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 (risk rating: 3, star rating: 2, community rating: 2)
Local Authority
Blackpool Council
Operator
Blackpool Entertainment Company Ltd
Architect
Thomas Mitchell, with auditorium later altered by Wylson & Long
Date of Construction
1878
Listing
Grade II*
Capacity
Estimated at 1,200

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. It is no longer used as a theatre, the proscenium stage having been blocked off, but it 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 £2 million. Whilst preventative measures have been put in place to make the roof of the Pavilion weathertight, 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. It was hoped that the new museum would repair and restore the theatre, protecting the important architectural features of this unique theatre and restoring the significant plasterwork by Wylson & Long. Theatres Trust was involved in design discussions with the Museum Team, Blackpool Council and Historic England regarding the proposed alterations and how to integrate these with the historic significance of the theatre. The discussions included the council’s commissioning of the statement of significance for the Pavilion.

In July 2017, Blackpool Council announced that it was not going to proceed with the proposed museum within the Pavilion due to the restoration and development costs involved with the conversion. The works carried out by the Museum Team included surveys of the building’s condition and further investigation into the historic significance of the Pavilion, all of which will be useful moving forward. In the meantime the building remains vulnerable with repair and restoration works still required. The Pavilion is also considered vulnerable due to the council’s need to focus resource on other urgent repair works within the Winter Gardens Complex, namely the ceiling repair works within the Empress Ballroom following a collapse in 2017, and parapet and steelwork repair works within the Opera House, works for which will commence this year and continue on a 5-year rolling programme.

Image: Winter Gardens Pavilion, Theatres Trust