Morecambe Winter Gardens gets £210k government boost to help its post-Covid recovery

Morecambe Winter Gardens is among 142 historic sites across England to receive grants worth £35m through the government’s Culture Recovery Fund.

Friday, 22nd October 2021, 9:35 am
Updated Friday, 22nd October 2021, 9:36 am
Morecambe Winter Gardens.

Administered on behalf of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) by Historic England, 142 sites are receiving support from the second round of the Heritage Stimulus Fund, bolstering local economies and supporting jobs across the country.

The Grade 2* listed Victorian concert hall and theatre which opened in 1897, is one of only two such heritage buildings of this listing in the seaside resort and has already undergone extensive repairs over the past 12 months.

The funding will go towards 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.

Malcolm of the restoration team shows the box front that will be repaired.

The grant of £209,215 is 80 per cent towards an estimated cost of £261,519 with the remaining 20 per cent paid for by the Morecambe Winter Gardens Preservation Trust.

Prof Vanessa Toulmin, chair of the Preservation Trust, said: "We are extremely delighted with the news and this funding will enable us to do both essential work to the roof, reinforce the steel trusses and of course reinstate and complete the fibrous plaster decorative work in the auditorium.

"This is our third grant from Historic England and we are indebted to them and DCMS for their continued investment in the building but also belief in our ambitions to fully reopen this gem for Morecambe.

"It has been a long but totally wonderful season for the volunteers, we have seen many thousands of people come through the doors, raised essential income to cover our running costs and overheads and now this news is the icing on the cake.

Part of the ceiling that will be repaired on the right hand side of the auditorium.

"I hope this means that Trevor and Henry no longer need to brave the inclement conditions to check the roof each week and that Mal and his restoration team no longer have to empty the rain buckets every week.

"With this grant we have raised nearly £1m towards the essential repair and restoration of our magnificent building and has put us firmly on the road to operational viability."

The Winter Gardens will be open this weekend before closing from mid-December to complete the three month restoration work in preparation for Easter 2022 and the 125th anniversary of the theatre.

Coun Sandra Thornberry, cabinet member with responsibility for arts and culture at Lancaster City Council, said: “The Winter Gardens is a vital component in not only preserving Morecambe’s heritage, but also the future regeneration of the town as a whole.

Restoration volunteer Henry on the roof.

"The city council works very closely with the trust and I’m delighted that the passion they show for restoring the building has been recognised through the awarding of this grant.”

Morecambe MP David Morris said: "Over the last two years the Winter Gardens Preservation Trust have secured nearly £1m in funding.

"I am delighted that the Trust have yet again secured more funding to continue the restoration of this gem of Morecambe”.

Across the country, much-loved historic places will benefit from an injection of cash for vital repairs and major building programmes, many of which are currently on the national Heritage at Risk Register.

Part of the ceiling that will be repaired on the left hand side of the auditorium.

Money from the government’s £2 billion Culture Recovery Fund is intended to open up heritage and the benefits it brings to everyone, helping to level up and improve life and opportunities for people in places that need it most.

Many of the organisations and sites receiving funding enhance wellbeing and community connection, offering education, development opportunities and jobs in some of the most deprived communities hit hard by the impact of the pandemic.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said: "From local churches to ancient buildings and landscapes, the UK's unique heritage makes our towns, cities and villages stronger, more vibrant and helps bring communities together.

"This latest funding - £35m from our unprecedented Culture Recovery Fund - will help protect sites including Jane Austen's House and Hampton Court Palace for future generations and help them build back better from the pandemic."

Duncan Wilson, Historic England’s chief executive, said: “Funding from the government’s Culture Recovery Fund is hugely welcome at a time when the people and organisations who look after our vast and varied array of heritage urgently need support to carry out essential repairs.

"Heritage is a fragile eco-system, with an amazing cast of characters who keep our historic places alive, with specialist skills that take time to learn and experience to perfect. These grants will protect their livelihoods, as they use their expertise to help our heritage survive.”

Money from the Heritage Stimulus Fund will also keep our nationally and internationally significant heritage assets in good condition and sustain the skilled craft workforce that looks after them.

The latest £35m funding awards builds on £52 million already allocated from the first round of the Heritage Stimulus Fund, which has supported works at 800 of the country’s treasured heritage assets.

None of these historic places would have been able to carry out crucial repair work during the pandemic without this support.