Study could see parts of Morecambe Winter Gardens brought back into use - including former smoking gallery and outdoor terrace

A study is to be launched into how some of the unused parts of the Morecambe Winter Gardens building can be brought back into use.

Thursday, 22nd April 2021, 3:45 pm
The former smoking gallery inside the Winter Gardens. Photo: Alun Bull, Historic England

Morecambe Winter Gardens is embarking on a feasibility project with the support of the Architectural Heritage Fund to understand how some parts of the building can be used for new and innovative ways.

Prof Vanessa Toulmin, chair of Morecambe Winter Gardens Preservation Trust, welcomed the news of their latest successful grant application of £14,000 for the Grade II* listed building, which will enable the trust to pay for Buttress Architects to investigate areas of new use within the venue.

"We have many areas of unbelievable potential within the building, especially the former smoking gallery and third level outdoor terrace," she said.

The balcony at the Winter Gardens. Photo: Alun Bull, Historic England

"These areas have not been used for more than 50 years and are some of the most significant in terms of unique features in the complex.

"We welcome the opportunity given by the Architectural Heritage Fund to look to the future as well as preserving the Theatre’s historic past.

The areas under investigation include the former smoking gallery on the promenade, which was originally used as both an indoor pier for promenading and socialising and was built to provide an opportunity to escape the inclement weather of the resort, while still being outdoors.

In 1995 the area was protected with glazing and windows but access is restricted due to area still requiring renovation including the fibrous plaster ceiling.

Morecambe Winter Gardens.

With this work now been under way with the help of a Historic England Buildings at Risk Grant of £380,000 the trust sees the next phase of investigation an opportunity to look at a stronger economic pathway for different aspects of the building.

Prof Toulmin said: "The main auditorium and seating areas including the Grand Circle we hope to return to main events, shows, cultural offers and of course larger scale music gigs when we can anticipate our capacity increasing through each stage of development.

"However, the front of the building was always a separate area and has been used for offices, smoking galleries, viewing platforms or as access to the original Winter Gardens.

"We are keen to explore the potential of restaurant or food offers or whatever is feasible within this part of the building but we need to explore that is architecturally feasible that does not impact on its heritage status."

Stairs up to the gallery inside the Winter Gardens. Photo: Alun Bull, Historic England

Matthew Mckeague, chief executive of the Architectural Heritage Fund, which for more than 40 years has been funding new futures for loved buildings, said: "The Architectural Heritage Fund is delighted to be supporting the beautiful Morecambe Winter Gardens.

"Our funding will assist their plans to transform the theatre into a vibrant cultural space that will make a significant contribution to the regeneration of Morecambe town centre."

The Winter Gardens is currently closed to the public under Covid restrictions but is continuing to implement a £600,000 programme of works funded by Historic England and the Coastal Communities Fund.

You can follow the progress of the work via Twitter and Facebook or on their website via the website here.