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; The Dorking Halls was built to house the Festival and opened in 1931; 'Song for a Spring Festival', written by RVW to celebrate the Festival's 50th year, may only be performed at the Festival; RVW retired as Festival Conductor in 1953, but continued to conduct the St Matthew Passion until 1958; Whilst living in Dorking, RVW composed works including Serenade to Music, Symphonies 4 - 7 and The Pilgrim's Progress; RVW conducted the first combined choirs concert at the Festival on 10 May 1905; The first competition day at the Festival exclusively for children was held in 1921; In 1934 the BBC broadcast part of the Festival performance of Dream of Gerontius; The first Festival performance of the St Matthew Passion in 1931 had 800 singers;

Leith Hill Musical Festival
Bringing choirs together
for competitions and concerts in Dorking since 1905

Registered charity number 275176

Events and tickets

Dorking Halls

The following note is taken from the Dorking Halls' own website.

In 1926, a brand new hall was built to house the much-loved Leith Hill Musical Competition, as it was then known.

The building of the venue was made possible by shareholders Howard Martineau, a friend of renowned composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, and Dame Frances Farrer of Abinger - who became the first LHMF Chairman and President. They were joined by a number of other Dorking gentry.

The design, by the architect Mr Meredith, was comprised of three different-sized halls to make the venue as versatile as possible with downstairs changing rooms, a kitchen and an upstairs office which is now the Vaughan Williams Conference Room. The Halls were opened to great excitement in 1931.

The main auditorium could originally seat 900 people with a large flat-floored area furnished with more than 600 orange plastic bucket seats and the upper balcony which had 215 fixed seats.

The original stage, with a wooden stage extension, could accommodate 300 singers plus a full orchestra. The acoustics were exceptional and there was also a fully-sprung dance floor.

The new venue famously allowed Ralph Vaughan Williams to stage Bach's dazzling St Matthew Passion in 1931.

Dorking Halls remained the property of the Leith Hill Music Festival until the Second Word War, when the Halls was commandeered by the Meat Marketing Board and the Army. Once the war was over, the Halls was left in a very poor condition and would have cost too much to restore, so it was sold to the Dorking Urban District Council for the knock-down price of £15,000.

By 1946, lots of activities were happening every day, from flower shows to scouts, the weekly Masons meeting and dance evenings. Due to its success, the council decided to start bringing in professional, higher-profile acts and productions.

The council carried out a large-scale refurbishment from 1994 - 1997, creating the fully equipped entertainment and conference complex we know and love today.

Since the late 90s the Halls has seen more subtle renovations and changes to ensure it remains a popular venue for live theatre and music as well as a cinema.


A statue of Ralph Vaughan Williams, donated by Adrian White, stands outside Dorking Halls. It was unveiled by Ursula Vaughan Williams in 2001 to commemorate Vaughan Williams' huge involvement with the venue.

Ralph Vaughan Williams was one of the great 20th Century British composers, an important teacher and lecturer in music. For many years he was a resident of Dorking, and throughout his life maintained strong connections with the area.

He was conductor of the Leith Hill Musical Festival from 1905-1953.

The statue was built by William Fawke, who was also commissioned to build the Thomas Cubitt statue in Pimlico, London, of which there is a twin cast opposite Dorking Halls.