Wigan Pier

Wigan Pier

Wigan Pier is the name given today to the area around the canal at the bottom of the Wigan flight of locks on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. [http://www.penninewaterways.co.uk/ll/wiganpier.htm Wigan Pier - Leeds and Liverpool Canal ] ] It is a popular location for visitors and the local community in Wigan, Greater Manchester, England, situated just a few hundred yards south-west of the town centre.


The original "pier" at Wigan was a coal loading staithe, probably a wooden jetty, where wagons from a nearby colliery were unloaded into waiting barges on the canal. The original wooden pier is believed to have been demolished in 1929, with the iron from the tippler (a mechanism for tipping coal into the barges) being sold as scrap.

The name Wigan Pier was possibly invented by and was brought to popular attention by George Formby (Senior) in the Music Halls of the early twentieth century and later by George Formby Junior who incorporated it into his songs. Someone looking out of an excursion train to Southport in the fog and seeing a coal gantry asked "Where are we?" and was told "Wigan Pier". [ [http://www.wiganarchsoc.co.uk/content/History/LinkPier.html Origin of the term] ] The tippler became the favoured location when people subsequently wanted to see it. There are references to it in songs such as "On the Wigan Boat Express" [ [http://www.themadmusicarchive.com/song_details.aspx?SongID=7870 On the Wigan Boat Express] ] .

In 1937, Wigan was featured in the title of George Orwell's The Road to Wigan Pier, which dealt, in large part, with the living conditions of England's working poor. In response to a critic he insisted "He liked Wigan very much — the people, not the scenery. Indeed, he has only one fault to find with it, and that is in respect of the celebrated Wigan Pier, which he had set his heart on seeing. Alas! Wigan Pier had been demolished, and even the spot where it used to stand is no longer certain." [cite book|author=George Orwell|title=The Road to Wigan Pier, ch 4|date=1937] Some have embraced the Orwellian link, as it has provided the area with a modest tourist base over the years. “It seems funny to celebrate Orwell for highlighting all our bad points, but Wigan wouldn't be anywhere near as famous without him," says the Wigan Pier Experience's manager, Carole Tyldesley. "In the end George Orwell has proved to be a strong marketing tool.” [ [url=http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/this_britain/article117176.ece On the road again] ] Others regard this connection as disappointing, considering it an insinuation that Wigan is no better now than it was at the time of Orwell's writing. [cite news |url=http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/this_britain/article117176.ece |title= On the road again |date= 30 April 2003 |publisher=The Independent |first=Paul |last=Vallely |quote=What he wrote still colours people's views of Wigan... But if Wigan is going to grow it's got to leave Orwell behind and sell all that.]

To see the difference, it is worth recalling a description of the canal scene from The Road to Wigan Pier: "I remember a winter afternoon in the dreadful environs of Wigan. All round was the lunar landscape of slag-heaps, and to the north, through the passes, as it were, between the mountains of slag, you could see the factory chimneys sending out their plumes of smoke. The canal path was a mixture of cinders and frozen mud, criss-crossed by the imprints of innumerable clogs, and all round, as far as the slag-heaps in the distance, stretched the ‘flashes’ — pools of stagnant water that had seeped into the hollows caused by the subsidence of ancient pits. It was horribly cold. The ‘flashes’ were covered with ice the colour of raw umber, the bargemen were muffled to the eyes in sacks, the lock gates wore beards of ice. It seemed a world from which vegetation had been banished; nothing existed except smoke, shale, ice, mud, ashes, and foul water." [cite book|author=George Orwell|title=The Road to Wigan Pier, ch 7|date=1937]

Today, the slag heaps have been removed or landscaped with trees, the factories are closed or converted to housing and the canal is only used for recreational boating and fishing.

Existing buildings

The pier was at the end of a narrow gauge tramway from a colliery. The wagons would be brought right to the edge of the canal to be tippled so that their contents went straight into the waiting barges. The original wooden pier is believed to have been demolished in 1929, with the iron from the tippler being sold as scrap. Because of the more recent pride in the area's heritage, a replica tippler, consisting of two curved rails, has been erected at the original location.

The former Wigan Terminus Warehouses were built in the 18th century and refurbished in the 1980s. Boats could moor inside the building and off-load directly into the warehouse [ [http://www.towpathtreks.co.uk/LLC/wigan.html#wiganpier The Leeds Liverpool Canal: Wigan ] ] .

A warehouse with covered loading bays, converted into a museum of Victorian life (often mistakenly thought to be Wigan Pier) and the home to The Way We Were [ [http://www.towpathtreks.co.uk/wigan.html The Leeds and Liverpool Canal: Wigan] ] was part of the Wigan Pier Experience museum and exhibition centre. The exhibition featured a Victorian school room, a colliery disaster, the Second Boer War and (on the top floor) a complete pub transported from Hope Street and reconstructed by shopping centre developers. The Wigan Pier Theatre Company used these displays to remind present generations of "The Way We Were" – not always a happy life. [ [http://www.britains-waterways.com/leedslivold.htm Britain's Waterways - Wigan Pier & Skipton Castle ] ] . The attraction closed on 20 December 2007. [cite web| title = Wigan Pier Closing Down Message| work = Wigan Leisure & Culture Trust| publisher = WLCT| date = 2007| url = http://www.wlct.org/Tourism/Wiganpier/wiganpier.htm| accessdate = 2008-02-27]

Gibson's Warehouse is a Victorian cotton warehouse, originally built in 1777, re-built in 1984 as "The Orwell at Wigan Pier", is situated on the canalside [ [http://www.wiganpier.co.uk/home.html Welcome To The Orwell at Wigan Pier ] ] .

Trencherfield Mill is a former cotton mill, located across the road from Wigan Pier - currently being converted into luxury apartments [ [http://www.wigan.gov.uk/Services/Environment/BuiltEnvironment/ExcitingtimesforTrencherfieldMill.htm. Trencherfield Mill developments.] ] It still contains the massive working steam engine which will be kept in the new development.

There are several bridges across the canal. Bridge #51 Pottery Changeline is a roving bridge, one which swaps the tow path from one side of the canal to the other, usually in such a way as to allow the horse pulling the barge to pass easily and without disconnecting its tow-rope [ [http://www.towpathtreks.co.uk/llc/wigan.html#wiganpier The Leeds Liverpool Canal: Wigan ] ] . Bridge #50 Seven Stars Bridge is adjacent to the Seven Stars public house, taking its name from "The Plough" star constellation [ [http://www.britains-waterways.com/leedslivold.htm The Seven Stars Bridge] ] .

Elizabeth House, whose address is The Pier, Wigan, houses the
Keep Britain Tidy campaign, which is a British campaign run by the ENCAMS environmental charity.

Wigan Pier Nightspot is a night club on the southern bank of the Canal. The club plays music predominantly from the bouncy techno genre. cite web|url=http://www.wigan-pier.co.uk/ |title=Wigan Pier NiteSpot |accessdate=2008-03-29 ]


The area is set to undergo a further transformation with the development of a cultural "Wigan Pier Quarter" which will include a performance centre and retail outlets. [ [http://www.wigan.gov.uk/Services/Environment/BuiltEnvironment/WiganPierQuarterRegeneration.htm Wigan Pier Quarter] ]

External links

* [http://www.wlct.org/Tourism/Wiganpier/wiganpier.htm Wigan Pier for tourists and visitors]
* [http://www.penninewaterways.co.uk/ll/wiganpier.htm Images from around Wigan Pier]
* [http://www.wigan.gov.uk/ Wigan Council]
* [http://www.encams.org/ ENCAMS]


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Look at other dictionaries:

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