Here’s the first glimpses of Blackpool’s eye-catching historical Spanish Hall in the Winter Gardens after an ambitious £1.9million makeover to bring the art deco back to life.
The Grade II* listed hall, famed for its plaster work and Andalusian style, was given the green light for the extensive restoration project after a £500,000 cash boost from Historic England as well as backing from Blackpool Council.
The vital works, undertaken by heritage specialists Conlon Construction, have taken 14 months to complete.
The grand reveal is the first time in 15 years the entire Spanish Hall, first built in 1931, has been on display, after rainwater damage to parts of the hall and temporary structures having been installed below the glazing to prevent significant damage.
The repairs include significant works to the roof, the interiors and its original chandeliers reinstated.
Michael Williams, managing director at the Winter Gardens, said: “We are delighted with it.
“It’s the first time for many years that the beauty of the room has been revealed, having previously been hidden from view.
“We have fully replaced the glazing system of the Spanish Hall.
“The clusters of clouds that were removed in the early 1990s have been reinstated.
“For the last 15 years or so we have had a canopy below the glazing due to issues with rain coming into the building.
“That’s all been removed to restore the Spanish Hall to its full glory.
“It has been quite a big project.
“The dancefloor has been re-varnished so it looks beautiful.”
The picturesque hall, split over two floors initially opened to the public as a fine dining and afternoon tea venue and is also famed for its adjoining renaissance room that acted as a war office even hosting Winston Churchill during the Second World War.
The Spanish Hall was designed by Andrew Mazzei in the art deco style with a three dimensional frieze surrounding it depicting the Andalusian Hills and Villages, and is reminiscent of the
Brixton and Finsbury Park Astoria Theatres in London with their ‘Atmospheric’ auditoriums.
The project to restore the asset means the 700 capacity space will now be re-opened in Autumn to play host to conferences, concerts and other events.
Michael Conlon, chairman at Conlon Construction based in Preston, said: “The Winter Gardens play such a big part in the seaside town experience and it was a real pleasure to preserve this beautiful historic asset.
“The buildings are a real icon of Blackpool and can now be enjoyed by future visitors for generations to come.
“Ensuring the Winter Gardens remained fully operational throughout the duration of the works was of huge importance.
This required meticulous planning to balance the commercial needs of the venue with the careful protection of its intricate, listed decoration.
This project was a privilege to work on and adds to our extensive heritage expertise, accumulated over decades across the North West and beyond.”
Part of the work centred on refurbishing the six original chandeliers
Mr Williams added: “We are not aware that they have ever been refurbished before.
“For the last 10 years we have only had three chandeliers, and now we have reinstated all six.
“We are very grateful to Historic England that provided £500,000; also we are grateful to Blackpool Council for all their support to make sure the work is completed.”
The work was funded by Blackpool Council and Historic England, and was procured through the North West Construction Hub (NWCH).
Coun Gillian Campbell, deputy leader Blackpool Council, said: “It is wonderful to see the Spanish Hall restored in such detail with all of its intricate beauty now on display.
“The Spanish Hall has a rich and fascinating history so it is fitting that it has been carefully restored by specialists.
“It is an impressive space that can once again be fully appreciated by event and conference attendees and will be enjoyed well in to the future.”
The full refurbishment to the Spanish Hall is expected to be completed in September.
The Spanish Hall is today used for many functions such as banquets and wedding receptions and can accommodate 600 people when used for theatrical performances.
The Hall is 24 metres long by 19.5 metres wide and has a lofty height of 12.8 metres. It can be used on its own or as part of a lager space including the Renaissance Room and Baronial Hall.
Conlon Construction was also awarded a Silver award for the Winter Gardens project at the National Site Awards 2019.
Hosted by the Considerate Constructors Scheme, the awards celebrate the country’s most outstanding building projects and recognise those who maintain the industry’s ethical standards, including being sensitive to the environment, communities and neighbourhoods within which they operate.
Following the success of a record breaking 2017 which saw over 1.3 million people visit the historic venue, the world-famous Winter Gardens will again throw open its doors for an exclusive access all areas event, allowing the public a rare chance to explore every nook and cranny of the grade 2* listed building and witness firsthand the extensive renovations taking place, free of charge on Saturday 27th January, 11am – 3pm.
Blackpool’s Winter Gardens first opened to the public on 11 July 1878, with a lavish ceremony attended by the Lord Mayor of London and Mayors and Mayoresses from 68 towns throughout the country.
Through its collection of theatres, ballrooms, exhibition halls and public spaces the venue has welcomed many millions since, including stars of stage, screen, and world politics.