Green shoots of hope for future of resort’s derelict Winter Gardens

PUBLISHED: 08:35 11 May 2015 | UPDATED: 08:35 11 May 2015

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. Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2014

Its sorry state amid the fast food outlets and jingling arcades of the Golden Mile has long been a source of frustration.

interior of the Winter Gardens at Great Yarmouth, 1960s Archant copyright photo
LIB201503interior of the Winter Gardens at Great Yarmouth, 1960s Archant copyright photo LIB201503

But Great Yarmouth’s iconic Winter Gardens is facing its best hope yet of becoming a happy place once more.

The last of the resort’s really substantial vacant seafront buildings will be at the heart of serious discussion when experts descend for a regeneration roadshow.

The Prince’s Regeneration Trust (PRT) will be hosting its 11th BRICK workshop in the town on Wednesday –and championing its involvement in the building’s future, as well as highlighting the plight of hundreds of others.

Over the last four months PRT experts have been helping local preservationists to work up the multi-million pound business case for the listed building.

Building’s history

The Grade II* listed building was built in Torquay in the 1870s but was not a commercial success.

It was bought by Great Yarmouth in 1904 to “lengthen the season and bring a better class visitor.”

Originally used to house flora and fauna, over the years it has also been a concert venue, skating rink and children’s amusement park.

But years of exposure to the worst of the seaside weather took their toll and it has been redundant since 2008 over safety fears.

It was also put on English Heritage’s “at risk” register.

It is the last surviving seaside Victorian cast-iron and glass winter gardens in the country and was one of the largest of its day when built.

In 2013 it featured among the most important but neglected buildings in the country, all with convincing cases for help and restoration, in a BBC TV series.

Darren Barker, project director for Great Yarmouth Preservation Trust, who will be speaking at the workshop, said it represented a significant step forward for the seaside structure with plans to return it to its original horticultural use as a “mini Eden” on track.

“It is a particularly complex project,” he said. “We have never done anything like this before to an historic building that gets super hot in the summer and super cold in the winter. Their (PRT’s) experience is second to none so having the ability to call on their expertise and support is going to be very important to move the project forward.

“We are looking at horticultural re-use but there are lots of ways to do that. The repair of the building is the easy bit, that is stuff we do every day. It is about finding a sustainable re-use.

“In order to progress an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund we need to have a robust re-use and business plan because without a viable end use no-one is going to fund us.”

The workshop aims to provide expert advice and support to community groups and not-for-profit organisations involved in heritage-led regeneration projects.

There are 446 listed buildings or designated historic sites that are derelict, neglected and in a state of disrepair in the east of England, according to the latest figures from English Heritage. Of these, 133 are in Norfolk, with nine in Great Yarmouth alone, and 69 in Suffolk.

Ros Kerslake, chief executive of The PRT, said: “We are thrilled to be holding our 11th BRICK workshop in Great Yarmouth. In the current climate of local authority budget cuts, many important buildings in the East of England are in danger of being lost forever through neglect.

“Community groups can play a vital role in taking on the revival of these important local assets.

“I would urge any community groups from the east of England interested in a heritage regeneration project to seize this opportunity to learn from experts, network with other similar organisations and be inspired to move their vision forward.”

The three-year BRICK programme began in May last year and is visiting UK locations up to February 2017. It is at the Town Hall, Great Yarmouth, from 9.30am to 4.30pm, on Wednesday.

A key theme of the day will be how local groups leading regeneration projects can effectively engage with the wider community.

The event features presentations by experts, interactive sessions and networking opportunities.

The workshop can be booked by calling 0203 262 0560, or go to:

Do you have a Yarmouth heritage story? Email

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