What is a blue plaque scheme?
A blue plaque is a permanent sign installed in a public place to commemorate a link between that location and a famous person, event, or former building on the site, serving as a historical marker to increase interest in local heritage and culture.
The ‘official’ scheme is managed by English Heritage and is restricted to sites within Greater London. The Wigan Borough blue plaque scheme is a local version managed by Wigan Council.
From 2018, two plaques will be produced each year, linked to the borough’s five-year Cultural Manifesto ‘The Fire Within’, until at least 2023.
Since 2012, local heroes and celebrities from the borough have also been recognised with a living commemoration - a star on Wigan’s town centres ‘Believe Square’.
What's the eligibility criteria?
- Blue plaques can be established to mark a person, a building or an event with historic cultural significance
- They should be of significant public standing in the borough. A national or international context will strengthen the proposal
- They should have made some important, positive contribution to the local area
- Fictitious characters will not be commemorated
- Commemoration of buildings requires a historic cultural significance worthy of public notice, whether from a historical event or an important cultural significance that's not obvious from its present appearance
- Plaques can only be considered for people who are deceased
- The Council will fund two blue plaques per year. Additional plaques may be established if funding has been raised by the applicant.
How to make a nomination
To nominate a person, building or event for a blue plaque, you will need to:
Applications for 2022 are now closed and will be announced soon.
Applications for 2023 can now be submitted and will be reviewed in Autumn 2023.
Details of submissions and approved plaques will be published on this page so keep a lookout. Previous submissions can be re-nominated annually.
How is a decision made?
All submissions will be reviewed by a panel of representatives from the following Council services: Culture, Arts and Heritage, Libraries, Economy, Planning, Facilities, Skills and Careers, Events and PR. They will then be ratified by the Portfolio holder for Culture and Communities.
The following decisive factors will be taken into account:
- Eligibility criteria is matched
- Relative significance of the nomination to the whole of Wigan Borough
- Any broader regional, national or international significance
- Ability and permission to site a blue plaque in the suggested location
- Any legal or political issues that might arise from producing the blue plaque
- Relevance to current affairs and local issues
- Funding available.
Decisions from the panel are final and there is no right to appeal.
We retain the right to remove the blue plaque if needed, due to reputational, planning or legal issues.
Who has a Wigan Borough blue plaque?
James Caldwell Prestwich (2023)
James Caldwell Prestwich, born in Atherton and educated at Leigh Grammar School was a prolific architect, known for designing many of Leigh’s historic buildings.
James travelled to London before returning to his hometown of Leigh in 1875 to set up his architectural practice, where he worked until he was 77 years old.
Noted for his contribution to the unique character of Leigh’s urban landscape, through the many civic buildings he designed, including Leigh Technical School and Library on Railway Road, Leigh Infirmary and Leigh Town Hall, which was completed in Edwardian Baroque Revival style in 1907. The blue plaque is located on the front of Leigh Town Hall in his honour.
Folly Field (2023)
Folly Field recognises an important sporting location for Wigan Borough as the site of Wigan Rugby Club’s original ground, with matches played there since 1862.
Announced to coincide Wigan Warriors’ 150th anniversary in 2022, the plaque is located at Real Crafty Pub on Upper Dicconson Street, and highlights an important part of the club’s origins. For over 150 years, Wigan Warriors have been at the heart of the town and the Folly Field plaque will make sure its history is remembered for decades to come.
The final game held there in 1886 attracted 18,000 spectators from across the region to watch Aspull defeat Wigan in the Wigan Union Charity Cup.
Kris Radlinksi, Wigan Warriors Chief Executive, added: “A blue plaque for Folly Field is another key milestone for the history of our great club. We could never have imagined that a group of cricketers who wanted to keep competitive during the winter months, would go on to create quite possibly the most famous rugby club in the world. The Fire Within, the town’s cultural manifesto, seems to fit perfectly with the DNA of all rugby players and fans who have represented and supported Wigan Warriors Rugby League Club for so many years”.
Mary O’Shaughnessy (2023)
Courageous war-time heroine, Mary O’Shaughnessy, has been recognised with Blue Plaque located in Ashton Library.
Born in Ashton-in-Makerfield, Mary went on to courageously and selflessly aid the resistance in France during the Second World War, hiding stranded servicemen and helping to return injured airmen back to the UK. She moved to France some time after the 1921 Census and remained there when the Nazis invaded and occupied France.
While in France working as a governess in Angers, Mary was asked by a doctor if she would go to a local hospital to support a wounded RAF man whose life she went on to save when it became clear that the Nazis intended to arrest any allied military personnel who were treated at the hospital.
In March 1944, after increasing attention from the Gestapo, Mary was arrested and interrogated for 10 days. Giving nothing away to her captors, she was sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp and later the Uckermark Youth Camp. Mary survived the terrible ordeal and was rescued by the Swedish Red Cross in April 1945, before giving evidence at the Hamburg Ravensbruck trials in 1946, and the Nuremberg trials.
In recognition of her service, she was made an honorary member of the Royal Air Forces Escaping Society for the work she carried out.
Kathleen Mary Drew-Baker (2022)
Leigh-born Kathleen Mary Drew-Baker was a pioneering scientist specialising in algae. Her 1949 research into nori, seaweed used in sushi, revolutionised its growth after unpredictable harvests helping to stabilise the Japanese farming and food production industry. Known as the ‘Mother of the Sea’, her contribution in Japan is celebrated each year on 14 April in the city of Uto. This plaque was unveiled on 3 November 2022 in front of Leigh Central Primary School, the street she was born and raised in.
Wigan Athletic Football Club (2022)
A blue plaque marking the 90th anniversary of Wigan Athletic FC was unveiled on 13 October 2022. This is located at the entrance of Queen’s Hall Market Street in Wigan town centre, the location of the club’s first meeting in 1932. This plaque formally recognises the origins of the club and celebrates the importance our sporting clubs play in the history of our town. This was unveiled by Mayor of Wigan Councillor Marie Morgan, current CEO Mal Brannigan, former CEO Brenda Spencer, Council Leader David Molyneux MBE and Latics supporter Anthony Topping, who nominated the plaque.
Dr Muriel Haigh (2020)
Dr Muriel Haigh made Wigan her home in 1926 and is believed to be the first female to commence her own practice in Wigan a year later. Founder of Wigan Soroptimists and Wigan Music Society, Dr Haigh also had a strong relationship with St John’s Ambulance Brigade and became Dame of the Order of St John in 1979. Dr Haigh died in 1990. The plaque was unveiled on the 31 August 2021 and is sited at her former home on Mesnes Park Terrace, Wigan.
Margery Booth (2020)
Born in Hodges Street in 1906, Margery Booth was a member of the Wigan and District Operatic Society, who established a successful classical music career in Germany, prior to 1939 and the outbreak of war.
Working as a highly-regarded opera singer, who once performed in front of Adolf Hitler, she was able to obtain valuable information for the Allied Forces during the war, risking her life by doing so.
She passed away in New York in 1952, aged 46. Her Blue Plaque is housed with kind permission from Queen’s Hall, where she performed in 1935, and was unveiled by the Mayor of Wigan Councillor Yvonne Klieve and Tommie Harte from the Notre Society.
Pete Shelley (2019)
Pete is one of the UK's most influential and prolific songwriters and co-founder of the seminal punk band Buzzcocks. Born in Leigh, his music has inspired generations of musicians over a career that spanned five decades. Held in the highest regard by the music industry and by his fans, his death in December 2018 was felt deeply across the world. The blue plaque is installed on his former home at Landside, Leigh.
Alderman Thorley Smith (2018)
This plaque was unveiled on 17th May 2018 on display at Wigan Town Hall as a nod to his political career. Thorley was the first parliamentary candidate to stand for women’s suffrage and the plaque was fittingly awarded during the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote. His plaque was unveiled by local historians Tom Walsh and Yvonne Eckersley, who both dedicated their time to tracing Thorley’s career and bringing his achievements to a wider audience.
George Orwell (2018)
This plaque was unveiled on 17th May 2018 by his son Richard Blair and members of the Orwell Society, on display at the Museum of Wigan Life. Author of ‘The Road to Wigan Pier’, George’s plaque commends his landmark journalistic masterpiece on the plight of the working class in 1930s England and sits in the reference library where he researched his book. Wigan Archives and Local Studies also holds a visitor book from when Orwell visited the town containing a signature reading ‘Eric Blair’, Orwell’s given name.
Wigan Casino (2014)
This plaque was unveiled in September 2014, located on the former site of the world-famous Casino, marking the spot where the doors once stood. The building, a primary venue for northern soul music, was demolished in 1981 and is now the Grand Arcade shopping centre. In 1978, the American music magazine Billboard voted Wigan Casino 'The Best Disco in the World', ahead of New York's Studio 54. Young people from all over the UK regularly attended Casino ‘all-nighters’ to hear the latest northern soul artists and to dance.