- Leigh, Greater Manchester
infobox UK place
country = England
region= North West England
postcode_district = WN7
static_image_caption=Leigh Parish Church and The Boar's Head
Leigh is a town within the
Metropolitan Borough of Wigan, in Greater Manchester, England. It is convert|6|mi|km|0|lk=on southeast of Wigan, and convert|6|mi|km|0 west of Manchester.
Historically a part of
Lancashire, Leigh has a population of 44,122 according to the 2001 census.cite web | url= http://www.wigan.gov.uk/NR/rdonlyres/D5DA1AA7-B094-45EE-941D-9C11895A643B/0/agetownship23Kb.pdf | format= pdf | title= 2001 Census Statistics | work= Wigan Council | accessdate= 2007-03-22]
The name "Leigh" probably derives from the
Old English"lea", meaning a woodland clearing or meadow, [cite web | url= http://www.ivillage.co.uk/pregnancyandbaby/babynames/name/0,,7057,00.html?name=Leigh&qry=leigh&page=1&max=1 | title= Baby name finder | work= iVillage | accessdate= 2007-03-22] or the Middle English"legh".
In the 12th century the town of Leigh was made up of six townships, including Chowbent, Lowton and Pennington, where weekly markets were held and a cattle fair held twice-yearly. Leigh was divided in its allegiance during the
English Civil War, some of the population supporting the Royalists cause while others supported the Parliamentarians. A battle was fought in the town on 2 December 1642, when 3,000 Chowbenters beat back and then routed Cavalier troops under the command of James Stanley, the 7th Earl of Derby. The Earl of Derby passed through Leigh again in 1651, when he spent his last night in the King's Arms, before going on to his execution in Bolton.
Industrial Revolution, Leigh was famed for its dairy industry and production of Lancashire cheese.
18th and 19th centuries
In the 18th century Leigh had a thriving domestic textile industry, mostly as a result of the large number of hand-loom weavers manufacturing in their own homes. However, one or two factories also existed. Over time more factories opened, so that by the latter part of the 19th century there were at least a dozen mills in the town.
Silkand rope-manufacture were also among local industries.
It is a tradition in the town that a local man,
Thomas Highs, was the inventor of a spinning jennyand the water framein the 1760s, the latter invention being pirated by Richard Arkwright, who subsequently made a fortune from the patent royalties. The link is commemorated in the town's Spinning Gate Shopping Centre and the town centre bypass known as Spinning Jenny Way.
In the second half of the 19th century
coalbegan to be an important industry and coal miningbecame the largest user of labour after the textile industry in Leigh. Parsonage Colliery was one of the deepest mines in the country, going down to over convert|3000|ft|m|-2|lk=on|abbr=on.
The extent of the mining in Parsonage Colliery increased in the 1960s with the driving of a tunnel (the Horizon Tunnel), which accessed previously inaccessible seams around 6 ft (2 m) high that were easy to work on compared to the previous seams of coal of 3 ft (1 m) or less. The seams were wet, and a series of pumps was used to remove the water into underground canals before it was finally pumped into the canal at Leigh. The winding engine at Parsonage was a steam engine, fuelled by methane extraction, while the neighbouring Bickershaw mine had a superior electric system. In 1974, the two were linked underground, and all coal was wound up at Bickershaw, which had superior winding facilities, while Parsonage was used for supplies. The entire Lancashire coalfield, including all of Leigh's collieries, is now closed to deep mining, although several open-cast mining activities are still in operation elsewhere in the county.
Other notable industry included the tractor factory of
David Brown Limited, which was located in Leigh following the acquisition in 1955 of Harrison, McGregor and Guest Ltd.'s Albion range of farm machinery products, and British Insulated Callender's Cables (BICC), formerly Anchor Cables and now part of Balfour Beatty.
In recent years the former site of Parsonage Colliery has been re-developed into a retail estate and supermarket.
Leigh Sports Village, currently under construction, will include a 10,000 capacity stadium to be shared by Leigh Genesis and
Leigh Centurions, a new athletics arena for Leigh Harriers, new facilities for Leigh East Rugby League Club, a new college campus, and leisure and business facilities for the community.
In 1875 the Leigh
Local board of healthwas established, consisting of the areas of the former Bedford, Pennington and Westleigh Local Boards of Health; and a Poor Law Union(administering the Workhouse). In 1894 the area of the Local Board, together with part of Atherton township, became the Leigh Urban Districtof the administrative county of Lancashire. In 1899 the Urban District was granted borough status, and became the Municipal Borough of Leigh. In 1974 the borough was abolished and its former area became part of Metropolitan Borough of Wigan, Greater Manchester. In 1998, an area (Lately Common) was further ceded to the Warringtonborough - one of the few parts of England to have been in three different counties in the last 35 years: Lancashire, then Greater Manchester, then Cheshire.
Bridgewater Canalwas extended from Worsleyto the middle of Leigh in 1795, and in 1819 the Leigh branch canal was cut from the Leeds-Liverpool Canalat Poolstock, Wigan to meet the Bridgewater at Leigh Bridge, giving access from Leigh to all parts of Lancashire, Yorkshire and the Midlands.
Leigh was the southern terminus of the convert|7.5|mi|km|0 long
Bolton and Leigh Railway. George Stephensoncarried out the survey for the line. It opened for freight on 1 August 1828 and for passengers on 13 June 1831. The first locomotive on the line was an 0-4-0called The Lancashire Witch. The town station was at West Leigh. Later the line was extended southwards to Pennington. The line was closed to passenger traffic on 29 March 1954, and later closed completely.
The second railway to serve the town was a branch line from the
Manchester- Eccles - Wiganline. It joined the earlier railway at Pennington: there was a station, originally named "West Leigh and Bedford" to serve the town. It was closed in May 1969, leaving the town without a passenger railway. Numerous freight-only lines crossed the town, but with the closure of the collieries these were no longer required.
Today the nearest railway station is at Atherton, convert|3|mi|km|0 miles to the north, leaving the large bus station as the town's only public transport link. Services to Manchester (even by limited stop bus services) are painfully slow (up to an hour to Manchester), preventing Leigh becoming a commuter town: a guided bus way has been suggested as a solution. [ [http://www.gmpte.com/content.cfm?subcategory_id=409693 www.gmpte.com] . Accessed [18 July] 2008.]
Leigh once had separate boys' and girls' grammar schools, which were abolished by the then Secretary of State for Education,
Shirley Williams, in the 1976 Education Act. Notable past pupils included Pete Shelleyand Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. Bedford High School, which now has specialist Business and Enterprise Collegestatus, was founded in that year by merging Leigh Grammar School for Boys with the neighbouring co-educational Bedford Secondary Modern School. Plans to demolish the former Leigh Grammar School for Girls, now a primary school, were passed in July 2008.
Leigh has a professional
rugby leagueteam – Leigh Centurions– whose main claim to fame is beating Leeds 24-7 in the 1971 Challenge Cup Final. They played in the Super League in the 2005 season. Leigh also has several amateur clubs, including Leigh East and Leigh Miners Rangers.
The town has a semi-professional football team, Leigh Genesis (formerly Leigh RMI), which plays in the
Unibond Premier Leagueas of the 2008–2009 season, sharing the town's Leigh Sports Village stadium with Leigh Centurions. The most successful amateur club is [http://full-time.thefa.com/gen/DisplayTeam.do;jsessionid=E6BA37E088DBD9E82E56FBF049E3E954?id=9256099 Leigh Athletic] , which currently plays in the Manchester Football League.
Leigh also has an athletics club, Leigh Harriers AC, founded in 1909, and a Rugby Union club, Leigh RUFC, based at Round Ash Park, which gained promotion in 2007 to the Miller League and is current holder of the Lancashire Trophy which it won in May 2008 for the third consecutive year. Attached to the club is a crown green bowling section which runs several teams in local bowling leagues.
Leigh's cricket club, Leigh Cricket Club, plays in the ECB Premier League Liverpool Competition.
Leigh's notable residents past and present include:
Matt Aitken, record producer and songwriter
* Brian Ashton, former coach of the England Rugby Union team
Tracie Bennett, actress
Tom Burke, opera tenor
Sarah Jayne Dunn, actress
Georgie Fame, singer
Leah Hackett, actress
Harold Hassall, footballer
James Hilton, author
Ronnie Irani, cricketer
Shaun Keaveny, radio presenter
Oliver Lee, actor
* Sir John Edward Lennard-Jones, scientist and academic
Paul Mason (journalist), Newsnightcorrespondent
Peter Maxwell Davies, composer
Steven Mullaney, cricket player
John Pendlebury, rugby league player and coach
Harry Pennington, wrestler
Lynda Lee Potter, newspaper columnist
Joe Reid, wrestler
Pete Shelley, musician
Nigel Short, chess player
Geoffrey Unsworth, cinematographer
Colin Welland, actor and playwright
John Woods, rugby league player
Pennington Flash Country Park, a country parkwith a large lake on the outskirts of Leigh.
*History of Leigh: [http://www.attar.com/pages/locate.htm 1] [http://www.leighsaintthomas.wigan.sch.uk/history_of_leigh.htm 2]
* [http://www.thisisleigh.co.uk Leigh Journal] - the town's local newspaper
* [http://www.davepennington.4t.com Photographs of Leigh]
* [http://www.leighlife.com/index.php Leigh Life] - the town's local discussion forum
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