Local History                   Coal, Cotton & Canals

Investigate artefacts to learn about what industries there were in the local area in Victorian times. Learn about the importance of the canal system and how it was used to transport coal and cotton.

This 2hr workshop will begin with pupils discussing their lives, thinking about what they learn at school, what jobs their parents have and what the pupils themselves might like to do when they are older.

Pupils will be given slate boards and be asked to think about ‘the three C’s, which were vital to the local area in Victorian times. They will write what they think each C stands for. Pupils will be introduced to COAL, COTTON and CANALS.

Pupils will work in three groups, moving round carousel of artefacts, discussing and handling the objects in order to find clues about their locality in the past.

The class will gather together to discuss each set of artefacts.


Pupils will learn about how child labour was used in the mills and the dangers of working in a cotton mill.


Pupils will learn about how boys were used as trapper boys and the dangers that men faced when working down a pit. 


Pupils will discover that families lived in cramped conditions on canal boats and that working the locks and transporting goods along canals was hard work.


The workshop will focus on

  • The importance of coal and cotton in the local area during Victorian times.
  • How coal and cotton was transported.
  • What life as a boat dweller in Victorian times was like.
  • Jobs that children undertook in cotton mills and mines.
  • Using artefacts to learn out about how different the locality was in Victorian times.

This workshop has been developed for schools in and around Wigan but is also suitable for  schools which are situated in areas that have a history of cotton mills, coal mines and canals.