In 2013 Wigan Local History and Heritage Group was established by two local women, Anne Catterall and Sheila Ramsdale, to bring together people from Wigan with an interest in researching the town’s industrial and social past. The group has gone from strength to strength. We have a programme of guest speakers, visits to historical places, and evenings where we discuss and research local history topics. New members are always welcome.
One aim shared by Anne and Sheila was to realise a long-held vision of commemorating the many thousands of people who were directly or indirectly affected by the mining industry.
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. Only two years later, one of the worst mining disasters in Britain took the lives of 345 men at the Pretoria pit near Westhoughton.
And it wasn’t only men who were involved in mining. The Wigan ‘Pit Brow Lasses’ became famous and were depicted in a series of postcards. Children as young as 8 were also employed and shared appalling conditions.
The local history group decided that the time had come to take action to make the dream a reality. A sub-group was formed in order to obtain charitable status so that funds could be raised. Wigan Council are contributing by providing and maintaining a prominent town centre site where the monument can be located.
From the outset we were determined that the statue should show a miner, a pit brow lass and a lad. We have been fortunate to engage the services of Steve Winterburn, who has brought his skill and imagination to interpreting our design brief.
WHAMM’s steering group consists of 10 trustees – Sheila Ramsdale, Ray Hinds, Tom Walsh, Audrey Welsh, Margaret Settle, Neil Cain, Chris Gibbon, Marianne Howell, Lisa Nandy MP and David Molyneux (deputy leader of the Council). Charitable status was granted in January 2017.
We also call on the experience and assistance of many other people in the locality. On other pages you can see how YOU can help in this endeavour.
First maquette of how the statue may look, in the design studio of our chosen sculptor, Steve Winterburn www.stephenjwinterburn.com
The memorial to men killed in the Pretoria Pit disaster