Wigan & Wigan
Lying within the
west extremity of Greater Manchester, Wigan and its surrounding areas
are probably best known for its coal-mining, its Rugby League, and for
the reference to its famous Pier by George Orwell in his book about
working-class life in the north in the 1930s. Yet this one-time music
hall joke has been refurbished and restored in recent years. The collection
of canalside warehouses and wharves, a major trading stop on the Leeds-Liverpool
canal has become a major tourist attraction in the town.
the Galleries Shopping Centre and Trencherfield
Not to be missed
by the visitor is Wigan Heritage Centre, with its permanent exhibitions,
a reconstructed 19th century schoolroom with living actors in period
costume, its canal boat rides and full-time Piermaster. There are also
displays of old trades, including clog-making and textiles. Wigan Pier
is located on the A49 road at Wallgate, just south of the town centre.
Once a major
northern coal producing town, (records show that the first coal pit
was begun in 1450), Wigan has developed into a modern town with many
Wigan & Wigan Pier.
Photograph Courtesy of www.webbaviation.co.uk © 2005
Once Wigan boasted
over 1000 pit shafts within 5 miles of the town centre, but these
have all gone and the over 2000 acres of industrial dereliction which
they created has been cleared and redeveloped in the past few years,
and slag heaps have given way to landscaping and green developments.
along the canal is the Trencherfield Mill, which houses what is claimed
to be the world's largest working mill steam engine, (several others
make similar claims), with its giant flywheel, which can be seen working
daily, as part of the history of cotton spinning in the region.
an old town, with a Charter dating back to 1246. Its parish church,
All Saints, in Market Street dates back to the 13th century. In this
church is the tomb of Sir William Bradshaw (sometimes called Bradshaigh),
and his wife Mable, (who had bigamously remarried supposing him to
be dead). According to one account of the legend, in 1324, ten years
returned from the wars in Scotland, promptly killed his wife's new
husband, and made her walk barefoot and dressed in sackcloth to their
home at Haigh Hall once a week for the rest of her life. The account
was made into a novel by Sir Walter Scott, and the event is still
marked by Mab's Cross in Wigan Lane
Over 2,000 years
ago, Celtic warriors settled in Wigan, and later the Romans built
a fort there, known as Coccium; excavations in recent years have uncovered
evidence of a major Roman presence.
By the time
of the Middle Ages, Wigan had become a constituent manor of the Barony
of Makerfield, and it had received its Royal Charter from King Henry
III in 1246 when it was made into a Borough in its own right. Its
new status as a Royal Borough is reflected in the insignia of the
town Coat of Arms. Lancashire had only four Royal Boroughs - Lancaster,
Liverpool, Preston and Wigan.
Wigan officially celebrated the 750th anniversary of the Charter,
and local artist Gerald Rickards was commissioned to paint a 37 foot
long mural recording this - it can be seen in the new History Shop
Gallery in Rodney Street (Telephone: 01942-828128).
when local authorities and boundaries were changed, Wigan became a
constituent Metropolitan Borough within Greater Manchester. Within
the borough are included the old township of Leigh, as well as the
smaller towns and villages of Abram, Ashton-in-Makerfield, Aspull,
Astley, Atherton, Billinge, Golborne, Haigh, Hindley, Ince, Lowton,
Orrell, Pemberton, Shevington, Standish, Tyldesley and Winstanley.
(See also: Towns & Villages of Wigan).
of the town's name is mysterious - there is no reference to it in
the Domesday Book. During the Civil War, the town was fiercely Royalist,
for which support King Charles II presented Wigan with a sword bearing
the Royal Coat of Arms; it still remains part of the town's civic
regalia to this day. This fierce loyalty was due no doubt to the fact
that the Earl of Derby, one of Lancashire's largest landowners and
Commander of the King's Forces in Northern England, had made Wigan
his headquarters. Nearby Parliamentary forces from Bolton captured
Wigan in 1643, looting the town and demolishing its fortifications.
In 1648 Cromwell himself headed troops into battle at Standish, and
the last battle of the Civil War was fought outside Wigan on the banks
of the River Douglas on 25th August 1651. This became part of local
folklore and was to be known as "the Battle of Wigan Lane".
of Derby, James Stanley,
was subsequently arrested and executed at Bolton. Wigan also witnessed
the very last act of the Stuart Cause in 1745, when the Young Pretender,
Bonnie Prince Charlie, passed through the town and lodged at Hallgate
for a time after losing the battle at Derby.
In the 19th
Century, like so many Lancashire towns, Wigan bore the full brunt
of the Industrial Revolution and saw dramatic economic and demographic
expansion due to its industries and its well provided canal system.
Bearings of Wigan
Wigan Coat of Arms
a Castle with three Towers Argent surmounted by a Crown composed of
Fleur de Lys Or, and for the Crest, on a Wreath of the Colours. In
front of a King's Head affrontee couped below the Shoulders Proper,
vested Gules, Crowned and Crined Or, a Lion couchant guardant Or.
On Either Side a Lion Or holding in the exterior Paw a branch of Mountain
Wigan Coat of Arms
its ancient origins, Wigan was unique amongst the Greater Manchester
Boroughs in having no formal Coat of Arms until quite recent times.
It was not until 1922 that Arms were granted by the Royal College
of Arms. The red (Gules) shield bears a three-towered castle in silver
(Argent), surmounted by a crown of gold (Or) composed of Fleur de
Lis. Above the shield is the Crest which comprises a red and silver
wreath on which rests the helmet (or helm) with a king's head in natural
colours, cut off just below the shoulders (Couped), wearing a red
robe (vested gules). In front of the king a golden lion lies (Couchant)
side two gold lions support the shield and carry in their outer paws
a branch of the Mountain Ash (known in local dialect as the Wiggin
Tree). This is a typical visual pun on the town name, quite common
in English heraldry.
At the base is a scroll with the town motto "Ancient and Loyal". It
is a very distinguished and unusual Coat of Arms inasmuch as it bears
so many positive references to the monarchy.
of Royal insignia into Arms has always been a privileged and much
sought after honour, and jealously guarded. While the king's head
itself refers to no particular monarch, it is thought to be a representation
of King Henry I. The couchant lion next to the king's head, and the
two lion supporters are also elements usually found in royal Coats
12th century seal also shows the three-towered castle, or castellated
gateway. These symbols indicate that Wigan was a town of consequence
and had Royal favour and patronage in medieval times. Even the motto
is in keeping with the "Royal" nature of the Arms. When King Charles
II granted the town's charter, it was recognised as "an ancient borough"
and granted "a special token of our favour for its loyalty to us"
- the "Ancient and Loyal" motto is a clear reference to this.