Lost gems remembered at Stanley Park exhibition

The destruction of the 1896 Indian Lounge inside Blackpool Winter Gardens at the end of the 1964 season to create the Planet Room. It is now the Arena.
The destruction of the 1896 Indian Lounge inside Blackpool Winter Gardens at the end of the 1964 season to create the Planet Room. It is now the Arena.
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How many buildings have been lost in Blackpool over the last few decades?

You’ll find part of the answer in a startling exhibition, Lost, where the story of the resort’s so-called progress is told through around 100 blown up photographs.

The display makes for uneasy viewing, at times, inside the Stanley Park Visitor Centre (next to the Art Deco Cafe), daily, 11am to 3pm - but until this Sunday, when it ends a busy run.

The collection has been curated by local historian Ted Lightbown, who will be giving an illustrated talk, Blackpool’s Lost Buildings, featuring many of the images, to Blackpool and Fylde Historical Society in Blackpool Cricket Club on Tuesday September 24, at 7.30pm. Visitors are welcome.

Ted says: “The exhibition is a look back at some of the buildings that have been lost to Blackpool in recent years.

“Some are well-remembered and their loss is still felt, while others are largely forgotten.

“The reasons for their demolition are varied and include presumed progress, commercial pressures, social changes, fashion, redundancy, poor maintenance and fire, coupled with little appreciation of their architectural and aesthetic qualities or historical significance.”

But, as some photographs show, the disappearance of decent buildings is not always apparent from the street. Among the displays are these two pictures from inside the Winter Gardens which tell their own story.

Ted says: “The fine Indian Lounge was created alongside the Empress Ballroom inside the Winter Gardens in 1896.”

But at the end of 1964 it was destroyed by the building’s owners, Blackpool Tower Company, in order to create the Planet Room within that same space.

Over the years, the company was taken over by EMI, Trusthouse Forte and, in a management buy-out, by First Leisure whose bosses decided the Planet Room was outdated.

The area was turned into the Arena by destroying the “old trappings” as unceremoniously as those mid-1960s workmen did with the Indian Lounge.

The Gardens was later sold to Leisure Parcs and bought in 2009 by Blackpool Council, who have no current plans to redevelop the room.

Blackpool Council’s built heritage manager Carl Carrington enjoyed visiting the exhibition. He said: “I think the sheer scale of what’s disappeared is really brought home by the images in the display.

“Hopefully it will make people remember and also engage them in supporting moves to preserve the important buildings that we have left.”