Case Study: A touch of class: Stannah helps modernise historic entertainment venue

It can be said that every entertainment venue has a sole purpose: to transport its patrons into another world where their cares can be forgotten, if only temporarily. For those venues that wish to transport their guests to a bygone era of glitz and glamour, it can be challenging to strike the right balance between modern conveniences and historic preservation.

Lifts are a regular focus of this challenge in heritage buildings, and Blackpool Winter Gardens is no ordinary building. First opened in 1878, this Grade II Listed 3,000-seater entertainment complex has entertained countless millions throughout the history of the popular Lancashire seaside resort town. Like any other building with more than one level, the requirement to safely and reliably transport people from one floor to another, especially those with limited mobility, is an essential one.

The challenge

One of the lifts at the Blackpool Winter Gardens, located right next to the historic Opera House theatre, had been in desperate need of repair for a long time. Used to transport patrons up to the upper Circle and Balcony seating areas, it is an essential piece of infrastructure to allow step-free access to these sections. The existing OTIS passenger lift dated back to somewhere around the 1950s was only safely able to carry 4 persons or a maximum load of 380 kg, and looked very dated with its plain oak panelling.

Since the lift could not be repaired due to some of its components becoming obsolete, it had been long out of service until Stannah was selected to complete a replacement.

“Stannah was the ideal choice for the replacement of our Opera House passenger lift, which had been out of service for over 12 months. Working with Stannah has been so easy, and constant communication was kept from start to finish.” 

Philip Jackson, Head of Maintenance, Winter Gardens Blackpool

The client

Winter Gardens became a popular trend in the late 1800s in numerous seaside resorts and spas and were so-called because they offered the possibility of extending the fun and entertainment of the summer season into the cold and darkness of winter. The Winter Gardens entertainment complex in Blackpool includes a theatre, ballroom and conference facilities and has been rebuilt and added to many times over the decades. 

The Opera House is one of the UK’s largest theatres and continues to attract some of the world’s biggest touring shows and events to Blackpool. The iconic theatre has seen a host of famous stars on its stage since it first opened in 1939, including Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland and Shirley Bassey. 

The result

The project manager from Stannah, Lee Mahoney, worked in close collaboration with the Winter Gardens’ head of maintenance Phil Jackson to design a lift that would complement the iconic architecture and decor of the first and third floors. Stannah also designed the brass plates on the landings to give a glamorous look to the control panel with its retro push buttons.

Stannah provided a new Xtralift passenger lift, which is much more energy efficient than its predecessor. It offers a capacity of 8 persons or a maximum load of 630 kg. The branch managed the installation as a turn-key service.

Although there were some challenges involved in the installation process, such as large heating pipes which had to be removed in the shaft, and having to avoid noisy works during opera and cinema shows on certain days, these issues were worked around with good communication on both sides. The installation was completed in 8 weeks.

“Stannah has been great to work with from start to finish. They have impressed us so much that I am once again working with them on our replacement program for another two lifts.”

Philip Jackson, Head of Maintenance, Winter Gardens Blackpool

With its 150-year history, Stannah truly understands the importance of heritage, and with their Stannah Promise, also live up to their company values on a daily basis to offer Blackpool Winter Gardens the perfect mix of quality, safety, sustainability, reliability and cost-effectiveness.