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The local area guide to living in Wigan

Wigan is a town in the metropolitan county of Greater Manchester, North West England. It sits alongside the River Douglas around 16 miles away from the city of Manchester. The surrounding area is called the Metropolitan Borough of Wigan, of which Wigan is the administrative centre. The town itself has a population of around 97,000, while the wider borough has a population of around 318,100.

Wigan was part of the lands of a Celtic tribe called the Brigantes, until the Roman conquest when it became a settlement called Coccium. In the Middle Ages, during the reign of King Henry III, it became a borough and possessed a Royal Charter.

It was, however, still a small settlement until the Industrial Revolution, when it quickly expanded both economically and in terms of population. Previously, clock making and porcelain production had dominated its economy but soon it came to be seen as one of the major coal mining and mill towns. There were so many pit shafts in Wigan that at one point a councillor observed that ‘a coal mine in the backyard’ was not completely unheard of.

Wigan Pier is particularly famous today, partly as a result of George Orwell’s book ‘The Road to Wigan Pier’. In the latter 20th century, when industry in the town declined, Wigan Pier became something of an open-air museum/heritage centre, with its warehouses and wharfs acting as a time capsule to years gone by.

Information about the local residents

The town’s population of around 100,000 has a mean age of 39.6, which is about average for England. It has a median age of 40, and about 17% of the population are under 16 while 16% are of pensionable age. More than 96% of people living in Wigan were born in the UK, while 1.3% are immigrants from the EU and 1.9% from outside the EU.

The education rates in Wigan are relatively low. 27% of people have no qualifications, while just 19.5% of people have achieved Level 4 qualifications or higher. That compares to 22.5% and 27.4% for England respectively.

This may be part of the reason that 4.2% of people claim Jobseeker’s Allowance, which compares to 3.3% for England, and a total of 17% are on benefit of any kind, 4% more than the rate for England as a whole.

Wigan’s households, on average, belong to lower social grades than is the norm for England. Just 15.7% are classified as AB, according to the occupation of the household’s main earner, while 28.3% are C1. That compares to 23% and 30.9% for England. More than 55% of households belong to C2 or DE, while in comparison 46% of households in the whole of England do.

Nearby schools

The borough of Wigan has dozens of primary schools feeding into around 20 secondary schools. These include Deanery High School, St John Fisher Catholic High School, and Abraham Guest Academy. St John Fisher Catholic High School performs particularly well under Ofsted inspection and in the league tables.

For further education, there is St. John Rigby College, Wigan and Leigh College, Wigan UTC, and Winstanley College.

Getting around

Wigan has fantastic transport links with two railway stations in the town centre. Wigan North Western is on the north-south West Coast Main Line with services to major English and S cottish cities and towns. Wigan Wallgate has lines running east and west as well, meaning you can go just about anywhere by train.

The bus system is comprehensive, regular and reliable, and if you prefer travelling by car Wigan has two major A roads linking it to the M6, M58 and M61 motorways.

Local shops

Wigan, despite being close to other larger towns and cities, offers great shopping opportunities in its own right and is constantly improving. The Grand Arcade Shopping Centre, open since 2007, has casinos, hotels and a vast array of recognisable retailers.

A new project is the development of the Wigan Pier, with the addition of some classy hotels, restaurants, fashionable stores and cocktail bars as part of a 10-year project.

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