"WIGAN, a market town, borough and parish, in the hundred of West Derby, in the deanery of Warrington, and archdeaconry of Chester, is pleasantly situated near the source of the river Douglas, and is 199 miles from London, 18 W.N.W. of Manchester, 12 north of Warrington, and 9 south of Chorley. The right of the borough to send members to parliament is prescriptive, and the first return was made as early as the 23rd of Edward I.; the right of election, by custom, is in the free burgesses, the number is only about 130, the corporation having a power to admit non-resident and honorary burgesses to vote, without limitation, which power has been some times greatly abused, and tended to increase the expense of the contests, some of which have been very costly to the contending candidates. The present members are James Alexander Hodson, Esq. of Holland grove, near this town, and Colonel James Lindsay, of Fifeshire. The municipal authorities are a mayor, one justice, and two bailiffs, all elected annually by the resident burgesses. Wigan enjoys some valuable privileges, derived from no fewer than nine royal charters, amongst these are, the trying all civil actions, the causes of which have arisen in the town, and for the trial of all felonies, not capital, committed within the borough. A court of quarter session of the peace for the borough is held four times a year. The rector of the parish is lord of the manor for the time being, at present held by the Honbl. and Rev. George Bridgeman. The parish church, dedicated to All Saints, is a fine and ancient stately building, the living of which is a rectory, in the patronage of the Earl of Bradford, uncle to the present rector. The other church is St. George's, the incumbent of which is the Rev. Benjamin Powell. The places of dissenting worship are, two chapels for the Roman catholics and independents, and a methodist, presbyterian, and baptist chapels, all these religious establishments have Sunday schools attached, which afford instruction to nearly 2,500 children. Here are also a free, and blue coat schools, a school of industry, clothing and bible societies, a dispensary, a savings' bank, and mechanics' institute. The corporation have a town hall, erected in 1720, by the then members for the borough. The commercial hall, appropriated to the use of the clothiers, on the days of the fair, is a commodious structure of brick, built in 1816.
The town is well supplied with water, by a company established in 1761, and well illuminated by gas, under a company chartered in 1823. The prosperity of Wigan has been materially advanced by its inland navigation: the Douglas is navigable from the town to the Ribble, at the point where it empties itself into the sea. The Leeds and Liverpool canal passes through the town, forming a communication with Liverpool on the one hand, and to the German ocean on the other. The Lancaster canal opens an intercourse with Kendal, in Westmoreland, and other parts. To a neighbourhood supported by manufacturers, and abounding with mines of coal, for which there is always a demand proportionate to its quality, which is peculiarly excellent, and includes the beautiful cannel coal, the advantages by these branches of transmission are of high importance. The principal fabrics manufactured here are home made linens, checks, calicos, fustians and other cotton goods; a considerable quantity of cotton yarn is spun in the neighbourhood, besides which there are iron and brass foundries, pewter works, and upon the Douglas are several manufactories for spades, and some corn mills; the power of the steam engines employed in the various works in the town and neighbourhood is equal to that of 600 horses. There are several springs or wells in the vicinity, which exhale a sulphuric gas, that bursts into a flame upon the application of a lighted candle, and continues to burn for several hours. Wigan Spa, or New Harrogate, is a strong sulphurous water, discovered some years ago, in boring for coals in a field near Scroles-bridge. It is said to greatly resemble the water of Harrogate, in Yorkshire, only that it does not contain so much saline matter. It has a considerable quantity of very fine sulphur; and has been frequently recommended in a variety of complaints with good effect. There is now a very elegant building erected for the use of those who resort to this spring, with conveniences for drinking the water, and for using it either as a hot or cold bath. There are many seats and residences in the vicinity of Wigan, occupied by noble, opulent and respectable families; some of these are in beautiful and attractive situations. The land around Wigan in general is well cultivated and fertile; towards the north and south west it gently undulates, and is agreeably diversified with hill and dale; towards the south it is more flat, while in the neighbourhood are many pleasing and delightful walks. The weekly markets are Monday and Friday, the larger being the principal; the fairs are on holy Thursday, the 27th of June, and 28th of October. The parish of Wigan contains one borough and twelve townships, including three chapelries. In 1801 the population consisted of 25,552 persons, in 1811, 31,481, and in 1821, 38,318, of which last number 16,716 were by that census resident in the borough; but it is estimated that the population since then has increased to 20,000 persons, being nearly double the number that it contained in 1801."
Royal National and Commercial Directory and Topography of the county of Lancashire - Pigot 1828