The Winter Gardens at 90 – nostalgic pictures of the building through the years
PUBLISHED: 08:00 14 July 2017
Winter Gardens with original Post Office Road gate before the 1930s (Picture courtesy of John Crockford-Hawley).
The Winter Gardens on Weston-super-Mare’s seafront opened 90 years ago today (Friday). To mark the occasion, we are taking a look back at the building’s history and future.
The designs for the Winter Gardens.
The early days
The area of land now occupied by the Winter Gardens was originally open fields, with sand dunes on one side and The Street (later High Street) on the other.
The land became surrounded by development on three sides in the 19th century, and it was bought by Weston Urban District Council in 1922.
The ballroom had to be dug deeply into the ground to comply with a convent owned by the Royal Hotel. It meant the domed roof had to be flattened and kept low.
Opening of the Winter Gardens - artist Alfred Leete said "hope it will not offend anyone" - 1927.
A rose garden, putting green and tennis courts were all laid out and the building opened in 1927.
After it opened
A number of changes have been made to the site over the years, and most of the gardens are now covered by a 1980s extension and the Sovereign Shopping Centre.
It was where David Bowie performed in 1972, and where Come Dancing, the precursor to Strictly Come Dancing, was filmed in the 1960s.
Pavilion and gardens in pre-Sovereign Centre days (Picture courtesy of John Crockford-Hawley).
MORE: 10 shots of Weston-super-Mare to take you back in time.
Weston historian John Crockford-Hawley said: “Though illustrative of inter-wars’ civic self-confidence, the place never became a money-spinner and over the decades little real money was invested in maintenance.
The Winter Gardens' gardens were changed in the early 1960s to be exclusively full of roses.
“A couple of schemes including the Starlight Room and later Prince Consort Hall tried to keep pace with changing expectations but without serious investment the pavilion’s future was bleak.
“Then along came Weston College and very soon we shall see the fruits of their labour. It’s looking good.”
North Somerset Council offered the building to Weston College in 2014, and after it was bought for £1 it was agreed it would be used as a law and professional services academy.
The Irish drop kick specialist, Francis Sullivan, aims a blow against the Hungarian Tibor Szakacs in a heavyweight bout during wrestling at the Winter Gardens Pavilion.
The pavilion is being restored and the ballroom and much of the 1920s structure will be open for community use.
It is expected the redevelopment will bring in an additional 250 students for the college, and they could spend £11,000 in the town between them. The changes will also create 35 new lecturing roles.
The work to redevelop the Winter Gardens coincides with changes to the Italian Gardens and a proposal from The Royal Hotel to build an underground car park and extension.
Mr. G. H. Marsdon, tournament chairman, presenting the men's doubles' cup to winners, J. Baker and A. Pearman, watched by runners-up, L. Treen and W. Taylor after the men doubles championships at the Winter Gardens. Now it's the 'National' Show of the West' was the lavish praise accorded by speakers at the opening of Weston and District Chrysanthemum Society's 80th annual show at the Winter Gardens Pavillion. Pictured, Mr. H. M. James (National Chrysanthemum Society vice-chairman), the Rev. E. Morley Jones, Mr. S. G. Gosling (National secretary) and Mr. W. E. Hix.
MORE: The Royal Hotel’s extension plans.
BBC's interregional "Come Dancing" competition at the Winter Gardens. Just one point was the margin of the west team's win over the North in a thrilling finish to their contest in the BBC's interregional "Come Dancing" competition which was televised last Monday evening. In the exciting finale, West were trailing by one point with only the formation section to be danced. Then, once again, the Schofield formation team turned up trumps and, scoring 17 points to their opponents' 15, took West into the next round. The gardens. Night time views of the Winter Gardens Pavilion in the 1960s. Photographs taken by our Mercury photographer on a pleasure flight over Weston-super-Mare. Weston's Grand Pier and Winter Gardens in the 1960s. The Winter Gardens has always been a popular spot in Weston-super-Mare. Here, dance teams from the Morris Ring of England give a performance. The advert for David Bowie's gig at the Winter Gardens. The Winter Gardens Pavilion in recent years. The Italian Gardens and Winter Gardens under construction. Picture: EJ McGrath. An artist's impression of the proposed expansion which would neighbour the revamped Winter Gardens. Picture: View Architects for The Royal Hotel