from 1905-1953. He was one of the great 20th Century British composers, and 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.

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