26 amazing Wigan Facts, don't believe me? Click the italic words to see for yerself!
▪ Wigan is situated in Southern Lancashire, in the North West of England.
▪ At the 2001 UK Census there were 81,203 people living in Wigan and 301,417 people living in Wigan Metropolitan Borough. That's 153,559 womens and 147,856 mens. And they all lived in 125,096 households, or as we call them in Wigan, Terrraces.
▪ There are 922 Jedis in Wigan according to the 2001 UK Census.
And the average Wiganer is 38 years old.
▪ Wallace And Gromit Live In Wigan.
Proof is visible in both The Curse of the Were-Rabbit and The Wrong Trousers.
▪ The Wigan Metropolitan Borough was formed in 1974, it covers am area of 72.66 square miles, making it the 9th largest Metropolitan Borough in the UK.
▪ There have, though, been plans in the pipe-line since 1888 to create a 'Greater Wigan', taking over areas control currently under West Lancs District Council control. Areas such as Skem, Appley Bridge and Parbold. It was most recently reviewed by the Boundary Commission in 2004 (Option B).
▪ Many people think of Wigan as a post-industsrial, coal mine scarred waste land. But 66% of Wigan Borough is open land. There are 23 Conservation Areas, 4 SSSIs, 4 Historic Monuments, 12 Ancient Monuments and over 600 Listed Buildings.
▪ In fact there are plans afoot to make the centre of Wigan Borough a Regional Park, sort of a mini National Park. See a map here.
▪ Wigan gained its first Royal Charter in 1100, making it the first borough in Lancashire and one of the oldest in all of England andwe're talking like in the Top 10 here! In 1246 another Royal Charter was issued, making Wigan a Free Borough. This enabled us to have our own Mayor, putting us on the same ranking as Lancaster, Liverpool and Preston.
▪ The current Wigan Mayor is Councillor John O'Brien. A Wiganese Mayor serves a one year term from May to May, known as the Municipal Year. They are voted for by Wigan Councillors.
▪ Talking of politics, Makerfield Constituency is the only parliamentary constituency the country to have returned a Labour MP at every election since the Labour Party was launched in 1906.
▪ Also, Wigan is home to the North West Regional Assembly. Although Labour's plans for Regional Elected governments were shelved the NWRA still performs some functions, who knows what though. It may be abolished in 2010 though.
▪ The old Wigan County Borough Crest was only drawn up in 1922. And the One in use today was made in 1974 to symbolise the new Wigan Metropolitan Borough.
▪ Wigan Has a 5% share in Manchester Airport. Manchester City Council controls 55% and the remaining Greater Manchester councils own the rest.
▪ Wigan is currently involved in a Transport project even bigger than Manchester Airport though. The new nine mile long A5225 'Wigan Gateway' will cut right across the Borough. This is the completion of a plan that was supposed to see the M58 carry on past Wigan to the M61. If you ever wondered why the M6 and M58 junction is so bizarre now you know why! From Orrell to Ince the A5225 will be a duel carriageway, it will cross the A58 between Platt Bridge and Hindley, whereupon it will become single carriageway until it finishes at Atherleigh Way.
▪ The 'Wigan Hub' is the Council's other big project on the way. It will involve merging Wigan Wallgate and Wigan North Western Train Stations into one single über-station. Possibly also incorporating the Bus Station too.
▪ If you have a big dictionary you may find an entry for Wigan. From the 15th to 17th century Wigan was a major centre for woollen bedding textiles, linen, calicoes and checks. So much so that Wigan gave its name to a canvas style fabric that was used for stiffening!
▪ In the 18th century Wigan was a popular Spa Town! Eventually though, the waters became too polluted from the booming coal mining industry. Wigan Was Also Famed For Its Pewter-Ware And Clocks!
▪ There has been a settlement at Wigan for well over 2000 years. The first known permanent settlement here belonged the the celtic Brigante Tribe. It was called Coccion or Chochion, a name derived from the red sandstone rocks around here. When the Romans arrived in Lancashire around AD79 they built a base here and named it Coccium.
▪ Wigan's current name (Wigan) is a bit of a mystery though. It could come from an Ancient British (Welsh)
personal name 'Tref Wigan' (meaning Wigan's Gaff). Another Ancient Briton possibilities include 'Wig Hen' (Old Fortress) or 'Gwig' (Forrest). It could come from four different Saxon words 'Wiccan' (witch), 'Wician' (Dwelling), 'Wig' (fight/battle) or 'Wicing' (Viking).
▪ However The Meaning Of Leigh Is Much Clearer, Coming From The Saxon 'Lea' For Meadow.
▪ Trencherfield Mill next to Wigan Pier houses the world's largest steam engine. A Unique Twin Tandem Triple Engine 2,500 Horsepower Horizontal Mill Engine, nonetheless! It was built especially for the mill in 1907 by Bolton Engineers John and Edward Wood.
▪ One of the last battles of the English Civil War was fought in Royalist supporting Wigan. The Battle of Wigan Lane took place on 25th August 1651. The brighter ones amongst you will realise that that date is two years after the King had been exceuted. So no surprises, the Royalist forces lost, again. Their leader, Thomas Strange (AKA Lord Derby) lost his head in Bolton a few days later.
▪ When the Monarchy was restored King Charles II thanked Wigan for its support by gifting us a Shiny Sword and thinking up the Borough Motto "Ancient And Loyal". Wigan remained a Royalist kinda town and in the 18th Century Wiganers supported the Jocobite Risings. Bonnie Prince Charlie stayed in the town on his march down to London and again on his retreat a few days later!
▪ Legend has it Wigans connection with Royalty goes beyond the 17th or 18th centuries. King Arthur himself is believed to have come to Wigan to fend off a Scot-Pict-Saxon Coalition invasion at a battle beside the River Douglas. The Anglo-Saxon chronicler, Nenius, said that the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th of Arthur's battles were fought on the banks of the Douglas. Evidence for these battles was alledgedly found in 1735, when the skeletons of hundreds of horses and men were discovered near the River Douglas just outside Wigan. One Archaeologist has even suggested that Wigan could be the site of the fabled Camelot. And no he wasn't referring to the Theme Park!
▪ Furthermore King Alfred The Great was said to have buried treasure underneath Castle Hill, which is an old Celtic Burial Mound near Golborne.
▪ In 1628 a local lad was convicted of trying to persuade protestants to become catholic. So he was hung, drawn and quartered at Lancaster Castle. Someone in the crowd got his servered hand and smuggled it back to the lad's Mam. And she donated it to St Oswald's Church in Ashton. The Holy Hand of St Edmund Arrowsmith is still on display at the church and is sometimes whipped out for special occassions!