Now they have both given their seal of approval to the new Museum of Wigan Life.
The museum, formerly the history shop on Library Street, is now open to the public following a £1.9m restoration project.
Wigan rugby league legend, Billy Boston and Wigan Casino founder, Russ Winstanley both gave the museum the “thumbs up” as more than 800 visitors descended on the building to mark the public opening.
Last year Billy was voted the borough’s best all time rugby player by residents in a competition.
A profile about the 75-year-old former Wigan winger, who scored a club record of 478 tries, is part of a new exhibition at the site of the former library which pays homage to the people of Wigan Borough, its pride and its place in history.
Billy said: “It’s fantastic. There’s something for everyone, young and old. It’s a place Wigan can take great pride in.”
Champion of Northern Soul, Russ Winstanley, was also on hand to cast an eye over a section of the exhibition dedicated to the ‘soul all-nighters’ that made Wigan the place to dance the night away in the mid 70s.
Russ added: “The restoration of the building is fantastic and the new facilities inside are equally as impressive.”
Opened in 1878, the building was Wigan’s first public library and remains one of the town’s most distinguishable landmarks. It was designed by Alfred Waterhouse – who also designed Manchester Town Hall and the Natural History Museum in London.
It is also where George Orwell researched his significant socialist book “The Road to Wigan Pier”.
The building – both inside and out – has been brought back to life by restoration specialists, Manchester based, William Anelay Ltd, whose projects have included Victoria Baths and Gorton Monastery in Manchester. Bolton based Bradshaw Gass and Hope were the architects behind the scheme.
Made possible following a £500,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and match funding from Wigan Council and Wigan Leisure & Culture Trust, the £1.9m project has included external building work (particularly the windows, roof and re-pointing) and internal building work improving access with a new entrance ramp, lift and second staircase.
It also includes the refurbishment of the first floor local and family study area and the installation of a new Wigan exhibition, reception and shop on the ground floor with an area dedicated to temporary exhibitions, and the creation of a dedicated learning space and meeting room.
In addition, the project is funding new ventures in learning and outreach for heritage services and a digitization project for Wigan and Leigh’s photographic collection, capturing some 5,000 images and making them available to all through the internet.