Westhoughton is the birthplace (in 1927) of the film star and author Robert Shaw. He is probably best known for his leading role in the highly successful film Jaws. The son of a local doctor, Shaw’s first major film was the Dambusters. Many others followed, including the hugely successful Jaws. His second novel, The Sun Doctor, won the Hawthornden Prize for Literature. A plaque commemorating his association with Westhoughton was put on the town hall in 1996.
Prints and text about mining in Westhoughton.
The text reads: Mining was known to have been carried out here as early as the 16th century, when there were dozens of small pits. The industry grew fastest in the second half of the 19th century. By 1901 half of Westhoughton’s male workers were employed at the town’s 30 pits.
Four days before Christmas in 1910, a huge explosion shook the Pretoria Pit. The day shift had just begun and 900 men and boys were underground.
All but 95 of the 344 miners who were killed were from Westhoughton. Almost every house in the town lost a family member, in what was Britain’s second worst ever mining disaster. Memorials to the victims stand in St Bartholomew’s Churchyard, and at the site of the disaster.
The fortunes of the local pits declined during the 1920s and 30s. Twelve were still operating in 1929, including the Pretoria Pit. It closed in 1934, putting 400 local men on the dole. Westhoughton’s last pit, Stolls Pit in Church Street, closed down after being flooded in 1936. Almost half the town’s workforce were then unemployed.
Prints and text about Robert Shaw.
The text reads: This J D Wetherspoon pub takes its name from one of Westhoughton’s most famous sons. A plaque commemorating the actor and writer Robert Shaw was placed on the Town Hall in 1996.
Shaw was born in 1927 in King Street, just opposite here. The son of Dr Thomas Shaw, he lived at Oaklea, Bolton Road, and attended White Horse Infants School. The family moved away to live in the Orkney Isles when Robert was seven.
Shaw made his film debut in 1954, in The Dam Busters, and made over 30 films before his death in 1978. His best known roles were in Jaws and A Man for All Seasons.
Top: The class of 32, Robert Shaw (bottom left) at White Horse Infant School
Right: His first leading cinema role in The Luck of Ginger Cottey, with future wife Mary Une
Above: As Luther, with daughter Hannah playing his son.
Prints and text about local brass brands.
The text reads: The brass band movement seems to have begun in the mid-19th century, and became particularly popular in the north of England. Many of the bands were linked with religious or temperance movements or industrial plants, such as mills and collieries.
The famous Wingates Bands began as a drum and fife band formed by members of the Methodist Church. They soon changed their instruments, and by 1878 had become the Wingates Temperance Band, a name they kept for more than a hundred years.
By the turn of the century, they had acquired a professional conductor, and had become one of the country’s top bands. In 1907, they became the first band to win both Open and National Championships two years running.
In spite of losing half their players in the Pretoria Pit disaster of 1910, the band recovered, making the first of more than 150 records in 1915. Open Championship finalists over eighty times, Wingates maintains a consistent record as a world-class band.
Top: Wingates Temperance Band, 1907
Above: Wingates Band, 1910.
Photographs of Market Street.
External photograph of the building – main entrance.
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