My hometown, Wigan, has had some bad press in its time. Most famously in 'The Road to Wigan Pier' by George Orwell. In this book, Orwell set out to highlight the immense poverty of industrial mill-towns across working-class England and he reserved his last stop and the title of his book for the worst: Wigan. I hope to show that it is no longer so.
I was born and raised in Wigan, so you might be fooled into thinking that I can give you a good and honest account of the town. Nevertheless, since living in various different places over the past 3 years, I have returned with rose-tinted spectacles firmly in place.
One in a long string of mill-towns between Liverpool and Manchester, Wigan is often seen as a bleak place that is to be overlooked. However, after returning home from my travels, I now have a romanticized view of Wigan’s Industrial regalia. Whilst towns like Wigan and Manchester seem to want to escape their dirty industrial past (a Roman fort was reconstructed in Manchester and when building Wigan’s new shopping centre, they rebuilt a Roman under-floor heating system), I think our place at the heart of the first industrialized country, it is to be celebrated, and although the heritage centre at Wigan pier is now closed, the legacy of these beautiful Victorian civic buildings still remains and the mills are now trendy flats.
Although it does have a pier, Wigan isn’t on the coast, but it does make up for that with canals and lakes. The name ‘Wigan Pier’ is a joke, as said pier is only about two meters long and juts out into the Leeds-Liverpool Canal, where it was used to put coal onto barges.
Britain’s canals are now busier than in the height of the industrial revolution and are filled with barge holidays and people fishing. Wigan is no exception. The Leeds-Liverpool Canal bisects the ‘Wigan Flashes’, which are a group of lakes formed from mining subsidence and flooding, and this is a great spot for a walk or cycle with lots of wildlife and blackberries for picking.
Lastly, and in my opinion most importantly, another draw to Wigan is its world-class rugby league team, the Wigan Warriors. Rugby league is a minority sport popular in Lancashire and Yorkshire with noble beginnings: it broke away from its big sister rugby union after the upper class gentry forced the working classes out of the game by making it an exclusively amateur sport. The miners and laborers of Lancashire and Yorkshire couldn’t afford to give up a day’s wage to play so they got together and created their own league and this, in my biased opinion, far superior game was born. To end on a high note, I would like to mention that Wigan is this year’s Challenge Cup champions!
I am realistic. I don’t think this article will attract waves of tourists from the surrounding area, but if you are just passing through, don’t dismiss it straight away. It is worth staying a while!