town north public
WIGAN, a municipal and parliamentary borough and market-town of Lancashire, England, is situated on the river Douglas and on the main line of the London and North Western Railway, 18 miles west-north-west of Manchester, 18 north-east of Liverpool, and 195 north-west of London. The Douglas is spanned by several bridges, and is connected with the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. There is also a branch canal by Leigh and Worsley to Manchester. The older portions of the town occupy the north bank of the river, the modern additions being chiefly on the south bank. The church of All Saints, Late Perpendicular, consisting of chancel with aisles and two chapels, was restored in 1630 and again in 1847 There are six other ecclesiastical parishes. The principal public buildings are the Royal Albert Edward Infirmary and Dispensary (1873, enlarged 1884), the public hall (1853), the borough courts and offices (1866), the arcade (1872), the market-hall (1877), the free public library (1878), the public baths (1882), and the county justices courts and offices (1888). The educational institutions include the free grammar school (founded by James Leigh in 1619 and rebuilt in 1876), the mining and mechanical school, and the mechanics' institution. The charities are numerous but of small individual importance, their aggregate annual value amounting to about £2500. A public park of 27 acres was opened in 1878. The town owes much of its prosperity to its coal mines, which afford employment to a large proportion of the inhabitants and supply fuel for the factory furnaces. Mills for making hats were established at Wigan in 1.182 ; and subsequently bell-founding and pottery-making were of some importance. The chief industry is now the maufacture of cotton fabrics ; the town also possesses iron forges, iron and brass foundries, oil and grease works, railway waggon factories, and bolt, screw, and nail works. The population of the municipal and parliamentary borough (area 2188 acres) was 20,774 in 1831 ; by 1861 it had increased to 37,658, by 1871 to 39,110, and by 1881 to 48,194 (23,508 males and 24,686 females) ; in 1888 it was estimated at 55,000.
Wigan is situated at the junction of three Roman roads, and there was a ford across the river where Millgate now stands. Many Roman coins have been found in the neighbourhood ; hence it is supposed that Wigan was an important Roman station. Numerous Danish barrows also exist in the neighbourhood. After the Conquest Newton (in which Wigan is situated) was bestowed on Roger de Poictou, but on account of his rebellion was forfeited to the crown. The rectory of Wigan existed before 1243, and the rector as lord of the manor received a charter for the town in the 30th year of Henry III. Wigan was a city of refuge for runaway slaves during the Middle Ages. It was one of the 120 boroughs selected to send members to parliament in 1306 ; but the privilege lay dormant until 1547. From the charter it received in the 24th year of Edward III., confirming its liberties, it is evident that it was already an important market town, while its fairs were on a large scale and regulated by special laws. It also received charters from Richard II. and Charles II. Leland refers to it as a paved town "as bigge as Warrington, and better builded." Camden describes it as "neat and plentiful." Wigan contributed £50 of ship.money to Charles I. in 1636. On the outbreak of the Civil War in 1642 it was occupied by the earl of Derby, and formed the central garrison for the king in Lancashire ; hut the entrenchments were taken by Sir John Seaton in 1643 after a desperate battle. It was again repossessed by the earl of Derby, but was retaken by Colonel Ashton in March, when the outworks and fortifications were demolished. On 25th August 1651 the earl of Derby was defeated at Wigan by Colonel Lilburne, when Sir Thomas Tyldesley was slain. A memorial pillar to Tyldesley was erected in 1679 and restored in 1882. The town was governed by a mayor, recorder, 12 aldermen, and 2 bailifik till the charter of 2c1 William IV. Under the Municipal Act it was divided into five wards, and is governed by a mayor, recorder, 10 aldermen, and 30 councillors. It has a commission of the peace and a separate court of quarter sessions. In 1885 the number of its parliamentary representatives was reduced to one.
Sinclai•s History of Wigan, ISS2.