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Metropolitan Borough of Wigan

Coordinates: 53°32′N 2°37′W / 53.533°N 2.617°W / 53.533; -2.617
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Borough of Wigan
Wigan Town Hall in 2023
Progress with Unity
Wigan shown within Greater Manchester
Wigan shown within Greater Manchester
Coordinates: 53°32′N 2°37′W / 53.533°N 2.617°W / 53.533; -2.617
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
RegionNorth West
Ceremonial county and city regionGreater Manchester
Historic countyLancashire
Incorporated1 April 1974
Named forWigan
Administrative HQWigan Civic Centre
 • TypeMetropolitan borough
 • BodyWigan Metropolitan Borough Council
 • ExecutiveLeader and cabinet
 • ControlLabour
 • LeaderDavid Molyneux (L)
 • MayorKevin Anderson
 • MPs
 • Total73 sq mi (188 km2)
 • Rank150th
 • Total334,110
 • Rank31st
 • Density4,600/sq mi (1,776/km2)
Ethnicity (2021)
 • Ethnic groups
Religion (2021)
 • Religion
Time zoneUTC+0 (GMT)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+1 (BST)
Postcode area
Dialling code
  • 01257
  • 0161
  • 01695
  • 01744
  • 01942
ISO 3166 codeGB-WGN
GSS codeE08000010

The Metropolitan Borough of Wigan is a metropolitan borough of Greater Manchester, England. It is named after its largest town, Wigan but covers a far larger area which includes the towns of Atherton, Ashton-in-Makerfield, Golborne, Hindley, Ince-in-Makerfield, Leigh and Tyldesley. The borough also covers the villages and suburbs of Abram, Aspull, Astley, Bryn, Hindley Green, Lowton, Mosley Common, Orrell, Pemberton, Shevington, Standish, Winstanley and Worsley Mesnes. The borough is also the second-most populous district in Greater Manchester.[5]

The borough was formed in 1974, replacing several former local government districts. It is the furthest west part of Greater Manchester, and it is bordered by the Greater Manchester boroughs of City of Salford and Bolton to the east, the Cheshire borough of Warrington to the south, the Merseyside borough of St Helens to the south west, and the Lancashire boroughs of West Lancashire to the west and Chorley to the north.


Wigan metropolitan borough was created on 1 April 1974 by the Local Government Act 1972. It was formed from the former county borough of Wigan along with other local government units from the administrative county of Lancashire.[6][7] These were the Municipal Borough of Leigh, the urban districts of Abram, Aspull, Atherton, Hindley, Ince-in-Makerfield, Orrell, Standish and Tyldesley. Ashton-in-Makerfield except for the parish of Seneley Green, the Golborne Urban District except for the parish of Culcheth and Glazebury in Warrington, the Higher End part of Billinge and Winstanley Urban District and the civil parishes of Haigh, Shevington and Worthington from the Wigan Rural District were included.

Before its creation, the name Wigan-Leigh was used in the Redcliffe-Maud Report. It was also suggested that the new metropolitan borough be named Makerfield. However, both names were rejected by a vote of 12 to 2.[8] According to an opinion poll in 2003, 26% of 299 residents surveyed felt they belonged "very strongly" or "fairly strongly" (4% very strongly) to Greater Manchester, 64% (28% very strongly) to the borough of Wigan, and 63% (31% very strongly) to Lancashire.[9]

The metropolitan borough was created from a highly industrialised area of Lancashire that was part of the Lancashire Coalfield and had an important textile industry.


Wigan borough covers an area of 77 square miles (200 km2), and is the 9th-largest metropolitan borough (out of 36) in England. The borough is the most north western in Greater Manchester. Within Greater Manchester it borders the Metropolitan Borough of Bolton to the north-east and east, and the City of Salford to the east. Outwith Greater Manchester, in the south it borders Warrington (a unitary authority in Cheshire); to the south-west it borders the Metropolitan Borough of St Helens in Merseyside. To the west it borders the West Lancashire borough, and to the north it borders the Chorley borough, both in Lancashire.

Wigan borough has seven Local Nature Reserves: including Wigan Flashes LNR, Borsdane Wood LNR, between Hindley and Aspull, Greenslate Water Meadows LNR within Orrell Water Park in Orrell, Low Hall LNR between Hindley and Platt Bridge, Pennington Flash LNR, Kirkless LNR at Ince and Three Sisters LNR, Ashton-In-Makerfield.


Local government[edit]

For 12 years from the creation of Greater Manchester in 1974, the borough had a two-tier system of local government, and Wigan Council shared power with the Greater Manchester County Council. The county council was abolished in 1986 by the Local Government Act 1985. Since April 2011, some of the borough's responsibilities have been pooled with neighbouring authorities and subsumed into the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, which covers ten boroughs including Wigan.

The first elections to the borough council were held on 10 May 1973.[10] The Metropolitan Borough Council is divided into 25 wards, each of which elects three councillors. Elections are by thirds, with one councillor from each ward up for re-election in each election year.[6] The borough council has a leader and cabinet system. The current leader is David Molyneux[11] who took over from Peter Smith, who resigned in May 2018,[12] having been leader since 1991.[13] The council rejected the idea of a directly elected mayor following a consultation in 2001.[14]

The Metropolitan Borough of Wigan is traditionally a Labour Party stronghold - the council has been Labour-controlled since its creation.[15] The local elections in 1998 resulted in a council with only two non-Labour members.

Labour had a majority with 43 seats at the 2006 election. The second-largest party was the local Community Action Party which had 15 seats. Community Action first contested Wigan elections in 2002, and won 18 seats in the 2004 election following the re-warding - their councilors are for wards in the middle of the borough, between Wigan and Leigh. The Conservative Party had nine seats, and the Liberal Democrats eight.[15][16]

At the 2008 elections Labour was the largest party with 41 seats out of a total of 75; the Conservative Party had 14 seats, Community Action Party eight seats, Independent seven seats, Liberal Democrats four seats, and one was vacant.[17]

In November 2010 (after elections in May), Labour was the largest party with 51 seats out of a total of 75; the Conservative Party had eight seats, Independents seven seats, Community Action Party four seats, Liberal Democrats three seats (one member currently suspended)[18] and two members were 'Independent Conservative'.

As of June 2011 (after May elections), Labour continued to be the largest party with 58 seats out of 75, the Independent Councillor group with 8 seats form the official opposition, the Conservative Party had 5 seats, the Liberal Democrats hold 2 seats, Community Action Party 1 seat and 1 Independent councillor.[19]

In May 2012 (post 2012 Local Elections) the composition of the council was Labour 63 (+5), Others 9 (-1), Liberal Democrats 2 (No change) and Conservatives 1 ( -4).

Presently in May 2018, the Council's political composition is: Labour 60, Conservatives 7, Independent 4, Independent Network 2, Shevington Independents 1, and Standish Independents 1.

The council uses Wigan Town Hall as its main headquarters.[20] Leigh Town Hall is used as a secondary base.[21]

Localities and wards[edit]

Map of Wigan Metropolitan Borough's electoral wards.

The borough is divided into 25 electoral wards, each of which elect three councillors. The present wards were adopted in 2023, following a review by the Boundary Commission, the previous review took place in 2003. Prior to 2003 the borough was divided in 24 wards.[22][23] From the 2003 Boundary Review until the 2020s, Wigan Council divided the borough into ten areas by the name of townships, each with a Township Manager (council liaison) and a regularly scheduled Township Forum meeting.[24] However with Austerity cuts This has been replaced with an ad hoc community consultation structure without regularly scheduled community forums or permanent council liaisons consisting of 16 communities or 'Places' divided into 3 unnamed 'Localities', the Locality at the centre of the Borough consists of Ashton, Bryn, Abram, Platt Bridge, Hindley and Hindley Green with all areas to the northwest forming a locality centred on Wigan and all areas to the southwest forming one centred on Leigh.[25] However two Town Centre Managers were appointed in Wigan and Leigh primarily to act as liaisons between the Council and local business.

Former Township Wards
Ashton-in-Makerfield / Bryn Bryn with Ashton-in-Makerfield North; Ashton-in-Makerfield South
Atherton Atherton North; Atherton South with Lilford
Hindley / Abram Abram; Hindley; Hindley Green
Leigh Leigh Central & Higher Folds; Leigh North; Leigh South; Leigh West
Lowton / Golborne Golborne and Lowton West; Lowton East
Orrell / Higher End / Winstanley Orrell; Winstanley;
Standish / Aspull / Shevington Aspull, New Springs & Whelley; Shevington with Lower Ground & Moor; Standish with Langtree
Tyldesley / Astley Astley; Tyldesley & Mosley Common
Wigan North Ince; Wigan Central; Wigan West
Wigan South Douglas; Pemberton; Worsley Mesnes

Civil & ecclesiastical parishes[edit]

The borough has three civil parishes: Haigh, Shevington and Worthington. The rest of the borough is an unparished area. Church of England ecclesiastical parishes in the west of the borough are part of the Diocese of Liverpool, those in the east of the Metropolitan Borough are part of the Diocese of Manchester and the northern section part of the Diocese of Blackburn.


The Wigan Metropolitan Borough is currently covered by four parliamentary constituencies, Wigan, Makerfield, Leigh, and Bolton West. (Atherton is the only Wigan ward included in Bolton West, with the rest of the constituency made up of wards from Bolton Borough). New constituency boundaries recommended by the Boundary Commission for the 2010 general election saw the link to Salford broken by the removal of Wigan areas from the Worsley constituency. This resulted in the Worsley constituency wards of Tyldesley and Astley-Mosley Common being placed in the Leigh Constituency with the Atherton ward becoming part of Bolton West.[26] Makerfield is the only constituency to have returned Labour MPs continuously since 1906.[27]

Coat of arms[edit]

Wigan council's new coat of arms is based on various elements from the arms of the councils of its predecessor districts.


Population pyramid of Wigan in 2020

With a population of around 300,000, Wigan is the second most populous borough of Greater Manchester, after Manchester. It has one of the lowest ethnic minority populations, with the 2001 census reporting 98.7% of the population as white. Unemployment is around the average for England and Wales. Approximately 9.5% of the population was recorded as being permanently sick or disabled compared to a national average of 5.5%.[28]

Population change[edit]

The table details the population change since 1801, including the percentage change since the last available census data. Although the Metropolitan Borough of Wigan has existed since 1974, figures have been generated by combining data from the towns, villages, and civil parishes that became constituent parts of the borough.

Population growth in Wigan since 1801
Year 1801 1811 1821 1831 1841 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891 1901 1911 1921 1931 1941 1951 1961 1971 1981 1991 2001 2011
Population 41,413 50,464 60,760 69,400 78,349 93,271 120,001 146,732 173,462 212,665 239,399 269,503 267,754 266,040 266,436 266,839 284,309 302,929 307,721 310,866 301,415 317,849
% change +21.9 +20.4 +14.2 +12.9 +19.0 +28.7 +22.3 +18.2 +22.6 +12.6 +12.6 −0.6 −0.6 +0.1 +0.2 +6.5 +6.5 +1.6 +1.0 −3.0 +5.4
Source: Vision of Britain[29]

The population of the borough has remained roughly static since the 1970s at around 300,000, second to Manchester within Greater Manchester.[30]

The ONS identify the Wigan Built-up Area as the western part of the district, as well as Skelmersdale and Upholland in West Lancashire, with a population of 166,840.

It considers towns in the east of the borough, Hindley, Leigh, Golborne, Atherton and Tyldesley to be part of the Greater Manchester Built-up Area.

Aspull and Shevington are identified as standalone urban areas and Ashton-in-Makerfield is considered to be part of the Liverpool Built-up area, sitting at the border with St Helen’s. The entirety of the Wigan borough forms part of the Manchester Larger Urban Zone[31]


Ethnic Group Year
1991<[32] 2001[33] 2011[34] 2021[35]
Number % Number % Number % Number %
White: Total 304,112 99.2% 297,506 98.7% 309,193 97.3% 312,952 95.0
White: British 294,149 97.6% 303,519 95.5% 302,482 91.8
White: Irish 1,744 1,459 0.5 1,353 0.4
White: Gypsy or Irish Traveller 151 <0.1 247 0.1
White: Roma 291 0.1
White: Other 1,613 4,064 1.3 8,579 2.6
Asian or Asian British: Total 1,477 0.5% 1,814 0.6% 3,519 1.1% 5,826 1.8
Asian or Asian British: Indian 499 681 1,019 0.3 1,532 0.5
Asian or Asian British: Pakistani 303 400 676 0.2 1,342 0.4
Asian or Asian British: Bangladeshi 46 72 109 <0.1 156 <0.1
Asian or Asian British: Chinese 494 488 891 0.3 1,234 0.4
Asian or Asian British: Other Asian 135 173 824 0.3 1,562 0.5
Black or Black British: Total 495 0.1% 539 0.2% 1,678 0.5% 3,907 1.2
Black or Black British: African 148 302 1,310 0.4 3,081 0.9
Black or Black British: Caribbean 132 194 216 0.1 331 0.1
Black or Black British: Other Black 215 43 152 0.1 495 0.2
Mixed or British Mixed: Total 1,298 0.4% 2,756 0.9% 4,353 1.3
Mixed: White and Black Caribbean 416 1,015 0.3 1,148 0.3
Mixed: White and Black African 199 429 0.1 885 0.3
Mixed: White and Asian 387 783 0.2 1,293 0.4
Mixed: Other Mixed 296 529 0.2 1,027 0.3
Other: Total 437 0.1% 258 703 0.2% 2,292 0.7
Other: Arab 304 0.1 711 0.2
Other: Any other ethnic group 437 258 399 0.1 1,581 0.5
Total 306,521 100% 301,415 100% 317,849 100% 329,330 100%
Religion 2021[36]
Number %
Christian 206,870 62.8
Muslim 4,155 1.3
Jewish 84 <0.1
Hindu 995 0.3
Sikh 122 <0.1
Buddhism 831 0.3
Other religion 1,099 0.3
No religion 99,784 30.3
Religion not stated 15,390 4.7
Total 329,300 100.0


Public transport in Wigan MBC is co-ordinated by Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM).

The borough is served by an extensive bus network with most services operated by Stagecoach Manchester, Arriva North West First Greater Manchester and Diamond North West. There are two major bus stations in both Wigan and Leigh town centres. Services operate from the bus stations to Bolton, Manchester, the Trafford Centre, St Helens and Chorley, as well as local inter-urban routes, with three high frequency services between Wigan and Leigh bus stations, operated by Stagecoach Manchester. Leigh, Atherton and Tyldesley are also served by the high frequency Vantage services, via a guided busway, connecting the towns to Central Manchester in 30-40 minutes outside of peaks.

Several railway lines cross the borough. Wigan Wallgate railway station is served by Northern trains on the Manchester to Southport and Kirkby lines. There are services to stations towards Manchester, serving all city centre stations including Manchester Victoria and Manchester Piccadilly via two routes: one through Bolton and one via Atherton, with connections to other local and national destinations.[37] Wigan North Western railway station is on the West Coast Main Line served by Northern and Avanti West Coast. There are services to Liverpool Lime Street, Blackpool North, London Euston, Birmingham, Glasgow and Edinburgh.[38] Other stations in the borough are Atherton, Hag Fold, Bryn, Gathurst, Hindley, Ince, Orrell, and Pemberton. Appley Bridge railway station just outside the border with West Lancashire is managed by TfGM and serves the far north-western part of the borough. There is a campaign for Golborne railway station and Kenyon Junction station to be re-opened. The Liverpool-Manchester line (Chat Moss route) crosses the far south of the borough but has no railway station since the 60's after Kenyon Junction railway station, Astley railway station, Lamb's Cottage railway station, Flow Moss railway station and Glazebury and Bury Lane railway station closed.

Leigh is one of the largest towns in the UK without a railway station. Westleigh station, on the Bolton and Leigh Railway, closed in 1954.[39] Leigh and Tyldesley stations on the Tyldesley Loopline were closed in 1969.[40]

The Leeds and Liverpool and Bridgewater canals meet in Leigh town centre. The M6 motorway crosses the west of the borough, and serves Ashton-in-Makerfield at junctions 23 and 24 (north only) and 25 (south only), Wigan at junction 25 (south only), Wigan/Orrell at junction 26 and Standish junction 27. The M58 motorway, to Liverpool, terminates at junction 26 of the M6 near Orrell. The dual carriageway A580 East Lancashire Road linking Liverpool to Manchester crosses the south of the borough.The A579 runs from Bolton to the M6 via Atherleigh Way, which runs from the west of Atherton, bypassing Leigh town centre to reach the East Lancashire Road at the Warrington border.


The Metropolitan Borough of Wigan has one twin town in France.[41]

Country Place County / District / Region / State Originally twinned with Date
France France Angers Pays de la Loire Metropolitan Borough of Wigan 1988

Freedom of the Borough[edit]

The following people and military units have received the Freedom of the Borough of Wigan.



Military units[edit]


  1. ^ "Council". Wigan Council. Retrieved 9 January 2024.
  2. ^ "Mid-Year Population Estimates, UK, June 2022". Office for National Statistics. 26 March 2024. Retrieved 3 May 2024.
  3. ^ "Mid-Year Population Estimates, UK, June 2022". Office for National Statistics. 26 March 2024. Retrieved 3 May 2024.
  4. ^ a b UK Census (2021). "2021 Census Area Profile – Wigan Local Authority (E08000010)". Nomis. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 5 January 2024.
  5. ^ "Greater Manchester (United Kingdom): Boroughs - Population Statistics, Charts and Map". www.citypopulation.de. Retrieved 13 June 2022.
  6. ^ a b Local Government Act 1972. 1972 c. 60. HMSO.
  7. ^ Local Government (Successor Parishes) Order 1973. 1973/1110. HMSO.
  8. ^ Clark 1973, p. 101.
  9. ^ "MORI local government and identity opinion poll December 2003 - February 2004" (PDF). The Boundary Committee for England. Retrieved 11 February 2007.
  10. ^ "Three major parties find cause for satisfaction in local election results despite low poll". The Times. 12 May 1973.
  11. ^ "Executive Leader - David Molyneux". Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council.
  12. ^ "Cllr David Molyneux announced as new council leader". The Bolton News. 15 May 2018.
  13. ^ "GMC Lord Peter Smith". Greater Manchester Combined Authority.
  14. ^ "Borough rejects elected mayor" (Press release). Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council. 15 June 2001. Archived from the original on 6 March 2002. Retrieved 15 June 2001.
  15. ^ a b "Local elections: Wigan". London: BBC News. 4 May 2006. Retrieved 11 February 2007.
  16. ^ "Labour licks wounds after polls". London: BBC News. 11 June 2004. Retrieved 11 June 2004.
  17. ^ "Summary of seats 2008". Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council. Retrieved 1 March 2010.
  18. ^ "Councillor details - Councillor Robert Mark Bleakley". 9 May 2007.
  19. ^ "Composition of the Council". Archived from the original on 8 October 2012.
  20. ^ "21st century Town Hall" (Press release). Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council. 7 August 2006. Archived from the original on 26 August 2006. Retrieved 11 February 2007.
  21. ^ "Makeover for Leigh Town Hall" (Press release). 13 June 2006. Archived from the original on 9 October 2006. Retrieved 11 February 2007.
  22. ^ Final recommendations on the future electoral arrangements for Wigan (PDF). Boundary Committee. September 2003. Retrieved 11 February 2007.
  23. ^ "New Wigan Wards Map". Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council.
  24. ^ "Townships". Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council. Retrieved 6 November 2006.
  25. ^ "Locality map".
  26. ^ "Greater Manchester: New Constituency Boundaries". Martin Baxter. Retrieved 11 February 2007.
  27. ^ "Safe Seats analysis". Electoral Reform Society. 28 April 2005. Archived from the original on 3 December 2006. Retrieved 11 February 2007.
  28. ^ "Census 2001 - Profiles - Wigan". Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 11 February 2007.
  29. ^ "Wigan District: total population". Vision of Britain. Retrieved on 20 December 2008.
  30. ^ "Wigan District population". Vision of Britain. University of Portsmouth. Retrieved 11 February 2007.
  31. ^ "Table KS01 Usual Resident population". Office for National Statistics. Archived from the original (XLS (Excel spreadsheet)) on 23 July 2004. Retrieved 11 February 2007.
  32. ^ Data is taken from United Kingdom Casweb Data services of the United Kingdom 1991 Census on Ethnic Data for England, Scotland and Wales (Table 6)
  33. ^ "Office of National Statistics; 2001 Census Key Statistics". webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk. Retrieved 7 September 2021.
  34. ^ "2011 Census: Ethnic Group, local authorities in England and Wales". webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk. Retrieved 15 December 2021.
  35. ^ "Ethnicity - Ethnicity by local authorities, ONS".
  36. ^ "Religion - Religion by local authorities, ONS".
  37. ^ "Wigan Wallgate". National Rail. Retrieved 1 March 2010.
  38. ^ "Wigan North Western". National Rail. Retrieved 1 March 2010.
  39. ^ "WestLeigh Station". Disused Stations. Subterranea Britanica. Archived from the original on 4 September 2007. Retrieved 1 March 2010.
  40. ^ "Pennington Station". Disused Stations. Subterranea Britanica. Retrieved 11 February 2007.
  41. ^ "Town Twinning". Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council. Archived from the original on 9 October 2012. Retrieved 11 February 2007.
  42. ^ a b "Honorary Freemen of the Borough". www.wigan.gov.uk.
  43. ^ "Army regiment to receive the 'freedom of Wigan' for its service to the country".


  • Clark, David Michael (1973). Greater Manchester Votes: A Guide to the New Metropolitan Authorities. Redrose. ISBN 978-0950293202.