Dreamland appears alongside unlikely icons like London’s 100 Club, Manchester’s Hacienda, Saltdean Lido and Caister Holiday Camp in a new book celebrating England’s history through 100 places.
Rather than provide a gazetteer of the historic buildings we already know, Irreplaceable; A History of England in 100 Places brings together historic buildings and other places grouped under themes like ‘Science and Discovery’, ‘Faith and Belief’, and ‘Music and Literature’. The format gives space to lesser-known buildings, and to places which might not have the grandest architecture but are essential to tell our island’s story. It’s a refreshing approach.
Margate’s historic amusement park opens the section on ‘Travel and Tourism’. Dreamland’s story begins in the 19th century, when Victorian circus impresario Lord George Sanger took over the site and opened a Pleasure Garden with rides, sideshows and his famous menagerie. Before his death in 1911, Sanger sold the site and after the First World War, John Henry Iles took over. He had set up amusement parks all over the world, including at Cairo, Berlin, St Petersburg, and Pittsburgh. Adding new rides, including the Scenic Railway, he renamed the site Dreamland in 1920.
This year, nine new rides were added to the site, it has hosted a range of events from live music to product launches, and from children’s parties to corporate entertainment, and the park’s parent company announced plans for further investment, building a new hotel on the seafront. After years of uncertainty, Dreamland’s future seems secure - and with inclusion in this book, it’s got its place in the history books, too.
It’s a prestigious list that includes Stonehenge, St Paul’s Cathedral and Shakespeare’s birthplace. Only one other Kent site makes the list. Canterbury Cathedral is listed alongside St Martin’s Church, its smaller neighbour which was Augustine’s first base when he arrived to convert England to Christianity.
All the buildings included were initially nominated by the public, taking the book beyond a list of obvious historic buildings and making it a people’s history of England. A tapestry of places that tell a story about the country’s history, it’s an excellent introduction to English architecture and social history, but also includes enough surprises to keep architecture buffs interested.
Irreplaceable: A History of England in 100 Places is written by Philip Wilkinson and is published by Historic England.
This is a guest blog post, written by artist, writer and speaker, Dan Thompson.