A look back at a century of history of Great Yarmouth's Winter Gardens


An audience enjoy a performance at Winter Gardens in Great Yarmouth - Credit: Archant

It was once one of the east coast's most sparkling attractions and remained a cherished monument to the Victorian heyday of British seaside towns.

Winter Gardens in Great Yarmouth's Golden Mile was a haven for entertainment since it opened in 1903.

The building was first constructed in Torquay in 1878 but after failing as a business venture it was bought by Great Yarmouth Borough Council and was dismantled and transported across the country.

The Winter Gardens on Marine Parade in Great Yarmouth.December 2012.Picture: James Bass

The Winter Gardens on Marine Parade in Great Yarmouth. December 2012. Picture: James Bass

It became a jewel in the crown for the eastern seaside town and hosted many cultural events.

Over the years it has been a ballroom, a roller-skating rink, and an amusement arcade - electric light would fill its interior and beam out across the seafront and gleam on the water.

For a time it morphed into an Austrian-style beer garden, where ale-drinkers were served by waitresses in Tyrolean costume while an orchestra played.

As time went on it fell into disrepair and was subsequently closed in 2008 while it was used as a soft play area over safety fears.

In 2017 it was named as one of the UK's most endangered buildings that was costly to keep up, and even more expensive to tear down.

Two years later a council report revealed it was in danger of collapse. Now an eyesore, some £60,000 was spent on preparing a lottery bid.

An artist's impression of what the inside of Great Yarmouth's Winter Gardens could look like when wo

An artist's impression of what the inside of Great Yarmouth's Winter Gardens could look like when work finishes in 2026. - Credit: GYBC

The building once described as a "seafront cathedral of light" by heritage experts will now be saved over the next few years through a lottery-funded £10m regeneration project announced in July 2021.

Most Read

Under its reinvention the UK's last surviving glass and iron winter garden, dubbed 'the People's Palace", will be brought back to life as a year-round, free attraction billed "as a place of celebration, enjoyment, well-being and relaxation for all."

Here is a look back at over a century of history at the Winter Gardens.

Join our Norwich Remembers group on Facebook

For more old photos and articles about Norfolk history and heritage, subscribe to our fortnightly Through the Decades email newsletter. Sign up by clicking here.