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Whenever I express my enthusiasm for the Victorian shopping arcade I find someone voicing their agreement. There's something about the shelter, light, architecture, ornament, cosiness, and atmosphere of them that appeals to people. Not all people, however. Quite a few traders find the shop spaces too small for their needs and it's a fact that only certain kinds of businesses can flourish in these old arcades. Often it is smaller, independent, niche retailers. Clothes, musical instruments, confectionery, jewellery, books, hair-dressing and cafes are typical of the goods and services to be found in them. Of course, Victorian arcades tend to be found in the centres of cities so rents are relatively high and consequently retailers have to generate good sales to afford the small premises. Perhaps it's this that results in what appears, to my eyes at least, the higher than normal turnover of businesses in them. That's not to say that some don't flourish for decades: I can think of one arcade that has had the same joke shop and hi-fi retailer for at least the past forty years.
The Paragon Arcade in Hull city centre has a short and straight configuration - many are curved or have a right angle turn or a transeptal arrangement. It was built in 1892 by W.A. (later Sir Alfred) Gelder, a prominent Hull architect and politician who became Lord Mayor, and after whom one of the city's main streets is named. It is in the Venetian Gothic style and retains much of its original character. But, like most shops, the upper storeys are least altered and in this case the glazed roof is intact too. The glass is supported by highly ornate arches of cast iron.
The Paragon Arcade is a good, but not outstanding example of the type. It is modest, unlike the massive splendour of London's Leadenhall Market. Its ornament, though fine, cannot compete with that of The Royal Arcade, Norwich. And its glazing doesn't have the railway station scale of Southport's Leyland Arcade. But, its relatively modest scale notwithstanding, it is an ornament in the centre of the city where it stands.
photograph and text © Tony Boughen
Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 60mm (90mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/100 sec
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On