Makinson Arcade, Wigan


The highlights of Makinson Arcade in Wigan are the two entrances, with the name in beautiful Art Nouveau script, and the stained glass windows. But also, don’t miss down at the bottom end of the arcade, towards Market Street, there is the original tiled entrance of Makinson’s Teas and Coffees, the shop from which the arcade took its name. High occupancy rate today with a variety of independent shops, and one idea which could inspire other arcades possibly: one unit available for pop-up businesses to trial their ideas and see if they work.

Makinson’s tea merchant financed the building of this arcade in 1898. Ken Dodd was here to re-open the arcade after a major refurbishment in the 1980s; a photo of the occasion is on the walls of the arcade today.

My favourite shop today

The café would have been my choice of shop in the arcade today (beauty, hair, vaping, games are not really my things), but they closed just as I arrived. So my vote here has to go to the concept of the Pop-Up shop unit. Unoccupied when I visited, but I like the concept to help start-up businesses, which might one day end up as permanent tenants in the arcade.

My pick of the arcade’s past

When Kennedy’s Restaurant opened in the arcade in 1899, they advertised for a ‘good cook,’ offering ‘liberal wages.’ Not only did Kennedy’s aim to provide food for ‘all classes,’ they also opened up a billiards room, and in October 1899 welcomed the English chess champion, a Mr Blackburne, who would play a series of simultaneous chess games on various dining tables in the restaurant.

The restaurant continued to be a social hub of the town, with events such as a shorthand competition held there weekly in 1903, and a ‘smoking concert,’ which presumably meant that cigars or cigarettes could be smoked while music was being played on the premises.

By 1902, ‘physical culture classes’ were opened on Monday evenings in the arcade for young men in Wigan. An opticians moved in, later expanding into photography; a picture framer also, while the bootmaker went bankrupt. In 1906, an intriguing advert appeared for tea in the arcade: “Shopkeepers who wish to increase business should buy Makinson’s Tea. Best value in England.” Did shopkeepers offer their best customers a cuppa, I wonder?

This arcade in films or books

I have yet to find Makinson’s Arcade in Wigan in any film or book, so I need readers’ help here…

What’s your favourite shop in the arcade today?

What memories do you have of visits in years gone by?

Have you got any good stories to add on the past of this arcade?

Have you seen Makinson Arcade in any other film or book?

Is there a website for this arcade?

Makinson Arcade in Wigan does have its own website. Click the link to view.

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