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             Around the Town Hall,                 Victoria Square

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We start with an over view of the town centre which we shall be looking at from ground level shortly.


1954 - The Town Hall was built in two parts, the front third including the clock was opened 5th June 1873 by the Prince and Princess of Wales, later Edward VII and Queen Alexandra; then extended along with the Crescent, work starting 1932, opened by Earl of Derby in 1939 (not the one who had his head chopped off), though it was first in use in 1937.

The building of the Town Hall was first planned in 1863 to provide work during the cotton famine caused by the American Civil War. Building started in 1866.

The appearance was copied from Leeds Town Hall  then in turn copied by Portsmouth.

Note the dark building behind the Crescent on Cheadle Square, brick (but partly tarred?); it contained the ambulance station.

The Hippodrome (repertory theatre) is visible on Deansgate.

The Odeon, closed as a cinema, Mecca Bingo, finally demolished 2008.

Ashburner Street market, dates from about 1932.

Bus Station – the market offices and one row of buses – the rest of this was a car park on which the twice yearly fair was held.

Old industrial units part of which was Mason’s fireplace workshop were originally part of the Bessemer furnace site where the original Leigh Bolton railway terminated.

The White Lion and the adjoining row of houses are still there but the White Lion ceased to be a pub quite a few years ago.

A stone built building – once the library – now replaced by Wellsprings, was Barclays Bank, became Bolton News office in 2012.

Another black, brick building which was a very obvious landmark was the Magee’s bonded warehouse. This area was Howell Croft, or since the Town Hall split it in two, Howell Croft South which also gave its name to the Daubhill and Deane bus terminus.

1962 - Howell Croft again but from the top of the previous picture. New shops have been built on Newport Street and Great Moor Street but the Wheatsheaf Hotel is still the original building. It remained out of line for quite a while after the shops were built but was demolished and rebuilt in line later in the year of this picture.

Note that the chemist, Timothy Whites and Taylors (later Boots, now independent) and Shannon’s were built to match the rounded front of the Wheatsheaf. The third corner should also have been made to match, but is still square even after the quite recent rebuilding for the Olympus chippy.

Two buildings which remained for another year or two but are now long gone are the Commercial Hotel and the Great Moor Street Congregational Church.

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We have had the first rebuild of the bus station. The Dog and Partridge is still on Moor Lane. The old buildings between Ashburner Street and Barn Street remain as does the Odeon Cinema (Bingo from January 1983, demolished 2007). Gas works is there . Tower block at BIHE has been built.

1969 -  Taken from the Town Hall roof. The first attempt at a revamp to the bus station. This picture was taken from the same viewpoint as but a couple of seconds earlier or later than the one to the left.


Old ambulance station is still standing; Mason’s warehouse has gone but the shop remains. You can also see the Albion.


The Gas Works dominates the scene. Paderborn Court and Jubilee House were built on the gasworks site in 1978.

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This picture taken from somewhere up the Town Hall clock tower. This is Bolton’s own Coronation Street (it is still there between the back of the Newport Street shops and the octagon Car Park.) This was the Wholesale Market which moved to Ashburner Street when the new market was opened. Howell Croft South bus station – note there are no shelters. Daubhill and Deane buses, trolley buses, onto Great Moor Street, turn right, past GMS station which was Bolton’s first railway station.


There had been a tram terminus at Howell Croft South when the site was used for the wholesale market. SLT discontinued trams on 16 Dec 1933 the last route being Leigh to Four Lane Ends with trolleybuses running the route (through to Bolton?) the next day. The first trolleybus abandonment took place on 25th March 1956, when the service between Bolton and Four Lane Ends ceased to operate, to be replaced by motorbuses the following day.


Bowes – men’s outfitters on Newport Street – always had a tailor’s dummy outside the shop door – people still occasionally say when they’ve been left standing around, I felt like the man outside Bowes.


Along Newport Street to Trinity Church. Hick Hargreaves, lots of industrial buildings, and chimneys!!

New shops on Newport Street and Great Moor Street and new Wheatsheaf. The railway station has not yet been moved, the Railway Hotel still stands on the corner of Newport Street and Trinity Street. Dawes Street and Soho Street area has been cleared though the Catholic Boys’ Club remains standing until September 1974. Hick Hargreaves not yet gone. Coronation Street has been rerouted round the end of the shops and also moved a little to the right to align it with Old Hall Street. Newport Street is pedestrianised (from 1969).

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© Francis Frith  Co Ltd

Picture of the Town Hall before extension.

See the old Howell Croft buildings behind and the buildings on the right later replaced by Oxford Street Co-op.

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Now let’s get back down to earth and see things from a more familiar viewpoint. We’ll start in front of the Town Hall and take a walk round the town centre from there.


Town Hall Square is of course properly called Victoria Square so named in 1897 for the Diamond Jubilee.


c1950 A familiar view, this is still a through road. Notice the cenotaph, the old Reference library, Singers on the corner and the view along Newport Street.

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1968 Newport Street has been widened and new shops built on the right. Lots of traffic, a clearer view of the Exchange Building, old Reference library (more details later), remember these bus shelters? Two Ford Anglias!

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The right side of Newport Street has been demolished but the new shops not yet built. The shops on the left still remain the same today.  We look right along Newport Street as far as Trinity Church. Around 1965.

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March 1969 The first day on which Victoria Square was a pedestrian precinct. The bus shelters are still there but now not in use.

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7 May 1901

Victoria Square - Volunteers having returned from the South Africa War.

A reminder also of the shops there at that time. When the Town Hall Square was first created these shops were numbered 1,2,3,4... from left to right. When it was renamed Victoria Square they were renumbered 1,3,5...

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1928 The Remembrance Sunday shortly after the unveiling of the Cenotaph. Note the statues are not yet in place, these were added in 1931.


Hart’s linen stores, telephone number 733. Not many telephones then.


The Cenotaph on Victoria Square was erected to commemorate the soldiers of WW1 in 1928. It is a grade II listed building. (The Nelson Square cenotaph was erected in 1920 to commemorate the Bolton Artillery . The Queens Park cenotaph was erected circa 1920 to commemorate the Soldiers & Officers of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.)


We are reminded of the shops towards the other end of the block.

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Apparently this is a char-a-banc trip to Blackpool c 1920.

Of different interest see two phone boxes, in the same style but operated by two different companies, LH box was operated by NTC and the RH one was operated in competition by the Post Office. They are among the earliest confirmed phone boxes in Britain. It seems Bolton was at the forefront of telephone technology, with the link between the Gas office above, and the gas works being one of the first phone lines anywhere, though I can't find the original article now to confirm the date. Apparently the phone line from the Gas Works to Gas office was installed on 17th Jan 1878, only 18 months after Bells first phone conversation, and at the same time that Bell demonstrated the telephone to Queen Victoria (notes from Peter Lodge).


We also have a clearer than usual view of the gas offices tower, perhaps because it has not got dirty yet.


Shops - No3 Ross Munro license premises; no5&7 The Victoria House for Mourning and Mantle House /Taylors outfitters; no9 Millar tailor; no 11&13 London House, Lythgoes sweets; no15 Alston's; no17 Harts curtains and linens;  No19&21 Hyde Bros; no23 Perseverence House – T Hindle; no25 British & American Meat Co.

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pre 1920

Victoria Square, no cenotaph, pointy phone boxes as described above, fancy lamppost with a trough around it. The tram-lines had to be laid to veer round this. It was eventually removed so as not to compete for attention with the cenotaph. The Commercial Hotel is prominent. The buildings opposite it were later replaced by the Oxford Street Co-op.

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Do you remember these shops on the Town Hall Square? Spratts builds up a dog, Perseverence House, simple gardens and grass areas round the Cenotaph. Black cars.

Over the roofs,  Parish Church far left, St Andrew’s Church towards the right.

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In some pictures looking towards Exchange Street a vague structure can be been above the roof tops. Edward Thompson came to the rescue with these splended pictures from his own collection.


<<<<c1920?  Telephone wire array in Exchange Street above the Victoria Square shops and the Grapes Hotel.


1922  Telephone wire array in Exchange Street>>>>>>>>>


It is suggested that this is where the original telephone exchange was but this is thought to be unlikely. The street is named Exchange Street because of the Exchange Building just off to the right of the LH picture.

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A splendid pen and ink drawing. The shops are numbered 1,2,3... so this is the Town Hall Square before it became Victoria Square indicating a date of before 1897 though number 3 is already call Victoria House.


The market was held in Victoria Square giving rise to Market street (which preceded the Market Hall by some years).  Number 7 has the grand title London House which was retained even after Ackroyd’s left.


A prominent feature is the lamp-post and trough.

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The north side of Victoria Square in 1897.

The ornate gas lamp and the circular trough surrounding its base were removed in 1925 because their presence would have detracted from the effectiveness of the War Memorial’s setting and they were considered a menace to traffic. These buildings were replaced by the Oxford Street Co-operative Department.

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1938 The visit of Queen Elizabeth (wife of King George VI, later Queen Mother)

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1953 Decorated for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II

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1939 Le Mans Crescent Civic Centre in Bolton was opened in 1939, just two months before the start of the Second World War. The civic ensemble, comprised of library, museum and art gallery, magistrates court and central police station was designed by Bradshaw, Hope and Gass, architects, of Bolton, for Bolton Borough Council. Inscribed plaques at the bases record the start of works in 1932 and the opening took place seven years later, in June 1939, by Lord Derby. Although the central police station is no longer there (2013), much of the interior retains its original plan form, with museum, library and court interiors well-preserved. Circulation spaces, lobbies and spiral (??) stairs are handsomely detailed in high quality materials. Our picture shows Lord Derby and Mayor of Bolton, James Entwistle, at the civic opening ceremony. The Mayor of Bolton's speech said that he knew there had been much opposition to the scheme on the grounds of cost (about £921,000), but he felt that posterity would not criticise them. He believed that the architecture had greatly improved the town centre and had been the cause of profitable development on the adjoining sites.

1954 The visit of Queen Elizabeth to Bolton above and below

LEFT Victoria Square shops, 1940s, 1950s?

MIDDLE London House Lythgoe’s sweets likely to be in the 1920s, still London House but now Lythgoes sweet shop.

Advertised as “Opposite Town Hall, Front Ent." and selling "the best variety outside London of high-class boiled sweets, satines, marzipans, bon-bons, chocolates, fancy boxes of novelties at prices to suit all buyers.

Importer of Continental Novelties and High-Class Chocolates, etc."

They also made "Lythgoe's Best Toffee, a really wholesome sweetmeat, suitable for all ages, and may be obtained from most Grocers and Confectioners in Bolton and District. Should any difficulty be occasioned to obtain it, a post card enquiry will immediately be replied to giving nearest agent." They obtained the only award for purity and quality from the Sanitary Institute of Great Britain at the Health Exhibition of 1887

The business had been established in 1879 (and the telephone number was 241x). It is listed in the 1932 Bolton Directory, but by the time of the 1967 Directory it has disappeared.

RIGHT 1966 Still through traffic on Victoria Square, bus stops. Newport Street was of course shoe shop street. The Grapes Hotel is still standing. The building near the centre of the picture which is now unused though has been the Nationwide for a number of years prior to 2008, [2012-2015 Coral’s betting shop] was the first public library, opened in 1853. ( On the wall is a snake on stick symbol though this building was never to do with health)

Bedford van on which was based the Dormobile.

Nov 1987

By the seventies, the shops had been rebuilt and most were now occupied by other traders. Thomas Cook was still somewhere on the row.

24 Sep 2009

The town got an award from the concrete association for the reflagging of Victoria Square.

The fountains were a gift from a local benefactor Samuel Wigglesworth (a Westhoughton pharmacist) Trinity St station clock is visible on the sky-line

When this picture was originally published, it was reported that a Christmas shopping war was raging, Manchester having distributed 200,000 leaflets to surrounding towns including Bolton advertising Christmas shopping and offering “free park and ride”. In its turn Bolton distributed 200,000 copies of a newspaper in Bolton, Wigan, Bury, Blackburn and Darwen, which further annoyed their town councils.


The Exchange Building was originally a trading exchange inside which was a private reading room. This developed into a private library which later became open to the public. There are many pictures of this building but this one has the "Public Library" sign on its roof. Later sill it became the Bolton Council Reference Library and continued as such until its removal to the new library in the Crescent in 1938.

I wonder what that  cage is on the building on Back Cheapside - to the right of the Grapes Hotel.  This picture is from the collection of Angela Thompson.

 Victoria Square, Naisby's and Northern House. Naisby's has now extended into Ross Monro's who have relocated round the corner in Hotel Street. Posted on Facebook - I belong to Bolton by Gene Watts

GETTING used to pedestrianisation - while town centre shoppers took advantage of the Victoria Square seats, with most pedestrians still keeping to the pavements, a couple "take the floor" as they cross Bolton's precinct in the Saturday afternoon's sunshine, in April 1969. We can see British Homes Stores, which is now known as "BHS", and is still in this building, Timothy Whites Housewares, and between them this building was Northern House Clothes Retailers, and is now the home of WH Smith. I just wonder who owned the stray trolley at the side of the road outside British Home Stores!

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See two more pictures at the foot of the page - the Town Hall in 1902 and 1911 decorated for coronations.

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The Town Hall decorated for the Coronation of Edward VII in 1902

The Town Hall decorated for the Coronation of George V in 1911

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details of Ross Munro seen above can be found on page 16

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