The bandstand was manufactured by Walter MacFarlane & Co of the Saracen Foundry in Glasgow and opened in May 1889 (Courier 25 May 1889). It is one of a range of models the firm offered; this (model 224) is one of four surviving original 224 bandstands in the UK. Two 224 replicas have recently been installed, one at Wandle Park, Croydon, to replace a long lost 224 in that park, and the other at Victoria Park, St Helens, Merseyside. Both were fabricated by Lost Art which specialises in restoring Victorian cast iron works, and particularly bandstands.
This award-winning business won the contract to restore the PRG bandstand. Asbestos in the roof was removed before Lost Art could start work. The firm then dismantled the bandstand, taking the parts to its specialist workshop in Wigan for repair or, where parts were missing or beyond repair, replicas were made.
Cracks hidden by gaffer tape and others filled with putty, all painted over, collapsing steps up to the performers’ platform and masonry around the plinth crumbling away, missing balustrade, and much else required attention. The workmen carrying out the restoration commented that its condition was one of the worst they had seen. The parts, all restored and repainted, were brought back and re-assembled on site.
Bandstand in dire need of major restoration
The bandstand had been built with an undercroft with low headroom and used for storage. Access had been blocked for about 40 years. As a listed building it should be restored to its original form, subject to modern Health and Safety requirements; because of the latter a compromise was needed – to leave the original entrance exposed, with the potential to be re-opened, but not for use.
Reconstruction allowed the removal of an unnecessary central pole that restricted the movement of performers.
Originally rainwater from the roof was channelled down inside supporting columns to underground drains. This whole system had become blocked and impossible to reinstate; instead four overflow spouts were fitted to the roof gutter, with rainwater now falling to gravel soakaways below.
The bandstand was returned and reassembled in situ. Restoration works in progress can be seen in the short film Leamington Spa Bandstand: Rediscovering a lost art produced by local business Made by Sonder.
Uplighters and downlighters were installed for night time illumination.
After a lengthy and extensive restoration the bandstand needs bands to use it – it is not solely an ornamental structure.
The PRG restoration project was essentially complete by 2021, leaving minor remedial works.