Investor sought for one of UK’s most at-risk Victorian buildings

A popular seaside attraction which has been listed as one of the UK’s most at-risk buildings is being offered as a unique business opportunity in a bid to save it.

The pyramidal roof of the iron and glass Winter Gardens in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, stands 83ft high above the west end.

The Grade II*-listed structure was built in Torquay, Devon, between 1878 and 1881 then dismantled in sections and transported by barge to Norfolk where it was re-erected in 1904.

Winter Gardens in Great Yarmouth
The UK’s last surviving seaside Victorian cast iron and glass winter gardens, in Great Yarmouth (Joe Giddens/PA)

Not a single pane of glass was broken in the removal, it is said.

It was listed as one of the UK’s 10 most endangered buildings in 2018 by the Victorian Society and has been closed since 2008.

It is also on Historic England’s buildings-at-risk register

Great Yarmouth Borough Council said they were seeking an investor with “innovative ideas” to work with the authority to rescue the Winter Gardens as a “major regional attraction for future generations”.

Winter Gardens in Great Yarmouth
Great Yarmouth Borough Council is seeking an investor to run the Winter Gardens as a business (Joe Giddens/PA)

They are now inviting tenders for a commercial partner or consortium to propose and run a sustainable business within the Winter Gardens.

The appeal is backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund, which has indicated that funds for repair would be available with a suitable operator on board.

The council said they had no preference over the type of commercial end use suggested, and were actively encouraging a range of ideas which include a commitment to ongoing maintenance of the structure.

The Winter Gardens was originally used to house plant life, and has also served as a roller skating rink, concert hall, children’s amusement venue and even a German beer garden over the years.

Winter Gardens in Great Yarmouth
The Winter Gardens was transported by barge from Torquay (Joe Giddens/PA)

Sir Nicholas Bacon, president of the Royal Horticultural Society, said: “Victorians and their seaside developments were quite extraordinary.

“At the height of Victorian and Edwardian England places such as the Winter Gardens were one of the great rendezvous for people who wished to experience the seaside.

“It was the spa, a place to raise spirits, to involve communities and generally provide life for the town.

“Over the years it is indeed sad that this extraordinary structure has fallen into disrepair and is not used.”

Winter Gardens in Great Yarmouth
The Winter Gardens was listed as one of the UK’s 10 most endangered buildings in 2018 by the Victorian Society (Joe Giddens/PA)

Sir Nicholas added: “The refurbishment of the Winter Gardens would be remarkable.”

Graham Plant and Trevor Wainwright, the council’s political group leaders, said: “We’ve had some exciting informal inquiries and now we hope to identify a commercial partner to place a Lottery bid with us and grasp this unique and outstanding opportunity to save a truly iconic national heritage gem and establish an enterprise in a prime location and really special landmark.”

The closing date for tenders is March 20.

Those interested in investing are asked to call 01493 846153 or email stacy.cosham@great-yarmouth.gov.uk.

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