VANDALS were being hunted today after delivering a savage blow to Wigan’s proud heritage.
Two years after the Pier’s famous statues were reinstated after a previous orgy of criminal damage, one of them was this week decapitated.
And with no more Lottery money available to repair it this time, the iconic millworker effigy, sitting on a bench overlooking the canal at Trencherfield Mill, will now have to be withdrawn permanently.
Leisure chiefs and the man who created the statues greeted the news with a mixture of anger and sadness.
Originally, Phil Songhurst, of Nottingham-based Imagemakers, designed four statues, with the help of local schoolchildren, to represent Wigan’s great industrial past, and they were strategically placed around the Pier quarter.
But two years ago, three of them came under vandal attack, with one disappearing for a time, only to be discovered face down in the canal.
One of the creations was damaged beyond repair, but the council and Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust were able to secure further Heritage Lottery funding to have the remainder mended, strengthened and replaced.
A blend of glass fibre, concrete and metal bars was used to reinforce them against any further attacks, but Mr Songhurst admitted that there was only so much that could be done.
He said: “While I am bitterly disappointed at what has happened, it is the people of Wigan I feel most sorry for, because they put a lot of faith into the project, and we had kids involved in coming up with the ideas.
“All that goodwill and celebration of Wigan’s proud heritage is being undone by acts of mindless vandalism.
“The new incarnations of the statues were very robust, and it must have taken a sustained and determined attack, probably with some form of tools, to cause such damage. We tried to make them as strong as possible, but there are limits to what can be done. This is all very sad.”
A spokesman for WLCT said: “We are extremely disappointed and saddened by the attack, because the statues are wonderful focal points around the Wigan Pier quarter.
“The matter has been reported to the police. Three statues were repaired and reinstated after the previous incidents, and we have had two years when they were, thankfully, untouched. For the first repairs, Heritage Lottery kindly agreed to give us some more money, but this time there is nothing, and so the damaged statue will have to be withdrawn from the site and will not be replaced.”
It is understood that the head of the millworker statue is still missing. It may have been cast into the murky waters of the canal, but police say they cannot rule out the possibility that the vandals may have kept it as a trophy.
If anyone knows of its whereabouts, or has any information about the vandalism, they should ring police on 0161 872 5050 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.