History of the Pavilion

Worthing‘s original Pier Pavilion was replaced nearly 100 years ago by the current majestic building. The original had been a quarter of a mile from the pier’s toll gate but the council bought the iron pier in 1920 in order to provide high-quality, year-round entertainment for the town. They achieved their dream when the new Pier Pavilion was opened by Mayor Walter Gardiner at the sea end of the pier on June 25th 1926.

The new Pier Pavilion was designed by architects Adshead and Ramsey, inspired by the magnificent concert halls of Rome, Nice, Vienna and Paris. Stanley Adshead was determined that, “Nothing be lacking in Worthing’s Pavilion”, he wanted to bring the opulence and musical heritage of Europe to the town. The Pier Pavilion was home to the municipal orchestra and just like today, both plays and a musical programme were presented at the Pier Pavilion, before the local repertory company moved permanently to the Connaught Theatre.

By May 1929 spectacular summer shows were being performed at the Pier Pavilion and there were nightly queues for returned tickets to see popular entertainers of the day: Rex London with Elsie and Doris Waters.

However by 1932 only the municipal orchestra and Saturday variety shows remained here and for a while its future looked bleak. Despite negativity about the expenditure on the venue, the theatre survived and in 1940, after the south coast became a bastion against wartime invasion, the pier and theatre were closed. In the spirit of show business the Pier Pavilion re-opened as a garrison theatre in 1942 and it upheld the tradition of varied entertainment in Worthing.

By 1970 the theatre was flourishing and canopies were added to the outside of the building before the whole venue was closed between 1979 and 1982 for refurbishment.

The modernised building gradually became known as the Pavilion Theatre and its proscenium arch which frames the stage with depictions of the muses was repainted in 2010 and features the ancient Greek names of each muse next to their images.

From the earliest performances at the Pavilion through to today, audiences have enjoyed musicals, concerts and dazzling theatre. Ken Dodd, Norman Wisdom, Mickey Rooney, Joyce Grenfell, Tommy Trinder and Gary Wilmot have all performed here as well as recent performances by Julian Clary, Jethro, and Joe Brown. The charm of the Pavilion Theatre is that in addition to the stage shows, carpets are regularly rolled back to reveal a fully-sprung dance floor which allows cabaret, circus and ballet to be performed to audiences of 850 to 1100.