Leisure and pleasure

Blackpool Pavilion and Winter Gardens

Blackpool winter gardens_530x357

Blackpool Pavilion and Winter Gardens
Architect: Thomas Mitchell (1876)
Engraving: from The Building News (1876)
Source: RIBA British Architectural Library

The Winter Gardens have long been one of the chief attractions of Blackpool. Since 1878, this complex of theatres, ballrooms and other public spaces has been constantly adapted to suit changing fashions and users: most recently, they often hosted annual political party conferences.

Winter gardens were built in many resorts; shelters from the elements, they were spaces to promenade, listen to concerts and take refreshment. The architecture of Blackpool’s Winter Gardens reflected this escapism. A blend of the Medieval, Classical, and oriental, this mix was made even more striking by the materials used – glass, iron and terracotta. Beyond were fabulous gardens, with winding paths, fountains and exotic planting. There was even a skating rink, the latest fad in leisure in the later 1870s.

Published in the contemporary architectural press in 1878, this engraving of the newly completed gardens and buildings seems a world away from the rest of Blackpool, seen in the background, and the mill-town homes of its many visitors. Undoubtedly this is what the architect Thomas Mitchell intended. This was Blackpool at its most genteel. Sadly, since then, the gardens have been built over, and only traces of these splendid buildings remain.


About the online exhibition

'How We Built Britain' is a major collaboration with the BBC


Images in the exhibition are from RIBApix, a growing database dedicated to providing you with exceptional and unique images from the RIBA British Architectural Library's collections.

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