Royal Arcade, Shackleton Hall, Colne


Shackleton Hall – or the Royal Arcade – in Colne has had a recent makeover and looks magnificent today. The building dates from the 1890s, but had become dilapidated and disused until a complete overhaul and refurbishment, making it now a really attractive shopping arcade in Colne’s main street, with a dozen or so independent businesses operating out of it.

The plaque on the wall suggests it was re-opened in 2011 but the internal decoration looks a lot more recent; this is a real example of how to maintain a vintage arcade and make it into something stylish and useful. There’s a list of businesses operating in the arcade at the entrance, and a nice range of creative concerns in the units: a guitar lesson was underway in one shop down at the end; nails were being done in the beauty salon; the lingerie shop looked lively; there were also hair salons, a tattoo studio, clothing alterations and a health and wellbeing centre.

This small arcade is lit by a beautifully angled glass ceiling with half a dozen vintage lamps hanging over the middle of the tiled walkway. Above the end wall is an attractive stained glass porthole window. The building façade retains its original look from the 19th century, so overall this is job well done, Colne. An example to other towns and cities, perhaps, with a Joint Venture between the local council and a property investment company to develop land and property in the borough.

My favourite shop today

They all looked attractive but I have to say the guitar lessons unit was my favourite, with a lesson underway as I walked past, and another lady carrying a guitar case and heading towards the arcade as I left.

My pick of the arcade’s past

Hundreds of people visited the Royal Arcade in 1893, taken in by a suggestion that bones found during excavation work on the building were the remains of Oliver Cromwell’s horse. In fact this was a prank set up by labourers on the site, who threw away the cow horns they found with the skeleton, and threw in some coins to give more colour to the story. The hoax fooled many before the truth came out.

In the 1890s the Twisters and Drawers’ Association had rooms upstairs in the Royal Arcade. The rooms were used mainly for meetings, but they also served as a space for ‘reading, conversation,’ and in 1895 a piano was purchased so that soirees could be organised there. Membership was so strong that they broke away from the Burnley District to form their own Colne branch.

In 1898 there was an explosion in a hatter’s shop run by a Mr Berry. A fire was spotted shortly after midnight and this was put out by the fire brigade, but when someone went back in with a gas light, to check on the premises, an explosion blew out the shop window and destroyed the remaining stock. There had been a gas leak and the naked flame triggered the blast.

In the 1950s Shackleton Hall played host to an extraordinary range of events from whist drives to dances and political meetings; organisations as varied as the National Women’s Assembly, the Glee Union and the Communist Party held events there.

Stories in this section courtesy of, British Library Board; 1) Preston Herald, 17 June 1893; 2) Cotton Factory Times, 20 December 1895; 3) Nelson Chronicle and Colne Observer, 10 June 1898.

This arcade in films or books

I’ve yet to find any films or books set in Shackleton Hall. If you know of any, message us via the comment boxes below.

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 Royal Arcade/Shackleton Hall in any film or book?

What’s your favourite shop in the arcade today?

Is there a website for this arcade?

No website, but there is a very active Facebook page for Shackleton Hall.

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