Background to the project
The Winter Gardens is a Grade II* listed building 'at risk' and currently without a sustainable, viable use. It is the last surviving example of a Victorian ironwork glasshouse in the UK that sits on a seaside promenade. It has not been open to the public since 2008 but, in previous incarnations, was a symbol of the golden era of the seaside. Public consultation shows real demand from local residents for the Winter Gardens to be brought back to life.
Designed by local Torquay architects John Watson and William Harvey, the Winter Gardens was first built in Torquay between 1878 and 1881 at a cost of £12,783. It functioned as a pleasure palace designed to extend the tourism season by offering a fun venue for leisure entertainment. In 1903, the glasshouse was purchased by J.W. Cockrill on behalf of Great Yarmouth Town Council for £1,300, transported by barge in 1904 and reconstructed next to Wellington Pier, where it still stands today.
Since its closure in 2008, the Council has worked to identify a future sustainable use for the building. In 2021, the Winter Gardens was one of five transformational heritage projects across the country to be awarded a Heritage Horizon Award from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The project team is now working on the full restoration and repurposing of the building.