With the recent activity and up and potential transformation of the site where the Winter Gardens once stood, we are taking a look back in pictures at the much-missed building through the years.

The story of the Winter Gardens is really the history of two buildings that had the same name.

In 1875 the original Winter Gardens Pavilion was built comprising of an ornate glass structure, known originally as the Crystal Palace of the Summer and Winter Gardens.

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It is described as a ‘palace of glass’ in the midst of the gardens, capable of holding 4,000 people. 

The Winter Gardens was not used as a concert venue until 1893 when it was leased to Bournemouth Corporation.


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It was an ideal performance venue for Dan Godfrey’s new Bournemouth Band, formed that year.

The original Winter Gardens saw the likes of Edward Elgar, Hubert Parry, Jean Sibelius and Gustav Holst conduct Godfrey’s band, which became Bournemouth Municipal Orchestra.

However, the building was demolished in 1935, six years after the construction of Bournemouth’s Pavilion, where concerts were to take place instead.


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Another Winter Gardens was built in 1937, originally as an indoor bowling centre. It turned out to have spectacularly good acoustics and was converted into a concert hall in 1946.

Orchestral concerts sounded superb there, but it also hosted concerts by the biggest rock and pop acts of the day.

The Beatles played there on November 16, 1963. They had already played the town’s Gaumont in August, but Beatlemania had by now well and truly arrived. Film cameras from US television news recorded the scenes as police held back the screaming crowds at the stage door. The Rolling Stones played the venue that same year.

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The Jimi Hendrix Experience performed at the Winter Gardens in 1967, Pink Floyd played the entirety of Dark Side of the Moon there in January 1972, Elton John played there in 1972 and 1973, while both David Bowie and Wings performed in 1973 and Queen in 1974.

But most other kinds of entertainment sold thousands of tickets too. Summer seasons by the likes of Cilla Black and the since-disgraced Rolf Harris were big attractions. Tony Hancock performed there, as did other great names in comedy, including Morecambe and Wise, Bob Hope and Jack Benny.

A wide variety of events, shows and meetings took place over the years with the venue being part of the Bournemouths community hub.


The start of its decline could perhaps be traced to 1979, when the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Bournemouth Sinfonietta moved their base to the new Poole Arts Centre, or to the opening of the BIC in 1984.

AS the years went on the decline of the venue started around the time the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra moved to its new home at the Poole Arts Centre.  Live music concerts need larger venues and with the BIC opening in 1984, this didn't help matters for the Winters Gardens. 


In 1993-94, the Winter Gardens Trust tried to raise £2.5million for refurbishment, with the offer of a lease and a £500,000-a-year grant from Bournemouth council. But National Lottery funding could not be secured and other schemes and petitions couldn't stop the theatre's ultimate demise.


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Bournemouth council finally decided in 2005 to demolish it in favour of redevelopment. The bulldozers finally moved in the following year.

For years the site has been a car park with planning permission granted in 2019 for the £150 million Winter Gardens development which will see more than 350 flats, 600 parking spaces and new leisure and retail space.



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