Wigan All Saints, LancashireEdit This Page
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WIGAN (All Saints), a parish, borough, and markettown, which has separate jurisdiction, and the head of a union, chiefly in the hundred of West Derby, S. division of the county of Lancaster; containing, with the chapelries of Abram, Billinge, Haigh, Hindley, Pemberton, and Up Holland, and the townships of Aspull, Billinge Higher End, Dalton, Ince-in-Makerfield, Orrell, and Winstanley, 51,988 inhabitants, of whom 25,517 are in the town, 18 miles (W. N. W.) from Manchester, and 199 (N. W. by N.) from London. This place is stated by Camden to have been originally called Wibiggin. The nucleus of the town is supposed by Whitaker to have been a Saxon castle, but its origin should perhaps be assigned to a still earlier period, as three Roman roads unite here. The vicinity is said to have been the scene of some sanguinary battles between the Britons, under their renowned King Arthur, and the Saxons; and the discovery, about the middle of the 18th century, of a large quantity of human bones, and the bones and shoes of horses, over an extensive tract of ground near the town, tends to confirm this opinion. During the great civil war, several battles were fought here, Wigan being the principal station of the king's troops commanded by the Earl of Derby. That leader was defeated and driven from the town by the parliamentary forces under Sir John Smeaton, early in 1643; and shortly afterwards, in the same year, he was again defeated by Colonel Ashton, who, in consequence of the devotion of the inhabitants to the royal cause, ordered the fortifications of the town to be demolished. From this time Wigan remained tranquil (with the exception of Oliver Cromwell pursuing through it, in 1648, the Scottish army under the Duke of Hamilton, whom he had driven from Preston) until 1651, when the Earl of Derby, having been summoned from the Isle of Man by Charles II., was again defeated here by a very superior force under Colonel Lilburne. To record the courage and loyalty of Sir Thomas Tyldesley, who was slain in this action, a monumental pillar was erected in 1679, by Alexander Rigby, Esq., then high sheriff of the county, on the spot where he fell, at the northern end of the town. In the year 1745, Prince Charles Edward marched through Wigan on his route from Preston to Manchester, and slept at Bishopsgate.
Corporation Seal. The town is situated on the bank, and within eight miles of the source, of the river Douglas, which runs round three sides of it; and is described by Leland as "a paved town, as big as Warrington, but better builded;" a patent for paving it, and building a bridge over the Douglas, having been granted so early as the 7th of Edward III. The old and greater part of the town consists of irregular streets; the houses generally are of an inferior description, but some few are good and modern, and many of the shops present a handsome appearance. It is lighted with gas by a company established in 1823, and supplied with water by a company formed under the authority of an act in 1761. The town is favourably circumstanced for manufactures, owing to the facilities of communication afforded by canal and railway. The manufacture of calicoes, fustians, and other cotton goods, linens, and checks, and the spinning of cotton-yarn, are extensively carried on; and there are brass and iron foundries, pewter-works, several manufactories for spades and edge-tools, and some corn-mills on the river. In 1846, 26 cotton-mills were employed, having engines of 1417 horse-power, 292,172 spindles, and 1800 powerlooms. Wigan is situated in the very centre of one of the richest and most extensive coal-fields in England: the coal is of various qualities, adapted for all purposes, and here is found the best description of cannel-coal, so cheerful for domestic use and excellent for the production of gas. Under the authority of an act of parliament obtained in 1820, the Douglas was made navigable to its junction with the Ribble, but the river navigation has been since superseded by the canal between Leeds and Liverpool, which passes close to the town, and by its branches and various communications with Manchester, Kendal, and Hull on one side, and Liverpool on the other, affords every facility for the conveyance of the manufactures, and of the coal. The North-Union railway, which forms a link in the grand trunk line from London to the north, has a station at Wigan; and an act was passed in 1845 for a railway from Liverpool, by Wigan, to Bolton and Bury, to be constructed by the Manchester and Leeds (or Lancashire and Yorkshire) Company. A bridge of cast-iron beams, 46 feet long and 36 feet wide, supported on fluted columns of the Doric order, carries the former railway over Walgate. The market is on Monday and Friday, that on the latter day being the principal; and fairs are held on Holy-Thursday, June 27th, and Oct. 28th, on which days the Commercial-hall, a commodious brick building in the market-place, erected in 1816, is open for various purposes. The first charter of incorporation was granted by Henry III. in 1246, and the privileges it bestowed were confirmed and augmented by succeeding monarchs; but the charter under which the corporation acted previously to the passing of the Municipal act, was conferred by Charles II. The corporation now consists of a mayor, ten aldermen, and thirty councillors, under the act; the borough is divided into five wards, and the municipal and parliamentary boundaries are co-extensive with the township. Wigan first sent members to parliament in the 23rd of Edward I., and again in the 35th of the same reign, after which period the privilege was not exercised until the 1st of Edward VI.: the mayor is returning officer. The corporation is authorised by its charter to try all civil actions (a power it never exercises), and holds a court of quarter-sessions for felonies not capital, committed within the borough. One of the county debt-courts established in 1847, is fixed here, with jurisdiction over the registration-district of Wigan; petty-sessions for the county take place every Friday, and for the borough every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The town-hall was rebuilt in 1720, by the Earl of Barrymore and Sir Roger Bradshaigh, then members of the borough. The gaol is used only for temporary confinement, the prisoners being committed to the county gaol at Kirkdale. The parish comprises 26,262 acres, of which 2161 are in the township of Wigan; of these latter, 109 are arable, and 2052 meadow and pasture. The living is a rectory, valued in the king's books at £80. 13. 4.; net income, £2000; patron, the Earl of Bradford. The tithes of Wigan township have been commuted for £124. 11., and the glebe consists of 85 acres. The parochial church is a handsome edifice, with a square tower. The chancel having been rebuilt, was opened on All Saints' day, November 1st, 1847; it has a noble wiudow by Wailes of Newcastle, given by the Misses Kenyon, of Swinley, at a cost of £500, a screen and pulpit of white stone beautifully executed, and a reading-desk and stalls of massive oak, with other ornamental parts in strict accordance with the original fine design of the church. About the same time, a vestry meeting was held, at which it was resolved to restore or rebuild the body of the edifice, as the different portions might require: the cost of the additional works, according to the estimate of the architects, Messrs, Sharp and Paley, of Lancaster, will amount to £4410. A beautiful font by Carpenter, of London, valued at a hundred guineas, has been presented by the Misses Kenyon; and subscriptions have been raised for a west window corresponding with that in the chancel. St. George's church, in the town, was erected as a chapel of ease, in 1781. St. Catherine's church, at Scholes, of which the first stone was laid on the 6th April 1840, was completed at an expense of £3225, by subscription, aided by a grant from Her Majesty's Commissioners; it is in the later English style, with a tower and spire, and contains 1113 sittings, of which 459 are free. Both these churches have districts assigned to them, St. George's comprising a population of 6000, and St. Catherine's a population of 9000: the living of each is a perpetual curacy; income, £150; patron, the Rector of Wigan. St. Thomas's church, in the Queen-street ward, was erected in 1848, at a cost of £2500, from the designs of John Hay, Esq.; it is in the middle pointed style, with a tower and spire. At Abram, Billinge, Haigh, Hindley, Holland, and Pemberton are other incumbencies, all in the Rector's gift. In the town are places of worship for Baptists and Independents, a handsome meeting-house for Wesleyans, and a Scottish church, in which the late distinguished Dr. Chalmers preached his first sermon. The Roman Catholics have two chapels; St. Mary's, in the early English style, erected at a cost of £7000, and having schools adjacent; and St. John's, in the Grecian style, built in 1819 at an expense of £6500, and to which schools for 1300 children were added in 1846 at an expense of £2000. In Scholes are St. Patrick's Roman Catholic schools and chapel. The free grammar school, at Millgate, appears to have been founded in the 16th year of the reign of James I., when a benefaction was made to it of £6. 13. 4. per annum, by James Leigh: an act of parliament was passed in 1812, incorporating fifteen members of the municipal corporation as governors of the institution, with power to appoint a master and an usher. The number of scholars is fixed at eighty, and the income is about £200 per annum. A Blue-coat school wherein 40 boys were clothed and instructed, was established in 1773, but a building for a national school being erected in 1825, the former was united to it. Commodious infant and Sunday schools, in connexion with St. Catherine's district church, have been built by subscription, and schools have been established in connexion with St. George's church. There have also been recently erected by subscription, aided by public grants, schools in the Queen-street ward, where the principal part of the manufacturing population are located. Schools for the children of dissenters are supported; and the poor have many bequests, amounting in the aggregate to a considerable sum. The union of Wigan comprises 20 townships, and contains a population of 66,032.
From: A Topographical Dictionary of England by Samuel Lewis (1848), pp. 568-571. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=51405 Date accessed: 03 August 2010.
Birth, marriages and deaths were kept by the government, from July 1837 to the present day. The civil registration article tells more about these records. There are several Internet sites with name lists or indexes. A popular site is FreeBMD.
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Records of wills, administrations, inventories, indexes, etc. were filed by the court with jurisdiction over this parish. Go to Lancashire Probate Records to find the name of the court having primary jurisdiction. Scroll down in the article to the section Court Jurisdictions by Parish.
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