The Prince’s Parade and Floral Pavilion

Report on meeting held 3rd October 2016

The Prior Rick Hudson welcomed members to a new season of exciting and entertaining talks. After a roundup of the Summer’s activities, he introduced Sub Prior Bro Garry Sunley who presented Bro Robin Sharpe’s paper about the Prince’s Parade. This was the Barbara Walker Memorial Lecture.

Exactly 150 years ago the Prince’s Parade was being constructed.  Bro Robin’s illustrated talk discussed the development of the Royal Prince’s Parade and especially the Floral Pavilion, where the final concert was given thirty years ago in September 1986 by Edwin Harper’s Orchestra. Wonderful photographs and contemporary reports brought to life many of the talented musicians who performed at the Floral Pavilion over the years. 

The Prince’s Parade reclaimed land lost by a fast eroding cliff. Floral art work enhanced the Parade for many years. The first Grand Pavilion stood at the northern end of Prince’s Parade from 1906 to 1936.  It didn’t get the name “Prince’s Parade” until 1888 when Queen Victoria’s grandson, Prince Albert the Duke of Clarence, visited Bridlington.  It was later in 1904 that the glass and iron Floral Pavilion came into being encompassing an existing bandstand.

Music on the “Parade” began as soon as it was completed in 1867 with Professor John Mowbray Wilson’s orchestra. He was also the organist at the Priory Church. Edwardian visitors would enjoy the music of 22 brilliant musicians under the direction of Signor Scoma, who had earlier been a bandmaster in the Italian Navy. Handsome Lionel Johns and his “broadcasting orchestra” performed at the Floral Pavilion from 1933 until 1939.  In 1937 the rising star Edwin Harper was appointed percussionist in the Lionel Johns orchestra. Local poet George Hardwick, himself an Augustinian, wrote a poem in dialect to “Mr Johns and his Lads”, ably recited by Bro Garry.

James Kershaw and his orchestra entertained at the Floral Pavilion from 1949 until 1953. He was followed by Reginald King and Leslie Baker. Then from 1964 until 1986 Edwin Harper enjoyed a number of very successful seasons, interchanging with Bobby Fisher. Pianist Brooks Aehron began his career with Edwin Harper. He went on to win Hughie Green’s “Opportunity Knocks” and star in his own television show “Brooks Aehron Serenade”. Soon though, the Pavilion was losing money and the 14 man orchestra was trimmed to 8, and then to 6. The Bridlington Free Press reported in 1986, “The Floral Pavilion has officially reached the end of its life as a palm-court type venue for orchestral and associated events. Unofficially, and in the eyes of the majority of people, it reached the end of that life many years ago.”

Bro Robin presented many more well known and obscure musicians associated with the Floral Pavilion.  Bro Robin’s talk ended recalling the title of Edwin Harper’s signature tune, “Thanks for the Memory”. 

The vote of thanks was given by Gillian Bapty.  She said it brought back a lot of memories and also reminded her of what we had still got. She hoped Bridlington’s regeneration could build on this.