A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
|WIGAN||BILLINGE HIGHER END||UPHOLLAND||ABRAM|
|BILLINGE CHAPEL END||ORRELL||INCE||ASPULL|
This large parish was at the time of the Conquest included within the hundred of Newton, with the exception of its western township, Upholland and Dalton, which were within West Derby, and perhaps also of Haigh and Aspull in the north-east. The parish with the same exceptions became part of the fee or barony of Makerfield. Aspull was either then or later placed in the hundred of Salford, in which it has remained till the present. Except in the township of Abram the geological formation consists entirely of the Coal Measures. Coal was discovered and used in the 15th century, or earlier; the mines were extended, and during the last century became the predominant feature of the district. Other industries have also grown up.
Though Wigan was the meeting place of Roman roads which traversed the parish, but few remains of the Roman period have been discovered, and these chiefly at Wigan itself. From that time practically nothing is known of the history of the district until after the Norman Conquest.
A town with busy traders grew up around the church, and became a centre for the business of a large part of the hundred, political and mercantile. The rebellion of Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, in 1321–2, affected it through its rector and also through the Holands, one of the chief local families, who adhered to his cause. The only monastery in the parish, Upholland Priory, was founded in 1317, and Edward II stayed there a fortnight when he passed through the district on his way to Liverpool in 1323.
The landowners were hostile to the Reformation, and in 1630–3 the following compounded for the sequestration of two-thirds of their estates for recusancy by annual fines: Abram, Henry Lance, £10; Richard Ashton, £15; Aspull, Ralph Haughton, £6 13s. 4d.; Billinge, Edmund Bispham, £3; Birchley, Roger Anderton, £21 12s. 4d.; Dalton, Thomas Bank, £2; John Reskow, £2; Haigh, William Bradshaw, £3 6s. 8d.; Hindley, Abraham Langton of Lowe, £10; Ince, Thomas Gerard, £40; Thomas Ince, £8; Pemberton, Edmund Winstanley, £2 10s. (fn. 1)
The Civil War found the district as a whole loyal to the king; but the Ashhursts and some other families were Parliamentarians. There was fighting at Wigan in 1644 and 1651, and much confiscation by the Commonwealth authorities. The Restoration appears to have been generally welcomed. At the Revolution there was much more division, but no open opposition was made, and the Jacobite rising of 1715 does not seem to have had any adherents in the parish. The march of the Young Pretender through Wigan, Ince, and Hindley in 1745 brought in no recruits. The more recent history has, as in the north of England generally, been that of the growth of manufactures and commerce.
The total area of the parish is 29,033½ acres. Of this at present 12,938 acres are arable, 7,179 permanent grass, and 854 woods and plantations. The population in 1901 numbered 157,915. The county lay of 1624 was arranged so that the parish counted as six townships and a half, Wigan itself answering for two. The other groups were—Pemberton and Ince, Hindley and Abram, Holland and Dalton, Orrell, Billinge and Winstanley; Haigh was the half township. Aspull, being in Salford Hundred, was grouped with Blackrod. When the hundred paid £100 Wigan parish, excluding Aspull, paid £12 10s. The ancient fifteenth was more irregularly levied thus: Wigan £3, Haigh 7s., Hindley 16s. 8d., Ince 9s., Dalton 19s., Abram 11s. 8d., Upholland £1 7s. 8d., Billinge cum Winstanley 17s., Orrell 6s., Pemberton 18s. 4d., or £9 12s. 4d. when the hundred paid £106 9s. 6d. Aspull paid 7s. 8d. in Salford.
The church of ALL SAINTS (fn. 2) has a chancel of two bays with north and south chapels, the Legh chapel on the north and the Bradshagh or Bradshaw chapel on the south, a nave of six bays with aisles, and a tower at the north-east angle of the north aisle of the nave, with the Gerard (now Walmesley) chapel adjoining it on the west. East of the tower is a modern vestry.
Though the plan of the church is ancient, the building has undergone even more than the general amount of renewal which has been the lot of so many of the neighbouring churches. The chancel is recorded to have been rebuilt in 1620 by Bishop Bridgeman, and was again rebuilt in 1845. The Bradshagh and Legh chapels, which had been repaired if not rebuilt in 1620, were also rebuilt in 1845, and the nave taken down and rebuilt from the foundations in 1850, much of the old material being however used. The Gerard chapel, rebuilt about 1620, escaped the general fate. The tower and the lowest parts of the stair turrets at the west end of the chancel were not rebuilt, and contain the oldest work now existing. With such a history, any definite idea of the development of the plan is out of the question. The tower is at least as old as the 13th century, and in the course of rebuilding some 12th-century stones are said to have been found.
The nave arcades, as noted by Sir Stephen Glynne, (fn. 3) have somewhat the appearance of 14th-century work, with moulded arches and piers of four engaged shafts of good proportion. All the old stone has been retooled at the rebuilding of 1850, and the capitals are entirely of that date, so that it is impossible to deduce the former details of the work. A clearstory runs for the whole length of the nave and chancel, and the nave roof retains a good deal of old work, being divided into panels by moulded beams. The figures of angels on the roof corbels are terra-cotta substitutes for old oak figures. All the windows of the church before 1850, except the east and west windows, were like those still remaining in the Gerard chapel, with uncusped tracery and four-centred heads. The tower opens to the north aisle by a pointed arch, with half-octagon responds, and its ground story is lighted by a two-light window on the north, and a three-light window on the west. The latter was built up, perhaps when the Gerard chapel was added, and was opened out again in 1850; it is of three lights, apparently of the second half of the 13th century, though much repaired. In the sill of the north window is set an effigy of which only the face can be seen, the rest being entirely plastered over. It is said to be that of an ecclesiastic, wearing a mitre, and was found under the tower. In the east jamb of the same window is set a panelled stone with two scrolls on the top, locally believed to be part of a Roman altar. It is impossible to examine it satisfactorily in its present condition. The tower has been heightened to make room for a clock, and has pairs of windows on each face of the belfry stage, and an embattled parapet with angle pinnacles. In its upper stages no ancient detail remains, but it seems probable that all above the first stage was rebuilt in the 15th century. Of the ancient fittings of the church nothing remains. The turret stairs at the west end of the chancel doubtless led to the rood-loft, and before 1850 a gallery spanned the entrance to the chancel, carrying an organ given to the church in 1708, and afterwards moved into the Legh chapel. At the west end of the nave was a gallery with seats for the mayor and corporation, and a 'three-decker' pulpit and desk stood against the fourth pillar of the nave arcade. The altar-table is of the 17th century, of oak with a black marble slab. A piece of tapestry with the story of Ananias and Sapphira, formerly hung as a reredos to the altar, is now above the south doorway of the nave. A font dating from c. 1710, removed from the church in 1850, is now in St. George's church, and the present font is modern. (fn. 4) Two 14th-century gravestones with floriated crosses are built into the walls of the tower, and near them lies a slab with a plain cross and the inscription, 'O L 1585.' In the Bradshagh chapel is an altar-tomb with two effigies, said to be those of Sir William de Bradshagh and his wife Mabel, the effigy of the lady alone being old. Sir William's effigy was much damaged, and a new figure has taken its place, the remains of the old effigy being put inside the altar-tomb. Against the south wall of the chapel is the monument of Sir Roger Bradshagh, 1684, and there are several 19th-century Balcarres monuments. (fn. 5)
The church plate was for the most part given by Richard Wells in 1706, but was remade about 1850, the former inscriptions recording the gift being preserved. One large paten is, however, old, having an embossed centre with the Adoration of the Magi. There are three sets of large silver-gilt communion plate, and a smaller set, also silver-gilt. Of plain silver are three flagons and three cruets, and two almsdishes, the last dating from 1724. There are also seven brass almsdishes of various dates, two pewter dishes of 1825, and twelve of 1840.
The registers begin in 1580, and are contained in over seventy volumes, (fn. 6) and the churchwardens' account books are complete from 1651. The sexton's day book has much detailed information about the burials in the church.
In 1066 'the church of the manor' of Newton had one ploughland exempt from all dues. (fn. 7) It may be assumed that the lord of Newton, who at that time was the King, was patron. When the Makerfield barony was formed the patronage of this church naturally went with it, although owing to frequent minorities the kings very often presented. (fn. 8) This led to disputes. On a vacancy in 1281 the patronage was claimed by Edward I, but judgement was recorded for Robert Banastre. (fn. 9) At the following vacancy, 1303, William son of Jordan de Standish claimed the right to present, but failed to justify it. (fn. 10) The value of the benefice in 1291 had been estimated at 50 marks a year. (fn. 11) The value of the ninth of sheaves, wool, &c., was only £24 2s. in 1341, but Wigan borough was not included. (fn. 12)
In 1349 the crown revived its claim to the patronage and this time obtained a verdict. (fn. 13) It was certainly an erroneous decision, and the Bishop of Lichfield seems to have been unwilling to accept the royal nominee, (fn. 14) John de Winwick. It is to the credit of this rector that some time before resigning in 1359 he persuaded the king to restore the advowson to the Langtons. (fn. 15) The Standish family afterwards revived their claim to the patronage, and the matter appears to have been closed only in 1446 by a verdict for James de Langton, then rector. (fn. 16)
In the 16th century the Langtons began to sell the next presentations, (fn. 17) and in 1598 Sir Thomas Langton appears to have mortgaged or sold 'the parsonage of Wigan' to the trustees of John Lacy, citizen of London; the latter in 1605 sold it to a Mr. Pearshall, probably a trustee for Richard Fleetwood, of Calwich, the heir of the Langtons. (fn. 18) Bishop Bridgeman, then rector, agreed about 1638 to purchase the advowson for £1,000 from Sir Richard Fleetwood, but Sir Richard Murray, D.D., warden of Manchester, offering £10 more, secured it, and then tried to sell it to the crown for £4,000. (fn. 19) Charles I not being able to afford this, Sir John Hotham became the purchaser shortly afterwards; (fn. 20) and his trustees about 1661 sold it to Sir Orlando Bridgeman, (fn. 21) son of the bishop, in whose family it has since descended, the Earl of Bradford being the patron.
Sir Orlando and his son adopted a 'self-denying ordinance,' and formed a body of trustees to exercise the patronage, (fn. 22) and thus it happened that for nearly half a century the Bishops of Chester were presented to the rectory. (fn. 23)
Meanwhile the value had very greatly increased. In the 16th century, and perhaps earlier, the system of farming the tithes prevented the rectors receiving the full revenue, (fn. 24) and in 1535 the gross value was set down as £110 16s. 8d., from which had to be deducted a pension of £20, anciently paid to the cathedral of Lichfield, and other fees and dues, (fn. 25) so that the net value was reported as £80 13s. 4d. In the first half of the next century Bishop Bridgeman found that the clear yearly value was £570 on an average. (fn. 26) Bishop Gastrell, about 1717, recorded it to be 'above £300 clear, all curates paid.' (fn. 27) In 1802 the receipts from tithes amounted to £1,306 8s., (fn. 28) and afterwards receipts from the coal mining under the glebe were added. The value is now estimated at £1,500. (fn. 29) The rector of Wigan pays a considerable sum from his income to the incumbents of various churches built in the parish.
|Instituted||Name||Presented by||Cause of Vacancy|
|oc. 1199||Randle (fn. 30)||—||—|
|23 April 1205||Robert de Durham (fn. 31)||The King||res. of Randle|
|2 Nov. 1226||Ralph de Leicester (fn. 32)||"||—|
|oc. 1241||John Maunsel (fn. 33)||"||—|
|1265||Mr. Richard de Marklan (fn. 34)||Robert Banastre||d. of J. Maunsel|
|? 1281||Mr. Adam de Walton (fn. 35)||—||—|
|22 Sept. 1303||Mr. Robert de Clitheroe (fn. 36)||John de Langton||—|
|15 June 1334||Ivo (John) de Langton (fn. 37)||Sir Robert de Langton||d. of Rob.de Clitheroe|
|13 Nov. 1344||John de Craven (fn. 38)||"||—|
|26 Dec. 1344||Mr. John de Craven (fn. 39)||"||—|
|oc. 1347||Henry de Dale, M.A. (fn. 40)||—||—|
|12 Mar. 1349–50||John de Winwick (fn. 41)||The King||—|
|3 May 1350|
|10 July 1359||Richard de Langton (fn. 42)||Sir Rob. de Langton||—|
|4 Sept. 1359||Robert de Lostock (fn. 43)||"||res R. de Langton|
|2 Jan. 1361–2||Walter de Campden (fn. 44)||John Earl of Lancaster||res. R. de Lostock|
|24 Aug. 1370||James de Langton (fn. 45)||Ralph de Langton||d. W. de Campden|
|oc. 1415–31||William de Langton (fn. 46)||—||—|
|oc. 1432–47||James de Langton (fn. 47)||—||—|
|oc. 1451||Oliver de Langton (fn. 48)||—||—|
|oc. 1485||John Langton (fn. 49)||—||—|
|9 Aug. 1504||Thomas Langton (fn. 50)||Langton feoffees||d. J. Langton|
|16 Aug. 1506||Richard Wyot, D.D. (fn. 51)||The King||d. T. Langton|
|10 Oct. 1519||Thomas Linacre, M.D (fn. 52)||Thos. Langton||res. R. Wyot|
|oc. 1528–32||Nicholas Towneley (fn. 53)||—||—|
|oc. 1532–3||Richard Langton (fn. 54)||—||—|
|24 Mar 1534–5||Richard Kighley (fn. 55)||Sir T. Langton||d. R. Langton|
|8 Aug. 1543||John Herbert (fn. 56)||Thos. White||d. R. Kighley|
|? March 1550||John Standish, D.D. (fn. 57)||The King||—|
|1550||Richard Smith (fn. 58)||"||—|
|2 Mar. 1554–5||Richard Gerard (fn. 59)||Earl of Derby, &c.||d. R. Smith|
|10 Aug. 1558||Thomas Stanley (fn. 60)||John Fleetwood||d. R. Gerard|
|Apl. 1569||William Blackleach, B.A. (fn. 61)||John Fleetwood||d. Bp. Stanley|
|8 Feb. 1570–1||Edward Fleetwood (fn. 62)||The Queen||res. W. Blackleach|
|9 Oct. 1604||Gerard Massie, D.D. (fn. 63)||The King||d. E. Fleetwood|
|21 Jan. 1615–16||John Bridgeman, D.D. (fn. 64)||"||d. G. Massie|
|c. 1643||James Bradshaw, M.A. (fn. 65)||Parliamentary Comm'rs.||—|
|1653||Charles Hotham, M.A. (fn. 66)||[Hotham Trustees]||[d. Bp. Bridgeman]|
|1662||George Hall, D.D. (fn. 67)||Sir O. Bridgeman||ejec. C. Hotham|
|1668||John Wilkins, D.D. (fn. 68)||Bridgeman Trustees||d. Bp. Hall|
|1673||John Pearson, D.D. (fn. 69)||"||d. Bp. Wilkins|
|1686||Thomas Cartwright, D.D. (fn. 70)||Bridgeman Trustees||d. Bp. Pearson|
|1689||Nicholas Stratford, D.D. (fn. 71)||" "||d. Bp. Cartwright|
|Mar. 1706–7||Hon. Edward Finch, M.A. (fn. 72)||" "||d. Bp. Stratford|
|30 April 1714||Samuel Aldersey, M.A. (fn. 73)||" "||res. E. Finch|
|12 May 1741||Roger Bridgeman, D.D. (fn. 74)||" "||d. S. Aldersey|
|(3 July) 1750||Shirley Cotes, M.A. (fn. 75)||Wm. Lord Digby||d. R. Bridgeman|
|27 Feb. 1776||Guy Fairfax, M.A. (fn. 76)||Sir H. Bridgeman||d. S. Cotes|
|30 July 1790||George Bridgeman (fn. 77)||Sir H. Bridgeman, &c.||res. G. Fairfax|
|4 Jan. 1833||Sir Henry John Gunning, M.A. (fn. 78)||Earl of Bradford||d. G. Bridgeman|
|17 Oct. 1864||Hon. George Thomas Orlando Bridgeman, M.A. (fn. 79)||Bishop of Chester||res. Sir H. Gunning|
|24 Feb. 1896||Roland George Matthew, M.A. (fn. 80)||Earl of Bradford||d G.T.O. Bridgeman|
The earlier rectors of Wigan, when presented by the kings, were busy public officials, who probably never saw the church from which they drew a small addition to their incomes; and when presented by the hereditary patrons were, with few exceptions, men of no distinction, whose only recommendation was their family connexion.
The Valor of 1535 does not record any chapelries or chantries nor mention any clergy except the rector and the Bradshagh chantry priest, but Upholland Priory was still in existence. (fn. 81) The Clergy List of 1541–2 (fn. 82) shows that there were four priests within the parish, apart from rector and cantarist; one of these was the curate, Ralph Scott; two were paid by Robert Langton and Thomas Gerard; the maintenance of the other is not recorded.
In the Visitation List in 1548 is left a blank for the rector's name; then follow eight names, one being that of the chantry priest; but two of the clergy seem to have been absent. In 1554 Master Richard Smith, rector; the curate, and three others appeared, including the former chantry priest. No improvement took place under the episcopate of Bishop Scott, though he had a personal interest in the parish. In 1562 the Bishop of Sodor and Man did not appear, being 'excused by the Bishop of Chester.' Ralph Scott appeared and exhibited his subscription, so that he was prepared to accept the Elizabethan order, as he had accepted all the previous changes; two other names also appear in the list, one of an old priest, the other a fresh name. In 1565 only three names are shown in the list—Bishop Stanley, who 'did not exhibit,' his curate Ralph Scott, and Thomas Baron or Barow, whose name had appeared in each list from 1548, and who perhaps had no ministerial office. (fn. 83) Thus it appears that by this time the working clergy had been reduced to one, the curate of the parish church. (fn. 84)
The short incumbency of William Blackleach, of whom nothing is known, was followed by that of a decided Protestant, Edward Fleetwood. He was one of the two 'preachers' in 1590 at the parish church; there were no preachers at the two chapelries, Upholland and Billinge. (fn. 85) The Puritan rector and his curate in 1592 were reported to 'wear no surplice,' nor did they catechise the youth, and were admonished accordingly; it is also stated that 'they want a chancel.' (fn. 86) In 1610 there was 'a preacher' at the parish church, but none at either of the chapels. (fn. 87)
The Commonwealth surveyors of 1650 recommended the subdivision of the parish; Holland Chapel had already been cut off by an Act of 1646, and the committee of Plundered Ministers had made several increments in the stipends of the incumbents of the chapelries out of Bishop Bridgeman's sequestered tithes. (fn. 88) After the Restoration both the rector and a large number of the Protestants remained firm in their attachment to the Presbyterian discipline, while the rectory was till 1706 held by the Bishops of Chester, among them the learned Pearson. Here, as in other parishes, the great increase in population during the 19th century has led to the erection of many new churches and the subdivision of the ancient parish, there being now twenty parochial churches in connexion with the Establishment, besides licensed churches and mission rooms. (fn. 89)
There was only one endowed chantry; it was founded in 1338 by Mabel, widow of Sir William de Bradshagh, who endowed it with a messuage in Wigan and tenements at Haigh. (fn. 90) In 1548 the chantry priest was celebrating at the altar of our Lady in the church according to his foundation. (fn. 91)
The charities of Wigan (fn. 92) comprise a large number of separate benefactions, mostly for the poor in general, but some especially for clothing or apprenticing boys. (fn. 93) Some have been lost. (fn. 94) The most important used to be the Edmund Molyneux bread charity, being the profits of his estate at Canewdon in Essex. (fn. 95)
Abram has certain lands, the rents of which are devoted to charitable uses, and some minor benefactions. (fn. 96) Pemberton also had some small charities. (fn. 97) At Ince, linen, oatmeal, and gifts of money were provided, (fn. 98) but part of the fund is lost; while at Aspull of the two charities one survives. (fn. 99) At Haigh Dame Dorothy Bradshagh about 1775 erected a building called the Receptacle, being an almshouse for twenty poor persons; (fn. 100) there were also a poor's stock and some minor charities, most of which have been lost. (fn. 101) Hindley has linen or flannel charities and one or two others. (fn. 102)
For the Billinge townships the principal foundation is that of John Eddleston, who in 1672 bequeathed his house and lands here for charitable uses; (fn. 103) there were several other benefactions. (fn. 104) At Winstanley are two charities founded by James and William Bankes, with incomes of about £20 and £17, used to provide cloth and blankets. (fn. 105) In Orrell, out of a number of gifts, about £6 a year is still distributed in doles of calico. (fn. 106) Pimbo Lane House and other tenements in Upholland were given by Henry Bispham in 1720 and 1728 for the benefit of that and neighbouring townships; (fn. 107) there are here also other charities of considerable value, though several gifts have been lost. (fn. 108) Dalton has nothing for itself. (fn. 109)