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190205-10. Copyright NRT, 2005
Victoria Pavilion, aka the Winter Gardens, Morecambe, UK, 19 February, 2005

Designed by Mangrall & Littlewood and built in 1897, the Winter Gardens was the heart of Morecambe as a seaside resort for eighty glorious years, but closed abruptly in 1977 due to concerns about the safety of the building.
Popular as a music hall and ballroom for its first 35 years, including throughout the First World War, the Pavilion really gained prominence in the 1930s, when visiting performers included household names such as George Formby, Laurel & Hardy, and the big bands of Jack Hilton and Billy Cotton. During the Second World War, RAF recruits were drilled in the gardens at the rear of the building (now a car park) and received lectures during the day in the Pavilion, but in the evenings artists such as Flanagan & Allan performed to full houses. Throughout the Sixties and Seventies, coachloads of visitors came to Morecambe to attend summer season shows at the Winter Gardens such as, er, the Black & White Minstrel Show.
Following the sudden closure, it was decided in 1979 that the ballroom was beyond repair (it was demoished in 1982), but the theatre itself has remained in a planning/funding limbo, empty yet still somehow treasured.
In 1987, English Heritage declared the theatre to be of 'Outstanding Architectural or Historical Interest', hence improving its eligability for grant aid, and the building was listed as Grade II; in 1992 that was upgraded to II*, 'of outstanding national importance'.

The Friends of the Winter Gardens have achieved considerable local success in publicising the building and perhaps securing its future, though at the time of writing there's considerable uncertainty about whether the Friends can buy the building or whether it'll go to a local developer who plans to heavily convert the interior to incorporate retail units. There's mounting pressure to do something with the building.

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Day in the life... © NRT, 2005