I have delayed in Wigan partly because of the rain, but also as I needed to replan my route. As I arrived here the CRT announced a long delay to some major repairs on the Leeds and Liverpool with part of it closed until mid June. That would be too late for me even if I was driving it in my car, so my new plan is still to cross the Pennines but using the Rochdale and Huddersfield canal. Both are shorter but have lots of locks but more importantly both are open. At the moment anyway.
As a result I have had time to wander in Wigan, despite the rain and I have been incredibly impressed with the buildings in Wigan, or rather the old buildings. Let’s get out of the way the high rise flats (though they looked really well kept) from the 60/70s and the standard issue concrete building monstrosity from the same era. The buildings fall into two categories, the industrial mills down by the canal and the civic/ commercial buildings in the town centre. Some of the buildings have been restored and reused. Others have just been reused and a few are in danger of falling down.
Clearly there was a great deal of wealth in the town. It was known for pewter, clock and firearm manufacture, as well as coal mining pre industrial revolution. This accelerated and huge mills were built to make cotton as this became available in bulk along the canals and then railways.
I was surprised when the canal went through a place called Wigan Pier. I had assumed that it was a fictional book title. There is now an area, by the canal, that is proud of this name and Orwellian connection. It transpires that it wasn’t an area in Wigan in the industrial revolution – there was a wooden wharf that stuck out into the canal which someone once described as a pier. Not deterred I set off into town to buy a copy of The Road To Wigan Pier, but neither Waterstones or WH Smiths had a copy. As it describes Wigan and similar industrial cities pre WW II I shall keep looking for a copy.