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Photos of Wigan
Photos of Wigan

Photo-a-Day Archive
Photo-a-Day Archive

Photo-a-Day  (Monday, 1st November, 2021)

Rodney Street

Rodney Street
Rodney Street, Wigan and the Life Centre with it’s Great Venetian Blind.

Photo: Dennis Seddon  (Sony DSC-WX500)
Views: 2,494

Comment by: Derek Platt on 1st November 2021 at 02:33

Always good photos from you Dennis. Never thought of the accessory as a venetian blind, more of a ladder to access the roof.

Comment by: Syd Smith on 1st November 2021 at 06:39

80 odd years ago you would have see a man named Eric Blair a tall feller with a pair of flannel bags, a fawn jacket and a mac", as one northerner described him – was pacing along the Leeds and Liverpool canal searching for Wigan Pier.

"Terribly cold," he recorded in his diary. "Frightful landscape of slagheaps and belching chimneys. A few rats running through the snow, very tame, presumably weak with hunger." The mill girls, scurrying to work in their clogs down the cobbled streets, sounded to him "like an army hurrying into battle".

Weeks earlier, Blair had set out from London armed with a small advance from his publisher, Victor Gollancz, to investigate the "distressed areas" of northern England. It was Gollancz who, to save the former colonial officer's family from embarrassment, gave Blair the pseudonym George Orwell when he published Down and Out in Paris and London and had come up with the idea for what would become The Road to Wigan Pier, a classic literary journey that critics called beautiful and disturbing. The New Statesman and Nation's review said of Orwell: "The honest Tory must face what he tells and implies, and the honest Socialist must face him, too."

Today the book seems curiously relevant to our own distressed times. An Old Etonian prime minister, in a cabinet stuffed with public school boys, has embarked upon the most radical reduction of public spending in generations, making cuts that have prompted robust criticism of their pace and scale. North and south are pulling apart once more – not yet to the extent where Orwell could describe his journey as if "venturing among savages", but getting there.

We are witnessing the longest squeeze in living standards since the 1920s, according to Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England, and its effects fall heavier on the north.

Orwell had only the vaguest notion of what he would write about and where to go, but tramping the north was newly fashionable among the literati: JB Priestley's English Journey was selling well and Aldous Huxley was visiting the Nottinghamshire coalfields. Following the Wall Street Crash and the global depression that it heralded, unemployment in places such as Wigan remained stubbornly high.

The Road to Wigan Pier sets out a hellish vision of a broken Britain, before delivering a long meditation on creating a fairer society. Its author favours a socialist solution, but then spends more time deriding socialism's mainly middle-class proponents in a voice and style that would guarantee him a Daily Mail column today and make readers of the Observer, for which he wrote until his untimely death in 1950, blanch. There's a lot of hand-wringing about the British class structure, the north-south divide and their commingling – a theme that appears to have lit a recent bushfire after the BBC Trust said that Radio 4 isn't "northern" enough. East of Wigan along the Leeds-Liverpool canal lies Salford, the BBC's new home so despised by its London staff.

Were he alive today to revisit his journey north, Orwell would find time and distance converging, the past rushing to meet him. I set out, armed with a credit card, to walk in his steps with his contemporary diary as my guide. Orwell was fastidious in recording the minutiae of his budget as he tramped north, using trains, buses and his own two legs. But where Orwell spent the best part of two months on his journey and nine months writing it up, I only have three days. Inevitably, I hop on a Virgin Express train to Wigan, availing of its complimentary Wi-Fi to mug up on my subject. Return fare from London Euston: £70.

He originally intended to go to Rochdale, home of Jack Hilton, a working-class writer whom he greatly admired. Hilton, a lifelong socialist, advised him to head for Wigan, where an incoming southerner would see the full magnitude of the depressed north. Ever since, Wiganers have regretted Hilton's advice, while cannily turning the infamy of Orwell's depiction to the advantage of their town. My grandfather was a Wigan miner whose bare skin, perma-tattooed with blue spiders' webs from the coal dust, frightened me as a child on summer days on Morecambe Bay shore. Orwell said the miners' marbled skin looked like Roquefort cheese, which would have meant nothing to them. He also condemned Lancashire cheese as "flabby", which only goes to show how food fashions change.

Grandad and his workmates couldn't understand why Orwell chose to dwell so relentlessly on the negative, the impact of which altogether erased his praise of the heroism of miners working underground in appalling and dangerous conditions.

Orwell's depiction of his sordid lodgings above a tripe shop – with an unemptied chamber pot beneath the breakfast table – makes great copy but tells us little about the living conditions of most Wiganers. It is an article of faith in the town that he only moved to live with the Forrests because of their low reputation and that his previous lodgings were too clean.

Orwell also visited Liverpool, Sheffield and Barnsley – each of which now finds itself in the political limelight. Embarrassingly for David Cameron, Liverpool has pulled out of his "big society" project, saying it is impossible to fulfil at the same time as having to take responsibility for slashing local services. Embarrassingly for Labour, Eric Illsley is behind bars for fraud over the MPs' expenses scandal after resigning his Barnsley Central seat and forcing a byelection next month.

In Sheffield, the local MP and Liberal Democrat leader, deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, is battling catastrophic opinion poll ratings for flip-flopping over an £80m loan to Sheffield Forgemasters set up by Labour before the general election – the coalition government said it was unaffordable.

A large pawnshop is the first impression of Wigan: it faces the railway station. Turn left and walk the short distance to Wigan Pier and you will find it corralled by signs offering residential and commercial space for sale and to let. A plaque commemorates the Queen's opening of Wigan Pier in March 1986, 50 years after Orwell's forlorn efforts to find it.

In fact the "pier" never existed, except in song and laughter. The story goes that day-trippers on the train to Southport, peering out across the blighted landscape in a thick fog, spotted a railway gantry leading to a jetty from which coal was tipped into barges on the canal. "Are we there yet?" asked a passenger, mistaking the ghostly outline for one of Britain's newly fashionable seaside attractions. "Nay, lad, that's Wigan Pier tha' cun see," replied the railway signalman. True or not, the pier became a music-hall staple of George Formby.

The Pier "experience"-cum-heritage centre was Wigan's revenge, cashing in on the one-sided portrait painted by Orwell. But the Way We Were museum, featuring a Victorian schoolroom and colliery, closed in 2007 and has stood empty ever since. At Wigan Pier Bar and Restaurant, they are serving pints for £1.75 until 7pm, but the only customer is John from Essex, a Traveller who has been living in Wigan these past nine years. John stays because the natives are friendly and "you don't get too many coppers about – they're too afraid to come out". He tells hair-raising stories about a local pub's "trannie night", which he claims is popular with ex-miners. The bar staff admit that the current trading conditions are abysmal. It's time to move on.

King Street begins with the Money Shop – "Cheque-cashing in no-time!" – and a jobs agency, but ends at the county court. In between lies Wigan's nightlife zone: Revolution, Outback Surfers Paradise, Mortimer's, The Hub, Jumpin Jaks, Chicago Rock Café, Maloneys, Legends, Elements, Ibiza, Madisons, The Godfather, Bamboogy retro bar and Reflex the 80s Bar. Guse's Kebabs feeds the hungry and stupefied as they tumble out on to King Street in the small hours.

The Wigan Observer reports that an eight-months-pregnant teenager was jailed for blinding in one eye a 34-year-old single mother by twice stamping a stiletto heel into her victim's face in a Wigan nightclub. Amy Smith, 17 at the time of the attack, said she was too drunk to recall what had happened. She will serve 33 months in a young offenders institute but what future is there for Joanne Brown? Permanently disfigured, her eye socket smashed in 16 places and cheekbone, jaw and skull fractured, she faces years of surgery.

Orwell read the local papers in Wigan Library, as I am doing, in an upstairs room backing on to King Street, but he didn't visit the town's pubs or observe Wiganers at play. His brother-in-law, Humphrey Dakin, a no-nonsense Yorkshireman with little time for Eric's politics, chided him for not taking in a football match and only seeing the worst of life up north.

Describing the British class structure, Orwell said in The Road to Wigan Pier that as a child he felt lower-class people were almost subhuman, with coarse faces, hideous accents and gross manners; feelings forged before the Great War when it was impossible or at least very dangerous for a well-dressed person to go through a slum street. Whole quarters were considered unsafe because of hooligans, he wrote.

I grew so tired of people telling me they were certain that Orwell wouldn't recognise Wigan today that, spying a meeting in Crompton Street spiritualist church, I entered in the hope that I would be able to contact the author and put an end to the riddle. Unfortunately my mobile phone rang at an inopportune moment – when the psychic was describing the presence of the spirit of an eight-year-old girl standing next to a supposed relative – and I retreated into the night, leaving behind a promise of "Psychic Suppers, including hot pot for £7" and an "Extravaganza of Mediums – £12 per reading". Next door Gala Bingo's car park was two-thirds full.

Orwell was constantly cold in Wigan and complained about the food – particularly the local delicacy of cold tripe seasoned with vinegar, a dish that my father still recalls with Proustian pleasure. I had the opposite problem, with stiflingly warm bars, cafes, restaurants and hotel rooms, and an excess of culinary choice ranging through McDonald's, KFC, Subway and assorted bakeries, Chinese buffets and Indian sit-in/carry-outs.

Preparing for an interview with David Molyneux, the council's deputy leader, over a fried breakfast (£4; mug of tea 30p), a slice of black pudding lurking beneath the bubble and squeak spurted on to my shirt when I stabbed it. "It's took us a long time to get over his books," said Molyneux of Orwell, who lodged in his ward. "I can't say he did us any favours; the flat-cap-and-whippet syndrome stuck around longer than we wanted."

Labour is the permanent party of local government in Wigan metropolitan borough, holding 24 out of 25 wards. Molyneux said the budget would be reduced by £55m over the next three years, with the loss of 820 public-sector jobs. "It's not good, I can't deny that we're suffering." Through schemes such as the Working Neighbourhood Fund, which ends in April, "we've created a new business every day last year".

The demise of the North West Development Agency means that a well-advanced inner relief road scheme to tackle the town's traffic congestion has been abandoned, along with other redevelopment projects.

Molyneux, a miner's son, was dismissive of Cameron's "big society". Two volunteer-staffed libraries have been running successfully on outlying housing estates for several years, with plans to extend the concept to civic and leisure centres. "When councils are close to the voluntary sector these are things that grow organically, not a back-of-a-fag-packet idea like this 'big society' stuff from the Con-Dems," he huffed.

Across the Pennines in Barnsley, Meg Munn, MP for Sheffield Heeley, is on familiar territory as she joins the Labour byelection campaign to hold Illsley's seat: she was a social worker here in the 1990s. "The big worry is that as a result of this government's policies we do get back to the things that Orwell wrote about, the north-south divide, which was very evident in Sheffield and Barnsley in the 1980s and 1990s. Physically both are completely transformed. When I first came here it was terrible, with most of the shops boarded up."

This was my first visit to Sheffield since the miners' strike of the mid-1980s and I was staggered by the city's transformation. New buildings, public spaces and monuments all conspire to project a positive image of progress. A piercing siren goes off on the corner of Leopold Street and Barker's Pool and nobody reacts. "It dates back to the days when the great steel-hammers were going right across the city to let workers know it was the end of their lunch break," explains Paul Scriven, the Liberal Democrat leader of the council. "It's a symbol of Sheffield, proud of its traditions but forging a new future, letting investors know that this is the right city at the right time."

Scriven says he shares the frustration of his fellow Lib Dem council leaders who have criticised the government for front-loading public-sector cuts. "But we've shown that even in the worst year, this year, we've managed to protect frontline services. We are not closing any libraries, although opening hours will be cut slightly, and we saved 300 jobs by freezing pay rises for anyone earning over £21,000 for the next two years. We are having to cut 270 council jobs, but that's less than the 500 jobs we've just secured by Sky moving here. Of course, I'm frustrated that we are all having to make cuts because of the mess left us by the last Labour government, but I think political decisions are being made by some Labour authorities in the north."

Orwell said he would find little to interest him in Barnsley, which was a kindness compared to his verdict on Sheffield: "It seems to me, by daylight, one of the most appalling places I have ever seen." From his two months in the north, one image stayed with him above all others; a pale young woman "with the usual draggled, exhausted look … I thought how dreadful a destiny it was to be kneeling in the gutter in a back alley in Wigan, in the bitter cold, prodding a stick up a blocked drain. At that moment she looked up and caught my eye, and her expression was as desolate as I have ever seen; it struck me that she was thinking just the same as I was."

We cannot know if he was right, but it seems a rare moment, in a book about human sympathy, of connection between the man raised to be an officer of the empire and the proletariat that, however much he wished to embrace, repelled him still. Jack Hilton, the man who set him on the road to Wigan, hated the book, judging it a failure and falling out with the author. "So George went to Wigan and he might have stayed at home. He wasted money, energy and wrote piffle," was his damning verdict.

Victor Gollancz disagreed, but with strong reservations. He finally published it as part of the Left Book Club series, but included a foreword in which he rebutted Orwell's colourful views on the "fruit-drinkers" of the middle-class liberal elite, fearful that his readership might take offence. In a later edition, against the author's wishes, he deleted the polemical second section altogether.

By the time the book appeared in its distinctive tangerine soft cover, Orwell was in Spain fighting fascism. Alongside him were men from Barnsley, Sheffield and Wigan.

How about that Cyril.

Comment by: Helen of Troy on 1st November 2021 at 08:39

As a mere reader of Orwell's The Road to Wigan Pier. I would say he had it about right on the conditions prevailing at the time it was written. You only have to read the reports by medical & sanitary officers of only a few years before, to know what appalling conditions Wigan people lived in & rats being a minor problem.

Today Metropolitan Councils knocking down buildings & raising questionable structures don't make for a Bright New Future.....

Anyway a good, interesting article ' Sid '

Comment by: ex-WGS on 1st November 2021 at 08:39

article by David Sharrock in the Guardian 20th Feb 2011.

Comment by: Anne on 1st November 2021 at 08:40

Don't think we need an extended recent history lesson,we live here.It does look like a large Venetian blind Dennis.

Comment by: irene roberts on 1st November 2021 at 09:05

I much prefer the old library building to the Life Centre which looks to me like a child has built it from Lego. ""Krumbs" Cafe has been there for some years now, hasn't it? Just catching up with p-a-d as I have been a "Goth" in Whitby for the weekend, at the Goth Festival! Peter and I looked like we were advertising for Middleton and Wood!

Comment by: Anne on 1st November 2021 at 09:49

Middleton and Wood…..there’s a business name from the past. Are they still trading?

Comment by: Helen of Troy on 1st November 2021 at 10:03

Does anyone know if there is still a chapel building in Rodney St ? My cousin the late Fred Foster always talked about Rodney Street Chapel being the main chapel of Mitchell St Chapel in Pemberton.

Comment by: Poet on 1st November 2021 at 10:16

I miss the baths and the smell of chlorine and trunks rolled up in a towel and the foot bath of disinfectant you walked through and inching slowly down the ladder and the polystyrene floats and learning to swim land singing in the cubicle and throwing in the locker key you wore round your ankle and the bubbly silence when you dived in to retrieve it and all the kicking legs and the red eyes through swimming underwater and the noise when you surfaced and the whistle blowing when someone went onto the top stage and the rite of passage that was touching the bottom of the 16' 6".

Comment by: Thomas(Tom)Walsh on 1st November 2021 at 10:59

Syd Smith , thank you for your article fantastic writing ,you have a great talent.
I was born in the Scholes area and very proud of its people I wrote an article for The Wigan Observer on the 80th anniversary of the publication of The Road to Wigan Pier I thought it maybe of some interest

As the 80th anniversary of the publication of that wretched book 'The Road to Wigan Pier' nears, there are moves afoot from various quarters to celebrate the occasion. And, while I can see that these efforts are sincere and well meaning, I take completely the opposite view and hope it passes with as little fanfare as possible. Although, I'm sure the author will be lauded as a working class hero, a title he neither sort nor deserves, not insofar as this piece of writing is concerned. I have no doubt that he was a talented wordsmith as much of his other, and some aspects of this work proves.

George Orwell did incalculable damage to Wigan at the time of printing and the harm carries on to this day, an example, American travel writer Bill Bryson wrote: "Such is Wigan’s perennially poor reputation that I was truly astounded to find it has a handsome and well-maintained town centre". Much of the blame for its "poor reputation" can be laid at the door of this odious book. Many commentators and politicians often refer to this work as a serious example of working class life in the 1930s nothing could be further from the truth, at least as far as homes are concerned. One of the few times he seems to begrudgingly admit that there is possibly another side to life in the North is when he writes in Chapter 2 " The whole of the industrial districts are really one enormous town, of about the same population as Greater London but, fortunately, of much larger area; so that even in the middle of them there is still room for patches of cleanness and decency. That is an encouraging thought. In spite of hard trying, man has not yet succeeded in doing his dirt everywhere." How's that for for being condescending, it almost takes your northern breath away!

To be a true insight, all aspects of life should at the very least be touched upon, not a mention of visiting what was a main source of recreation and social interaction ‘the pub’ of which there over 80 in the Scholes and Wallgate areas, six within a stones throw of his lodgings, not a word about the Churches, equally well attended in those days although often by a different clientele! Not even a nod to Mesnes Park, a jewel in Wigan's crown. These may seem trivial points, but they are not, it gives credence to the belief held by many, including myself, that he only saw what he wanted to see, namely squalor and dirt. He does however rage against the Roman Catholic Church in part two. I find it particularly unbelievable that a man who writes about his idea of the perfect pub ten years later, the fictitious Moon under Water,(Wetherspoon's got the the name from his ideas,) would he not at the very least visit a local watering hole, The Preston Arms was only yards from his chosen lodgings. I say chosen advisedly.

I was born in Scholes in 1945, nine years after his visit, and whilst obviously I have no knowledge of life at the time of his writing my Mother, my Father and numerous Aunts, Uncles and other relatives lived in the area throughout the 1930s. I questioned them about the book for an essay I wrote whist at school, I think in 1958 the twentieth anniversary of the first print, I can't be sure of that date but it does seem a logical conclusion, I remember a kerfuffle at the time. All of them, without exception reacted in the same way, his name being an anathema because of his unfair portrayal of Wigan in general and Scholes and Wallgate in particular. As they pointed out that were undoubtable problems, and some families where hygiene wasn't the first priority but these were a small faction. They readily agreed that poor housing conditions were rife but his description of the way people lived, they felt was deliberately misleading. Orwell's depiction of his sordid lodgings above a tripe shop – with an unemptied chamber pot beneath the breakfast table – makes great copy but tells us little about the living conditions of most Wiganers. It generally believed that he only moved lodgings because his first port of call was too clean, so much for accuracy!

The vast majority of people lived in clean and well kept homes, albeit money wasn't in abundance, many houses still lit by gas light, with outside toilets but this doesn't equate to filth, far from it. Women would take a great pride in their homes often mopping steps on a daily basis and woe betide you if you walked on their mopping. Home baking was practiced almost universally , especially on Sundays. Washing day Monday, there was a joke that there was a rainbow over Scholes on Mondays. Bedrooms Tuesday and so forth. All this a thousand miles from Orwell's portrayal .He painted a picture of filth and despair. I believe he came to the North with an agenda and a suitcase full of prejudices, he says in the book that he had lost most of the latter, alas he was deluding himself, to be fair to him I don't think deliberately, his canvas already partly painted he sought to fill in the spaces to suite his preconceived ideas. He completely ignored the side of life that didn't fit into his fantasy or that of his paymaster Victor Gollancz. According to Orwell's biographer Bernard Crick, publisher Victor Gollancz first tried to persuade Orwell's agent to allow the Left Book Club edition to consist solely of the descriptive first half of the book. When this was refused Gollancz wrote an introduction to the book. "Victor could not bear to reject it, even though his suggestion that the 'repugnant' second half should be omitted from the Club edition was also turned down. On this occasion Victor, albeit nervously, did overrule Communist Party objections in favour of his publishing instinct. His compromise was to publish the book with an introduction full of good criticism, unfair criticism, and half-truths. Almost like the book itself you might think!

Not only Gollancz and the people from Wigan found the book repugnant, a fellow writer Jack Hilton, who Orwell greatly admired, and who incidentally gave him the notion to visit Wigan, he had originally intended to visit Rochdale, Hilton’s recommendation that Orwell concentrate on colliers rather than cotton operatives was also significant, encouraging him at an early stage to see the representative working-class figure as a man engaged in skilled, essential, dangerous and ill-rewarded labour, Hilton described the book as “piffle”, Jack Hilton was a writer from a working class background and I'm sure saw through the snobbery of the book. Orwell would be the last person to think himself a snob but even a cursory reading of part two shows that he was, and in large measure at that. He claimed to be a socialist a claim that is spurious at best, again in part two he seems to decry so much of the principal and denounces the would be participants, although in the very last chapter he seems to contradict himself and struggles to champion what in earlier chapters he debunked. He did however join the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War to fight against Fascism.

On the positive side, and there are some positives,Orwell described graphically the harsh and inhuman conditions in which miners worked and this aspect of the book told a story that needed to be told, as did the harshness and unfairness of the Means Test but this didn't give him carte blanche to demean proud neighbourhoods in order to give his work "a shock factor ". It is thought in some circles that the book lead to better conditions in the mines, I disagree with this analysis. The improved conditions, came about because of two factors. World War II, and subsequent need for energy gave them a better bargaining position but by far Nationalisation of the industry immeasurably altered the lot of the miner, and not a moment too soon.

To say Orwell was selective in his choice of lodgings and houses visited would be generous, a generosity that should not be afforded a writer who claimed his work was a factual record, which in some aspects it was, telling some unpalatable truths, but to use the people he used to suite the aforementioned painting whilst almost completely ignoring the vast majority of well kept homes belittles what could, and perhaps should have been a chronicle of great importance. Highlighting the plight of the miner and the appalling conditions in which he worked. Orwell says in Chapter 7 "That the miners of Lancashire and Yorkshire treated me with kindness and curtsey that was even embarrassing” also said “if there was a man I felt inferior to it was the coal miner" and so he should be, they trusted him and in my opinion he betrayed their trust, as surely as if he had slapped them across the face with a piece of "black tripe".

I have thought long and hard before writing this book but on reflection I felt it was not only something I need to do, in fact it was my duty. A duty to my kith and kin and to all the descent people of my beloved, but much maligned Scholes of yesteryear.
If there is one paragraph in the work that caused me to rage more than any other it was this, in Chapter 4 - where he speaks of “superior ' types”.

“I found that the people in Corporation houses don't really like them. They are glad to get out of the stink of the slum, they know that it is better for their children to have space to play about in, but they don't feel really at home. The exceptions are usually people in good employ who can afford to spend a little extra on fuel and furniture and journeys, and who in any case are of “superior” type. The others, the typical slum-dwellers, miss the frowsy warmth of the slum. They complain that “out in the country”, i.e. on the edge of the town, they are 'starving' (freezing).'

This is a bit rich coming from a man who liked to be thought of as an egalitarian I hope readers don't think I'm over sensitive, it's just that this book is an abhorrence to me, the slum dwellers, a phrase he throws about like confetti, are my parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles, so I hope people will understand why it rankles so very much.

The following chapters are an insight in the life of a working class lad in from a northern town. I had a wonderful childhood in Scholes and wouldn't have wished to be born and raised anywhere else. Wallgate whilst I have only limited knowledge, I'm sure was equally as damaged by Orwell's blinkered observations as was Wigan as a town. Maybe you would need to be born within the sound of St.Patrick's or St.Joseph's bells to fully understand the community spirt and sheer goodness of the residents of Scholes and Wallgate. If there is an afterlife I'm sure George Orwell will feel a need to apologise to the good people of Wigan and the other towns he besmirched in such a cavalier way.

Comment by: Pat McC on 1st November 2021 at 11:53

I worked at L A Pardey & Co for many years (now an Italian restaurant), and I remember a man who was obviously going through a hard time, asking me if I could spare money for a cup of tea. I did, thinking to myself that he would go into Lennons and buy a bottle of cider or such. Much to my shame, he went straight into Krumbs. I've never forgotten that lesson, having in my mind made a big error of judgement which said more about my failings than his. It left quite an impression on me.

Comment by: Dennis Seddon on 1st November 2021 at 13:49

There as been much controversy about "Road To Wigan Pier" over the years, but the book is still widely read. Maybe that's because, like most books, there is an element of truth in George Orwell's description of Wigan at that time.
Mining was a rough job undertaken by rough men who came home from the Pit to live in rough conditions.
In a time when Pithead Baths were still something of a novelty for many miners, it's truly remarkable that they managed to keep themselves and their homes as clean as they did.
I think the book would have gained more credibility with the Wigan public if he had put more emphasis on that aspect of the situation.
The women of Wigan would have recognized the desolate woman kneeling in the rain with her arm up the gutter, but they would also have known why she was doing such a miserable job, she was doing it to make the best she could for herself and her family. She had much to be proud of. George Orwell was riding away from Wigan when he saw her. The woman could not do same.

Comment by: Veronica on 1st November 2021 at 14:42

I loved the Adult Library ( now the History Museum) I remember joining in 1960. Not only books but LP records were on offer. I had a Dansette record player so it was ideal borrowing them. They may not have been records in the Top Ten but that didn't bother me, I was quite satisfied with 'South Pacific' and Mario Lanza singing from 'The Student Prince' or 'Carousel' with Gordon McCrea, or anything from a film seen at the Scholes Pictures! I did have odd tastes then for a 14 year old.

Comment by: Aileen on 1st November 2021 at 15:12

The old chapel building is between Krumbs cafe and the Museum (the old library).

Comment by: Ann on 1st November 2021 at 15:14

Yes,Middleton and Wood are still a business,but I believe a much bigger company now than in the past.

Comment by: Mick on 1st November 2021 at 15:40

Welcome home Irene, I bet you wouldn't have needed to take so much make up with it being a goth festival.

Comment by: Cyril on 1st November 2021 at 15:51

Excellent Syd. Though I found some of Orwell's descriptions to be ghastly but at the same time humorous, such as his time at the tripe shop with the ever present thumbprint in the corner of the bread at meal times and this being from the landlord's thumb, and the same thumb he would see deep under the surface of the contents of the chamber pot the landlord would carry out every morning.

Irene, I too dislike that building in fact the council has served demolition orders on nicer looking houses. Shall we be seeing a photo of Peter and yourself on a future PaD or maybe the Album at the Whitby Goth weekend. It reminds me that I haven't read Dracula for a few years - time to dig it out methinks.

Comment by: Rev David Long on 1st November 2021 at 16:46

Helen, the "Christian Meeting Rooms 1858" are, strangely, not marked in any way, as are most churches and chapels, on the Old Maps - but it's in view here, adjoining the Library.
The building was largely the product of Timothy Coop's (of the clothing company) failure to find the right kind of strict, Bible-based Christianity he thought should exist - having tried a few of the others. He was an elder of the chapel for a while, and went on to found another similar chapel in Southport, before going to America, where he eventually died.
If there is a connection, the Mitchell Street chapel will probably have been established after he left.

Comment by: Edna on 1st November 2021 at 17:20

I know this is nothing to do with the photo, but I'm sure by now Dennis won't mind.Good photo Dennis,but Irene I love your sense of fun.You and Peter, and like Cyril I would love to see you dressed as a goth.!! Xx

Comment by: irene roberts on 1st November 2021 at 19:10

Sadly. p-a-d wouldn't allow my Goths pics, Edna and Cyril, as they were taken in Whitby, not Wigan, and "Album" is for old photos, so I can't add them. Mick, I ALWAYS wear make-up. It makes me feel better and I think every woman has the right to make the best of herself. Veronica has seen the photos of Middleton and Wood, alias Peter and Irene, haven't you, Dolly dear?

Comment by: Helen of Troy on 1st November 2021 at 20:09

Thank you David....both chapels were very important in my relatives lives.

Comment by: Veronica on 1st November 2021 at 21:36

I certainly have seen the pictures and I can vouch they are lovely and very much in keeping with Middleton and Wood and we all know they are a Wigan firm....nudge, nudge, link, link...;~)

Comment by: annemarie on 1st November 2021 at 21:57

I have to agree with Thomas and his last passage.I had a few early years in Wallgate and I never felt deprived.I felt safe and happy in those cobbled streets so in the after life if you need help getting Orwell I will be happy to help

Comment by: The Real James Hanson on 2nd November 2021 at 00:19

"East of Wigan along the Leeds-Liverpool canal lies Salford," - eeeerrrrrrrr., are you sure about that?

If you look at the hundreds of photographs of Wigan from the 1930's, including ariel photos, you won't see any "slag heaps" in Wigan. George Orwell told lies. Wigan has always been a 'well-heeled' town.

Comment by: Mick on 2nd November 2021 at 11:31

Yes Irene I know you like being caked in make up, what I was saying is that you wouldn't be needing as much to look like a goth

Comment by: Veronica on 2nd November 2021 at 11:47

I can also vouch Our Irene is NOT caked in makeup. She doesn't need it! She is very fresh looking with a girlish figure! She was representing Middleton and Woods Funeral Directors not Frankenstein Goths!

Comment by: DTease on 2nd November 2021 at 12:05

Mick, that’s just plain ignorant.

Comment by: DTease on 2nd November 2021 at 12:12

You’re not very real at all James Hanson if you think that there were no slag heaps in Wigan in the 1930’s. There’s one at Top Place that’s been there since the 1920’s and is still there now.

Comment by: irene roberts on 2nd November 2021 at 13:53

Thanks Veronica and DTease., for your support and kind words. I would have given Mick's remark an answer if it had been worth one.

Comment by: Veronica on 2nd November 2021 at 14:27

He's too personal at times!

Comment by: Dave on 2nd November 2021 at 19:16

When I saw this picture and the blind , the Drifters song , Up on the Roof , came to mind and made me feel good. Good from bad , just how you see things ...

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