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Wigan Pier is a joke - isn't it? Not quite!
A "pier", in this context, is a device for tipping the contents of coal trucks onto canal boats. There were once many such devices in the Wigan area.
"Wigan Pier" is situated on the Leeds-Liverpool canal near the centre of the town. Around it grew a series of associated warehouses.
The "joke" is thought to have originated in a music hall act performed by George Formby Senior in which he talked of Wigan Pier in the same terms as the seaside pleasure piers in nearby Blackpool and Southport.
George Orwell perpetuated the false conception in his book "The Road to Wigan Pier", in which he portrayed the dismal side of the town and ignored the positive aspects of life in a working class community.
By the mid 20th century the area around the pier had become derelict.
But in the mid 1980's the area was redeveloped as part of an award winning heritage centre which attracts many visitors.
Article by Adrian Morris
Original Pier - Probable inspiration for George Formby Senior's joke
http://www.wlct.org/Tourism/Wiganpier/wiganpier.htm - Wigan Pier today