WIGAN’S crucial role in the canal revolution was this week being committed to film by TV historian Sir Tony Robinson.
And the Blackadder star was in the borough to shoot scenes for a new documentary which takes in walks along the Leeds and Liverpool Canal at Crooke and Wigan Pier as part of the second series of Walking Through History.
The six-part collection details Sir Tony’s journey through some of Britain’s finest landscapes, assessing the area’s history.
He told the Wigan Evening Post: “Wigan is central to the whole story of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. There was a big debate about where it should go as the people of Leeds wanted it to go in one direction and the people of Liverpool wanted it to go another way.
“Eventually there was a compromise and Wigan still missed out but then they realised that if coaling was to be done, they would have to go in the direction of Wigan.
“And the fact the canal is the shape it is and that it is so successful is down to Wigan, as it brought a huge amount of money. So it is important to celebrate its place in history.
“There was a lot that happened in Wigan and what I have been trying to do is retell that.”
The 67-year-old admitted he was excited about exploring Wigan, especially as he had not visited the town for a long time.
He said: “I didn’t realise just how central it was to the coal industry and how it became a driving force for the whole of the North West.
“For me, being able to piece things together like a jigsaw to tell the story of the canals has been really interesting.
“I was surprised at how beautiful the canal route is.
“I wrongly assumed that I would be going through a blitzed industrial landscape but Crooke is gorgeous,
“I would recommend the people of Wigan try to walk the Leeds and Liverpool canal route as there is some great scenery and pubs to visit.
“And after reading George Orwell’s Wigan Pier I had always wanted to go and see the iconic landmark.”
As a keen historian, Sir Tony has had many presenting roles hosting Channel 4 programmes such as Time Team and The Worst Jobs in History.
He added: “I have always been interested in history.
“My dad used to tell me stories about his life in the Second World War and I believe he gave me the greatest gift in sharing his adventures and I developed an enthusiasm for the subject.
“We walk and breathe in history and it is part of who we are.
“Ironically, even my past acting work has involved history, as Blackadder was set in different time periods and we worked really hard to create an authentic story.
“Everyone involved in the filming of the series was as passionate about history as I am.”
The episode in Wigan is expected to complete the second series of Walking Through History, and Tony was surprised, yet delighted, it was commissioned for another run.
He said: “I originally did four episodes for Channel Four but it went up against The X Factor so I thought the ratings would be terrible, but it turned out to be really successful and so I was asked to do six more episodes.”
The six-part series Walking Through History is expected to air later this year on Channel Four.