120 years of being
THE most stylish shopping arcade in Merseyside celebrates its 120th birthday this month.
Wayfarers Arcade on Lord Street in Southport was first opened in October 1898 and since then has welcomed many millions of shoppers, and hosted hundreds of local independent businesses.
The eye-catching Grade II Listed building with a high glass dome and Victorian shop fronts below it, creating a shopping arcade, was originally called the Leyland Arcade, after Southport MP, Sir Herbert Leyland.
It was the idea of John Humphrey Plummer, a Victorian entrepreneur, who at the time owned most of the shops on Lord Street. His idea was to create an indoor shopping area that could be enjoyed in all weather conditions.
Due to the existing shops on Lord Street providing him with a good income, he did not want to lose the rent from any of them by decreasing their size. Therefore this explains the reason for the narrow entrance to the arcade that still exists today.
In 1939 during the outbreak of WWII, the domed roof was painted black as part of blackout precautions, while the tropical fish aquarium was removed from the arcade to save electricity.
During the 1950s the arcade was purchased by a tailors business, Montague Burton, so the arcade was renamed from Leyland Arcade to the Burton Arcade.
While under ownership by Burtons major restoration took place by replacing original pitch pine block floor with asphalt.
In 1976 the Wayfarers Arcade head lease was acquired by Anthony Pedlar and renamed Wayfarers Arcade.
Open seven days a week, visitors can enjoy more than 30 independent shops set on two floors. The arcade includes national retailers such as Rohan and Beales department store.
Members of The Southport Of Yesterday Facebook Group have this week been sharing their memories of this magnificent shopping emporium.
Mary Hughes said: “I loved going in there when I was a child in the 1940s.
“There was a shop where we could buy individual Reeves watercolours for paint boxes.
“I dropped mine once, and scrabbled them all back in to the wrong places, consequently calling a lot of colours by the wrong names, that is another story.
“I am fairly sure there was live music from a small Palm Court style orchestra some afternoons. I hope that isn’t my imagination.”
Dennis Tabron said: “There used o be a violin group possibly four of them in the balcony far end and all the seats were taken up by people listening to what was quite relaxing music,
“Violin concerts were quite popular in Southport at the time.
“I think at this time it was called the Leyland Arcade.”
Pam Clague said: “I worked at Wayfarers Arcade in the early 1970s, in the jewellery department. Mr Todd was my boss, and Mr Arthur Pedlar was upstairs in the furniture department.
“There were original Lowry paintings and beautiful George Jensen jewellery in the display cabinets. I think my wage was about £8 a week.
“The shop was closed every Tuesday and Sunday, as was the whole arcade I think.”
Gill Kitson said: “Arthur Pedlar was also a professional clown, a very clever man.
“My dad, Sam Purser, had the soft furnishing shop next to Wayfarers.”
Amanda Mitchell said: “I remember when he retired, Wayfarers took over his shop. We moved the toy department to that end.
“It was opposite the Red Rum statue and the pond. We kept his counter and it had the old brass rule along the edge.”
David Regan said: “I remember Sam Purser from being at number 9, We at the sports shop were 3, 5 and 7. Number 11 was Paul and Jerry Karmy the brothers who ran the jewellery shop and then it was Cave’s the chemists.
“It was Caves who proposed me as chairman of the arcade tenants association. I was only 24 then and not even a partner in the sports business until I was 25.
“This was the time when I had several meetings with Arthur Pedlar about the redecorating of the whole arcade and we hatched a plan that allowed the tenants to pay their shares over a number of years rather than in one lump sum.
“When they removed up to 30 coats of paint from the arcade frontage much of the ornate metalwork had gone and the job costs went up considerably.
“I stayed as a partner for ten years and then when Keith and Brenda Smethurst retired I left to follow my dream as a coin dealer, 35 years later that is still my full time dream job.”
Becky Tallentire said: “Wayfarers Arts was surely the finest
Wayfarers Arcade on Lord Street and, inset right, Natasha Hamilton and Kent Riley, at Southport Theatre, at the arcade in 2012
The Merseyside Passenger Transport Executive Band perform Christmas carols at the arcade in December 1982
La Vie Francaise shop in Wayfarers Arcade, with owner Chris Burns, in January 2007