The Old Courts
There is something quite magnificent going on in the centre of Wigan right now, something that is looking to the future, whilst firmly honouring and preserving the past.
Let me tell you more about Gerard Winstanley House which was formerly the towns magistrates court and police station but is now the home of a multi-arts thriving creative community.
The building itself is stunning:
It is a Grade II listed building dating back to around 1887 and of course, the first thing that hits you is the brickwork. The official records describe it as "red brick in Flemish bond with sandstone dressings and a slate roof".
The buildings stand on Crawford Street opposite the small little garden that belongs to the Parish Church of All Saints and it really does cut a very imposing figure from a seat in that garden.
But the dramatic architecture doesn't stop there - not only do we have the amazing red brickwork and intricate dressings, but we have towers and turrets too! The spiked tower at the bottom end of Crawford Street rises high above the brickwork pointing right up to the often dark skies above.
This is where the main entrance to the courts was, its large welcoming doorway still a big feature of the facade.
The symmetry and absolute craftsmanship of the building never fail to impress and it makes you wonder how much of this type of skill we have lost over the years.
Now those of you who have been paying attention will have noted that I mentioned towers and turrets, which does seem an odd thing to have on this building but as you walk up Crawford Street toward the Parish Church you are greeted with this.
Once you round the corner at the top of the hill you can then see the turret in all its glory, with yet another little tower thrown in for good measure.
These days the courts and police station have long gone, updated and replaced elsewhere in the town and everyone wondered what might happen to this magnificent building.
Would it go to rack and ruin like so many other buildings in the town, or would there be new life breathed into it, would it get a second chance?
The answer was firmly YES as the building was purchased and occupied by The Old Courts who have transformed the place and have refurbished the interior (still an ongoing project) to provide Art Galleries, a Theatre, a Live Music venue, a Cafe, a Record store, Band rehearsal rooms, Conference and Events space and even a bar.
There really is something going on there for any kind of creative person, and for anyone who just fancies dropping in and having a drink or something to eat.
There are regular events during "normal" times, obviously, Covid-19 has hit them hard in terms of what live events and shows can be performed right now, but the vibrant team behind the project work hard to bring virtual involvement as much as possible.
I will end with a visit back to the red brickwork, and the entrance to the very aptly named Bailiff Bar which is at the very bottom of the building around the corner from Crawford Street and on to King Street West.
If you do visit Wigan, then once times get back to normal, take a short trip over to the Old Courts and see just what is happening there.
You won't be disappointed.