Reasons for Designation
Margate Winter Gardens are designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Although the 1910-11 stuccoed exterior has seen some alterations, namely 1930s additions, the 1960s roofing of the formerly open amphitheatre and the replacement of many of the windows, the form is still clearly recognisable and many neo-Grecian architectural embellishments survive.
* The main hall survives with its decorative scheme intact and is a fine example of a neo-Grecian style multi-purpose hall and has an unusual rear screen which can be lowered through the floor;
* Other rooms also have notable surviving decorative features, including the east room, vestibules and entrance vestibules;
* The original ticket kiosk is a rare survival in an early C20 entertainment building;
* As an example of a rare building type;
* Its form with a semi-circular amphitheatre is unique;
* It is the only known example of a winter garden constructed within the chalk cliff.
878/1/10064 FORT CRESCENT
Winter gardens. Built in 1911 in a neo-Grecian style, designed by the Borough Surveyor, Mr E A Borg. 1930s additions. The amphitheatre was roofed over in the late-C20. Stuccoed with some cast iron railings.
PLAN: Originally a two-storey main hall to the north, with a promenade along the flat roof, flanked by vestibules with rooms over and attached one-storey semi-circular amphitheatre to the south with open centre, colonnading to the sides and ticket offices to north-east and north-west. In the 1930s a seaside cafe was added to the north, the amphitheatre roofed over and offices and a covered entrance added to the south.
EXTERIOR: The building is set in an excavated hollow so that the 1930s entrance is at the higher street level. This entrance has a flat cornice supported on two glazed columns and has later C20 aluminium doors. It leads to a covered flight of steps with large horizontal and curved glazing bars. The curved two-storey office block at the base of the steps has a flat roof and windows replaced in uPVC. The one-storey amphitheatre has curved rusticated walls with elaborate cast iron railings to the parapet. At the northern end of each side are wide entrances flanked by full-height Ionic columns with tall rectangular fanlights over triple doors and adjoining lower entrances with double doors with rectangular fanlights flanked by paired full-height pilasters and central panel with scrollwork design. There is a shallow domed roof. The two-storey hall to the north has a wide modillion cornice with ornamental cast iron balustrading divided by piers at regular intervals which serves as guard rails for the promenade above the roof of the hall. On the south side are a series of windows divided by by plumed pilasters, set back wings with rectangular windows to the first floor and round-headed openings to the ground floor. The north side has similar openings on the first floor but the ground floor has a projecting extension of 1936, originally a tearoom, later incorporated into the Main Hall. This is of one storey with a flat roof and has 8 large fixed windows. There are curved one-storey additions to each side.
INTERIOR: The original entrances and ticket offices were to the north-west and north-east. The north-west entrance retains a ticket office with a coffered ceiling with paterae, a cornice with mutules and swags, panelled walls and wide doorcases with console brackets and paterae. The original semi-circular ticket booth survives with a cornice of mutules and paterae, pilasters and three curved panels, the upper halves glazed with marginal glazing, the central one with original counter. This leads into a vestibule with similar decoration but also a wall panel with caduceus (image of the staff of Hermes entwined with two serpents) and doorcase with anthemion, shell and brackets above the cornice.
The main hall has a deep coffered ceiling and deep coved cornices. The stage in the centre of the south side has a proscenium arch with giant columns, panels and shield above and a series of panels with paterae. East and west sides have large balconies with caryatids to the south sides and cast iron balustrades with Greek key decoration flanked by reliefs with caduceus, shells and laurel wreaths. Curved staircases lead up to the balconies. The north side of the main hall is suported on eight plumed columns. The original rear wall behind has a series of plain piers with the original intermediate panels which could be raised or lowered flush with the floor, originally opening out onto the sea-side promenade, and was the limit of the hall before the 1930s extension was built. The east room behind the east balcony has a ceiling with swag ornaments and two fluted columns. The western vestibule to the main hall has an elaborate cornice. The corresponding east vestibule has a false ceiling. To the west a brick lined passage with cambered head led directly to the sea before it was blocked off and this may pre-date the construction of the Winter Gardens.
The amphitheatre was roofed over after 1964 and little original decoration is visible. The south foyer, now the main entrance with ticket office, was refurbished following war damage.
HISTORY: In 1900 a Fetes Committee was formed to provide high class entertainment for visitors and residents of Margate. The council granted this committee, under its Secretary and later Entertainments Manager, John Saxby, the proceeds of a penny rate (about £600) to further these ends. Since the loss of the Assembly Rooms in 1882 there had been no municipal venue for holding concerts. In 1910 the Fort Bandstand was erected, little more than a bandstand with some covered seating, whose popularity showed that a more permanent venue could bring in greater revenue. The only available central site in Margate was Fort Green, the site of the bandstand, but the existing houses on Fort Green had a covenant which did not allow the erection of any buildings on the green which could obscure the view or light of the ground floor of existing buildings. As a result it was decided to build the Winter Gardens in an artificial hollow. This required the excavation of large quantities of chalk from the cliffs, 43,643 cubic yards. The cost of the pavilion and associated promenade extension was £26,000. The chalk formed infill for the new promenade being built or enlarged between Fort Green and Palm Bay. The foundation stone was laid by the Mayor on 26th March 1911 and the official opening took place on 3rd August 1911. The building was designed by the Borough Surveyor's office under the supervision of the Borough Surveyor, Mr E A Borg.
The Pavilion and Winter Gardens originally comprised a large Concert Hall 140 feet (42.7m) long by 95 feet (29m) wide, four entrance halls, two side wings, an amphitheatre with cloakrooms, offices, staff room, lighting room and refreshment rooms. Originally the stage could be viewed from both the main hall and amphitheatre and the stage could be enclosed in bad weather. The amphitheatre was a large semi-circle enclosed by a colonnade and there was an uninterrupted view from it through the main hall to the sea achieved by specially designed pairs of sliding sashes, each 13 feet (4m) wide by 9 feet 6 inches (2.9m) high, which could be lowered flush into the floor.
The main hall was originally a concert and dance hall with a resident Municipal Orchestra. Artists who appeared here included Dame Nellie Melba and Anna Pavlova. In the later part of the 1920s Variety and Vaudeville shows replaced the concerts. In the late 1920s a summer show based on a cabaret was established for ten weeks in the summer. In 1935 the building was altered by the construction of a seaside cafe on the balcony on the seaward side of the Main Hall and the amphitheatre converted into a sun lounge by glazing between the iron pillars of the colonnade. This space was used for popular light music and Tea Dances. In 1936 offices and a covered entrance to the south were added.
During the Second World War the Winter Gardens acted as a receiving station for some of the 40,000 troops landed at Margate during the Dunkirk evacuation. On 7th July 1941 a bomb shattered the east wing. In 1946 the war damage was repaired and a new stage constructed. In the early 1950s the roof of the main hall was strengthened by being supported on steel girders and the oak floor of the main hall replaced. In 1963, the year the Beatles played the Winter Garden, the open air part of the amphitheatre had the "Fabulous Dancing Waters" installed; fountains using 4,300 water jets and set to music. Despite the popularity of this new feature it was decided to cover over the sun lounge by roofing over the central area of the amphitheatre to provide another venue. In 1978 the Winter Gardens was re-seated, re-furbished and re-carpeted and a new entrance provided on the seaward side of the Main Hall. Also in 1978, the Seaside cafe was converted to form an extension of the Main Hall.
John Williams and Andy Salvage "A History of Margate's Winter Gardens", Thanet District Council (1992).
Nigel Barker, Allan Brodie, Nick Dermott, Lucy Jessop & Gary Winter "Margate's Seaside Heritage", English Heritage (2007)
Allan Brodie and Gary Winter "England's Seaside Resorts" Cambridge University Press (2007). p147
REASONS FOR DESIGNATION
* Although the 1911 stuccoed exterior of the Margate Winter Gardens has seen some later C20 alterations, the form is still clearly recognisable and many neo-Grecian architectural embellishments survive;
* Internally the main hall survives with its decorative scheme intact and is a fine example of a neo-Grecian style multi-purpose hall with unusual rear screen which could be lowered through the floor;
* Other rooms have notable decorative features including the east room, vestibules and entrance vestibules;
* The original ticket kiosk is a rare survival in early C20 entertainment buildings;
* As an example of a rare seaside entertainment building type;
* Its form, with a semi-circular amphitheatre, is unique;
* It is the only known example of a winter garden constructed within a chalk cliff.