'Beyond thrilled' - Winter Gardens saved by £10m lottery grant

The Winter Gardens in Great Yarmouth.Picture: James Bass

The Winter Gardens pictured in 2015. Hopes of a revival are finally on the horizon .Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2015

The future of one of Great Yarmouth's most iconic seaside buildings has been guaranteed by lottery money.

More than a decade after the seafront Winter Gardens closed amid safety fears its revival is finally secure thanks to a vision that stays true to its horticultural heritage, backed by enthusiastic local support.

TAKE YOUR PARTNERS! The mock Tyrolean Biergarten in the Wellington Pier's Winter Gardens in the mid-

TAKE YOUR PARTNERS! The mock Tyrolean Biergarten in the Wellington Pier's Winter Gardens in the mid-1960s when future mayor Harry Miller played piano in Josef Hoffer's orchestra. Picture: SUBMITTED - Credit: Archant

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

The remodelling includes botanic planting, and a new first floor level with galleries, viewing areas, and an education space.

New café and restaurant areas will support some 90 new jobs.

The 80-metre long display, surrounding the Grade II-listed Winter Gardens, on South Beach Parade, fe

Great Yarmouth's Victorian Grade II listed Winter Gardens have been saved by the National Lottery. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2016

It is one of five projects to share in the National Lottery Heritage Horizon awards, worth £50m.

Ros Kerslake, chief executive of the National Lottery Heritage Fund, hailed it as an exciting day for the UK's heritage.

She said: “I am delighted that we are announcing almost £10m of support to Great Yarmouth’s irreplaceable Winter Gardens, just one of five Heritage Horizon Awards to back big ideas and unlock enormous possibilities, following a year in which we have been focused on supporting heritage through the Covid emergency.

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"All five projects announced today share qualities of huge ambition, significant collaboration and the prospect of life-changing benefits for people and places deserving of support from the National Lottery."

The Winter Gardens on Marine Parade in Great Yarmouth.March 2014.Picture: James Bass

The Winter Gardens on Marine Parade in Great Yarmouth March 2014. Local frustration about its neglected state looks to have ended with news the Nationally Lottery has agreed funding of £10m to save it. Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2014

Carl Smith and Trevor Wainwright, leaders of the council's main political groups, said: “To say we are thrilled is an understatement.

"This is wonderful news and means we can move forward with plans for the building with pace.

"This beautiful and iconic building is on Historic England's Heritage at Risk register and has been progressively deteriorating, so our rescue plans can now spring into action.

"We are hugely grateful to The National Lottery Heritage Fund and to National Lottery players for making this possible.

"Not only do the Winter Gardens hold a very important place in the story of Great Yarmouth and in our community’s hearts, this award is an affirmation that it is also a nationally important heritage gem, worthy of such significant national funding.”

Timeline of decline

Built in Torquay in 1878, the failed business venture was dismantled, shipped around the coast, and reassembled on the Golden Mile in 1904,  having been bought for just £1.

The Victorian icon has gone through many transformations.

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.

It closed in 2008 due to safety fears. At that time it hosted a soft play area.

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.

In 2020 hopes received a boost when it was named on a shortlist of 12 projects being considered for a share in the fund announced on Tuesday (July 13), unlocking almost £10m.

Borough council papers say the total cost will be around £16m with the authority contributing £4m from its Town Deal funding.