Lowther Pavilion Redevelopment
Lowther Pavilion is an existing theatre and entertainment venue set within mature public gardens overlooking the Ribble Estuary in Lytham on the Fylde Coast of Lancashire.
Lowther Gardens were opened in 1872 as a gift to the people and visitors of Lytham by John Talbot Clifton of Lytham Hall. They were named in honour of his wife’s family and we believe to commemorate her brother, Henry Lowther, becoming the 3rd Earl of Lonsdale earlier that year following the death of their uncle William Lowther.
The first permanent entertainment venue within the gardens came in 1909 when a bandstand was erected to be used by the Lytham Town Band and later the Lytham Ladies Orchestra. The bandstand proved very popular, however it was decided that a permanent entertainment pavilion was required to provide a year-round venue that was sheltered from the weather.
The original pavilion building comprising solely of the barrel vaulted auditorium was built in 1920 and was also named after the Lowther family to continue the tradition of the original gardens. At this time Hugh Cecil Lowther, son of Henry Lowther, was the 5th Earl of Lonsdale and head of the family. He was a colourful character both literally and figuratively and was known as the ‘Yellow Earl’ due to his love of all things yellow. He continued this affiliation when he founded the Automobile Associaion (AA) which adopted a ‘Lowther Yellow’ colour for their livery which remains this colour to this day.
The original pavilion soon proved to be too small and so an extension to form a cafe overlooking the gardens was added in 1922. This extension and the original building were built from a timber frame structure with heavily glazed facades to take advantage of the views over the gardens.
Project Type: Commission
Client(s): Lowther Gardens Trust
Size: 1900 sqm
Location: Lytham, Lancashire, UK
Year: September 2015
In 1928 a fire destroyed the pavilion at the end of Lytham Pier which was the main local venue for theatrical performances. As a result the Lytham Amateur Operatic Society relocated to Lowther Pavilion and an extension was subsequently added to the building to provide the stage and back of house areas required for larger performances.
The venue went from strength to strength in the years that followed and particularly thrived in the 1950s and 1960s to reflect the popular culture of the times. However by the early 1970s, in common with many other similar facilities, attendances were down and the theatre faced an uncertain future with demolition even being discussed.
In 1976 a car collided with an external wall of the building exposing the condition of the badly deteriorated structure. The future of the pavilion looked extremely bleak, however it was another fire, this time at the Ashton Gardens Pavilion in St. Annes that was to save Lowther Pavilion. The St. Annes Parish Operatic Society were due to open a production of Charlie Girl when the fire struck destroying the building. The production was instead moved to Lowther Pavilion and the Society have performed at Lowther ever since. This incident meant that Lowther Pavilion was the last theatre left in the Borough and so the Council decided to save and renovate the building, with construction work on this project commencing in 1982.
The expansion and development of the pavilion carried out in the 1980s followed a series of reconfiguration projects that had been completed since the original pavilion was built and followed a sustained period of decline which had left the building in poor condition. The intention of the renovation project was to completely modernise the facility and the new design reflected both the poor condition of the existing building and the current architectural thinking of the time, with little of the original pavilion building being retained. It is this 1980s redevelopment of the pavilion that stands largely unaltered to this day, with only the reinforced barrel vaulted auditorium timber roof structure and the Maple timber auditorium floor remaining of the 1920s original.
Whilst the redeveloped pavilion proved to be a popular local resource, making the facility financially sustainable with ever reducing budgets would prove to be more difficult. In the mid 2000s with the building again requiring repair and modernisation works and following a drop in theatre attendances, the use of the pavilion was again a topic of debate. This debate lasted several years and with the potential for closure looming, the Friends of Lowther Pavilion was formed to campaign and raise funds to help save the theatre and ensure its continued survival. The debate finally ended when it was confirmed that as the gardens had been gifted to the Council in trust, the land and any buildings upon it must remain for community use as originally intended.
In 2012 the Lowther Gardens (Lytham) Trust was formed to manage the day to day running of the pavilion instead of the Council. Since this time the use of the building has increased enormously, with the theatre hosting shows by top entertainers from around the world as well as remaining at the heart of local amateur dramatics. The pavilion also acts as a crucial community resource, providing a space in which to hold events and activities for all members of the local community.
This revitalisation of the pavilion’s use and standing within the community now needs to be matched by a redevelopment of the aging and dilapidated facilities. This will ensure that the pavilion continues to go from strength to strength and is a sustainable part of the local community and theatre scene for the foreseeable future.
In 2015 Creative SPARC Architects were approached by the Lowther Gardens Trust to develop a feasibility study and redevelopment masterplan for the Pavilion. This process included a rigorous consultation process with the public and all interested parties and resulted in a phased redevelopment masterplan from which to develop the concept design proposals.
The concept design intends to reconnect the Pavilion with its context of the mature gardens and it's coastal location through both the reintroduction of increased areas of glazing to allow views into and out from the building and by using natural materials found within the gardens and along the coastline.
The main structure of the existing building will be retained to allow the theatre to operate throughout the redevelopment and to retain the embodied energy within the existing building structure. The whole building will be modernised and refurbished though and a first floor extension to the existing building will form a new restaurant and roof terrace above the existing foyer which will provide unrivalled views out over the Ribble Estuary. The back-of-house areas will also be remodelled and extended to provide improved facilities for performers & staff and disabled access throughout the building. A final extension will form a new build education centre and studio theatre space that will share the main theatre's ancillary accommodation and provide more flexibility and variety in the spaces that are available for use by the community, local groups, schools and amateur & professional performers visiting Lowther.
These redevelopment works are ongoing alongside a fundraising campaign to help raise the funds required to realise the ambitious proposals. You can learn how to donate to the campaign and how you can help support Lowther on the below link: