The Arcade, Accrington


This arcade in Accrington was originally part of the local Post Office. Built in 1896, it was for some years called the Post Office Arcade. Furniture now fills what was once the Post Office at the Church Street end.

The arcade has beautiful original shop fronts, with lead light windows, green and bronze tiling on some walls, multi-coloured floor tiling at some of the shop entrances, and an attractive glass ceiling, with iron framework, typical of arcades of this late Victorian vintage. The arcade curves beautifully round to the right if you enter at Church Street and walk towards Warner Street. Sadly, almost half of these beautiful retail units are vacant, with the two shops at the Warner St end of the arcade unoccupied.

The Post Office name is still visible, as are the names of some former tenants (Duxbury’s was an optician’s once – now the shopkeeper sells just toilet rolls!). A florist had the attractive glass cabinet next door to Duxbury’s. But there is no trace left today of the original Boots ‘the cash chemist’s’ branch, or of other early tenants like the Yorkshire Penny Bank, the East Lancashire Sewing Machine Company, or the organette manufacturer, who branched out into making cameras and then record players.

My favourite shop today

The Creative Cactus is a great space; sadly we didn’t manage our much-needed cuppa on the day of our visit as they close for the school run at 3pm (we did, though, get an incredibly reasonable tea and teacake across the road from the arcade on Church Street).

My pick of the arcade’s past

In December 1914, 460 Christmas puddings were handed out to the families of absent soldiers and sailors in Accrington after being on display in the shop at the end of the arcade. All but two were claimed in a single day, with a notice in the local paper telling any family entitled to this offering and not able to get to the shop in time to apply for their pudding before Christmas.

Two years later, the furniture dealer in the arcade, a Mr Marsland, was in court after being accused of stealing a pair of clogs, a mirror and a door, when he was employed by a family to help them remove furniture from their house prior to a relocation to Sheffield. The court found against Marsland and he had to either return the clogs or pay their equivalent value, one shilling!

By 1922 tastes had begun to change, with one shop in the arcade (No 15) selling soda fountains and ice cream making machines. With a machine looking rather like a modern-day barbecue, the advertising claimed “Each pound of ice makes a gallon of ice cream every three minutes, frozen instantly and harder and with a better texture than ever before.”

Stories here courtesy of, The British Library Board. 1) Accrington Observer & Times, 15 December 1914 – Reach PLC; 2) Accrington Observer & Times, 16 December 1916  – Reach PLC; 3) Haslingden Gazette, 6 May 1922.

This arcade in films or books

I didn’t find any mention of this arcade in film or books. The stage production The Accrington Pals tells the story of the 565 Accrington men killed or wounded within half an hour of the Battle of the Somme starting. Some scenes would have taken place in the market round the corner from the arcade.

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 Accrington Arcade in any other film or book?

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