Winter Gardens Pavilion

An opulent Victorian theatre with splendid plasterwork decoration in need of repair and restoration.

200708mp wintergdns pavilion03 detail
Address
97 Church Street, Blackpool, Lancashire, FY1 1HU
Risk Rating
7 (Community Value: 2, Star Rating: 3, Risk Factor: 2)
Local Authority
Blackpool Council
Operator
Blackpool Entertainment Company Ltd / Selladoor Worldwide
Architect
Thomas Mitchell, with auditorium later altered by Wylson & Long
Date of Construction
1878
Listing
Grade II*
Capacity
1,200 (estimated)

Significance

The Winter Gardens is a vast entertainment complex containing a number of individual entertainment venues constructed between 1875 and 1939. The Pavilion was one of the first buildings to be constructed and was converted to a theatre by Thomas Mitchell in 1889. The present auditorium of 1896-97 is by Wylson & Long. The proscenium stage was blocked off in the 1980’s and converted to a restaurant, but the auditorium is still a most impressive space. It has a splendidly opulent music hall interior, with two balconies running round three sides and a richly decorated ceiling.

Very little of Wylson & Long’s work has survived to the present day. The Blackpool Winter Gardens Pavilion survives as their most important monument. In 2017 Blackpool Council commissioned a Statement of Significance for the Pavilion and this has shown that the Pavilion is in fact one of the only remaining auditorium examples in the United Kingdom that exemplifies and spans the period of the end of music hall and the development of variety. As such it is of significant importance.

Why is this theatre at risk?

Since 2013 parts of the building have been progressively deteriorating. The roof is leaking and the decorative plasterwork is falling away with immediate repair works estimated at around £2m. Whilst preventative measures have been put in place to make the roof of the Pavilion weather tight, further repair and restoration works are still needed.

Current situation

Blackpool Council had been successful in its bid for a Heritage Lottery Fund development grant to transform the Pavilion and Horseshoe into a museum. However, in July 2017 it was announced that the council were not going to proceed with the project. However the work carried out by the Museum Team has been useful and has included surveys of the building’s condition and further investigation into the historic significance of the Pavilion.  

In July 2018, there was positive news for the Pavilion in the form of a partnership between Selladoor Worldwide and Blackpool Entertainment Company, bringing theatre back to the venue.

Whilst the programming of the Pavilion is a positive step to ensuring that the theatre is protected and revitalised in the future, the building is still considered vulnerable. Restoration works are still required and there has been little progress on this whilst the council has needed to focus resource on other more urgent repair works within the Winter Gardens Complex.

Image: Winter Gardens Pavilion, Theatres Trust