The Leeds & Liverpool Canal at Wigan, the Market Place, Galleries Shopping Centre and Jaxon’s Court
A former mining town, now fully reclaimed. It became notorious for the mining disaster of 1908 when 75 miners died in a pit explosion. Its name derives from Abraham, the family name of the Lords of the Manor until the 17th century.
Ashton means “ash town” and Makerfield means “the area in the clearing”. One of Wigan’s largest towns, close to the M6 Motorway, it is a thriving town, and has the Three Sisters Recreation Area nearby at Bryn.
North-east of Wigan, Aspull is a pleasant residential town, whose past was predominantly in mining and textiles, though all trace of spoil heaps has been removed and the area is fully reclaimed with newly planted trees. Haigh Hall and the West Pennine Moors are nearby. The Leigh-Pemberton family, (Robin Leigh-Pemberton is Governor of the Bank of England), are from Aspull.
There are several possible explanations for Atherton’s name : it may have been named after the Alder trees which grew there in great numbers, or perhaps from the old English word “Adder”, or Elder, meaning chief, or else from the many small steams (or “athers”) which run through it. A strong Puritan town during the Civil War, it was noted for the manufacture of nails, and later by nuts and bolts in the 19th century. Weaving and mining came to Atherton in the mid-19th century. One of Britain’s worst ever mining disasters occurred at Atherton Collieries in 1910, when 333 men lost their lives in a fire damp explosion at the Pretoria Pit.
Billinge & Winstanley
These two south-westerly areas contain 2 of the boroughs oldest surviving buildings – Bispham Hall built about 1560 for the Bispham family, and Winstanley Hall which had been occupied for 400 years up to 1984. Billinge is known for its quarried stone, from which many of Wigan’s buildings are constructed, as well as for its chair-making.
Golborne & Lowton
Until recent times, Golborne was dominated by its colliery. But since its closure in 1989 its old spoil heaps have been imaginatively reclaimed for leisure activities and new light industries. The name Golborne means “Golden Stream”, alongside which yellow flowers grew in abundance. Nearby Lowton has become a largely residential area in recent years, though it has Byrom Hall nearby. This was the ancestral home of the poet John Byrom, who wrote the hymn “Christians Awake”.
Although little more than a village, Haigh has had a considerable influence in the history of Wigan. Haigh Hall and its grounds were bought by Wigan Corporation in 1947 and now make up one of the region’s most beautiful country parks.
Originally a farming community whose manor was first recorded as Hindele in 1212. Hindley was a firm centre of Puritanism in the time of the Civil War. Until the late 19th century, it was famous for its two “burning wells”, caused by the seepage of inflammable coal gas through water. The home of Colonel Nathaniel Eckersley, who lived at Laurel House in Hindley, and had outstanding service as a soldier with the Duke of Wellington. A ceremonial sword, presented to him, for his quelling of the Peterloo Riots in Manchester in 1819 can still be seen in the town library. Much residential development has taken place here and nearby at Hindley Green in recent years, and this is complemented by the picturesque Borsdane Woods and Hindley Golf Course which is centred at Hindley Hall.
More properly, Ince-in-Makerfield, once comprised open mosslands; hence the name Ince from an old Celtic word meaning “island”. Along with Bryn, Ince Moss is still an important wildlife sanctuary. In the 19th century, the area was considerably developed for its rich coal deposits, and by the end of the century it was little more than a spoil heap of factories and mines. Subsequent subsidence due to these underground mines, has resulted in large areas of surface water accumulation – known as “flashes”. Ince has been totally regenerated in recent times, with considerable amounts of landscaping, new housing and residential facilities – all putting the heart back into the town.
Leigh, a major township in its own right, was dragged, kicking and screaming, into the Metropolitan Borough of Wigan in 1974. Loyalties are still very divided. The name Leigh simply derives from “lea” meaning a meadow. It was famous until the 19th century for its dairy produce, and its local cheese – the Leigh Toaster. Leigh is in itself an old town, dating back well into the 12th century. By the 18th century, the town had a thriving home-made textile industry. Local tradition has it that the Spinning Jenny and the Water Frame were actually invented by a local man, Thomas Highs, whose ideas were pirated by Richard Arkwright, who subsequently earned a fortune from the patents he took out on them. This is remembered in the town’s new Spinning Gate Shopping Centre, and the street named “Spinning Jenny Way”. Leigh was the place where the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and the Bridgewater Canal were to meet, and it became a significant canal town on this account, placed as it was between Wigan and Worsley. Eventually, as the Wigan coalfields paid out, Leigh took over as the largest supplier of coal to manchester factories in the region. Today Leigh is the epitome of civic pride, with its busy shopping centre being enhanced by a new market hall and shopping centre. The Turnpike Centre, located opposite the 1516 Parish Church of St Mary, is home to the Turnpike Gallery, an art gallery, concert hall and library. See also: Leigh Life Website at: www.leighlife.com
Close to the junction of the M6 and the M58 Motorways, Orrell was originally known as Orrell-in-Makerfield, to distinguish it from the nearby town of Orrell in Sefton, near Liverpool. The town was named after the Orrell family who held the estates on which the town stood for many centuries. On the completion of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal, Orrell saw an influx of traders and merchants from nearby Liverpool, and the modern town dates from this period. Traditionally, Orrell specialised in chair-making, with nail-making at Far Moor nearby. The former reservoirs now known as Orrell Lakes are a popular leisure and tourist attraction, with fishing, walking and picnic facilities.
A district within the borough of Wigan, situated about 2½ miles south-west of Wigan town itself, Pemberton has an old and long history, much now obscured in the mists of time. But, according to the ‘British History Online’ website (www.british-history.ac.uk), Pemberton existed as an entity in its own right long before the Norman Conquest of 1066, and afterwards probably formed part of the Manor of Newton. During the 12th century it was held by one Alan de Windle. Though once a major centre of coal mining in the region, very little still survives of its industrial past, and its once many pits and mines are long silent. By 1835 Pemberton was a township in the parish of Wigan and was adopted under the Local Government Act of 1854 . Later, in 1894, it became an Urban District Council. However, as early as 1904 an inquiry was under way to look into an application by Wigan Corporation for an extension of the Borough boundary by the inclusion of the District of Pemberton, and despite local resistance, it was agreed to do so in April of that year, and in November the final meeting of the Pemberton District Council took place. In 1974 the district of Pemberton was formally dissolved and added to the borough of Wigan.
The name Shevington means “the settlement below the ridge”, and it stands on the gradual slopes of the valley cut by the River Douglas. Shevington is predominantly rural, despite some 19th century mining, and the building of the M6 Motorway on its doorstep in the 1960s. Careful building and conservation controls have maintained its semi-rural character, and the village centre is a designated conservation area.
Standish is an historic township on the Wigan-Preston Road. Its name has two elements, meaning “Stone” and an “enclosed pasture”. The Standish Family held the lands for at least 700 years, dating from 1202. John Standish is recorded as having killed the infamous Wat Tyler in the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381, a deed for which he was knighted. Much of the original Standish Hall was dismantled and shipped to America, as it was thought to be the ancestral home of Miles Standish, military commander of the original Pilgrim Fathers who colonised the East Coast of America. The 16th century church of St Wilfred still has its medieval stocks and market cross.
Like many of Wigan’s towns, Tyldesley grew to prominence as a mining town. That has all gone now, and its pits have been restored to their former beauty by extensive land reclamation and development. The town is a bustling market town with its conservation area and market square. The town stands on the line of the old Roman road and Roman remains and artefacts were unearthed here in 1947. The town also became a major centre for yarn spinning, and in 1823 after a strike and lockout had occurred at Messrs Jones’ Spinning Mill, all the workers were sacked, and new hands hired to replace them. The new “scab” labour were known as “knobsticks”, and armed police had to be brought in to protect them from assault by the dismissed labour force who angrily lined the streets to the mill. Opposite the town’s market is the old church known as Top Chapel, built in 1789 for a breakaway sect of the Church of England, known as the Countess of Huntingdon’s Connection.