Restoration of Winter Gardens

Restoration of Winter Gardens

It’s a huge complex which dates back to 1875, so as you can imagine, restoration of Winter Gardens is a never ending job! But bit by bit, funding is being found to pay for all the jobs that need doing, both inside and out. These are just a few examples of the never-ending projects –

Restoration of Winter Gardens Facilities

It’s not just the exterior shell of the building which needs attention – the numerous bars, rooms and theatre spaces inside all need maintaining. Most of them have their own facilities – along with the obvious furniture and fittings there are toilets, bars and practical facilities too.

For example, the Opera House has 3000 or-so seats, most of which have been re-covered. During 2022, the 654 balcony chairs were re-upholstered at a cost of £45,000 – paid from the Restoration Levy. That’s a £1.50 surcharge, applied on ticket sales since July 2021, ringfenced for repairs and restoration projects. Still in the Opera House, wall panelling is also being replaced – you can see this work in this new 2023 vlog –

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New equipment and better service

Bar sales before and during shows obviously support the viability of the venue. So it’s important that the show-bars can operate efficiently and give a good service to theatre-goers.

The photos below show the Galleon Bar which had a full refit in early 2023. All-new fridges, units, sinks and equipment have been installed. The Old Victoria Bar is next on the list and will be similarly modernised to improve the service. Upstairs, the VIP Lounge is also having a makeover. You can see all of these areas in the above video.

Restoration of Winter Gardens Frontage – 2022

In 2021, Blackpool Council approved plans that would see the restoration of Winter Gardens frontage. By the end of 2022 works were more or less complete. Installation of new shop fronts has made the building look like new!

Over the years, the St John’s Square facing side of the Winter Gardens had evolved into a bit of a mish-mash of different shop styles. But in summer 2021 plans were given the go-ahead to upgrade the historic store-front facades of the Grade II* listed Winter Gardens.

Built in 1894, the Empress Buildings originally had four bays set either side of a wide central bay. The impressive arched entrance to the Empress Ballroom was where people arrived by carriage.

Before and After

After plans were agreed but before any work was done, we recorded this ‘before’ view on 1 September 2021 –

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A council planning report said the investment seeks “to unify the existing ground floor frontage. At present it’s made up of a row of shop fronts which differ in design and appearance. They don’t relate well to the upper floors of the buildings.”

The proposal has seen the installation of new hardwood timber shop fronts, with large windows and awnings. “To achieve an active and open frontage”.

Restoration of Winter Gardens Frontage
Before restoration of the Winter Gardens Frontage

The Empress Building shops overlooking St John’s Square have been restored as close as possible to their original state. The restoration mirrors earlier work carried out at the Church Street entrance. Replacing the doors there (below) has transformed the look of the building. It enhances the buildings’ appearance and contributes towards efforts to revitalise the wider area.

Restored side entrance doors at Winter Gardens
New shop fronts at The Empress Buildings, Blackpool Winter Gardens
New shop fronts in 2022 at The Empress Buildings, Blackpool Winter Gardens

Funding the Project

Restoration of Winter Gardens Frontage was paid for out of the council’s £7.84m Quality Corridors project. The Quality Corridors Project is funded through the Growth Deal.

Quality Corridors includes the £2.3m Property Improvement Scheme. This scheme has upgraded the external appearance of more than 20 properties on Topping Street, Church Street, Talbot Road, Cedar Square, Deansgate and Edward Street.

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