Eyesore Wigan arcade set for major makeover at last

One of Wigan town centre’s worst eyesores is set to be transformed in the seven-figure make-over of King Street.

By Charles Graham
Friday, 21st January 2022, 3:54 pm
Part of the Grade II listed Grimes Arcade frontage on King Street
Part of the Grade II listed Grimes Arcade frontage on King Street

Grimes Arcade has lived up to its name for longer than many can remember.

But with restoration cash finally on the table, the owners and local businessmen Tony Callaghan and Neil Kay are coming up with match funding to restore the 152-year-old double-fronted Grade II listed former shopping mall to its former glory.

An up-market coffee bar might be one of the features on the mixed-use ground floor, flats on the upper storeys and a comedy club in the basement are all on the cards - pending planning approval.

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Tony Callaghan

It’s the sort of project the business partners had been hoping to get started when they first bought the arcade more than 15 years ago.

But with other parts of the street apparently on the wane and only their own money to play with, they decided to bide their time rather than risk losing a packet on it.

Now the tide is turning. Grant funding is available and the Grimes Arcade will be part of a bigger restoration scheme for King Street which includes the renaiassance of the old Royal Court Theatre, work on which has already begun.

Mr Callaghan said: “We have been wanting to get stuck into this project for a long time and it’s great to see something happening now the council has secured some money that Neil and I can match-fund.

The sealed off rear of the arcade

“It’s good to see Grimes Arcade being regarded as integral to the rejuvenation of the town centre, not least because it provides an alleyway link between the Life Centre and King Street.”

That ginnel has been sealed off for years because there was a public safety risk from the glass roof.

The arcade has been home to hospitality establishments before, the Cheers and Underground bars having been popular back in the day.

https://www.wigantoday.net/news/people/have-your-say-on-wigan-town-centre-streets-ps12m-revival-3532091A total of £1.2m is available through Historic England, the funding comes from the High Streets Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) programme and aims to unlock the potential of historic high streets across England to boost economic growth and social recovery. Some of the money will also be spent on the restoration of the Royal Court Theatre, also on King Street.

Mr Callaghan has other renovation projects on his schedule.

Last March he revealed a £2m masterplan to turn Wigan’s former general post office on Wallgate into a “city bar”, function rooms and offices.

Mr Callaghan bought the 136-year-old buildings which are far larger than many Wiganers realise and are full of historical features and surprises that he intends to bring back into public view and use.

Plans include a large central bar area with seating booths around the edges; he wants it family-friendly, serving meals at all opening times, and is keen to cater for older patrons with the introduction of a tradition of yesteryear: afternoon dinner dances!

He says he may lease out parts of premises to restaurateurs and other businesses and intends to bring his own company’s offices to the upper rooms.

But Mr Callaghan says he is open to suggestions from prospective partners.

His own InnTheBar company has now moved there and an entertainments licence has been obtained, but a planning application submitted last May has yet to be considered by councillors.

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