Worthing Dome

The Dome in Worthing is a very different building to the Dome in Brighton which is unsurprising as it was built over one hundred years later.

The Dome on Church Street in Brighton was originally built as stables for the Prince of Wales behind his Marine Pavilion in 1803-08 by William Porden. It was converted into a concert hall in 1867. The Dome on the Worthing seafront, on the other hand, was originally built as a roller-skating rink in 1909 by T. A. Allen for the Swiss entrepreneur Carl A. Seebold. It was called the Kursaal at first but was renamed the Dome during the First World War because Kursaal sounded too Germanic.

Worthing’s Dome was converted into a 950 seat cinema in 1921 by Seebold. The town’s first cinema has unfortunately been demolished but its second, the Dome, is still going strong. It’s a funny-looking building actually. Its tall domed octagonal tower is considered by English Heritage to be ‘one of the most complete surviving examples of an early cinema in the country’. The opulent Edwardian ceiling is studded with domes and cupolas. It is one of only a few still using carbon projectors, the original method of showing films. I was lucky enough to see Richard Attenborough’s Oh! What a Lovely War there, complete with ice-cream break, several years ago.

After being operated by a series of companies, the Dome was bought by Worthing Borough Council in 1963. In 1993, it suddenly closed following its failure to pass an electrical safety test. Many feared that it would never open again. It was rewired at a cost of £26,500 by Seeboard, regained its cinema licence and reopened to the relief of many. In 1994, the tower was demolished and rebuilt at a cost of over £300,000 when virtually all the steelwork above first floor level showed signs of bad corrosion and had to be replaced. 35,000 locals then signed a petition to save it from being sold by the Council to the Chapman Leisure Group. In 1996, it was upgraded from Grade II to II* Listed status amidst battles between various prospective buyers including Charlie Chaplin’s son, Eugene.

In 1999, the Council sold the Dome to the Worthing Dome & Regeneration Trust Ltd for just £10 as part of a grand scheme to get the building back in shape. I can’t wait to see the project completed. See www.worthingdome.com.