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The Pavilion, Blackpool

Formerly - The Grand Pavilion / Winter Gardens Theatre / Pavilion Theatre / Pavilion Cinema

Part of the Winter Gardens Complex

Blackpool Theatres Index - Blackpool Theatres Article by Donald Auty

The New Pavilion and Winter Garden, Blackpool - From the Building News and Engineering Journal July 19th 1878.

Above - The New Pavilion and Winter Garden, Blackpool - From the Building News and Engineering Journal July 19th 1878.

 

The Pavilion was originally constructed in 1878 and was one of the first parts of the Blackpool Winter Gardens Complex to open. It was originally designed as a glass roofed Winter Garden and opened on the 11th of July 1878. The Building News and Engineering Journal reported on its opening in their July 19th 1878 edition saying:- 'This building, which we illustrate, (shown above) was opened last week. The architect is Mr. T. Mitchell, F.R.I.B.A., of Manchester and Oldham. The winter gardens, pavilion, and skating rinks were commenced about two years ago. The style adopted is Italian.

The entrance in Church-street is surmounted by a glass dome 120ft. in height, and 126ft. in circumference. In the vestibule formed beneath is a fountain, surrounded by ferns, tropical shrubs, and statuary. From this vestibule access is gained to the floral hall, an apartment 176ft. in length, 44ft. wide, and 25ft. high. The grand promenade is a continuation of the floral hall, and is carried round the pavilion, which is the main feature of the buildings. The promenade is of equal width with the floral hall, and its length is 423ft., with a height of 25ft. Flowers and shrubs are its chief adornments, but there is a large array of sculpture, including some finely-executed allegorical representations of the Four Seasons, and copies from Canova, Gibson, Duret, Donatello, and other artists. There are also some busts of members of the Royal family, and of eminent musicians.

The grand pavilion length is 155ft., the width being 75ft., and the height 60ft. The floor is somewhat lower than that of the grand promenade, which surrounds and overlooks it, and, by an arrangement of revolving shutters, it can be entirely shut off, with a view to musical and theatrical performances, for which purpose a spacious proscenium has been constructed. The pavilion is surrounded by a gallery, and at night is lighted by three gasaliers of 150 lights each. The mural decorations and the painting of the ceiling have not yet been commenced.

A Ground Plan of the New Pavilion and Winter Garden, Blackpool - From the Building News and Engineering Journal July 19th 1878.

Above - A Ground Plan of the New Pavilion and Winter Garden, Blackpool when it first opened - From the Building News and Engineering Journal July 19th 1878.

The general dimensions of the structures are as follows: Church-street entrance, 32ft. long, 22ft. wide, 25ft. 6in. high; statuary hall or dome, 42ft. diameter, 120ft. high; lavatories and cloakrooms; promenade (including dome, floral hall, &c.), 780ft. or 260 yards; pavilion and concert hall, 133ft. 6in. long, 72ft. 3in. wide, 54ft. high, six dressing-rooms attached thereto; grand vestibule to Victoria-street, 107ft. long, 36ft. wide, and upper room; ferneries, 190ft., average width, 24f t.; indoor skating rink, 135ft. long, 88ft. wide, 40ft. high, 11,880 sup. feet; outdoor skating-rink, 160ft. long, 160ft. wide, 23,200 sup. feet, total 35,080 sup. feet; rink refreshment room, 42ft. by 30ft.; dining-room, 73ft. by 30ft., with the necessary kitchens; two refreshment-rooms, each 50ft. by 30ft.

The whole of the space under the pavilion is cellared, and to be used as storage, or for bowling allies, shooting galleries, and other amusements. A house for the propagation of plants has also been provided, 160ft. long by 22ft. wide. Messrs. Cardwell and Sutcliffe, Fielding and Son, and Curwen and Swain, were respectively the contractors for the brickwork, masonry, and joinery work; Messrs. Braby and Co. for the zinc work, and Messrs. Minton, Hollins, and Co. supplied the tiles.

The floor area of the building exceeds two acres. More than three million bricks have been used in the building, and the total weight of material handled in construction was nearly 18,000 tons. The glazing of the whole of the Winter Gardens has been done on Rendle's patent system. The dome is about 120ft. in height, and can be seen 15 or 20 miles at sea. It has a very light appearance, and has stood well against some of the fiercest gales that have ever swept over the Atlantic. The mode of fixing the glass is very simple-light cross-bearers, or purling are fixed horizontally to the main principals of the roof, and to these are fixed zinc or copper grooved bars, in which the glass slides, and is lapped vertically, or a small bar is inserted between the glass.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the Building News and Engineering Journal, July 19th 1878.

 

The Main Entrance to the Winter Gardens Pavilion which is situated within the Winter Gardens Complex, Blackpool - Photo M.L. August 2012.

Above - The Main Entrance to the Winter Gardens Pavilion today, which is situated within the Winter Gardens Complex, Blackpool - Photo M.L. August 2012.

The Winter Gardens Theatre, formerly the Pavilion Theatre, at the Winter Gardens, Blackpool - From a 1938 programme for the Winter Gardens ComplexIn 1889 the Pavilion was converted into a Theatre by the architect Thomas Mitchell of Oldham, who added a proscenium stage 31 foot wide by 39 foot deep, and new private boxes, and reopened it as the Winter Garden Theatre.

In 1897 the auditorium of the Theatre was reconstructed and redesigned in the Beaux-Arts Style by the well known Theatre Architect's Wylson and Long, who raked the stalls floor and added two balconies supported by iron columns, both with slips reaching round to the boxes beside the proscenium.

The Theatre was originally used mainly as a playhouse but by 1913 it had begun showing films in the evenings and plays in the afternoons and this policy continued into the 1920s.

Right - The Winter Gardens Theatre, formerly the Pavilion Theatre, at the Winter Gardens, Blackpool - From a 1938 programme for the Winter Gardens Complex - Caption reads: -'THE GRAND PAVILION as painted by FORTUNINO MATANIA, R.I. The spacious Winter Gardens Theatre, once famous for its annual spectacular ballet revues, but which is now renowned for its premier presentation; of film classics. However, the artist in this picture is thinking of the future and the return of the glory of the living stage.'

The Theatre was later equipped to show talkies and reopened as the Pavilion Theatre with the film 'Showboat' on the 24th of July 1929, with two screenings daily, mornings and afternoons, and live Theatre shows were performed at the Theatre in the evenings instead.

However it wasn't long before the Pavilion was turned over to full time Cinema use and live Theatre was then transferred to the Opera House exclusively.

 

The Auditorium and Stage of the Winter Gardens Theatre, Blackpool in 1980 - Courtesy Ted Bottle

Above - The Auditorium and Stage of the Winter Gardens Theatre, Blackpool in 1980 - Courtesy Ted Bottle

The Auditorium of the Winter Gardens Theatre, Blackpool in 1980 - Courtesy Ted Bottle

Above - The Auditorium of the Winter Gardens Theatre, Blackpool in 1980 - Courtesy Ted Bottle

The Auditorium of the Winter Gardens Theatre, Blackpool in 1980 - Courtesy Ted Bottle

Above - The Auditorium of the Winter Gardens Theatre, Blackpool in 1980 - Courtesy Ted Bottle

In 1952 a Hammond Organ was installed in the Pavilion, played in the intervals by Ernest Broadbent, but despite this by the 1960s the Theatre was becoming poorly attended. In 1973 the Winter Gardens was granted a Grade II Star Listed status and this was opportune as the whole complex had become quite run down by this time and its future looked uncertain.

The Starlight Room at the Winter Gardens Pavilion in 1963 - Courtesy Roy Cross. The Arthur Haynes Show at the Winter Gardens Pavilion in 1962 - Courtesy Roy Cross.

Above - Two Programmes for the Blackpool Winter Gardens Pavilion - Courtesy Roy Cross - On the Bill for 'The Starlight Room' in 1963 were the Malcolm Goddard Dancers with Los Zafiros and Donald Purchese, The Vernon Girls, David Whitfield, The Fred Eles Trio, Derek Dene, Pinky and Perky, The Dallas Boys, and Hope and Keen. - On the Bill for 'The Arthur Haynes Show' in 1962 were The John Tiller Girls, Des Lane, Ken Morris and Joan Savage, Arthur Haynes, Nicholas Parsons, The Trio Raynos, Frank Muir and Denis Norden, Dorothy Dampier, Joan Savage, Leslie Noyes, The Penny Whistle Man, Johnny Hart, Ken Morris and Caroline Dew, Hohhny Speight, and Danny Williams.

The Auditorium and Stage of the Winter Gardens Theatre, Blackpool in 1980 - Courtesy Ted Bottle

Above - The Auditorium and Stage of the Winter Gardens Theatre, Blackpool in 1980 - Courtesy Ted Bottle

The Auditorium and Stage of the Winter Gardens Theatre, Blackpool in 1980 - Courtesy Ted Bottle The Auditorium and Stage of the Winter Gardens Theatre, Blackpool in 1980 - Courtesy Ted Bottle

Above - The Auditorium and Stage of the Winter Gardens Theatre, Blackpool in 1980 - Courtesy Ted Bottle

The Auditorium and Stage of the Winter Gardens Theatre, Blackpool in 1980 - Courtesy Ted Bottle

Above - The Auditorium and Stage of the Winter Gardens Theatre, Blackpool in 1980 - Courtesy Ted Bottle who says:- 'It had more or less finished as a theatre when I took the photographs. Later the proscenium was bricked up and the stage became a restaurant. It was quite a barn of a place and I was told the acoustics were poor especially for the spoken word. Plays died the death there if the audience was too far away from the stage. I believe the auditorium is still used for conferences etc.'

A Caryatid Supporting the Ceiling of the Winter Gardens Theatre, Blackpool in 1980 - Courtesy Ted Bottle.In the 1980s the Theatre was converted into a restaurant and bar called the Pavilion Pizza and Horseshoe bar. This conversion included leveling the stalls and bricking up the proscenium, with the former stage becoming the restaurant.

The Winter Gardens Complex is today owned by the Blackpool Council who purchased it in 2010 and set about a major restoration programme, much of which is in evidence today. The former Pavilion Theatre underwent major restoration at this time and is now used as a venue for conferences, meetings, and a self contained exhibitions space.

You may like to visit the Winter Gardens' own Website here.

Right - A Caryatid Supporting the Ceiling of the Winter Gardens Theatre, Blackpool in 1980 - Courtesy Ted Bottle.

Some of the information on this page was gleaned from the excelent Cinema Treasures Website.

If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share please Contact me.

 

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