From the archives: Looking back at Great Yarmouth's Winter Gardens
- Credit: Archant
A trawl through our picture archive reveals the many and varied uses the Winter Gardens has been put to over the years.
Poised for a multi-million pound lottery-funded reinvention it has hosted all manner of events in its time on the Golden Mile since it was transported pane-by-pane from Torquay in 1904.
Originally conceived as a kind of Victorian entertainment multi-plex it aimed to answer the age-old conundrum of how to lengthen the tourist season and give people something to do on rainy days.
For many it is best remembered for its roller skating, the terror of getting caught in a "speed skate" and taking a painful tumble being a rite of passage for a Yarmouth teen.
Others will look back with misty-eyed nostalgia at its days as a German biergarten when foaming pints were served at tables.
Black and white pictures capture couples twirling round the dance floor, ladies in floral frocks chinking tea cups and waiting for some unseen entertainment to start, and skaters practising their moves gliding along on one leg, the other stretched out behind against a backdrop of snow-capped mountain peaks.
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Some pictures show it adorned by flower baskets and tubs, plants and greenery climbing all over the inside.
When it closed in 2008 amid safety fears many expressed a wish for it to be saved, sharing their memories and admiration for the "people's palace" - now a derelict, rusting hulk supported inside by scaffolding.
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Although not a commercial success in Devon the borough council's surveyor J W Cockrill had the foresight to bring it to Yarmouth 'to lengthen the season with better class visitors, and on wet days to provide for 2,000 persons under cover.'
According to the building's Historic England listing Cockrill supervised the purchase of the Winter Gardens for £1300, a small proportion of the original cost.
The building was dismantled in sections, transported by barge to Norfolk and re-erected by the entrance to Wellington Pier in 1904. The maple floor was laid for roller skating in 1909.