The Historical Importance of Tower Gardens Pavilion

Tower Gardens Pavilion has played an important role in the history of Skegness and the growth of the town as a seaside resort in the late 19th century. In the early 1870’s, Skegness was just a small coastal village, but formed part of the 9th Earl of Scarbrough’s plan to transform it into an ‘aspiring watering – place.’ By the late 1870’s plans had been drawn up which included a Pleasure Garden to cater for the Victorian day tripper, who demanded the simple pleasures of strolling, listening to a band or playing a gentle game of tennis or bowls.

Victorian Postcard of the ‘Pleasure Gardens’
Victorian Postcard of the ‘Pleasure Gardens’ – Source: Winston Kime, 2009

The original proposed layout was designed by the Earl’s land agent Henry Tippet. The identified site was a coal yard, previously used for dumping Tyneside cargoes after they landed on the Skegness sands. The proposed Gardens were seen as “an Eden springing from the dark places of the earth”.

In 1877, the Skegness Pleasure Gardens Company Limited was formed with the Earl of Scarbrough as patron and principal shareholder. The design was laid out between 1878 and 1881. An early guide to Skegness notes of the Gardens:

“A more pleasant place cannot be imagined for a lounge when the band is performing, and the grounds are clothed with their summer garb of green. Great care and good taste have been shown in the planning of these grounds, and a more pleasing effect is created by the artistic arrangement of arbours and seats, grassy slopes and winding pathways, and the trees, flowers and lake.”

The Pavilion opened in 1879, and provided Skegness’ largest accommodation for party catering, dances and concerts, and other special occasions in those early years. In an 1883 publication ‘The Skegness and Neighbourhood – a Handbook for Visitors,’ E A Jackson wrote:

“On the north side of the ground is the Pavilion, where every evening throughout the season hundreds thread the mazy dance. Adjoining is the concert room where entertainments are held at intervals. In connection with the Pavilion is a well-appointed refreshment department, conducted on temperance principles, and the arrangements permit of accommodation being provided for large parties”.

Victorian Postcard – ‘Pavilion and Gardens, Skegness’
Victorian Postcard – ‘Pavilion and Gardens, Skegness’ – Source: Winston Kime, 2009

During the early part of the 20th century the Pavilion was a venue for choir outings, Sunday School treats, whist drives, bazaars, public meetings, as well as local wedding receptions. Since the Second World War, the Pavilion has been used for a variety of purposes, including an auctioneers sale room, a flag factory, a diner and latterly, as a public house. This is illustrated in the chronology of owner / occupiers and uses below:

  • 1879 – early 1900s

    Skegness’ largest accommodation for party catering, dances and
    concerts, and other special occasions. At one time in the early
    1900’s one of the rooms was used as a roller skating rink in the
    wintertime, there was also a Skittle Alley as well as Mrs Jarley’s

  • 1922

    Skegness Urban District Council purchased the whole seashore
    from the Earl of Scarbrough for £15,100, of which the Pavilion
    and Gardens cost £8,600. Leaseholder at the time was Mr

  • 1945

    After the Second World War the Pavilion was run by the
    Council’s catering department,

  • 1962

    Pavilion let to Bayes and Co. for 14 years for use as an office
    and salesrooms in connection with auctioneer’s business.

  • 1976

    Pavilion let to Mr J.R Lowe as a salesroom.

  • 1978

    Pavilion let to Mr A. Wright for use an auctioneers business.

  • 1986

    Pavilion empty and boarded up.

  • 1989

    Mr and Mrs Newton take out a 21 year lease on the Pavilion for
    use as a flag manufacturing business, however business
    unsuccessful in this location.

  • 1991

    Application for new use of the Pavilion as a restaurant/licenced
    bar. Assignment did not go ahead and in 1993 the application
    became insolvent. After this a 30-year lease was in the pipeline
    for use as a family diner and bar.

  • 1998

    Pavilion reopens as Inn on the Park public house.

  • 2007

    Lease terminated, Pavilion remains unoccupied to present day.

  • 2009

    ELDC commissions an Options Appraisal Study to be undertaken. This was valuable work and highlighted a number of uses the community would like for the building but did not come up with a sustainable plan that was able to translate into action.

  • 2011

    A limited structural survey of the main building is undertaken that indicates £600k would need to be spent to bring it back to use.

  • 2014

    ELDC looks into the cost of demolishing the site which provokes a ‘Save the Pavilion’ group to form.

  • 2015

    The Skegness Partnership CIC is successful in securing a £50k bid to look into the feasibility of the site.

For over 100 years Tower Gardens and the Pavilion have provided recreational and entertainment facilities for the local community and visitors to Skegness. The Gardens continue to host several events throughout the year and are also the central point for most of the events during Skegness Carnival week in August of each year. The bandstand is a key focal point in the Gardens and draws large crowds who take advantage of the free entertainment each weekend from May until the end of September.  At present, the Pavilion remains unoccupied and requires a decision on its future.

Source: Modified version Options Appraisal Report 2009 – Focus Consultants (UK) Limited

Consultants (UK) Limited