Overton Arcade in the 19th Century

by Annette Edwards.

William Overton was born in Wrexham in 1813, he was the son of William Overton and Elizabeth Parry (widow of John Parry, maltster).

His father was a grocer in Charles Street and also a church warden at St Giles .He later bought the house at 30 High Street.  A.N. Palmer records that it was in existence as far back as 1699.

William Overton snr. died in 1826, William and his mother Elizabeth remained in High Street, Elizabeth was a grocer and tea dealer, iron monger and nail maker

In 1849 William jnr. married Elizabeth Johnson. Between 1856 and 1857 William was the Mayor of Wrexham. Over the years he acquired quite a lot of properly in the town.

2nd October 1858

MIRROR KNIFE-CLEANER. TWELVE KNIVES CLEANED IN FIVE MINUTES.—This useful domestic article is the most  compact, simple, durable, efficient, and economical, of the kind ever invented; is quite free from dirt, saves a vast amount of labour, and can at all times be used in or the kitchen. Price 12s. and 40s. To be had of Mr. OVERTON. High-street, Wrexham, and of most ironmongers, throughout the United at Kingdom.

In 1869 he opened an arcade on High Street which is still there today. It was named the OVERTON ARCADE.

10th April 1869

OVERTON ARCADE. The new arcade, extending from High-street to the churchyard, which has been named after the proprietor, is now completed, and is one of the greatest improvements that has been made in Wrexham for many years. The main building facing High-street is of brick, with stone dressings. The design is plain, with very little attempt at ornamentation, except the key stones over the windows, which are carved in groups of flowers and fruit. The elevation is 40 feet, terminating in a neat cornice, and the chimneys are capped, which gives them a handsome finish. The shop in front, is a very capacious one, measuring 25ft. by 22, with showroom over measuring 30ft. by 25. This has been taken by Mrs Scott, milliner and dressmaker, who will doubtless set it off to the best advantage in the display of her handsome stock of goods. The arcade is 125ft. long, and contains four shops, with show-rooms over and cellars under. Three have already been taken, No. 1 by Miss Bithell, who purposes carrying on a trade in the fancy line. No. 2 has been taken by Mr Peate, confectioner, and we perceive by his advertisement that he has obtained a wine license. No. 3 is to be devoted to musical purposes, and has been taken by Mr Harriss, organist of St. Mark’s. The roof of the arcade is constructed of iron, filled in with Hartley’s rough plate glass. The iron work is painted a delicate blue, after the style of the Crystal Palace, and the shop fronts are painted in two tints of blue, which gives the whole a very nice light effect. There are handsome wrought iron gates at both ends, and in the churchyard, or more properly Temple-place, are two fine offices. The dead wall on the side opposite the shops has been relieved by having four windows cut in it, which is a great improvement to the premises of Mr Owen, ironmonger, as well as to the general appearance of the place. The walls between the windows are cemented in panes. The bricks were supplied by the Ponkey Brick and Tile Company, and the stone is from Mr Dennis’s Cefn Quarries. Mr Heywood, of Queen-street, was the architect, and the contract has been carried out by Mr Samuels, who in this, as in several other jobs of the kind has given the utmost satisfaction.

26th June 1869

About this time there were many letters to the Editor of the Wrexham Advertiser, two contributors were “Jemima” and her “cousin Amelia” They are amusing articles which were about  the  current goings on in Wrexham.

AMELIA.  To the Editor of the Wrexham Advertiser.

OVERTON ARCADE. I suppose this has been named after the pretty village of Overton, grandmother said. I told her it was built by Mr Overton, who gave the fever ward to the town-you remember giving something towards that waterbed that Mrs Overton collected for. I remember (grandmother always remembers when she gives something) she said; but I never heard whether the poor things were able to sleep comfortable on that bed-l suppose they warm the water for it, By this time we were by Miss Bithell’s shop admiring the baby linen. This is No. 1, and in No. 2—Mr Peate’s-there is a large wedding cake. I asked Mr Peate who it was for, but he said they never tell those things. On the other side of the arcade Mr Owen has three windows. In one there was a perambulator, in another a baby-jumper, and in another a velocipede or a bicycle-I think it was. All this reminded me of Tottenham Court Road, where many tradesmen put in their windows-” Are you about to be married?” After eating a Bath bun and drinking a glass of wine at Mr Peate’s, we went to look at THE MUSIC WAREHOUSE.  Two young persons about to be married were looking at a piano, and Mr Harriss, the proprietor of the shop, was showing them what a good one it was by playing Will you love me then as now?” You would be surprised the many different kinds of musical instruments Mr Harriss has got-I never thought there was such a variety. Mr Harriss is very well up in the psalms, and he has procured most of the old-fashioned instruments described there by King David. Ot course, he has all modern musical instruments as well. Such has been the large sale of pianos that Mr Harriss talks of having a manufactory, and then he will keep a lot of tuners-nice young men who know their business. He showed us a lot of violin, harp, and guitar strings, all of the very best quality-as he says in his advertisement, as tender, yet as tough, he said, as a lady’s heart strings. Mr Harriss informed us that on the Monday following he was off to London to hear Hamlet” performed at the Royal Italian Opera, the author, Mr Ambroise Thomas, having invited him to be present. We might have heard and seen a deal more, but we were anxious to see the MAGAZINE DE MODES, Lately opened by Mrs Scott. This magnificent establishment shows that Wrexham is growing more fashionable as well as more flourishing. Some part of the fittings look like pure gold, or overlaid with pure gold after the manner of some of the ornaments in Solomon’s temple; and the hangings about the place are all of the most costly description. Even Uncle said that the whole place looked as if it had received a touch from some architectural Madame Rachel and been made beautiful for ever. Grandmother was greatly pleased with it, and said if the Town Council allowed anyone to go to Brown’s, of Chester, to get their wedding dresses, now we have such a nice place in Wrexham, they ought to be ashamed of themselves. I do not know whether she means those who buy the dresses, or the Town Council, ought to be ashamed of themselves. Perhaps both. When we were looking over the stock, grandmother asked what those new fashions were she saw in the advertisment called specialities.” If it were convenient she should like to see some-she never had seen any. The young lady winked at me, and said they were out of those articles at present, but they were daily expecting some in. There had been an immense demand for them. After seeing the sewing machines, and the black-eyed girls who worked them, we retired.

These are the people there when it opened.  Over the years many businesses closed and others replaced them. Some didn`t do very well.

29th April, 1869.

MAGAZINE DE MODE. MRS. SCOTT BEGS to announce that she will be prepared to  show FASHIONS in MILLINERS, DRESS- MAKING, MANTLES, COSTUMES, &.c” on MONDAY NEXT, the 3rd inst., and following day, and respectfully invites inspection of the same. 31, High-street, Wrexham,

SARAH SCOTT lived in Oak Villa on Grosvenor Road, she was the wife of Louis F Scott a dentist who had been born in Hampton Court, Middlesex. Sarah was from Gwersyllt and was the daughter of William Fenemore, a farmer.  . At some time the family moved to Richmond Villa, on Grosvenor Road,    By 1895 Sarah had decided to retire and leave Wrexham.  Her husband Louis died in Hampstead in 1898 and Sarah went to live with her daughter Amy in Tottenham.

5th June 1869

No. 1, OVERTON ARCADE. MISS BITHELL BEGS to inform the Nobility and Gentry of Wrexham and its suburbs that she has OPENED a FANCY REPOSITORY in the OVERTON ARCADE, High street, with a large assortment of Jewellery, Ladies’ and Children’s Under-Linen, French Boots, Fancy Stationery, Umbrellas and Parasols, Haberdashery. A choice selection of Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s Ties and Purses, Soaps and Perfumes in great variety. Miss B. begs to say she has purchased her Goods at the first Markets in Paris and London, and she hopes with strict attention and moderate charges to merit a share of the public patronage.

Miss Bithell places adverts throughout 1869, but nothing is heard of her after.

10th April 1869

OVERTON ARCADE. W. PEATE, ORNAMENTAL CONFECTIONER AND BRIDE CAKE MANUFACTURER, BEGS to announce that he will open in a few days, – with a choice and superior Stock of Confectionery comprising every article combined with the above business. Connected therewith will be an excellent RESTAURANT for Ladies and Gentlemen, where every accommodation and comfort will be found.

Over the years Mr Peate catered for many large events in and around the town, but in January 1871 he went into liquidation and the premises were advertised as “To Be Let”.

In 1879 he   sailed to New York. There he married Elizabeth Fulmer who had been born in Germany and he opened a confectionary store.

William died in 1915 in California.

17th July 1869

ALL THE NEWEST SOPRANO SONGS, CONTRALTO SONGS!! TENOR SONGS BASS SONGS!  PIANO-FORTE PIECES AND DANCE MUSIC AT EDWIN HARRISS’S MUSIC REPOSITORY, No. 4, OVERTON ARCADE, WREXHAM.

EDWIN HARRISS was born in London about 1842, his father George was an upholsterer.In 1865 he married Elizabeth Duff  in Camberwell, London. William was already a “Professor of Music” when

he came to Wrexham about 1865, by that time he was married to Elizabeth. In 1871 he is the only original occupier left in Overton Arcade; all the other shops were uninhabited.  In July 1871, his business went into liquidation, PETITIONS FOR LIQUIDATION. — Edwin Harriss, Chester Street, formerly of Overton arcade, High street, both in Wrexham, music seller,

In 1883 he accepted a position in Montreal.  Eventually he came back to England and moved to Hastings.

28th January 1871.

THE OVERTON ARCADE. DANGER! A young man named LEADBEATER met with a very awkward accident in the Overton Arcade, on Friday night week. It appeared that he was running from High-street along the passage, which was rather deficiently lighted, and came in contact with the gate at the Temple-place end. He struck his head and face against the gate with such force that he fell backwards insensible and had to be carried in that state to his mother’s home. Cannot something be done to avoid a recurrence of this kind of accident? If so, by all means let it be attended to.

In 1871 there was only one family of Leadbetters in Wrexham, Thomas the father was a watchmaker living in Temple Row with his wife Harriet.  They had five children including George 19, Louis 17 and Arthur 15, it`s not known who the unfortunate son was.

1 April 1871

1, OVERTON ARCADE, HIGH STREET. L.WHITING Announces a new Stock of Toys, Cabinet Goods Ladies Satchels and Travelling Bags; also a large assortment of Out-door Games, including Croquet, Cricket, Foot Balls, &c., &c. Dolls of every description.

Louisa Whiting was born in Liverpool about 1835, she was the daughter of William and Mary Ann Whiting.  After her mother’s death William came to live in Stansty with three of his daughters., Louisa, Marian, and Harriet.

By 1873 Lousia and Harriet were in business together and moved from the Overton Arcade.

THE MISSES WHITING Beg to announce that they have REMOVED their BAZAAR to No. 2, HIGH-STREET, where their Business will continue to be conducted in all its Branches, viz. TOYS, CABINET, PAPIER MACHE, AND FANCY GOODS, TORTOISESHELL, JET, AND PLATED JEWELLERY, BERLIN AND FLEECY WOOLS, THE NEWEST DESIGNS IN NEEDLEWORK, WITH MATERIALS FOR WORKING THE SAME. PHOTOGRAPHS, WATER COLORS, ILLUMINATIONS, OUTLINES, CHRISTMAS CARDS, &c. A great variety of JACQUES’S AMUSING GAMES and PUZZLES, suitable for the Season.

The sisters remained in High Street for many years; they are all buried in Wrexham cemetery

By 1882 a Mr Venn opened his business, each week he advertised different   meals.

14th October 1882

THE BEST BOWL of HARE SOUP in Wrexham at VENN’S New Dining Rooms, Overton Arcade, High-Street, Wrexham.

By 1884 they were doing quite well

POST OFFICE SUPPER—ON Tuesday evening, the officials employed at the Wrexham Post Office had their annual supper at the Overton Arcade Dining Rooms where a substantial and well served up spread was provided by Mr and Mrs Venn, whose catering afforded every satisfaction.

The couple continued with the business for many years

William Venn was from Liverpool.  He had been an outfitter / tailor in the town, but after the death of his first wife he remarried, from thereon he was a furniture dealer and dining room keeper.  The family lived in Charles Street for many years and William Venn died there in 1896, still a dining house keeper.

6th January 1883

THE ARCADE MUSIC WAREHOUSE. As will be seen on reference to our advertising columns Mr Robt. Reid (from Messrs. Boucher and Co’s, Chester) has opened a music depot in the Overton Arcade, High-street. Mr Reid displays a fine selection of pianofortes and harmoniums by the best makers, together with every description of music and musical instruments, and he also undertakes to supply a first-class band (consisting of any number of competent musicians), which can be en- gaged for balls, garden parties, entertainments, &c.

By 1885 Robert Reid `s business had failed.

4th July 1885

THE BANKRUPTCY ACT.  NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that on a petition dated the 29th day of June. 1885, a receiving order against ROBERT REID. of Overton Arcade, Wrexham, music dealer, residing at 24, Gwynfa Terrace, Hightown, Wrexham, aforesaid, was made by the County Court of Denbighshire, at Wrexham on the 29th June. 1885.

A later hearing was held in August the same year.

RE ROBERT REID. This was the case of Robert Reid, music seller, Overton Arcade, Wrexham. The debtor said the depreciation in his stock was due to the fact that many of the instruments had been out on hire, and were consequently worth less. The Deputy Official Receiver said the figures given by the debtor agreed practically with the result of his official valuation. The debtor, in reply to further questions, said he commenced business with £300 of his own, which had all gone through bad trade. He had not bought the business he had from anyone, but had worked it up himself. Most of his customers were men employed at the collieries, and work was very depressed. The Deputy Receiver then asked for the examination to be closed, and it was accordingly so ordered.

Robert Reid hasn`t been traced.

From the mid 1880`s more and more offices opened in OVERTON ARCADE, there were various auctioneers and estate agents   there.

ELIZA OVERTON died in 1882.

18th November 1882

THE LATE MRS OVERTON. As briefly announced in our last impression, this estimable lady died at Bodlondeb on Friday week, the 10th inst. The deceased was the wife of Mr William Overton. J. P., a gentleman who, in addition to worthily filling a number of important offices, was Mayor of Wrexham in 1865-66, and Mrs Overton, whilst occupying the honourable position of Mayoress, invariably took a warm interest in all matters with which her respected husband was in any way identified. More especially was she the friend of our local Infirmary, to which Mr Overton, during the period he occupied the civic chair, generously contributed a munificent donation covering the entire cost of erecting fever wards in connection with the Institution. Of the Church she was likewise a devoted supporter, and amongst other acts of well- directed liberality, presented the Communion plate to the churches of St. Mark and St. James, manifesting a lively interest in all matters pertaining to the services of the former place of worship, and taking a prominent part in connection with the annual Easter and Christmas-tide decorations. In short, whilst the deceased lady in whom every good and noble object promoted by her worthy husband found a cordial supporter-will long be remembered for her private virtues and her public works, her loss will leave a void not easily filled up, either in regard to her domestic relationships or the more extended sphere of her unobtrusive benevolence.

WILLIAM OVERTON died in 1899.

6th January 1899

DEATH OF AN EX-MAYOR OF WREXHAM. On Thursday evening a prominent resident of Wrexham, Mr William Overton, died at his residence, lrvon Villa, after a lingering illness, in his 87th year. The deceased gentleman was an ex-mayor of the town, and was chairman of the Wrexham Gas and Water Companies, and Wrexham Market Hall Company, whose property was recently purchased by the Corporation.  He was also president of the Wrexham Infirmary, a county and borough justice for many years, churchwarden, and treasurer to the National Schools Deanery Association and similar

institutions, and always took an active interest in educational and philanthropic movements.

By 1917 one office was used by the War pensions Committee.

CHANCE FOR TOMMY JACK. A scheme for the training of disabled soldiers and sailors as smallholders or skilled market gardeners has been sanctioned by the Minister of Pensions at the Wrexham Garden Village. Discharged men in receipt of a pension who desire to avail themselves of this provision should apply to the Secretary, War Pensions Local Committee, 4, Overton Arcade, Wrexham. Full allowances will be paid during the period of training, plus a bonus of 5s for each completed week of training.

In 1919 there was a bad blizzard which caused much damage in the town.

DAMAGE IN WREXHAM DISTRICT. The full force of the blizzard was felt in the Wrexham district, a noticeable indication to its severity being the welter of telephone wires festooned in all directions. Stout poles were snapped off by the weight of snow which accumulated on the wires, and all communication was soon at an end, a serious matter in view of the scarcity of skilled repair men. A portion of the glass roof of the Overton Arcade collapsed.

William Overton is remembered to this day, not only by the Overton Arcade, but that there is Overton Ward which is named after him in the Maelor Hospital.

Researched by Annette Edwards. June 2020.