The Winter Gardens
The Winter Gardens stands where Ventnor Parsonage used to be. The large stone Victorian Parsonage, built for the Vicar of St. Catherine’s Church stood in spacious gardens for almost a century.
The Parsonage was purchased by Ventnor Urban District Council in 1929 for £3,801 and was initially refurbished for public use. The ground floor rooms were converted for reading, games and music, and the upper floors as a refreshment area, while open air band concerts and dances were held on the lawns. A competition was run to find a suitable name which resulted in the winning name being the ‘Winter Gardens’.
With its existing theatres all showing signs of age, the authorities in Ventnor decided that it needed an up to the minute, cutting edge, new style theatre. The Parsonage had the most coveted site with views unsurpassed anywhere else on the island and thus it was chosen as the location for the new building. The project was not without opposition, with some local people reluctant to lose the lovely old Parsonage and its pretty gardens at the top of the cascade.
The old building was demolished in 1935 to make way for the new modern art deco building, the Winter Gardens Pavilion. The council appointed Mr A. Douglas Clare, who also designed Sandown pavilion, as its architect. Work proceeded rapidly over an eight month period and the concert hall, designed to accommodate 700 seated people, and up to 1,000 dancers on a beautiful sprung dance floor, was opened on the 17th August 1936. The rest of the building was not completed until the following Spring, costing a total of £19,400.