Argument meant ornate Victorian arcade was only ever half built

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Wayfarers Arcade is a Southport institution – and over the years it's been home to an aquarium, circus acts and beloved stores.

Dreamt up by John Humphrey Plummer in 1890, the magnificent arcade was designed by architect G.E. Bolshaw.

Mr Plummer himself was a well-known businessman in the area and owned a variety of properties on Lord Street.

The arcade's narrow design is a result of Mr Pummer's ownership of the shops on either side of the side, which meant the entrance could only be three metres wide.

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When the arcade was opened on October 1, 1898, it was originally called the Leyland Arcade, named after Southport's MP at the time, Sir Herbert Leyland.

Originally, the arcade was planned go from Lord Street to the Promenade, but due to a disagreement with a landowner on West Street is, Mr Plummer was never able to build the full arcade.

The arcade boasts an extraordinary roof with rich mahogany features on each of the shop units – features that wouldn't have been cheap to install at the time.

Yvonne Burns, centre manager for Wayfarers Arcade, told the ECHO: “I believe the original scheme should have gone through onto the Promenade but the farmer who owned the land couldn’t come to an agreement with Mr Plummer because he was so miserly.

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“He had a big falling out with the farmer who then refused to sell him the land which is why the arcade stops on West Street and doesn’t continue onto the Promenade.”

Following the death of Mr Plummer in 1928, the arcade was left to Cambridge University and the building was eventually sold to Montague Burton.

Mr Burton then renamed the arcade Burton Arcade.

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The link between Mr Plummer and Cambridge University is still unclear to this day, but once the arcade was in the hands of Mr Burton, he spent vast amounts of money on restoration work.

One massive task that Mr Burton undertook was putting in a new floor due to the wooden floor presenting a safety hazard for visitors.

Broadbent’s and Boothroyd's eventual acquisition of the arcade stemmed from early tenants Vyvian Pedlar, and his sister Evelyn who ran a shop called Wayfarers Arts from 1929.

Mr Pedlar was then later offered three units at a discounted rate due to the lack of tenants.

A band performs at Wayfarers Arcade in Southport in December 1981 Photo by Southport Visiter

Yvonne told the ECHO: “Vyvian was apparently an expert with tropical fish. He installed an aquarium, one the first aquariums in the area, but when the war came in 1939, due to the electricity and everything like that, the whole collection, I believe, went to a couple of zoos. Their involvement was right the way from 1926.

“It was only in 1976, the management of Broadbent’s and Boothroyd’s bought the freehold of the arcade, and that is when it became Wayfarers Arcade, being named after Wayfarers Arts.”

The heir to the family business was Mr Pedlar's eldest son Arthur Pedlar. Arthur wasn’t just a businessman – he was also a renowned clown.

In 1995, Arthur hosted the five-day World Clown Association Convention in Southport. The convention saw parts of Southport turned into the circus.

Coronation Street stars Sue Nicholls (Audrey Roberts) and Amanda Barrie (Alma Halliwell) enjoy filming a shopping trip to Wayfarers Arcade in Southport in the 1990s

When the arcade was sold by Mr Burton, it changed hands a number of times before Broadbent’s and Boothroyd’s eventually bought it.

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When the arcade was purchased, Anthony Pedlar was managing director of Broadbent’s and Boothroyd's, who before the purchase were just tenants of the indoor shopping centre.

The arcade was eventually sold to Lord Street Properties, and later bought by Panther Securities plc.

Wayfarers Arcade has had an illustrious past, filled with memories and characters, from clowns to shopkeepers.

Yvonne told the ECHO: “I started on the November 1, 1999 and my first job was to find a Father Christmas, which on the first of November, I can tell you, is no easy task.

“I did it. I found a lovely gentleman who had lived in New Zealand, sadly he’s passed away since then, but he had actually been to Father Christmas school, had certificates from Father Christmas school, and he was just brilliant.”

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