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Towns
& Districts of Wigan


Leeds & Liverpool Canal at WiganWigan Market PlaceInside the Galleries Shopping Centre in WiganJaxons Court, Wigan
The Leeds & Liverpool Canal at Wigan, the Market Place, Galleries Shopping Centre and Jaxon’s Court

Abram

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-in-Makerfield

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.

Aspull

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.

Atherton

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”.

Haigh

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.

Hindley

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.

Ince

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

Aerial Photo of Leigh, Lancashire
Aerial Photo of Leigh Courtesy of www.webbaviation.co.uk.
Copyright © 2005.

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

Orrell

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.

Pemberton

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.

Shevington

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

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.

Tyldesley

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.

Wigan

Town
Centre – see Main Entry.

See
also:

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This page last updated 16 Nov 12.