Mystery surrounds the fate of the historic Trencherfield Mill, as the town hall says it is “reviewing options” to secure its future.
Rumours rife on social media have been ruled out by the council after growing fears were discussed on a community forum with suggestions that the site was earmarked for closure.
The mill, which was built more than a century ago and is home to Rina and Helen, both halves of the steam engine, has become a working reminder of Wigan’s industrial history.
The engine is operated by a specialist engineer and is still open for weekly tours and continues to attract visitors.
Lesley O’Halloran, Wigan Council’s assistant director for customer services said: “The Trencherfield Mill engine is a fantastic piece of machinery and an important part of Wigan’s industrial heritage.
“As part of our wider customer services review to save £1.4m and other council initiatives, we are currently looking into a number of options to secure the future of the mill and engine, but we have no intention to close it at this time.”
Trencherfield Mill comes under a regeneration project at Wigan’s famous pier quarter, and the council has said it is continuing to “market and develop” business at the site. A six-week tender period started in May inviting bids to develop three of the pier buildings, The Warehouse (the former Way We Were Museum), The one-time Orwell pub and the Education Centre.
However due to a “huge amount of interest” from developers, the window was extended finally closing on Friday, July 28, according to council bosses, the mill has attracted interest from “major employers” to use as new headquarters.
Despite this, a large majority of the available spaces at the site remain vacant.
Karl Battersby, director of economy and environment for the council, said: “There has already been significant interest in the buildings over recent months and we are excited to be starting the formal process of working with private sector partners to make a reality of this unique regeneration opportunity.
“We have had a mix of ideas put forward for the buildings including new office space, leisure and social destinations. This is a very exciting opportunity for a private sector partner to be involved in such a historic and iconic location and an important project for the future growth and regeneration of Wigan town centre.”
Back in the 1980s and ’90s, The Way We Were Museum, Trencherfield Mill and Opie Museum of Memories
became the second biggest tourist attraction in the North West.
But even then the much-awaited public concert hall failed to materialise and the museums closed along with the Orwell pub which only enjoyed a brief comeback as a comedy club venue before shutting again.
The Wigan Pier Quarter has recently seen the development of the Pier Centre conference centre and performance venue and approved planning permission for a social, arts and café venue in a former industrial building next to the pier.
In 2005, the pier quarter regeneration project received a £6m grant from The Heritage Lottery, the European Regional Development Fund, the North West Development Agency and the Regeneration Fund, a large chunk of which went towards the complete redevelopment of the Grade II listed building and the steam engines inside.