One of the oldest boroughs in Lancashire, Wigan received its charter from Henry III in 1246 and was a key battle ground during the Civil War, staying loyal to the king, and being rewarded with a ceremonial sword and the motto 'Ancient and Loyal'. Joined together with Leigh it became the 9th largest Metropolitan Borough in the country covering 77 square miles with a population of 310,000.
Once the centre of the Lancashire coalfield, it had in the late 1800s, 1,000 pits within five miles of the town centre, however, the last colliery, Bickershaw, closed in 1992.
The towns’ most well known literary link is George Orwell, whose portrait of the town at the height of the 1930’s depression ‘The Road to Wigan Pier’ became a best-seller. Companies founded in Wigan include Heinz, Uncle Joe's Mint Balls, DW Sports and Marks & Spencer and it’s famous entertainers include George Formby, Frank Randle and Sir Ian McKellen. The annual Jazz Festival is known world-wide.
Wigan boasts strong sporting links and in 2013 Wigan Warriors, Wigan Athletic and Leigh Centurions all won their respective cup competitions.
For a town with an industrial image, Wigan's countryside is a constant source of amazement to visitors. The borough has three country parks, more Sites of Special Scientific Interest than anywhere else in the region, and a wealth of wildlife and rare plants. Wigan Pier, once a musical hall joke, has been restored as one of the UK's top heritage attractions.