An online group which has grown from a nostalgic home for old photos into a major community voice for Leigh is celebrating a milestone.
The Leigh Old Photographs group on Facebook recently gained its 12,000th member, underlining the incredible growth of the online community in just a couple of years.
The site was created by Stewart McGarrie to showcase some of his photographs of the town from days gone by and quickly grew into a massive resource for anyone wishing to take a trip down memory lane.
As well as recording every step in Leigh’s changing history the thousands of members have also been using their collective numbers to lobby for improvements, most notably playing a major role in last year’s successful crowd-funded campaign to put a Christmas tree in Civic Square.
Founder Stewart, of Holden Road, said: “I never imagined it would become such a community and to get to 12,000 members is fantastic. It really shows people in this town are really committed to it and interested in it.
“It’s the largest local interest group in the area and it’s a huge resource.
“I never imagined it would become such a community and to get to 12,000 members is fantastic.”Stewart McGarrie
“It all started from a conversation with my wife. I was interested in seeing how Leigh used to look and didn’t have any records of it, so I thought I would put a few old pictures I had online and see how it went.
“Nothing really happened for a few months and then it just took off. Once people started putting pictures on and they realised it wasn’t selling anything, it was just local history, more people wanted to join.
“I suppose it was also turning 40 which inspired me to start it, because you tend to get a bit retrospective at that point.”
Stewart says photos of the town’s industrial past are always among the most popular items posted on the Facebook group.
As it has grown Old Leigh Photographs has increasingly become an important part for people wishing to gauge the town’s thoughts on particular issues and Stewart says local politicians and civil servants are increasingly beating a path to his door to discover residents’ opinions.
He said: “Pictures of the old mining environment always do well, especially the pits on the west side of Leigh around Plank Lane.
“Pennington Flash is also very important, so much so that we’ve formed a new group called Leigh Wildlife and Nature which has got several thousand people on it.
“It’s being recognised a lot more now beyond the group. Councillors and even Wigan Council itself has asked me as the administrator for contributions to the town.”
Stewart admits he does not know what the future holds for Old Leigh Photographs but hopes it will continue to grow.