Picture Post, 1939
But Wiganers are not resigned to hopelessness and ugliness. The town has eight evening institutes, and over thirty classes for culture and recreation. The Education Committee makes a special drive to get girls and young men to take part in Keep-Fit activities.
Wigan, like "poor, proud, priest-ridden Preston," its near neighbour, espoused the Jacobite and Papist cause. During the Civil Wars, it was a Royalist stronghold and repelled Cromwell's attacks for three years, until the defeat of the Earl of Derby's army at the battle of Wigan-lane.
Later, the town joined in the Jacobite risings, the Lancashire plot to restore James II to the throne; and welcomed Bonnie Prince Charlie, both in advance and retreat, the '45 rebellion. Wigan's loyalty to the ancient cause was unshakeable. To this day, more than a third of the population of the town is still Roman Catholic.
Up to the end of the eighteenth century, Wigan was a market town. Then the great West Lancashire coalfield was opened out, and the working of cotton started on a large scale. Wigan, growing increasingly prosperous, took on the vulgar trappings of the newly-rich. The town, swollen with wealth and ugliness, assumed the smoke-blackened cloak of industry. The outcome - the tragedy of failing markets, unemployment, strikes and poverty - is modern history.
At the end of the 18th century Wigan was a market town. To-day it is a shopping town of consequence.
The 14th-century parish church is of cathedral proportions. One of its chapels belongs to the Bradshaighs - the family of the Earl of Crawford and Balcarres.