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Early attractions included ornamental gardens, a lake, and an outdoor skating rink (the site of which later became a Noah’s Ark for performing animals and then, in 1896, the site of the Empress Ballroom).

Twice daily an orchestra played in the Grand Pavilion, which could seat 3,000; and beneath the Pavilion were a stalactite cave and a grotto.

An announcement by the Blackpool Winter Gardens and Pavilion Co. Ltd. in 1889 enticed prospective visitors with a description of the facilities: “The Pavilion: the handsomest room in the Kingdom devoted to grand concerts, spectacular and special entertainment for up to 12,000 people; a Circus accommodating 3,000; and a Skating Rink with room for 2,000. The Floral Hall extends the whole length of the building and contains numerous magnificent palms. The Fernery is acknowledged as the finest ever constructed. It contains several superb tree ferns 30-40 ft. high, lovely ferns and waterfalls make this a perfect paradise. The Grounds are vast and elegantly laid out with Italian and landscaped gardens, and a first-class bowling green.”

The Winter Gardens did not prove to be as successful as the company had hoped and in 1887 they hired the well-known and successful London Theatre Manager Bill Holland to run the complex. He aimed to present the finest entertainment in the palatial surrounds of the Grand Pavilion and brought with him the well known choreographer Paul Valentine, who had been responsible for successful West End shows. Holland immediately laid a 100 guinea carpet on the floor and when it was suggested to him that the lower classes might possibly spit on it, ever the showman, he advertised “Come to the Winter Gardens for 6d. (sixpence) and spit on Bill Holland’s 100 guinea carpet”!

In 1889 came a further attraction when the Opera House, designed by the distinguished theatre architect, Frank Matcham, opened on June 10 with a production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Yeoman of the Guard.

The Winter Gardens were, in fact, facing strong competition that year with the opening of the rival Tower, roof garden, and Tower Ballroom. Holland’s response was to plan the building of a bigger Ballroom with a floor of 188ft x 109ft, a Big Wheel, and an Italian Garden with a grotto at its Eastern end. These new attractions opened in 1896, but, alas, Holland did not see them; he had died suddenly the previous year.

It is now the venue of all the most important social gatherings in Blackpool and the Fylde district.
In 1878 the Grand Pavilion opened as a “promenading concert hall for first-class musical entertainment and other purposes of public recreation”.

The official opening of the Winter Gardens in 1879 by the Lord Mayor of London, Sir Thomas Owden, was a very grand affair.
The opening was followed by a banquet in the Pavilion, a concert, fireworks display, and a torchlight procession. The town council had voted a grant of £500 for the occasion and the distinguished visitors were entertained for several days, the festivities including a State ball and the resultant publicity must have been invaluable.

In the earliest 1d (penny) guide, printed shortly after the official opening, the public were advised that “This noble pile of a building is so easily discerned from any part of town that it acts as a gigantic fingerpost”.

Mar-Ray Guesthouse
56 Springfield Road
Tel: 01253 621230

£25.00 PPPN

22nd Nov - 18th Jan
Tower Circus

5th Dec - 4th Jan
Grand Theatre

1ST January 2015
Viva Show Bar

17th - 18th Jan 2015
Winter Gardens

23rd July 2015
Bloomfield Road


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