Winter Gardens Pavilion
An opulent Victorian theatre within the Blackpool Winter Gardens complex with splendid plasterwork decoration in need of repair and restoration.
- 97 Church Street, Blackpool, Lancashire, FY1 1HU
- Risk Rating
- 7 (Community Value: 2, Star Rating: 3, Risk Factor: 2)
- Local Authority
- Blackpool Council
- Blackpool Council
- Blackpool Entertainment Company Ltd
- Thomas Mitchell, with auditorium later altered by Wylson & Long
- Date of Construction
- Grade II*
- Estimated at 1,200
- Database Link
- View in Theatres Database
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 of these to be built 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 1980s and converted into a restaurant, but the auditorium is still an impressive space. It has a splendidly opulent music hall interior, with two balconies running around three sides and a richly decorated ceiling.
Very little of Wylson & Long’s work has survived to the present day and 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 it 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 theatre. As such, it is of national significance.
Why is this theatre at risk?
The Winter Gardens Pavilion has been on the Theatres at Risk Register since 2014. The Winter Gardens Complex is on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register.
Since 2013, parts of the Pavilion Theatre have been progressively deteriorating with leaks to the roof causing damage to the historic decorative plasterwork. The plaster had started to fall away and there was a severe risk that further movement could have caused the sequential collapse of the ceiling. Preventative measures were put in place to make the roof watertight and a scaffold and crash decks were erected to prevent further movement of the ceiling and to catch any plaster falls that might occur. At the time, immediate repair work was estimated at a cost of around £2m.
In 2014, Blackpool Council was successful in its bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund for a development grant to transform the Pavilion Theatre and Horseshoe into a museum. Theatres Trust was involved in the design consultation. The scheme would have included the necessary repair works to the theatre. In July 2017, it was announced that the council was not going to proceed with the scheme. However, through the initial project work, the council was able to commission surveys of the building’s condition and historical research to produce an updated Statement of Significance for the Pavilion Theatre.
In 2022, we were made aware of new issues to the Pavilion Theatre’s Horseshoe promenade, adding to the list of extensive repairs now required to restore this historically important building.
The Pavilion is an integral part of the Blackpool Winter Gardens complex, which is owned by Blackpool Council. Although the stage house has been part converted into a restaurant, the auditorium remains substantially intact, and the flat-floored stalls area provides the required flexibility for staging live performance.
In July 2018, Selladoor Worldwide and Blackpool Entertainment Company formed a short-term partnership to bring theatre back to the venue for a limited period. This has since ceased but is seen as a step towards potential live performance reuse for the venue.
While the Pavilion has been in partial use as a part of the larger, operational Winter Gardens complex, it is considered extremely vulnerable. Restoration works are required and the scale of the repairs growing. There has been little progress on the Pavilion Theatre while the council has needed to focus resources on other more urgent repair works within the complex.
Theatres Trust looks to continue its contact with the council over the requirement for the necessary repair work for the Pavilion to ensure that this historically important theatre is protected and revitalised, and we will continue to support and advise on this.
Interior image Winter Gardens Pavilion, Theatres Trust; exterior image by Ian Grundy.