An exciting discovery was unearthed during the construction of Grand Arcade when substantial evidence of late Medieval activity in Wigan was uncovered.
Upon further investigation, led by the Oxford Archaeology North team, numerous items were found, including a hearth/furnace, pottery pieces and tiles. The most fascinating evidence discovered was when a hypocaust (a Roman underground heating system) was found, suggesting the existence of a Roman fort in Wigan upon the Grand Arcade site.
Oxford Archaeologist, Ian Miller, was brought on board to educate schools and local Wiganers on the importance of the findings and Wigan’s status as an important Roman settlement was confirmed, with Miller claiming the site may have been used by the Roman imperial postal service and could have been “the Travelodge of its day!”
Grand Arcade were so proud of this discovery that Maysand, the building conservation and restoration specialist, was commissioned to restore the remains of the hypocaust and rebuild it in Concert Square, which is one of the community areas within Grand Arcade.
Another exciting historic addition to Grand Arcade is the bronze statue of George Formby, which was located in the centre during its opening year of 2007.
Born in Westminster Street, Wigan in 1904, George Formby entertained an estimated three million Allied Servicemen and women during World War II throughout Europe and the Middle East. During his career he made 22 films and over 350 records, he was also popular in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. In his heydey, George Formby was the fifth highest-paid star in the world – ahead of Errol Flynn, Bette Davis and even Bing Crosby.
George Formby was quite literally the legend of Wigan.
It has been 50 years since George Formby’s death, on 6 March 1961, and to celebrate the legends life both BBC 2 http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00z2kkz and ITVhttp://www.itv.com/granada/turned-out-nice-again51750/ paid their respects to the entertainer.
Check with us to see if any George Formby related events will be taking place as it is not uncommon for the members of The George Formby Society to pop in for a ukulele performance or two!
The Wigan Casino Soul Club was a nightclub in Wigan and it operated between 1973 and 1981, it was known as a primary venue for northern soul music. Young people from all over the UK regularly made the trek to Wigan Casino to hear the latest northern soul artists and to dance. Queues to get in were sometimes five or six people deep, and stretched quite a way up the road. Every all-nighter traditionally ended with three songs that became known as the 3 before 8: “Time Will Pass You By” by Tobi Legend, “Long After Tonight Is Over” by Jimmy Radcliffe, and “I’m On My Way” by Dean Parrish. Parrish is still active on the northern soul circuit.
Whilst we were surprised to find out the site that Grand Arcade was built on was once an important Roman settlement, we would not have been surprised if any old vinyls had been dug up. This is because Grand Arcade was also built upon the ground where the famous Wigan Casino Soul Club once stood, which was once voted the World’s Best Venue by America’s Billboard Magazine, beating New York’s Studio 54.
At Grand Arcade we like to embrace the history of Wigan, which is why we have a bespoke eating area called Casino Café which has been themed on the illustrious Wigan Casino Soul Club, which stood on the site of the centre until the early eighties.