Biergarten, roller skating arena, imperial bazaar - but what next for the Winter Gardens?
PUBLISHED: 07:00 25 November 2018
Surely, somewhere out there lurks a millionaire philanthropist eager to help worthwhile causes in that good old Norfolk tradition of “du-different”.
If Great Yarmouth’s luck is in, when he read in his recent Daily Telegraph that our Winter Gardens desperately needs a wealthy saviour and benefactor, he was impressed by the big colour photograph, and relished an extraordinary challenge.
Hopefully the super-greenhouse would remain here. Few folk want it to leave, although that would be preferable to funding its restoration from our council taxes, or scrapping it.
The king-size Victorian icon ought to be registered with Age Concern because it is long-closed and deteriorating rapidly, its water’s-edge location making it vulnerable to salt-laden breezes exacerbating its decline.
It is hard to envisage a prospective use, but perhaps as a venture like the impressive Eden Project in Cornwall.
In 1904 the Winter Gardens building was dismantled in Torquay, shipped here and reassembled, so it is feasible.
Yarmouth would miss it, but the sacrifice would be bearable. The huge restoration cost outweighs potential income from a six-month season here.
I have visited this mammoth greenhouse many times, with its tang of the eucalyptus which dangle around its sides.
First was as a teenager when roller-skating sessions resumed after a long break and later as a reporter chronicling summer entertainment in the era, especially when it morphed into an indoor Austrian Biergarten.
In that role, ale-quaffers were served at their tables by waitresses in Tyrolean costume, while Josef Hofer and his Orchestra played for lively dancing and listening.
The atmosphere was always jolly and loved by holidaymakers, particularly the elderly.
Also, Mrs Peggotty and I were judges at beauty competitions there.
The Winter Gardens dilemma spurred Caister reader Michael Zegerman to suggest in a letter in the Mercury: “A lot of people have fond memories. Why don’t they send in their stories and photographs to the Mercury. If there are enough, they could appear in a special supplement.”
Hopefully, today’s column might suffice, Michael.