Bandstands: Pavilions for music, entertainment and leisure

In their heyday, there were over 1,500 bandstands in Britain. Situated in public parks, on piers and seaside promenades they attracted crowds of hundreds and even thousands. This gallery of images from the Historic England Archive showcases a variety of England's bandstands, past and present.

Bandstand, West End Gardens, Marine Road West, Morecambe, Lancashire (1925/1930) by Walter ScottHistoric England

Bandstands: Pavilions for music, entertainment and leisure

In Victorian Britain, there was a growing movement promoting the benefit of public walks and open spaces to the health of rapidly growing urban populations. Consequently, public parks and gardens were developed by local authorities and wealthy benefactors. Prominent in many of the country's urban parks and open spaces at seaside resorts was the bandstand. Music was seen as an important influence on moral health and so bandstands became focal points for positive communal entertainment, set in environments designed for the improvement of health as well as for leisure and pleasure. Often designed with striking and intricate features, bandstands flourished until the Second World War impacted on the use of parks, the loss of material and recreational habits. Decline and dereliction followed, with nearly 600 bandstands lost between 1945 and 1980. However, a renewed interest in the value of public parks in the late 20th and early 21st centuries led to programmes of regeneration and restoration. Many historic bandstands have been given a new lease of life and brand new bandstands unveiled. This gallery of images from the Historic England Archive shows some of England's bandstands, past and present.  

Hotel Cecil from Victoria Embankment Gardens with a bandstand in the foreground, Westminster, Greater London (1886/1900) by York & SonHistoric England

Victoria Embankment Gardens, Westminster, Greater London

Victoria Embankment Gardens opened on Saturday 8 May 1875. The first band concerts were played on the grass but proved so popular that in 1895 the layout of the gardens was altered to provide space for an octagonal bandstand.

In the 1930s the London County Council engaged sixty bands to play in different parks during the summer. According to one listener, the acoustics of the bandstand at Victoria Embankment Gardens was 'remarkable', every note could be heard from a distance of 300 yards.

The bandstand was removed around the same time that the gardens' ornamental railings were taken for scrap during the Second World War.

Read the list entry for Victoria Embankment Gardens

Bandstand, Peckham Rye, Peckham Rye Common, Southwark, Greater London (1862/1890) by Unknown photographerHistoric England

Peckham Rye Common, Southwark, Greater London

The bandstand at Peckham Rye Common was officially opened on 13 July 1899.

It was one of two that were originally built at the Royal Horticultural Society Gardens in South Kensington, which had opened in 1861. Designed by Captain Francis Fowke of the Royal Engineers, these cast-iron pavilion-style bandstands remained in place until the gardens closed in 1888.

The two bandstands were purchased by the London County Council. One replaced an existing, smaller bandstand at Southwark Park, and the second was re-erected at Peckham Rye. Both were destroyed during the Second World War.

Bandstand, Clapham Common, Wandsworth, Greater London (2006-11-20) by Derek Kendall, English HeritageHistoric England

Clapham Common, Wandsworth, Greater London

The contractor who was responsible for removing the bandstands from the Royal Horticultural Society Gardens at South Kensington, suggested that a replica be made for Clapham Common.

The idea was taken up by London County Council architect Thomas Blashill, who produced a modified design of Captain Fowke's original.

The ironwork was produced by George Smith's Sun Foundry in Glasgow at a cost of £598. The bandstand was erected on Clapham Common in 1890.

Bandstand, People's Park, Halifax, Calderdale (2010-04-20) by Peter Williams, English HeritageHistoric England

People's Park, Halifax, Calderdale

People's Park was presented to the town of Halifax by the manufacturer Sir Francis Crossley.

Formerly open fields, the park was designed by Joseph Paxton with the assistance of Edward Milner, and was completed in 1857. The park was designed for walking and its scenery - meetings, games and dancing were forbidden.

A bandstand was erected in the park in the later 19th century. Set on an octagonal platform, it has decorative cast iron railings and thin columns supporting an ogee roof.

Read the list entries for the bandstand and People's Park

Bandstand, Town Gardens, Quarry Road, Old Town, Swindon (1995) by Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of EnglandHistoric England

Town Gardens, Old Town, Swindon

Situated in Swindon's Old Town, the Town Gardens were laid out in the late 19th and early 20th centuries on the site of historic Purbeck stone quarries.

The octagonal, cast-iron bandstand is the focal point of the gardens. Made by Elmbank Foundry in Glasgow, it stands on a raised podium and is topped with a clock tower and ball finial. Originally, the balustrade filled four sides. In the later 20th century, similar wrought-iron versions were added to a further three sides.

Read the list entries for the bandstand and Town Gardens

Gheluvelt Park Band Stand, Gheluvelt Park, Worcester, Worcestershire (2015-05-28) by Steve Baker, Historic EnglandHistoric England

Gheluvelt Park, Worcester, Worcestershire

Gheluvelt Park is a war memorial park. It is named after the battle of Gheluvelt, which took place in Flanders in October 1914. The 2nd Battalion of the Worcester Regiment played a significant part in the action.

Set on an island, the octagonal, cast-iron bandstand was a gift offered by the High Sheriff of Worcester. Erected in c1923, it is approached by a wooden bridge from the shore of an ornamental pond.

The park suffered damage from flooding in 2007. A Heritage Lottery Fund grant enabled a number of repairs to be made, including the renovation of the bandstand.

Read the list entries for the bandstand and Gheluvelt Park

A temporary bandstand at the Chelsea Flower Show, Royal Hospital Gardens, Royal Hospital Road, Kensington and Chelsea, Greater London (1958) by John GayHistoric England

Chelsea Flower Show, Royal Hospital Gardens, Kensington and Chelsea, Greater London

The Royal Hospital, Chelsea opened in 1692. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren, it was built to house soldiers that had become infirm or lame while in the service of the Crown.

Since 1913 the lawns to the south of Wren's hospital have been used as the site for the Royal Horticultural Society's Chelsea Flower Show. Held over five days annually in May, it is the country's most prestigious flower show.

The show's popularity is such that it has been televised since 1958, the year that photographer John Gay has recorded visitors relaxing by a temporary, canvas bandstand.

Read the list entry for the Royal Hospital Gardens

Kenwood House Concert Bowl, Kenwood Estate, Camden, Greater London (1965/1975) by John GayHistoric England

Kenwood House Concert Bowl, Camden, Greater London

The first house was built at Kenwood in the early 17th century. The estate was developed and expanded in the 18th century, with pleasure grounds landscaped by Robert Adam and later by Humphry Repton.

Also known as the Open Air Theatre, the Concert Bowl is situated to the south side of the estate's Thousand Pound Pond, formed during Robert Adam's landscaping of the grounds. Concerts have been held here since the 1950s.

Read the list entry for the landscape park at Kenwood

Bandstand, West End Gardens, Marine Road West, Morecambe, Lancashire (1925/1930) by Walter ScottHistoric England

West End Gardens, Morecambe, Lancashire

Open-air musical entertainment found ready audiences at the many seaside resorts that flourished during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Seafront promenades and gardens, and even pleasure piers played host to new bandstands.

The octagonal bandstand at Morecambe's West End Gardens was a popular attraction for the host of summer visitors from the industrial towns of Lancashire and Yorkshire. Seated in the ubiquitous seaside deckchair, concert-goers could enjoy the music and views out to Morecambe Bay.

Morecambe's bandstands were lost after the Second World War.

The Spa bandstand, South Cliff, Scarborough, North Yorkshire (1945) by Walter ScottHistoric England

The Spa bandstand, Scarborough, North Yorkshire

Scarborough is one of England's oldest health and leisure resorts. Its health-giving waters were discovered in the early 17th century, and bathing in seawater soon followed.

A local band played for visitors on the promenade from 1837 and by 1866 the Scarborough Orchestra had been formed. Bandstands were erected in Clarence Gardens, on the Esplanade at the Spa complex.

Set on the edge of a paved terrace, the bandstand backs on to the seafront promenade, affording audiences views of Scarborough's South Bay.

Read the list entry for The Spa

Bandstand, Stanley Park, Blackpool (2012-08-02) by Steve Cole, English HeritageHistoric England

Stanley Park, Blackpool

Blackpool became a fashionable seaside resort in the mid-18th century. It later evolved into a playground for the masses and is still one of England's most popular resorts.

Stanley Park was designed in 1922 by Thomas Mawson & Sons and opened to the public in 1926. Designed for sport and leisure, the park was created to enhance facilities for visitors to the resort and for Blackpool residents.

The bandstand forms the focal point of a semi-circular, terraced amphitheatre at the edge of the park's lake, with steps deep enough to accommodate folding chairs. Built in 1929, it is one of a number of bandstands whose designs were influenced by the Temple of Aphrodite at Versailles.

Read the list entry for Stanley Park

Bandstand, Tower Gardens, Grand Parade, Skegness, Lincolnshire (2017-10-25) by Pat Payne, Historic EnglandHistoric England

Tower Gardens, Skegness, Lincolnshire

A plan for a new seaside resort at Skegness was drawn up in 1868 by the Civil Engineers Clarke and Pickwell.

The Pleasure Gardens (later named Tower Gardens) formed part of the plan and were completed by the early 1880s. The site had been formerly used to store coal delivered by sea from Tyneside, and when built included a pond, bridges and lawns, and a bandstand to the front of a pavilion.

This photograph from 2017 shows a replacement bandstand that was built in the same location as the original. Behind is the Pavilion, fenced-off prior to planned demolition.

Read the list entry for Tower Gardens

Palace Pier, St Leonards on Sea, Hastings, East Sussex (1919-08) by Henry Bedford Lemere, Bedford Lemere & CoHistoric England

Palace Pier, St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex

St Leonards-on-Sea was laid out as a planned seaside resort in the late 1820s and 1830s by James and Decimus Burton.

A pier was built between 1888 and 1891. Designed by the engineer R St George Moore, the 960 feet long steel pier was built by Head Wrightson. In 1909 the pier was extensively altered, including the addition of a pavilion, dance hall and refreshment rooms.

The new pavilion provided facilities for indoor concerts, while a slender, octagonal bandstand allowed visitors to enjoy outdoor musical entertainment.

The Palace Pier was breached during the Second World War, and following damage from storms and fire, it was eventually demolished in 1951.

Bandstand, Grand Parade, Eastbourne, East Sussex (1990/2005) by Peter Williams, Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England/English HeritageHistoric England

Grand Parade, Eastbourne, East Sussex

Eastbourne's bandstand on Grand Parade is considered to be one of the best loved bandstands in the south of England.

The bandstand, attached colonnade and viewing decks were designed by the resort's Borough Council Engineer, Leslie Rosevere. Built in 1935, the scheme has an eclectic Neo-Grec style. Constructed using reinforced concrete, it is faced in cream, blue, green and black faience.

Its official opening on 5 August 1935 was conducted by Lord Leconfield, the Lord Lieutenant of the county, and was witnessed by 8,000 spectators.

Read the list entry for the bandstand

The De La Warr Pavilion and bandstand, Marina, Bexhill On Sea, East Sussex (2006-10-13) by Derek Kendall, English HeritageHistoric England

Bandstand at the De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex

Following the launch of an appeal for funds in 1998, a new bandstand was unveiled at the De La Warr Pavilion on 8 December 2001.

Constructed using steel, plywood and fibreglass, this unusual bandstand was designed by architect Niall McLaughlin, and used ideas gathered from workshops with local schoolchildren and architecture students.

The shell-like canopy provides excellent acoustics, and its mobility enables it to be positioned anywhere on the Pavilion's terrace, making it adaptable to conditions and needs.

The bandstand won a RIBA Regional Award in 2002.

Read the list entry for the De La Warr Pavilion

Credits: Story

Much of the information used in this exhibit has been sourced from entries in the National Heritage List for England and the Historic England publication Bandstands: Pavilions for music, entertainment and leisure, written by landscape architect and local authority Head of Parks, Paul Rabbitts.

Historic England is the public body that helps people care for, enjoy and celebrate England's spectacular historic environment, from beaches and battlefields to parks and pie shops.

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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