Wigan

From Academic Kids

Template:GBdot Wigan is a large town in the north-western part of the metropolitan county of Greater Manchester, north west England, although traditionally lying in the historic county of Lancashire. It is the biggest town in the Metropolitan Borough of Wigan, with a population of around 90,000. The nearest major town is Bolton, and it is roughly equidistant to Preston, Liverpool and Manchester.

Contents

History

Origins

The first people reported to have settled in the Wigan area were the Brigantes. The Romans took over “Chochion”, as it was then known, in around 79 AD during one of many wars with the Celts and renamed the settlement “Coccium”. The Romans left some time in the 5th century.

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Wigan's coat of arms

By the time of the Middle Ages, Wigan had become a constituent manor of the Barony of Makerfield, and 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. How the town got its name is mysterious, although we know that it was named after 1086 (it is not mentioned in the Doomsday Book). Some suggest the name is old Welsh Gwigan, meaning settlement whilst others attribute the name to Saxon English or Viking.

Industry

Wigan was once important for coal mining and cotton textile production. The Leeds-Liverpool canal was used extensively to transport local produce. In 1818 William Woods introduced the first power looms to the Wigan cotton mills. These mills swiftly became infamous for there dangerous and unbearable conditions, low pay and use of child labour. After the 1914-18 war there was a boom followed by a slump from which Wigan's textile industry did not recover. The last working cotton mill, the May mill, closed in 1980.

Wigan Pier

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Wigan Pier

Wigan is probably most famous for its pier, once an important loading/unloading building for the mills and collieries, now a popular local museum and nightclub (“The Orwell”). Wigan Pier is certainly most famous for its connection to George Orwell and his novel The Road to Wigan Pier.

The town has a complex relationship with this association. Sometimes embracing it, the Orwellian link has provided the area with a modest tourist base over the years. However, most regard the insinuation that Wigan is in fact no better now than it was as the Victorian era slum with objection and frank hostility. A recent TV documentary about Orwell visited Wigan, and made the facile comparison to less-affluent areas such as Platt Bridge, commenting that not much had changed (see chav or scally). This was met with widespread local disapproval.


Culture

Music

Wigan has been well known for its popular music since the days of George Formby Snr and George Formby Jnr. More recently, The Verve were easily one of the most important British rock groups of the 90’s. Probably Wigan’s most notable contribution to musical culture was as the home of Northern Soul. The Wigan Casino was, from 1973, the location for weekly Northern Soul all-nighters, until it was demolished in the early 1980s.

Sport

Wigan's main sports teams are Wigan Warriors (rugby league) and Wigan Athletic (football). The two teams now share the JJB stadium Wigan Athletic were elected to the Football League only in 1978 and had little success for many years, but they have recently gained promotion to the F.A. Premier League and the 2005/06 season will be their first ever in the top flight. Wigan Warriors were for many years in the eighties and nineties indisputably the best Rugby League team in the world. While still a potent force in the game, recent changes to the structure and organisation of the game have diluted their dominance.

Wigan is one of relatively few towns in the UK to have an international-standard swimming pool in the town centre. The resident swimming club, Wigan Wasps, has produced Olympic standard swimmers, including medal winner June Croft.

Culture

Most locals would agree that Wigan’s cultural background is colourful. Known popularly as “Pie Eaters”, residents eat a massively disproportionate amount of pies. The name originally came from the Leigh miners, who berated the Wigan workforce who crossed the picket (they were forced to eat humble pie). Why exactly this led to such a rise in the popularity of pies, and all the wonderful recipies the locals have concocted over the years (e.g., a “Wigan kebab” is a pie in a barm cake; and a baby’s ‘yead is a pie served with mushy peas) is inexplicable. Somewhat less popular is the nickname “Woolyback”, used extensively by Liverpudlians, referring to inappropriate affection to sheep.

Sir Ian McKellen, the Shakespearean an actor most recently famous for portraying Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings, grew up in Wigan, but refers to himself as “Lancastrian” (not true, see above). The town has the very first ever branch of Marks and Spencer, the clothing and food store, and was for three years its headquarters. JJB, the sporting goods retailer, also originated in the town.

Many local residents proudly disregard the county boundaries of Greater Manchester, formed on April 1, 1974 by the Local Government Act 1972, and use 'Lancs', (short for the county palatine of Lancashire) on their mail. The Loyal Toast, 'The Queen, the Duke of Lancaster' is also still in regular use. See also Duchy of Lancaster.

Perhaps most ignominiously of all, Wigan is responsible for unleashing Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls on the world. Tasting these boiled sweets truly is believing.

External links

de:Wigan eo:Wigan nl:Wigan no:Wigan

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