History of the hospice

History of Wigan & Leigh Hospice

Wigan & Leigh Hospice has been caring for local people for over 30 years.

It all began in 1977 when a Shevington GP was caring for an elderly male patient who died alone in the night. The doctor decided that a team of night-sitters could bring great comfort to those approaching the end of their lives.

The doctor discussed this idea both with his friends and with the Rotary Club of Wigan and over the next couple of years a plan emerged to create a local Hospice. A steering committee was formed in 1978 and 450 people attended the inaugural meeting. The estimated cost of a Hospice, including land, was in the region of £600,000. A 'Friends of the Hospice' group was formed to help raise funds.

The first Hospice building

In 1981, a former vicarage at Poolstock was purchased. This was a large Victorian building, set in one acre of land, with pleasant views over what is known locally as 'the flash' - a large man-made lake. Although local support had allowed the building to be purchased, it would take more support and time to convert the building into a Hospice.



Our first staff 

Our first domiciliary nurse and support staff were appointed in 1981; they were based at St Barnabas Church Hall, Marsh Green, Wigan - before the doors of the new Hospice were even opened. Then, as now, providing care at home was central to our purpose. Between March and September of 1982, extensions were constructed to create a day hospice and other facilities.



The Hospice opens

Our first matron was appointed in 1983, along with other staff, when the building was nearly complete. The Hospice opened its doors in September 1983 with just five beds which were funded totally from voluntary contributions. It was not until two months after the opening that the local health authority agreed to provide funding towards the second five registered beds and in January 1984 the size of the inpatient unit was increased to ten beds, then 12 beds by February 1986. This was followed by the day hospice and the education department.

The Hospice was officially opened by the Countess of Westmorland, President of the National Society for Cancer Relief, on 5 December 1984.

Expanding the Hospice

The needs of the local population meant that the Hospice began to outgrow its building and the vision of a new purpose-built Hospice started to emerge. The ideal site was found in Hindley geographically central to the area served by the Hospice.

During the planning stage we visited many Hospices throughout the country, collecting ideas, helping us to design a building that would be ideally suited to our patients and their care.


A capital appeal was launched in 1994 by HRH the Duchess of York. This raised £1 million towards the new-build project. However, it soon became apparent that it would be extremely difficult to raise the whole of the original estimated building costs of £2 million within an acceptable timescale. This was partly because we still needed to raise £600,000 each year to maintain the services at Poolstock - in effect, we were trying to fund two hospices at once. Ultimately, the total cost of the new Hospice was £2.6 million which was financed in part by a mortgage of £1.58 million.

A new Hospice

In December 1997, the new purpose-built Wigan & Leigh Hospice opened its doors. It featured a range of modern facilities including the inpatient unit; a large day hospice; complementary therapy suites and counselling rooms.

Wigan & Leigh Hospice now

Developing our facilities and services

In April 2007, the Hospice welcomed HRH the Duchess of Gloucester to officially open the newly completed annex and day hospice garden room. This project cost around £550,000, with £300,000 coming from the Big Lottery Fund, £60,000 from the local Primary Care Trust and £55,000 from the Mayor's Charity Appeal for 2006. The annex houses improved education, library, offices and e-learning facilities. It also created space in the main Hospice for the development of clinical services. The beautiful day hospice garden room looks out onto a private garden area for our patients to enjoy.

In 2007, a further build project commenced with funding from the Department of Health's Dignity in Care scheme. This work created more patient bedrooms; a creative arts therapy centre; an overnight stay room for families and a conservatory-style lounge overlooking the Hospice's gardens. During the same year outpatient clinics began at the Hospice and we launched our 24-hour advice line.

Our Inpatient Unit lounge and creative arts therapy centre opened the following year and in 2009 our Hospice Nurse Specialists service began caring for patients seven days a week up from five.

In 2011 we employed a Nursing Home Educator in order that the Hospice could share our specialist knowledge of end of life care for the benefit of people with a life-limiting illness who may not come into contact with the Hospice. This is also when our remembrance evenings began.

In 2012 we opened two more beds on the Inpatient Unit to give us our present total of 14 beds.

The following year we launched our Hospice In Your Home service to bring even more Hospice-led care into the community. This service provides hands-on personal care in people's homes, gives carers rest breaks and the team offer overnight stays.

The Woodview Centre

Some 17 years after the Hospice moved to its Hindley site the Hospice opened the Woodview Centre in 2014.

Horwich-based Ellenby Construction began work at the site in April 2013 with a brief to build a modern eco-friendly development within a peaceful and therapeutic environment. Designed by Chorley-based architects JGR the building boasts a number of sustainable features including solar panels and under floor heating. Rainwater collected on the roof refreshes the pond to the rear of the Woodview Centre and increases biodiversity at the site which is already home to a variety of wildlife.

The two-storey centre houses both the Hospice in your Home team and Hospice Nurse Specialists - both of which provide specialist care and support for people living with life-limiting illnesses in their own homes.

Connected to the main Hospice building by a link corridor the centre accommodates 35 staff and provides room for the future growth of both teams as the Hospice seeks to increase the number of people it helps who need palliative care at home. Staff began moving into the Woodview Centre from the main Hospice building on Kildare Street, Hindley, in early May 2014 and the official opening was performed by HRH the Earl of Wessex in June 2014.


Woodview Rear, May 2014

In 2015 our Hospice In Your Care Home team launched providing education and training in end of life care to nursing home staff.

A modernisation project on the Inpatient Unit (IPU) started in January 2017. After almost 20 years the IPU was in need of improvement and we took the opportunity to extend the building to create new offices, store rooms and a Nurses' Reception. The finished result will make the IPU a much more comfortable place for all our patients but particularly our patients and visitors with dementia as dementia-friendly principles are being applied throughout.

top of page