Morecambe’s Winter Gardens awarded almost £125k for repair of historic ceiling

Morecambe’s Winter Gardens has been awarded £123,312 by Historic England towards the repair of its historic fibrous plaster ceiling.

Tuesday, 5th November 2019, 4:45 pm
Morecambe Winter Gardens. Photo: Historic England Archive

This is 80 per cent of the overall costs and the Winter Gardens Preservation Trust is optimistic that the additional £30,000 will be forthcoming from other sources.

The money will cover the cost of project management, structural surveys, repair of the missing and damaged fibrous plaster tiles at the back of the upper gallery, known locally as ‘The Gods’.

The funding will start the process of bringing the auditorium back to its full capacity, as it currently operates at 700, with the final goal being to restore to its original 2,500.

Vanessa Toulmin.

The plasterwork is part of the most impressive features of the interiors, commissioned and designed by Dean and Co of Birmingham, and one of the most significant factors in its Grade 2* listing.

The fragility of the plaster has been one of the main reasons why the trust has been operating a reduced event policy in order to understand the complexities of the repairs and the costs involved in full renovation.

Prof Vanessa Toulmin, acting chair of the Winter Gardens Preservation Trust and chair of popular entertainment at the University of Sheffield, submitted the full application on behalf of the trust and worked with Historic England on the submission.

Both the circle and upper levels of the building are currently inaccessible to the public and only available through guided tours and this funding will help to restore the areas that are currently restricted.

Theatre ceiling detail with painted canvas featuring angels above stage. Photo by Alun Bull Photographer for Historic England

On behalf of the trust Vanessa said: “With this grant from Historic England we are now on track to bringing the building back to full capacity.

“Alongside the Coastal Communities Grant, the funding from the Theatres Trust and now this amazing grant from Historic England we have raised nearly a quarter of a million pound over the last six months.

“The work of the volunteers, the Friends and the support of the people of Morecambe has been essential and fundamental to this progression and I want to take the opportunity to personally thank all those involved over the last six months in particular.

“The Winter Gardens is a jewel in the history of the resort but also fundamental to the future of Morecambe is having a fully functioning event space and we hope that the Gardens can once again be at the heart of a thriving successful seaside resort.”

Volunteers undertaking conservation work having just unblocked exterior gutters of seagull droppings. Photo by Alun Bull Photographer for Historic England

Catherine Dewar, Historic England’s regional director in the north west, said: “We’re delighted to be working with partners to help save The Winter Gardens, a real landmark on Morecambe’s seafront.

“The building is stunning and has a rich history, dating back to 1897 when it opened as a variety theatre and concert hall.

“Morecambe is home to some really wonderful architecture and, once restored, The Winter Gardens can be a place for locals and visitors to enjoy once again. Historic buildings, given a new lease of life can help to turn around the fortunes of a place.”

Claire Appleby, Architecture Adviser at the Theatres Trust, said the grant would help secure the theatre’s future.

Morecambe Winter Gardens. Photo by Alun Bull Photographer for Historic England

She said: “We welcome the news of Historic England’s grant to help repair the spectacular fibrous plaster ceiling at the Morecambe Winter Gardens, a building that has been on our Theatres at Risk register for many years.

“This funding alongside grants from both us and the Coastal Communities Fund will enable the Preservation Trust to carry out vital works to help secure the future of this wonderful building.”

David Morris. Morecambe & Lunesdale MP, added his congratulations.

“It is absolutely fantastic news that another major project at the Winter Gardens has received funding,” he said.

“After I helped secure funding to the Trust in March from the Coastal Communities Fund for the heating system to be implemented, the Trust have now had a successful bid of £123,000 for essential plasterwork to enable more of the building to be used and to help restore the theatre capacity to 2500.

“Well done to the Chair of the Trustees and the Trustees on spearheading the next stage of regeneration for our gem, the Winter Gardens.”

Ground floor, stage from north showing tunnel vaulted ceiling. Photo by Alun Bull Photographer for Historic England

The Winter Gardens will be open for the final three events of the year including Craig Charles on December 1 and Highest Point Festival promotions the following week.

The theatre will then close for the season from December 7.

The Trust will start work on the survey over the winter months with the work and repairs being completed by 2021.

The main theatre and auditorium will be available for bookings and events in 2020 and any work undertaken will not affect the current events calendar or opening hours for the new season.

For further details please contact v.touilmin@shef.ac.uk and www.morecambewintergardens.co.uk/

Theatre ceiling detail showing damage to plaster work. Photo by Alun Bull Photographer for Historic England