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History of Wigan

History of Wigan
  • population: 81,203
  • phone code: 01942
  • postcode area: WN1-WN8
  • county: Lancashire

Wigan is a town in Greater Manchester, England. It stands on the River Douglas, 7.9 miles (13 km) south-west of Bolton, 10 miles (16 km) north of Warrington and 16 miles (25.7 km) west-northwest of Manchester

Wigan is the largest settlement in the Metropolitan Borough of Wigan and is its administrative centre. The town of Wigan had a total population of 81,203 in 2001, whilst the wider borough has a population of 305,600. The town is the headquarters of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, the top tier administrative body for Greater Manchester.

Historically a part of Lancashire, Wigan during classical antiquity was in the territory of the Brigantes, an ancient Celtic tribe that ruled much of northern England. The Brigantes were subjugated in the Roman conquest of Britain during the 1st century, and it is asserted that the Roman settlement of Coccium was established where Wigan lies. Wigan is believed to have been incorporated as a borough in 1246 following the issue of a charter by King Henry III of England. At the end of the Middle Ages it was one of four boroughs in Lancashire possessing Royal charters; the others were Lancaster, Liverpool, and Preston.

During the Industrial Revolution Wigan experienced dramatic economic expansion and a rapid rise in the population. Although porcelain manufacture and clock making had been major industries in the town, Wigan subsequently became known as a major mill town and coal mining district. The first coal mine was established at Wigan in 1450 and at its peak there were 1,000 pit shafts within 5 miles (8 km) of the town centre. Mining was so extensive that one town councillor remarked that "a coal mine in the backyard was not uncommon in Wigan". Coal mining ceased during the latter part of the 20th century. In 1974, Wigan became a part of Greater Manchester.

Wigan Pier, a wharf on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, was made famous by the writer George Orwell. In his book, The Road to Wigan Pier, Orwell highlighted the poor working and living conditions of the local inhabitants during the 1930s. Following the decline of industrial activities in the region, Wigan Pier's collection of warehouses and wharfs became a local heritage centre and cultural quarter.

The DW Stadium is home to both Wigan Warriors Rugby League Football Club and Wigan Athletic Football Club, teams both in the top-flight national leagues of their sport.

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