Building Name

Southport Pavilion, Aquarium and Winter Gardens

1872 - 1874
Lancashire, England
New Build

Southport Winter Gardens, the first of the seaside winter gardens intended for the mass leisure market, opened on 16 September 1874. The sea front building was in the form of two pavilions connected by a covered promenade. One of the two Germano‑Gothic pavilions held a concert hall, the Pavilion, while the other was the iron and glass Winter Garden. The Pavilion had a capacity of 2,500 and the Winter Garden was 180 ft long with a maximum height of 80 ft. (In comparison, the central section of the Kew Palm House is just over 137 feet long and 63 feet high.) Southport Winter Garden was advertised as the largest conservatory in England. Refreshment rooms and an aquarium filled the basement level. Although it was one of the biggest edifices ever to grace an English sea front, the Winter Garden was not a great commercial success. The Southport Pavilion and Winter Gardens Company which promoted it was locally based and had wide support in the town and throughout the north‑west with 350 shareholders at its peak, but the addition of Frank Matcham's Opera House on an adjacent site in 1890‑91 strained the capital base too far, and the Company went into liquidation in 1898. Companies then rapidly came and went in an effort to make the Winter Gardens pay. Entertainments were driven down market; the Winter Garden was converted to a ballroom and roller skating rink, and the Pavilion became a cinema, but eventually both were demolished, the Winter Garden in 1933 and the Pavilion in 1962. Southport, although a rapidly growing resort, could not support an attraction needing such a large audience.

WINTER GARDENS AND PROMENADE, SOUTHPORT. - A company was formed last year to carry out a scheme which will, it is believed, add much to the popularity of Southport. They bought between seven and eight acres of land in the very heart of the town, and plans were at once obtained showing the capabilities of the site and the arrangement of the building. The land is situated between Coronation-walk and Duke-street, having extensive frontages to the sea and Lord-street, towards which the principal facades of the building, 350 feet long, extend, as well as one towards Coronation-walk, 145 feet long. The building, with the exception of the conservatory, will be mostly of brick with stone dressings. The roofs will have cut green slates mingled with the purple. The stairs will be carried up in outside towers, with slate turrets to give variety and picturesqueness to the outline. There will be an aquarium, exhibition gallery etc. The principal or winter entrance to the building is from and on a level with Lord-street. The space outside the building is laid out with terraces and promenades, shrubberies, winding walks, croquet lawns, summer-houses, ferneries etc. The lawns and flower gardens are screened from the winds by raised embankments. Fine gates and offices admit visitors off the Promenade, which the corporation is now extending as far as the gardens of the company. Contracts for these works have been entered into for sums amounting, in the whole, to a little under £30,000. The buildings have been designed and the grounds laid out by the architects of the company, Messrs Maxwell and Tuke, of Bury. [Builder 22 February 1873 Page 154]

Reference    Manchester Guardian Saturday 21 December 1872 Page 12 – contracts
Reference    Building News 14 February 1873 Page 199 - abridged report
Reference    Leeds Mercury, 8 February 1873 page 11
Reference    Builder 22 February 1873 Page 154
Reference    Builder 19 September 1874 page 793
Reference    British Architect 20 February 1874 Page 126- Details of Company and finances
Reference    Manchester Guardian 16 October 1875 page 5 - skating rink
Reference    Manchester Guardian 7 September 1874 page 5
Reference    Building News 11 September 1874 page 327