Winter Gardens Research Grant

Middlesbrough Winter Garden Interior from Annual Report, courtesy of Middlesbrough Reference Library
Winter Garden Interior from Annual Report, courtesy of Middlesbrough Reference Library

Throughout April and May 2016 Navigator commissioned artist/researchers Michele Allen and p.a morbid to undertake a period of research into the Middlesbrough Winter Gardens. This research will inform future projects inspired by the site, connecting the history of the Winter Garden site to issues that are still relevant to Middlesbrough and wider society today.

Morbid & Michele
Michele Allen and p.a morbid, Navigator North Researchers of The Middlesbrough Winter Garden, 2016

Whilst researching the project we became interested in the writings of Florence Bell and also the links which the Bell family formed with the arts and crafts movement, especially the Webbs. We found this especially interesting since this history of the Arts and Crafts movement with its pastoral and artisan values offers an alternative narrative to the conventional image of Middlesbrough’s grimy heavy industry, and are interested in exploring this in more detail connected to the winter gardens site and other locations in the area. 

We feel that the winter gardens project offers a chance to reflect on the relationship between these two different narratives and an exciting opportunity to build on our previous research, allowing us to further explore the history of Middlesbrough’s built environment and relationships with the steel industry through the philanthropic work of the ironmasters.

In addition, the range of literary and artistic skills we will bring to the project will allow us to uncover both the historical details of the Winter Gardens site and related histories whilst having an eye for images, stories and locations which could act as inspiration for creative projects as part of Navigator North’s future programme. 

Quote from Michele Allen & p.a morbid

IMG_4734Winter Gardens Research Open Day

Saturday 21st May 2016  | Dundas Shopping Centre – Shop space next to B&M

As part of Middlesbrough Local History Month we created a one day event in a vacant unit within Dundas Shopping Centre. With a packed out shop and a last minute rush for more chairs, the shop unit was packed to the rafters with an audience keen to hear more about the Winter Garden and the research that had been uncovered by Morbid and Michele.

With a display of photographs, maps and documents related to the Winter Garden, the once empty shop had a real buzz and energy. With ferns, refreshments and an electric atmosphere, you couldn’t help but imagine how the site had once been used for the Winter Gardens.


If you have memories to share you would like to share about the Winter Garden, please get in touch via email to To continue the legacy of the Winter Garden, head over to the Winter Garden Research facebook page or Pinterest Board.

Winter Garden Poster courtesy of Newcastle University Special Collections

Winter Garden Poster courtesy of Newcastle University Special Collections