WIGAN, a town, a township, a parish, and a district, in Lancashire. The town stands on the river Douglas, at a convergence of railways, and on the Leeds and Liverpool canal, 15½ miles S by E of Preston; is described to have been, in the time of Henry VIII., "as big as Warrington, but better built;" was the scene, in 1651, of the Earl of Derby's defeat by Lilburne; was visited, in 1745, in his march southward, by Prince Charles Stuart; numbers among its natives Bishop Woolton, who died in 1573, and Dr. Leland, the author of "Deistical Writers;" was chartered by Henry III.; sent members to parliament twice in the time of Edward I., and has sent two since the time of Edward VI.; is governed, under the new act, by a mayor, 10 aldermen, and 30 councillors; is a seat of sessions and county courts, and a polling place; publishes two weekly newspapers; is famous for a great and rich coalfield around it; exports vast quantities of coal and other minerals and merchandise, both by railway and by canal; carries on cotton-spinning in numerous factories, some of them among the largest in England; carries on also the manufacture of calicoes, checks, stripes, ginghams, table-cloths, and other cotton fabrics; has likewise some extensive linen-works, several iron-forges, iron and brass foundries, and manufactories of spades, picks, and edge-tools; occupies several acclivities; consists partly of old, irregular, narrow, crooked streets, and partly of new and well-aligned streets, with many good houses; comprises a main-street nearly 1½ mile long, with streets diverging from it to the right and to the left; and has a head post-office,? two r. stations with telegraph; three banking offices, five chief inns, several bridges, a town hall of 1720, a moot-hall, a public-hall, handsome public offices of 1864, a corn exchange, a theatre, a monumental pillar to Sir T. Tyldesley, a fine ancient parochial church restored in 1856, a handsome church of 1841 with tower and lofty spire, a beautiful church of 1864 with pinnacled tower, two other churches, three Independent chapels, three Baptist chapels, four Methodist chapels, two other dissenting chapels, three Roman Catholic chapels, a mechanics' institution and reading rooms, an endowed grammar-school with £229 a year, a national and blue-coat school, five other national schools, seven other public schools, an infirmary founded in 1869 and estimated to cost about £30,000, a dispensary, a workhouse of 1857 with capacity for 800 inmates, charities £1,199, markets on Mondays and Fridays, and fairs on Holy Thursday, 27 June, and 28 Oct. Acres, 2,161. Real property, in 1860, £107,134; of which £23,538 were in mines, £80 in quarries, and £1,200 in gasworks. Amount of property and income tax charged in 1863, £10,183. Corporation income, about £3,380. Electors in 1833, 423: in 1863, 845. Pop. in 1851, 31,941; in 1861, 37,658. Houses, 6,696.
The township is conterminate with the town or borough. The parish includes twelve other townships; and is ecclesiastically divided into W.-All Saints, W.-St. George, W.-St. Catherine, W.-St. James, W.-St. Thomas, Abram, Billinge, Haigh, Hindley-All Saints, Hindley-St. Peter, Ince-in-Mackerfield, Upholland, and Pemberton. Acres, 28,433. Pop. in 1851, 63,287; in 1861, 78,190. Houses, 14,387. The living of W.-All Saints is a rectory, and the four other W. livings are vicarages, in the diocese of Chester. Value of W.-All Saints, £1,500; of W.-St. G. and W.-St. T., each £300; of W.-St. C., £300; of W.-St. J., £150. Patron of W.-All Saints, the Earl of Bradford; of St. G., St. C., and St-T., the Rector of Wigan; of St. J., N. Eckersley, Esq. The other livings are noticed in their own several places. The district includes seven townships of other parishes: and is divided into the sub-districts of Wigan, Hindley, Pemberton, Upholland, Aspull, Standish, and Ashton-in-Mackerfield. Acres, 47,018. Poor rates in 1863, £35,522. Pop. in 1851, 77,539; in 1861, 94,561. Houses, 17,368. Marriages in 1863, 771; births, 4,246, of which 462 were illegitimate; deaths, 2,625, of which 1,429 were at ages under 5 years, and 27 at ages above 85. Marriages in the ten years 1851-60, 7,695: births, 36,296; deaths, 23,067. The places of worship, in 1851, were 15 of the Church of England, with 12,049 sittings; 1 of United Presbyterians, with 155 s.; 10 of Independents, with 3,412 s.; 5 of Baptists, with 780 s.; 2 of Quakers, with 204 s.; 2 of Unitarians, with 446 s.; 11 of Wesleyans, with 2,447 s.; 6 of Primitive Methodists, with 425 s.; 1 of Welsh Calvinistic Methodists, with 100 s.; 1 undefined, with 164 s.; 2 of Latter Day Saints, with 160 s.; and 9 of Roman Catholics, with 3,844 s. The schools were 45 public day-schools, with 5,710 scholars; 66 private day-schools, with 2,201 s.; 54 Sunday schools, with 13,095 s.; and 23 evening schools for adults, with 563 s.
John Marius Wilson, Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870-72)