Industrial town in Greater Manchester, northwest England, between Liverpool and Manchester, on the River Douglas; population (2001) 81,200. Industries include food processing, engineering, the manufacture of paper, fibreglass, and carpet tiles, tourism and leisure, and retail. The traditional coal and cotton industries have declined.
Wigan Pier was made famous by the writer George Orwell in The Road to Wigan Pier (1937). The pier has been redeveloped to include a heritage centre. This includes an exhibition, research centre, geological centre, history shop, souvenir bookshop, and meeting room. It was extended in 1996 with the addition of an art gallery, partly funded by the National Lottery.
Features Wigan Pier, the area of the Leeds–Liverpool Canal basin, including Tencherfield Mill, the world's largest working mill steam-engine; Town Hall (1867); Market Hall (1877); Royal Albert Edward Infirmary (1873); Wigan Alps recreation area with ski slopes and water sports created from industrial dereliction including colliery spoil heaps; large complex at Robin Park for sports, leisure, and retail
Industries major companies in the borough of Wigan include Heinz (one of the largest food companies in Europe), Shearings, and Girobank
History Wigan was the site of Roman and Saxon settlements; it was the Roman garrison Coccium. The town was granted borough status by charter of Henry III in 1246. It became an important trading centre in medieval times, on the road north through Lancashire between Warrington and Preston. Coalmining began in the area in the 15th century and Wigan prospered in the 19th century during the Industrial Revolution from the development of the cotton and engineering industries. Coal was distributed from here via the Liverpool–Leeds Canal to the Lancashire cotton mills. The Wigan School of Mines was founded in 1857. Thomas Linacre, one of the finest scholars of the 16th century and the first president of the Royal College of Physicians, was rector of Wigan 1519–24.
Wigan Metropolitan Borough
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