The Wigan Mining Monument

WordPress blogger Wednesday’s Child has been very quiet in recent months. Not suprising given that she’s a doctor working in a hospital in Manchester. I hope she’s keeping safe and healthy.

I enjoy reading her posts and particularly like one of her themes – statues and monuments in Manchester, Glasgow and other locations. Wigan, being a bit of a cultural backwater, has rather a dearth of public art works, but in recent years the local council and other organisations have made some effort to install some sculpture and monuments in and around the town centre. The most recent, installed last year celebrates the mining heritage of Wiagn.

Despite Wigan once being the “capital” of the Lancashire coalfield, there was nothing to mark that and celebrate the heritage of an industry that used to dominate the town. It took a group of volunteers -the Wigan Heritage and Mining Monument group, WHAMM – a registered charity formed by two local women Anne Catterall and Sheila Ramsdale, which raised the funds to provide a statue in a prominent location in Wigan town centre.

The project came to fruition last year but, unfortunately, the planned unveiling ceremony couldn’t go ahead due to you know what.

The statue, created by sculptor Steve Winterburn, depicts a man, woman and child, probably a family, all of who worked in the pits. They’re wearing the traditional footwear – wooden clogs with clog irons and as the sculpture doesn’t have base or plinth so that they appear to be walking on the cobbled street.

The woman, carrying a sieve or screen, would have been a “Pit Brow Lass“, one of the women who worked on the surface (women being forbidden to work underground by the Mines and Collieries Act 1842) at the coal screens on the pit bank (or brow) picking stones from the coal after it was hauled to the surface or loading wagons.

Coal has been mined in Wigan from at least the 16th century, and the industry grew to dominate the town, peaking around the end of the nineteenth century. According to local history records, in the 1840’s there were over 1000 pit shafts within a 5 mile radius of Wigan town centre. 

Source: Wigan World

The Northern Mining Research Society has compiled a list of colleries in the area that were opened in the 19 Century. There aren’t any left now – the last pits in the Borough and Lancashire coalfield closed after the big strike of 1984.

Over three centuries, more than 750 million tons of coal were mined from the vast Wigan coalfields, which over time had over 1000 pits, large and small. It would be difficult to overestimate the contribution of the town to the industrial revolution and the wealth it brought to Britain. However, this was achieved at great cost to local people. Hundreds of people died in accidents, and countless thousands were maimed or left with diseases caused by the working conditions. Two huge mining disasters are still remembered and commemorated more than a century after they occurred. In 1908, 75 men lost their lives in the Maypole pit near Abram.

WHAMM Crowdfunder website
Unemployed Wigan miner in the 1930’s Source: Wigan World

There are few traces of the industry around the town these days. So the monument is a very welcome addition to the town to remind us of a proud heritage and tradition, and, more importantly as a tribute to the thousands of local people – men women and children – who laboured in awful conditions in the pits

18 thoughts on “The Wigan Mining Monument

  1. Pingback: The Wigan Mining Monument — Down by the Dougie | THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON...

    • Thanks John. I’m also a product of miners, cotton workers and agricultural labourers. No rich or famous forebears in my family tree – except the General Secretary of the NUM was a cousin of my Grandmother.

  2. An interesting post and a nice sculpture. I really like the ones without a base, it makes them look more life-like – I photographed one of a mother and small child not far from the entrance to Blackburn station and there’s a lovely one of a mother with her baby, her daughter and family dog on the promenade at Fleetwood. It amazes me how they fix them to stay in place without it being obvious 🙂

    • Absolutely 😉It is near the memorial to the Wiganers who fought in the International Brigade in Spain, so another monument to working people – and Radical too.

  3. Hi sorry this is totally unrelated but have you done any walks round parbold or wrightington, I believe they are near Wigan? I should know more about the area as my Mum grew up in a very big crumbling old hall called Harrock Hall. Her mum and dad were Tennant farmers and they only lived in a tiny part of it as it was falling down in the fifties and sixties. I think I will try and discover the area more when restrictions are eased..

    • Wrightington is, indeed near Wigan. Until the lurgy hit us I regularly ran courses up at the quite posh Wrightington Hotel but I have to admit to never really doing any walking around there. However, there are pleasant fields and countryside in the area and I’m sure that there are plenty of good walks around there. You’ve now given me the idea of exploring the area!!
      I can recommend walking up to the top of Ashurst Beacon which is on the other side of the valley from Wrightington and Parbold. There are a number of routes up and it’s a good viewpoint. There’s a pub near the summit too – not open at the moment, obviously

      • Looking forward to your posts if you do any about the area. I think there is a hill near Harrock Hall called …. Harrock Hill, which you can walk up too. The Ashurst Beacon sounds great as well.

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