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Town centre revolution

THE changing face of Accrington town centre was never more obvious than in the 1980s.

COMEDIAN Ken Dodd opened the Arndale Centre
COMEDIAN Ken Dodd opened the Arndale Centre

THE changing face of Accrington town centre was never more obvious than in the 1980s.

The new multi-million-pound Arndale Centre dominated the area and the old Broadway car park was soon to be forgotten. The shopping centre, combined with the new road layout which snaked around the outskirts, showed just how things had changed in Accrington.

The M65 opening had made Hyndburn a more attractive site for businesses and development and the plans for the new Arndale at Cornhill had been unveiled in the early 1980s. The new Hyndburn link road was constructed linking the new motorway to the town centre and giving out-of-town shoppers a speedy route into Accrington.

High street giants Littlewoods, WH Smith and Boots were said to be interested in taking premises in the ultra-modern complex which was designed to attract more shoppers and breathe new life into Accrington town centre. It was to have a large superstore and 16 standard size shops, while free car-parking was to be provided for 750 cars, partly at basement level and the rest on two floors above the shops.

In October 1987 the £7.5M complex opened its doors - displaying 30 shop units situated along three transparent dome malls. There were also plans to pedestrianise Broadway and make a traffic-free precinct in Union Street in a bid to bring Accrington up to the standards of other rival shopping towns.

The centre was opened with its controversial musical clock at noon by funnyman Ken Dodd and the Mayor of Hyndburn, Councillor Bill Parkinson. The clock, which featured Father Time and a rock 'n roll band, was the brainchild of mechanical sculptor Andy Platt and it became a major attraction. On the hour, sleeping Father Time stirred at the sound of the alarm bell. At the same time the globe on which he is placed spun open to reveal a band playing 'Rock Around the Clock'.

In common with all other Arndale Centres it was announced that the complex would not allow bicycles, dogs and political canvassing. The Arndale Centre site is best remembered by most townspeople as the Broadway car-park site, but older generations will know it was once dominated by the big rambling Union Buildings Mill on one side and the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel and school on the other.

The face of the town centre is still developing rapidly ... as seen by the new market hall development and the recent arrivals of a new cinema and ten-pin bowling complex.


Stuart Pike
Deputy editor specialising in politics
Alex Bell
Bethany English
District reporter
Beth Abbit
Court reporter
Jon Macpherson
Kate Watkins
Reporter specialising in communities
Garth Dawson
Photographer and columnist