Although 54 to 58 King Street have been jointly owned and run since the late 1980s, they started life as two very different buildings. What is now 54 was an impressive town house, and what is now 56 to 58 originated as County Court Offices. Over the decades they have had many uses and owners.
The east side of King Street took some time to be developed. In the late 1840s the land occupied by 54 to 58 remained a vacant plot. Some time around 1850 the Faircloughs built an impressive town house, with a gate and railings projecting on to the pavement, which would eventually become number 54. They were successful builders and had a large yard on the other side of King Street. They constructed many of the buildings in the area.
The land to the south of Fairclough’s house had been acquired by John Gibbs. In 1851 he submitted plans for an office/workshop to be built. John was believed to be working as a sculptor renovating the Parish Church. His company was known as Gibbs and Holt. They advertised themselves as architects who could “prepare designs for ecclesiastical and domestic buildings”.
In 1853 the large Public Hall was completed to the south of Gibbs’ property. Around this time he put it up for sale. It was sold and plans were soon submitted for County Court Offices to be built on the site by Thomas Morris.
The plans drawn up at the time show “Bonded Stores” in the vaulted basement, and a first-floor layout which included: a clerk’s office, stores, High Bailiff’s office, and a cottage for the office keeper. The plans do not show the first or second floor.
A photograph taken in 1911, at the time of the coronation of King George V, shows the County Court building has a shop front, while 54 still has the frontage of a town house. There is a major development in the 1920s when a large dance hall is built attached to the rear of both properties.
The Court Hall is described as “The finest and most modern Dance Hall in Lancashire”. Wigan Golf Club hold their fifth annual dinner there in 1928.
The Court Hall boasts “luxurious lounges, balcony and dining room, buffet and every convenience”. The Dance Hall had a main entrance where number 58 is today.
Meanwhile 54 had become linked to the Royal Court Theatre for use as offices in the 1890s. By the 1960s it was the Booking Office for the Court Cinema.
During WW2 the government created British Restaurants. These were said to be Churchill’s idea. At times of rationing they offered nutritious low-priced meals. They opened in every town across the country.
The Court Hall was converted into a British Restaurant opening in January 1942. The restaurant could be accessed through the passageway between number 54 and the Royal Court Theatre. It could serve as many as 750 four-course meals every day, which were sold for just 10d. The restaurants remained open until 1947.
The ballroom reopened as the “New Dancing Court”. By the 1960s it was being used as a venue for local bands like The Saxons and The Sportsmen. By the early 1970s the buildings were in a poor state of repair. The Booking Office at 54 was boarded up and 56 was an empty shop.
In the 1990s the properties were acquired by Themes International PLC and became a public house and amusement arcade
In the 2000s the buildings became an Australian themed bar called “Walkabout”. They were later refurbished to become “Surfers Paradise”.
They currently (2023) house a gin bar and “Gentlemen’s Club”. Most of the original structure, including the dance hall remain intact.
Jim Meehan & Neil Linford 2023