New nostalgia book delves into Margate Winter Gardens history

Postcard of the Winter Gardens in 1913

It’s close to two years since the final curtain fell across the stage of Margate’s Winter Gardens and now a new book looks beyond that barrier to explore the building’s 110 years plus history.

Entitled A Salute To Margate’s Winter Gardens, it is the latest in the series of nostalgia publications by local author Nick Evans and will be officially launched at The Eclectic Art Gallery in Broad Street, Margate, from midday to 2pm on Saturday 20 July.

Building the Winter Gardens in 1911 – thousands of tons of chalk had to be excavated

Renowned as Thanet’s premier concert hall, the Winter Gardens has been a beacon of entertainment for thousands of audiences ever since it opened in the summer of 1911.

It has attracted some of the biggest names of their day in music, singing, dancing and comedy. The long list of stars who have trodden the boards of its impressive stage reads like a Who’s Who of showbusiness.

Postcard of the Winter Gardens c1965 ©John Hinde postcards

Nick said: “One of my earliest memories of the place was as a stagehand several decades ago for a local drama group’s pantomime when I was soon struck by its grandeur and what real excitement there was at being able to perform there.

“The Winter Gardens closure in August 2022 has been mourned by many so we can only hope Thanet council continues to be successful in raising enough money to restore the building and that better days are not too far away.”

Dancing the night away on the night of Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation in 1953 (©Thanet District Council SEAS Heritage Collection)

A Salute To Margate’s Winter Gardens includes photographs of its construction and the wide range of events held there. A colour section features Winter Gardens posters produced between the 1950s and the 1970s.

The Three Degrees by Mike Nichols

During the 1980s and 1990s Mike Nichols was the Winter Gardens official photographer, capturing dozens of celebrities before and during their performances.  Mike kindly allowed Nick to build an entire chapter around his work with subjects including Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, The Three Degrees, Hank Marvin, Lulu, Rod Hull & Emu, The Drifters and The Osmonds.

Rod Hull & Emu by Mike Nichols

“This chapter alone provides us with a remarkable record of just some of the faces who came to Margate. The majority of them have been pictured away from the madding crowds, looking quite relaxed, so that makes them very special,” said Nick.

Signed photo of comedians Laurel and Hardy who appeared at the Winter Gardens in 1947

He added: “I’m delighted also to have been granted access to the SEAS Heritage Collection of photos taken by Cliftonville based Sunbeam Photography which offered images unseen for 60 or more years. These pictures of events demonstrate the sheer versatility of the Winter Gardens. Everything from a Royal British Legion Remembrance ceremony to a political party conference, a flower show or a celebratory dinner and dance.”

Copies of the book will be on sale at The Eclectic Art Gallery, Broad Street, Margate; Westgate Galleria, Station Road, Westgate, and Lovelys Art Gallery, Northdown Road, Cliftonville, and No3 Cards & Gifts in York Street, Broadstairs.

Online sales via the books section of www.shorelinepartners.co.uk. A copy of the 96 page book is £13.50.

4 Comments

    • Sounds great. Amazing how in 1913 there was enough money to invest in what was state of the art Winter Gardens that has survived two world wars but was left to fall in disrepair in an era of self inflicted austerity. I won’t make any political points here but leave it to you to decide how this has happened. Absolute shame. I’m looking forward to reading this book to show my grandchildren how we used to be and hopefully inspire them to lobby the politicians to convince them they should be pushing to keep this wonderful building and bring life back to the area.

      • It was actually badly damaged in WW2, and rebuilt several years later (as so often around the country, a local council has have done far more damage than Hitler!).

        Hope Nick Evans has spoken to people who worked there, such as excellent latter-day manager Paul Palmer.

  1. And now its closed. Utter shame for this building to get like this in the place. Like what The dreamland cinema? Been shut for eyes-In fact i could on about other places that are now gone.

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