17 - 19 Wallgate, Wigan
Part of Group:
At Risk: No
Meek’s Buildings (1861 designed and built by James Fairclough, whose business was based in King St). It has a sensitively painted facade. The large-scale building extends back to Arcade Street and Rowbottom Square. It housed J (later G and J) Meek’s general drapery establishment.
The business was founded 1831 by a prominent Wigan Wesleyan family. It would appear that throughout the life of the business the Meek family adopted their Christian beliefs in the employment of staff with indentured apprentices and living-in, respectable, accommodation on the premises.
In 1841 the business was located in Market Place under the management of the sons George and Joseph Meek, the sons of the founder, also named Joseph Meek. The brothers employed 5 apprentices and 3 servants.
By 1851 the Meek's had moved to larger premises in Standishgate, the business was flourishing and employed, 4 Assistant Drapers, 8 apprentice drapers, 1 Nurse and 3 servants.
During the late 1850's discussions took place for the design of a new building to address the immediate and future growth of the building and future accommodation requirements. A suitable site was found and procured in Wallgate and architect J. Ainscough was engaged to design the new building.
The business continued to grow and in 1861 finds the enlarged business still at 11, Standishgate employing, 7 Assistant Drapers, 6 apprentices, along with a Cook, Nurse, Housemaid, and a Nursemaid.
In July 1862 the new and very extensive building opened for business at 17-19 Wallgate, the very building that still exists and has stood the test of time and by 1871 the building housed Joseph's son William, his wife Emma, along with his brother George. In addition, the staff comprised of 12 Assistant Drapers, 8 Apprentices, 1 Cook, 2 Housemaids, and 1 waitress.
At this time father Joseph had moved to St, Paul St, North Meols, Southport with his wife Sara, the two children Mary and Benjamin, and his brother and sister-in-law William and Mary Higginbotham.
In 1867, Joseph's brother, George, left the company to pursue his lifelong vocation to become a Methodist Minister. The company changed the name from G&J Meek to Joseph Meek & Sons. At this point, William, Joseph's son took a leading role in the operation and the future direction of the company, diversifying into other products and services, sewing machines, etc.
Throughout the 1870's Wigan suffered from a national and local slowdown in trade due to various circumstances. The business continued to diversify and retained similar levels of staff to previous years.
Advert - View
William continued to run the business and Joseph went into retirement and took up residence at Swinley Hall, now demolished, situated opposite St, Michael's Church, Swinley.
Swinley Hall - View
The 1880's arrived and things appeared to be normal trading years for the Meek's family business, there was no indication of the impending dramatic turn of events. In late August 1884, gossip and rumours in the town were rife with the demise of the company and the impending closure and possible liquidation of the company.
The rumours proved to be correct, an Official Receiver was appointed, Mr. T.J. Ridgway, his initial work identified a shortfall of assets against liabilities of around £7,600. The causes of the failure were given as, bad debt, money locked up in buildings, book debts, and having to substantially reduce the bank overdraft.
The Affairs of J. Meek & Sons Ltd - View
So ended a much-respected company with a 50-year history that had greatly contributed to the retail business of the town.
The large and extensive building remained empty for several years until 1890 when a company, Bonds, took up the cellar area, under the name of Meek's Cellars. The entrance to the Cellars was via the Old Post Office Yard. (see image)
The Cellars operated until 1920's.
Death of Joseph Meek - Link
1883 Electoral Register - Link , William living and owning properties in Rowbottom Square
Meek Family Photos - Link
Further information on the religious life of the Meek family - Link