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THE WINTER GARDENS AND BLACKPOOL TOWER

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The Winter Gardens, together with the Tower and its attendant buildings, established Blackpool as the premier seaside resort in England. It is a vast entertainment complex containing a number of individual elements built round a pre-existing house over a long period between 1875 and 1939. The first part of the complex was built between 1875 and 1878 by Thomas Mitchell of Oldham. This included an outdoor skating rink and the Flora Hall. The Flora Hall was a rectangular hall of 21 bays with a glazed roof. The Pavilion Theatre was built in 1878 as a glass-domed winter garden, giving the complex its name. It was converted to a theatre by Thomas Mitchell in 1889 with the auditorium reconstructed between 1896 and 1897 by Wylson and Long. In 1982, the stalls rake was removed and the theatre converted for multiple use and as a conference hall. The Empress Ballroom was built in 1896 by Magnall and Littlewood of Manchester with decoration by J M Boekbinder of London. It comprises of a huge rectangular hall and was built to answer competition from the Tower complex. The first Opera House was built in 1889 by Frank Matcham but it was rebuilt in 1911 by Magnall and Littlewood. In a third phase of building, this theatre was demolished in 1938 but its white faience facade and foyer still survive. A new theatre was reconstructed in 1939 by Charles MacKeith in a 1930s geometric cine-design. As part of the third phase of construction, from 1928-29 onward, the previous Big Wheel built in 1896 was removed and replaced by the "Olympia" indoor amusement area. This phase also included the construction of the Galleon Bar, Baronial Hall and Spanish Hall in 1931, by J C Derham and lavishly decorated in fibrous plaster by Andrew Mazzei, Art Director of the Gaumont Film Company.

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