Winter Gardens

A landmark building, architecturally striking and a rare survivor of its type, and situated in the heart of Morecambe.

Auditorium of Morecambe Winter Gardens set up with circular tables with chairs around them.
209 Marine Road Central, Morecambe, Lancashire, LA4 4BU
Risk Rating
8 (Community Rating: 3, Star Rating: 3, Risk Rating: 2)
Local Authority
Lancaster City Council
Morecambe Winter Gardens Preservation Trust
Morecambe Winter Gardens Preservation Trust
Mangnall & Littlewood
Date of Construction
Grade II*
current capacity (ground floor only) 975. Full restoration capacity will be c.2300


Morecambe Winter Gardens is a Grade II* listed building of a rare type – a big concert party hall. It is now thought to be one of a kind. It was built in 1897 to the designs of Mangnall & Littlewood. Prominently sited on the seafront, the main elevation is an ornate, symmetrical composition in brick and terracotta. The foyer and stair hall are richly decorated with the original mosaic, faience tiling and fine joinery. Beyond, a curving promenade with timber and glazed screens leads to an impressive auditorium. This wide and elaborately decorated hall is oversailed by a spectacular tunnel vaulted ceiling.

Why is this theatre at risk?

Morecambe Winter Gardens has been on the Theatres at Risk Register since 2006 when we started the list.

The building is operated by Morecambe Winter Gardens Preservation Trust Ltd (MWGPT), which, alongside invaluable help from local volunteers, has been slowly restoring the theatre and bringing it back into use. Since 2020, MWGPT, under new governance and leadership, has built on the work of the previous administration and made even greater progress. The work achieved to date has allowed the theatre to open to the public for a mixed programme of entertainment, operating from the ground floor and stalls only. While the circle level and upper levels are open for public tours, they are currently undergoing restoration.

In March 2023 Morecambe Winter Gardens was awarded £2.74m through the Cultural Development Fund for works to provide additional accommodation including a new toilet block, circulation, and evacuation routes as well as continued restoration work. This is the first phase of a larger project for Winter Gardens to be fully reopened and operating at its full potential. Additional significant funding will be required to realise the ambition of completely restoring the building as a 2,500 capacity music venue.  

The red brick and terracotta exterior of Morecambe Winter Gardens, with a symmetrical composition with a big central gable flanked by projecting square towers with shaped gablesTheatre potential

This is a landmark building at the very heart of Morecambe that has seen a great amount of support from the local community over many years. The Winter Gardens is in use as a performance venue hosting a broad programme of entertainment.

Audience data indicates that the Winter Gardens has attracted visitors from Cumbria, Lancashire, Derbyshire and Northumberland, as well as other parts of the UK, helping evidence that the venue can draw audiences from a wide area. The data helps evidence the viability of the Winter Gardens to be returned to a large-scale music and live performance venue.

The continued use of this building would also assist with urban renewal and is listed as a cultural asset in the Lancashire Cultural Strategy through Creative Lancashire.

Eden Project Morecambe, which is on a site opposite the theatre, will be a transformational project for Morecambe that will help promote all-year-round visitor activity and subsequently greater demand for performance and entertainment linked to the night-time economy, of which the Winter Gardens will form an important part.

Current situation

The last four years have seen successes in fundraising and some great strides made towards both restoration of the building and stability of the organisation.

In May 2019, MWGPT was successful in its bid to Theatres Trust Theatres at Risk Capacity Building Programme with a grant awarded for a governance and training review and to provide short-term business planning advice. As a result of this governance review MWGPT is now the sole charity responsible for the running and operation of the venue with new trustees and a new chair formally appointed in January 2020. The works have also proven key in enabling MWGPT to secure partnerships with stakeholders. This has included aiding in discussions with Lancaster City Council for a loan to allow the group to re-mortgage the building and to part-finance essential repair works, and in grant applications to the Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage for grant support during the pandemic.

Since 2019 c.£4.6m has been raised, including:

  • Government’s Coastal Communities Fund grant in March 2019 to replace the temporary heating system. The works are also being supported by the council through project management advice and commenced in winter 2020.
  • Historic England grant in November 2019 towards the maintenance and repair of the historic fibrous plaster ceiling with fundraising for the remaining costs.
  • Additional Historic England emergency grant of £350,000 awarded in January 2021 to complete essential ceiling works.
  • Crowdfunder campaign in 2020 met its £25,000 target and attracted £5,000 from the Ken Dodd Charitable Foundation.
  • Architectural Heritage Fund Crowdfunding Challenge grant to provide up to £25,000 to match fund the Crowdfunder campaign. The money raised was to help bridge the shortfall for the heating and restoration works.
  • Marketing Lancaster grant enabling MWGPT to install provisions for online tours and live recordings of the restoration works.
  • Culture Recovery Fund round two award of £10,400 to help with recovery and reopening. 
  • Architectural Heritage Fund Project Viability Grant to review the front-of-house areas of the building.
  • Historic England funding from the second round of the Heritage Stimulus Fund, part of the Culture Recovery Fund, which will fund the further restoration of the fibrous plasterwork in the main auditorium including a new replacement box front, urgent repairs to the roof and essential building work to the steel trusses in the upper levels of the gods.
  • Funding for a feasibility study and long-term business plan for the building to unite all the above elements of work into one vision, from the following partners: £5,000 from the Morecambe Town Council, £10k from Lancaster City Council, £10,000 from the University of Sheffield Policy Fund, £47,000 from the Architectural Heritage Fund and further funding from Historic England. The funding from Historic England is also supporting further investigation and survey work.
  • £200k of funding through the government’s Shared Prosperity Fund to support work to the fly tower and the stage to make the building more sustainable and energy efficient.
  • Grant funding of £11.5k to support the creation of an audience development strategy through our Resilient Theatres: Resilient Communities programme.

£45k crowdfunder to repair the historic mosaic floor in the main entrance foyer, which has now been completed.

The reports from the above work were instrumental in MWGPT’s successful application to the government's Cultural Development Fund.

The project continues to grow in profile with national, as well as local, interest. In July 2022, His Royal Highness Prince Charles, now King Charles III, visited Morecambe Winter Gardens, where he unveiled a plaque for the royal box to commemorate the building's 125th anniversary. He also praised volunteers for their determination and the progress made in restoring the historic theatre.

In November 2023 the volunteers at Morecambe Winter Gardens were awarded the King’s Award for Voluntary Service, an award to recognise outstanding work by local volunteer groups to benefit their communities.

Theatres Trust continues to provide advice and support to MWGPT, working closely with MWGPT and its chair, Professor Vanessa Toulmin, to help prioritise the needs of both the building and its operation. Historic England, Architectural Heritage Fund, and the council are also providing essential stakeholder support. Together with Theatres Trust, all parties are aiming to help MWGPT grow in strength and capacity and to determine a route to allow this magnificent Grade II* listed building to be fully restored and reopened.

Campaign video (2021)

Images, Morecambe Winter Gardens, Historic England Archive, 2019.