A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
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Wigan, 1199; Wygayn, 1240; Wygan, common. Pronounced Wiggin (g hard).
The River Douglas, in its unrestricted days, flowed down from the north and turned to the west round the hill upon which Wigan Church stands, thence running north-westward and northward to the Ribble. The township of Wigan consists of the triangular area inclosed by the river and a line drawn across in a north-easterly direction from one part of the river's course to the other; in addition there are the district called Scholes on the eastern side, inclosed between the Douglas and a brook once called the Lorington, and now the Clarington, (fn. 1) which formerly joined it near the southernmost point of its course; and a small area to the south of the river. It is curious that Wigan is cut off by the river from the rest of the parish and hundred, and has on the north no marked physical separation from Standish, in a different parish and hundred. The area is 2,188 acres, including 47 of inland water. The population in 1901 numbered 60,764.
The church stands on the crest of the hill, which slopes away rapidly to the south and more gently to the north. To the north-west is the hall or rectory, with Hallgate leading to it, and beyond this again the Mesnes—part of it now a public park—or rectory demesne lands. Further away in the same direction lie the districts known as Gidlow and Brimelow, (fn. 2) the latter on the Standish boundary; while to the west is Woodhouses, near the river.
On the eastern side of the church is a street representing the ancient Roman road to the north, opening out just at that point into the irregular area in which the market was formerly held, and from which Market Street goes off to the north-west. As the main road goes northward it is called in succession Standishgate and Wigan Lane, with Mab's Cross as dividing mark, and has Swinley and Whitley on the west and Coppull on the east. The ground once again rises as the northern limit is neared, attaining about 250 ft.
The same road, descending south from the church and turning to the west through the more level ground running nearly parallel to the Douglas, is there called Wallgate. The border district to the south of Wallgate is called Poolstock.
Another road, called Millgate, begins at the old Market-place, and proceeding south-east, crosses the Douglas by a bridge, (fn. 3) near which was formerly the principal corn-mill of the town, and then goes northeast through the Scholes and Whelley. There is an easterly branch called Hardy Butts, starting near the river and proceeding through Hindley towards Manchester, probably on the line of another ancient Roman road.
Around the church and along the main roads mentioned the town of Wigan grew up. As the head of a great coal-mining district, the Douglas navigation scheme of 1720, (fn. 4) and the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, opened in 1774, have been of great service; the Lancaster Canal followed in 1794, and a branch to Leigh connected the town with the Worsley Canal. The railway companies have also contributed to the progress of the place; the London & North Western Company's main line from London to Scotland passes through the place, (fn. 5) having a station in Wallgate, to the south of the church. The Lancashire and Yorkshire Company's Liverpool and Bury line, opened in 1848, has a station (1860) in Wallgate, near to the church; the company's Wigan and Southport branch (1855) turns off here. More recently the Great Central Railway has found access to the town, having a station near Millgate, opened in 1892.
Wigan is identified with the Coccium of the Antonine Itinerary; it stands at the point where the Roman road, north and south, was joined by another important road from Manchester. Its position on a hilltop, surrounded on two sides of its triangular area by a rapid stream, suggests that it had been a British fort. Various Roman remains have been found. (fn. 6)
The town continued to grow and prosper throughout the mediaeval period, and Leland thus describes its appearance about 1536: 'Wigan paved; as big as Warrington and better builded. There is one parish church amid the town. Some merchants, some artificers, some farmers.' (fn. 7)
Apart from its internal growth, the history of Wigan is interesting on account of the part taken in the Civil War. The townspeople were Royalist, (fn. 8) and the Earl of Derby appeared to make it his head quarters, its central position rendering it very fit for the purpose. He placed a garrison there, (fn. 9) but on 1 April 1643, the town was captured by the Parliamentary forces under Colonel Holland, after only two hours' resistance. Many prisoners were taken, and the soldiers were allowed to plunder and carry away what they could. (fn. 10) The Earl of Derby, who was 12 miles away, marched to its relief, but hearing that the town had surrendered, and that the Parliamentary forces had retired after breaking down some of the defensive works, he desisted and went to Lathom. (fn. 11) A second assault and capture took place three weeks later. (fn. 12) In 1648 Duke Hamilton's forces occupied Wigan after their defeat by Cromwell near Preston, but after plundering the people 'almost to their skins,' retired to Warrington, pursued by Cromwell. (fn. 13) A pestilence followed. (fn. 14)
When, in August 1651, the Earl of Derby was raising a force for Charles II, he again tried to secure Wigan. On 26 August a hot fight took place in Wigan Lane between his forces and those of Colonel Lilburne. At first the former were victorious, but a reserve of horse coming to Lilburne's assistance, put the Royalists to flight. Lord Derby took refuge in Wigan for a brief time, and after his wounds had been dressed, he went south to join Charles at Worcester. Sir Thomas Tyldesley and other notable Royalists were killed in the battle. (fn. 15)
The Restoration and Revolution do not appear to have affected Wigan much. (fn. 16) Some of those condemned for participation in the rising of 1715 were executed here. (fn. 17) The Young Pretender with his Highland army passed through the town on 28 No vember 1745, on his way to Manchester, and again on 10–11 December on his retreat northward. The inhabitants were not molested, but no recruits joined the force. (fn. 18)
At present the whole of the district is thickly populated, the industrial town of Wigan occupying the greater part of the township, whilst its collieries, factories, &c., fill the atmosphere with smoke. There is, however, a fringe of open country beyond the town itself, on the north, and here are arable and pasture lands, the crops raised being chiefly potatoes and oats. The soil is clayey and sandy. The woodlands of Haigh in the adjoining township make an agreeable background. The Douglas, turning many a factory wheel on its way, winds erratically across the district. The south-westerly part of the township lies very low, and is almost always flooded, the result of frequent subsidences of the ground.
The worthies of the town include Ralph Brooke or Brooksmouth, York Herald in the time of Elizabeth; (fn. 19) Henry Mason, divine and benefactor, 1573 to 1647; (fn. 20) John Leland, nonconformist divine and apologist for Christianity, who died 1766; (fn. 21) Anthony Wilson, alias Henry Bromley, publisher of catalogues of Engraved British Portraits, 1793; (fn. 22) John Fairclough, a minor Jesuit writer, 1787 to 1832; (fn. 23) John Roby, author of the romances entitled Traditions of Lancashire, 1795 to 1850; (fn. 24) John Howard Marsden, antiquary, 1803 to 1891; (fn. 25) John C. Prince, minor poet, 1808 to 1866; (fn. 26) and John Fitchett Marsh, antiquary, 1818 to 1880. (fn. 27)
A number of tokens were issued by local tradesmen in the 17th century. (fn. 28)
The printing press is said to have been introduced into Wigan about 1760; books dated in 1780 and later years are known. (fn. 29) There are three newspapers, two published three times a week and the other weekly. (fn. 30)
Coal-mining is the characteristic trade of the place, but there are large cotton mills also; ginghams, &c., are made. Forges, iron and brass foundries, wagon, screw and nail, oil and grease works, and breweries are also in operation. The ancient walk-mills show that cloth was made here from early times. A goldsmith was killed at Wigan in 1341. (fn. 31) The potters' right to dig clay on the wastes was vindicated in 1619. (fn. 32) 'Digging and delving mines for coals' was common in 1595. (fn. 33) Bell-founding is a lost trade; it was formerly in the hands of the Scott and Ashton families. (fn. 34)
In 1624 Bishop Bridgeman notified his objection to the 'barbarous and beastly game of bear baiting' at the wakes; but on the mayor's request he allowed the baiting to take place on the market hill after the market was over and the people had packed up their wares. (fn. 35)
An old Wigan nursery rhyme is printed in Harland and Wilkinson's Legends. (fn. 36)
The stocks were formerly near the main entrance to the churchyard from Wallgate. There was a cross in the market place, where proclamations were made, and the base of Mab's Cross, already mentioned, is in Standishgate. (fn. 37)
There was formerly a spa in Scholes. (fn. 38)
The curfew bell, anciently rung at eight o'clock, was in 1881 rung at half-past ten. (fn. 39)
A body of volunteers, called the Wigan Rifles, was raised in 1804. (fn. 40) The present volunteer force consists of five companies of the 6th battalion of the Manchester Regiment.
In Domesday Book WIGAN is not named; it was only 'the church of the manor' of Newton, (fn. 41) and a century later it is the church that brings it forward once more, a resident vicar being appointed. (fn. 42) The rectors were thus from before the Conquest until recently lords of the manor of Wigan under the lords of Newton, and the rectory was the hall. From the account of them already given it will be seen that a large number were non-resident, and exercised their authority by deputies.
Among the rights which gave most trouble to the rectors were those over the mills. Rector Fleetwood in the first year of his incumbency (1571) had instituted a suit against Hugh, Gilbert, and James Langshaw to recover seisin of two ancient water-mills, described as walk mills. (fn. 43) The dispute went on for many years. (fn. 44) Bishop Bridgeman, thirty years later, complained that William Langshaw was endeavouring to deprive the rector of his ownership of the mill. (fn. 45) The mills were situated at Coppull and a little lower down the river by the school; in 1627 they paid a rent of £4 a year to the rector. (fn. 46)
The corn mills, of which in the year just named there were five, also caused trouble. The principal was that on the Douglas in Millgate, of which Miles Leatherbarrow was the tenant in 1617. (fn. 47) In Rector Fleetwood's time a new water corn-mill was erected by Miles Gerard of Ince upon Lorington or Clarington Brook, the boundary of the manors of Wigan and Ince, and the water-course was diverted to feed it. The rectors complained of the injustice done to them, but Dr. Bridgeman allowed the mill to stand on condition that 20s. a year should be paid for tithe. (fn. 48)
In his first year Dr. Bridgeman received £16 13s. 2d. as manor rents, (fn. 49) and 10s. each for seven mortuaries. (fn. 50) It is an indication that there was a strong community existing around the church to find one of the absentee rectors, the busy official John Maunsel, procuring from the king a charter creating a borough. This was granted on 26 August 1246 to John Maunsel; the town of Wigan was to be a borough and a free borough for ever; the burgesses should have a gild merchant, with a hanse and all the liberties and free customs pertaining to such a gild; and no one but a member of the gild should do any business in the borough except by consent of the burgesses. Further, to the burgesses and their heirs the king conceded that they should have soke, sac, toll, theam, and attachment within the borough, infangenthef, utfangenthef; that they should throughout the country and sea ports be free of toll, lastage, pontage, passage, and stallage; that they should do no suit to county or wapentake for tenements within the borough; also that traders, even foreigners, provided they entered England peaceably and with the king's leave, should be allowed to pass in safety to and from the borough with their merchandise upon paying the usual dues. (fn. 51)
The rector's concomitant charter grants that the burgesses of Wigan and their heirs and assigns should have their free town, with all rights, customs, and liberties as stated in the king's charter; that each burgess should have to his burgage 5 roods of land; that they should grind at the rector's mill to the twentieth measure without payment, should have from his wood sufficient for building and burning, quittance of pannage and other easements; and that they should have their pleas in portmote once in three weeks, with verdict of twelve men and amercements by the same; paying annually to the rector 12d. a year for each burgage for all services. Robert Banastre, lord of Makerfield and patron of the church, added his confirmation; as did also Roger, Bishop of Lichfield. (fn. 52)
The burgesses, (fn. 53) regarded as equals, thus became the free tenants of the rector, as lord of the manor, with the usual liberties, and the special privilege of a portmote. The royal charter looks on the place as a trading centre and gives internal and external privileges accordingly; these last, which the rector could not give, were doubtless the reason for invoking the king's help. A later charter, 1257–8, granted that the rectors should have a market at their borough of Wigan on Monday in every week, and two fairs there of three days each, viz., on the vigil, day and morrow of the Ascension and of All Saints. (fn. 54)
In 1292 Adam de Walton, then rector, was called upon to show by what warrant he claimed certain liberties; it was asserted that Master Adam and his bailiffs had exceeded the terms of the charters by trying persons accused of felonies beyond their jurisdiction, when those persons had placed themselves on a jury of their country. In reply to particular charges the community of the vill appeared by twelve men of the vill. As to the court and liberty of the vill they said that these belonged to the rector, and they were suitors there. The jury decided that soke and sac and other liberties had been granted to the burgesses, who did not claim them, and not to the rector, who did; let them therefore be taken into the king's hands. As to the taking of emends of the assize of bread and beer on the market and fair days the rector's claim was allowed; but as he had punished some frequent transgressors at his discretion and not judicially, he was at the king's mercy. (fn. 55) The liberties claimed by the rectors were afterwards restored, on the application of the guardian of Robert Banastre's heiress. (fn. 56)
The commonalty of Wigan were sued for a debt in 1304. (fn. 57)
In 1314 Robert de Clitheroe obtained from the king a confirmation of the charter of 1246. (fn. 58)
About 1328 the rector complained that the burgesses, his tenants, every day held a market among themselves, and with strangers, in divers goods, although these be ill-gotten or stolen; taking toll for such merchandise and appropriating it to themselves. They also made assay of bread and tasting of beer every day except Monday, taking amercements and profits by force and power; all to the prejudice of the rector's market. (fn. 59) Possibly it was on this account that the charter was confirmed in 1329. (fn. 60)
A further confirmation was granted in 1350; (fn. 61) with a special indemnity to the rector and the burgesses for any abuse or non-claim of the liberties and acquittances of former charters. The king also granted a view of frankpledge, freedom from the sheriff's tourn, cognizance by the bailiffs of the rector of all pleas concerning lands, tenures, contracts, &c., within the borough; with many similar and complementary liberties. 'Moreover, whereas there has been a frequent concourse at the said borough, as well of merchants and others, for the sake of trading and otherwise,' the rectors, as lords of the borough, might for ever 'have a certain seal, by us to be ordained, of two pieces, as is of custom to be used, for recognisances of debts there according to the form of the statutes published for merchants; and that the greater part of the seal aforesaid may remain in the custody of the mayor or keeper of the borough aforesaid for the time being, or other private person of the greater or more discreet men of the borough to be chosen for this purpose (with the assent of the rector) if there shall not be a mayor or keeper there.' (fn. 62)
As a result of this charter suits by Wigan people were frequently stopped in the assize court by the bailiffs of the rector appearing to claim the case as one for the local court. (fn. 63) Another result was probably the regular election of a mayor, the language of the charter implying that the burgesses had not hitherto had such a generally recognized head. There are numerous instances of 'statutes merchant' before the mayor of Wigan commencing about 1370. (fn. 64) From a petition of Rector Wyot (1506–19) it appears that, 'for a long time past,' the custom had been that on a vacancy in the mayoralty the burgesses elected three of their number and presented them to the rector, who chose one to act for the ensuing year. (fn. 65)
The rectors in the time of Henry VIII, and probably much earlier, exercised their authority as lords of the borough through a steward and a bailiff, with an under-steward who was clerk of the court. (fn. 66)
About 1560 Bishop Stanley began to assert his rights as lord of the manor, and he challenged the claim to hold markets, (fn. 67) fairs, and courts leet put forward and exercised by the mayor and burgesses. Those accused of withdrawing 'did not know' whether suit was due to the rector's law-day or leet, or to his three weeks court, though 'most of them had done so, until now of late'; and they endeavoured to draw attention from this aspect of the question by an allegation of outrage upon the mayor by one of the bishop's servants. Nothing seems to have been done, except that the bishop confirmed Maunsel's charter to the burgesses. (fn. 68) He yielded 'upon fear and for a fine of money received,' according to Dr. Bridgeman. (fn. 69)
Under Rector Fleetwood the struggle was more determined. The corporation about 1583 laid claim to the lordship of the manor, as lords improving the wastes and commons, and letting the houses built thereupon; also digging for coal within the demesnes of the manor, and in many other ways usurping the rector's rights. They stated that a mayor, two bailiffs, and sundry burgesses were annually elected for the town and borough of Wigan, which had also five aldermen, the Earl of Derby being one; that Maunsel's charter gave the burgesses all the liberties in dispute; and that the moot-hall was their inheritance. They had kept courts, taken waifs and strays, &c., in accordance with their right. The rector's reply traversed all this, alleging in particular that the burgesses had no grant enabling them to elect a mayor to be head of the corporation, though they had done so 'for divers years' by usurpation, and that the appointment of aldermen was a recent usage, 'without due rite.' (fn. 70) A charter was granted about this time, viz. in 1585. (fn. 71)
A decree in the nature of a compromise was made in 1596 by the Chancellor of the Duchy. It was ordered that the corporation should keep such courts as they had usually kept, except the leets, and take the profits to their own uses; that, as to the leets, the rector should appoint a steward to sit with the mayor and burgesses or their steward and take half the profits. Clay and stone might be dug as customary, but the ways must be mended as quickly as possible, and any damage done to the moat round the rectory must be repaired. As to the fairs and markets and the profits arising from them, the corporation should have them as before, but the rector's tenants must not be required to pay any increase upon the customary tolls. The rents claimed by the rector must be paid, with arrears. The question as to the improvement of the wastes does not seem to have been decided. (fn. 72)
The corporation were then left at peace for twenty years. Dr. Massie seems to have been very yielding. (fn. 73) Bishop Bridgeman, however, an able man and strong in the royal favour, upon being appointed to the rectory made a vigorous and fairly successful effort to recover certain of his manorial rights as against the corporation. (fn. 74) The ownership of the markets and fairs, with the tolls belonging to them, had been held by the town for upwards of fifty years. On 17 October 1617, being the eve of the fair, the rector sent his man to the mayor, entreating him not to deal or meddle with the fair until the controversy as to all these matters had been decided, and inviting the mayor and aldermen, &c., to meet him at the pentice chamber next morning. At this conference the rector desired them to allow him the rights his predecessors had enjoyed, without any lawsuits; they answered that he had what his predecessors had, and ought not to ask more. The mayor was bold enough to challenge the rector's right to the manor, but met no support from the burgesses, who acknowledged their obligation to pay 12d. for each burgage plot. On matters of land-ownership no opposition was made; but when the rector claimed the fairs, markets, courts leet, courts of pleas, and courts baron and other privileges, the burgesses' reply seems to have been firm and unanimous: 'They had a right to them and hoped so to prove in law.' No compromise was possible, the answer being that they were 'all sworn to maintain the privileges of the town.' (fn. 75)
A special tribunal was appointed, and at the beginning of 1619 a decision was given: the rector was lord of the manor, with a right to the wastes and court baron and suit and service of the freeholders and inhabitants; the moot-hall to be common to the rector and corporation for the keeping of their courts, of which the pentice plea and court of pleas should be the corporation's, the leets at Easter and Michaelmas being adjudged, the former to the rector and the latter to the corporation; the Ascension-day fair and the Monday market to be the rector's, but St. Luke's fair and the Friday market to be the corporation's. (fn. 76)
In October 1620 the mayor of Wigan appeared in the moot-hall where the justices were sitting at quarter-sessions, and, 'putting on his hat before them,' claimed the ordering of the alehouses in Wigan, as belonging to his leet. The justices objected to his manners, and as he refused to find sureties for good behaviour sent him to prison; but their action was annulled, though the mayor's action for false imprisonment also failed. (fn. 77)
Bishop Bridgeman in 1622 claimed the pentice chamber in the moot-hall as built upon his waste within living memory, and appears to have succeeded. (fn. 78) His next correction of the assumptions of the corporation was provoked by the latter; they refused liberty to one William Brown to sell his goods, on the ground that he was not a burgess. The bishop pointed out that they had no right to elect burgesses; the true burgesses were those who paid the lord of the manor 12d. rent for a burgage, and he had made William Brown a burgess by selling to him a burgage house recently bought of Thomas Gerard of Ince. The mayor and burgesses were by this time convinced that it was useless to contend with their lord; they made no demur, and asked him to appoint his son Orlando as one of their aldermen; he, however, did not judge it well to do so. (fn. 79)
From this time, 1624, till after the Restoration there appears to be no record of any dispute between rector and corporation. It can scarcely be doubted that the Commonwealth period would be favourable to the latter, and when in 1662 Sir Orlando Bridgeman was selected as arbitrator in a fresh misunderstanding, he ruled that though the rector was lord of the manor and must keep a court baron, yet in view of the municipal court of pleas it was of little importance except for inquiring into the chief rents due to the rector, and preventing encroachments on the waste. Hence the court baron was to be held once in two years only, in the moot-hall; no pleas were to be held between party and party; and the mayor and such aldermen as had been mayors should be exempt from attending. The streets and wastes were to be regulated as to encroachments by the rector and mayor. Sir Orlando's father had, by his advice, leased the rector's Ascensiontide fair and weekly market to the corporation; and the arbitrator recommended the continuance of this system as 'a great means to continue peace and goodwill' between the parties, a lease, renewable, for 21 years being granted at a rent of five marks a year. The lease included the yearly fair, weekly market, and court leet, and all tolls, courts, piccage, stallages, profits, commodities, and emoluments belonging to them. (fn. 80)
Forty years ago the corporation purchased the manorial rights, an agreement being made 9 July 1860 between the rector and patron on the one side, and the mayor, aldermen, and burgesses on the other. The rights transferred were the summer fair, the Monday market, and various tolls; quit rents and manorial rights in slips of waste lying uninclosed adjoining streets in the borough and in mines under these slips; rights in Bottling Wood and the wastes; and the ancient quit rents amounting to £45 3s. 4d. The price paid was £2,800. The conveyance was signed by the rector on 2 September 1861. (fn. 81)
The charter of 1662, under which the borough was governed down to the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835, confirmed to the mayor, bailiffs, and burgesses of Wigan all their ancient liberties, and ordained that the corporation should consist of a mayor and eleven other aldermen, a recorder, two bailiffs, and a common clerk. The mayor was to be not only a magistrate for the borough, but also for the county, but this privilege was not maintained. (fn. 82) A supplementary charter was granted by James II in 1685, (fn. 83) providing in particular that eighteen burgesses might be chosen to act as 'assistants,' so that there should be a common council of thirty-two in all. The mayor was to be chosen yearly 'on the Sabbath day next after the feast of St. Michael.' The corporation, like others of the time, was a close or self-electing one, the townsmen being able to make their wishes known only through the jury and court leet. The mayor was coroner ex officio. (fn. 84)
The election of burgesses was in the jury and court leet. The corporation had the power of admitting non-resident and honorary burgesses to vote at elections without limitation; in 1802 they made a hundred burgesses in order to rid themselves of the Duke of Portland's 'patronage.' (fn. 85)
Under the Act of 1835 Wigan was classed with other boroughs having a commission of the peace; it was divided into five wards, to each of which were assigned two aldermen and six councillors. (fn. 86) In 1888 it became a county borough, and in the following year a rearrangement of the wards was authorized; the borough was divided into ten wards, each with one alderman and three councillors, the membership of the council being thus unchanged in number. (fn. 87) The inclusion of Pemberton in 1904 has caused the increase of the council to fifty-six members, chosen from fourteen wards.
The old town hall, rebuilt in 1720 at the expense of the members for the borough, stood at the western side of the market-place. It was pulled down and rebuilt in the first half of last century. It stood on pillars, the space underneath being subsequently filled with shops. The moot-hall, a stone building in Wallgate, with meeting-room above and shops below, was demolished in 1869, and 'the new town hall' in 1882, the present town hall and borough courts having been finished in 1867. A new council chamber was opened in 1890. The county police courts date from 1888. The Fish-stones, which were at the northern side of the market place, were removed in 1866. The new market hall was opened in 1877; there is a separate fish market. The ancient cloth hall was superseded by a commercial hall in the market-place, erected in 1816.
The Public Libraries Act was adopted in 1876, and two years later there was opened the new free library building, presented to the town by Thomas Taylor, who died in 1892. A Powell Boys' Readingroom, presented by the member for the borough, was added in 1895. A school board was created in 1872. The mining college was founded in 1858; in 1903 the present mining and technical building was opened.
The corporation have acquired or inaugurated a number of works and institutions for the health and convenience of the people. The first Wigan Water Act was passed in 1764; the waterworks were purchased by the corporation in 1855; the gasworks, established in 1822, were acquired in 1875; and the tramways, opened in 1880, in 1902. An electricpower station was erected in 1900, and the following year the corporation electric tramways started running. The Mesnes Park was opened in 1878, the sewerage works in 1881, public baths in 1882, and a sanatorium in 1889. Victoria Hall was built in 1902. The cemetery was established in 1856.
A dispensary was started in 1798, and a building in King Street provided in 1801, now the Savings Bank. The Royal Albert Edward Infirmary was opened by the King, then Prince of Wales, in 1873.
A court of quarter-sessions was granted to the borough in 1886.
Impressions of the borough seal of the 15th century are known. (fn. 88) The device upon it—the moot-hall— is used as a coat of arms for the borough.
As a borough Wigan sent two burgesses to the Parliaments of 1295 and 1306, but not again until 1547. From this year the borough regularly returned two members until 1885, except during the Commonwealth, when owing to its royalist tendencies it was disfranchised by Cromwell. (fn. 89) In the 17th century the burgesses were of two classes—in and out; the latter were principally neighbouring gentry, and do not seem to have availed themselves to any great extent of the privilege of voting. On the other hand a large number of the townsmen made strenuous efforts to obtain a vote, and in 1639 the mayor, bailiffs, and burgesses prepared a memorial to Parliament on the subject. This stated that they were 'an ancient corporation by prescription, and that all such persons as are or have been burgesses of that corporation have always been received into that corporation by election made by the burgesses for the time present of that corporation, and have been afterwards sworn and enrolled as burgesses in the burgess roll,' and that from time immemorial only such enrolled burgesses had voted for the burgesses who served in the Parliament; but at the recent election, after the choice had been made—but apparently before a formal declaration— 'divers inferior persons, labourers, and handicraftsmen, being free only to trade within the said town and not enrolled burgesses,' demanded voices. The mayor and bailiffs had replied asking them 'to make it to appear that they or any others of their condition had any time formerly any voices in election of the burgesses for the Parliament'; they could not prove anything of the sort, and so their votes were not allowed; but the mayor and bailiffs, at the instance of the elected burgesses, judged it right to inform the Parliament concerning the matter. (fn. 90) By the Redistribution Act of 1885 Wigan was allowed but one member instead of two as previously.
A number of families come into prominence from time to time in the records. One of the early ones took a surname from Wigan itself, (fn. 91) another from Scholes. (fn. 92) Other surnames were Jew, (fn. 93) Botling, (fn. 94) Birkhead, (fn. 95) Duxbury, (fn. 96) Preston, (fn. 97) Ford, (fn. 98) and Scott. (fn. 99) The Crosse family, afterwards of Liverpool and Chorley, were long closely connected with Wigan: Adam del Crosse (fn. 100) appears in 1277, his son John in the first half of the 14th century. (fn. 101) John's son Thurstan (fn. 102) was followed by Hugh del Crosse his son, (fn. 103) after whose death the property went to Richard del Crosse of Wigan and Liverpool. He may have been a descendant of Aymory the Walker, who appears to have been a Crosse also. (fn. 104) The Marklands were prominent up to the beginning of the 18th century. (fn. 105) A number of deeds concerning the Marsh family have been preserved by Kuerden. (fn. 106) Other surnames were derived from various trades carried on here. (fn. 107) In few cases can any connected account be given of them.
By an inquisition taken in 1323 it was found that one William de Marclan had held two messuages and two acres of land and half an acre of meadow in Wigan of the rector by the service of 12d. yearly, and other lands in Shevington of Margaret Banastre. He granted them to feoffees, who in turn granted a moiety to Robert de Holand. The last-named at Christmas 1317 assigned an annual rent of 29s. 6d. out of his share to Aline the recluse of Wigan for her maintenance. This payment ceased when Sir Robert's lands were forfeited; whereupon the recluse petitioned for its restoration, and inquiry was made. (fn. 108)
William Ford and the widows of James Houghton and Nicholas Standish contributed to a subsidy of Mary's reign as landowners. (fn. 109) The following were returned as freeholders in 1600: Gilbert Barrow, Peter Marsh, Oliver Markland, William Foster, Hamlet Green, Charles Leigh, William Burgess, Edward Challenor, John Tarleton, Gilbert Bank, Ralph Markland of Meadows; Thomas Molyneux and Edward Laithwaite of Wigan Woodhouses; Alexander Ford of Swinley, William and Hugh Langshaw, and William Bankes of Scholes. (fn. 110) William Ford contributed to the subsidy of 1628 as a landowner. (fn. 111)
Wigan people generally were royalists, but William Pilkington was in 1650 singled out as a 'grand delinquent'; he escaped with a fine of £29 5s. (fn. 112) Minor offenders against the Parliament were Robert Baron, William Brown, and William Tempest. (fn. 113) The following 'papists' registered estates at Wigan in 1717: Nicholas Mather of Abram, Richard Tootell, Thomas Naylor of Orrell, Gilbert Thornton, Thomas Scott, gent., John Thornton, Dr. Thomas Worthington, and Anne Laithwaite of Borwick. (fn. 114)
The parish church has been described above. The first additional church in the township in connexion with the Establishment was St. George's, between Standishgate and the Douglas, consecrated in 1781. A district was assigned to it in 1843, and this became a parish in 1864, on the resignation of Sir Henry Gunning, rector, as did the two following: (fn. 115) St. Catherine's, Scholes, consecrated in 1841, had a separate district assigned in 1843. (fn. 116) There is a small graveyard attached. St. Thomas's, consecrated in 1851, had in the following year a district assigned to it. (fn. 117) The rector of Wigan is patron of the above churches. St. James's, Poolstock, was consecrated in 1866, for a district formed in 1863. The patronage is vested in Mr. J. C. Eckersley. (fn. 118) St. Andrew's, Woodhouse Lane, consecrated in 1882, had a district assigned to it in 1871. (fn. 119) The church of St. Michael and All Angels, Swinley, was consecrated in 1878 as a chapel of ease to the parish church, and became parochial in 1881. (fn. 120) The patronage of these two churches is vested in the rector of Wigan.
The various bodies of Methodists have in all eight churches and mission-rooms, the Wesleyans having two, the Primitive Methodists three, the Independents two, and the United Free Church one. The Wesleyans have also built the Queen's Hall, a large structure opened in 1908.
A Particular or Calvinistic Baptist congregation was formed in 1795 by seceders from the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion (St. Paul's); (fn. 121) the chapel in King Street was opened in 1854. There is another chapel in Platt Lane.
What provision was made by those who became Nonconformists by the Act of 1662 does not appear. In 1689 William Laithwaite's barn was certified as a meeting-place of the Wigan Dissenters, (fn. 122) and two years later Roger Kenyon knew of two meeting-places, one held by Mr. Green, the supporter of Presbyterianism in Hindley, and the other by 'dissenters who do furiously dissent from each other.' (fn. 123) An 'old English Presbyterian congregation' is mentioned in 1773, and a little later William Davenport, also minister at Hindley, was in charge. He was probably a Unitarian, but after his death the chapel was about 1797 secured for the Scottish Presbyterians, who have retained possession to the present time. Trinity Presbyterian Church was built upon the old site in 1877. (fn. 124)
The Congregationalists formed a church about 1777, probably as a protest against the Unitarianism taught at the existing chapel; in 1785 they opened a chapel, now St. Paul's Congregational Church. For some time it belonged to the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion. Becoming 'unhealthy' in 1839, it was dissolved and reformed. (fn. 125) A new Gothic church replaced the old building in 1902. A new minister coming to Wigan in 1812 drew a congregation from dissatisfied Nonconformists, and a chapel was opened in 1818. Hope Congregational Church, opened in 1889, is a short distance from this older chapel, and continues its work. (fn. 126) Silverwell Congregational chapel originated in a secession from St. Paul's in 1867 and continued till 1888, when it was bought by the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway Company. (fn. 127) There is a chapel in Gidlow Lane.
The Welsh Presbyterians have a place of worship; the Christian Brethren have two; and the Catholic Apostolic Church has a meeting-room. There are two unsectarian mission-rooms.
The Swedenborgians have a meeting-place called New Jerusalem.
Something has already been recorded of the loyalty of a large number of the people of Wigan to the ancient faith at the Reformation. (fn. 128) In 1681 there were ninety-one 'convicted recusants' in Wigan, and an attempt to levy a fine for recusancy—a result of the Protestant agitation of the time—led to a riot. (fn. 129) The Jesuits were in charge of the mission. In the time of James II they had a flourishing school and well-frequented chapel, but at the Revolution the excited mob destroyed the buildings and the work was stopped for a short time. (fn. 130) The Society of Jesus, however, still possesses the ancient property. Fr. James Canell is known to have been there in 1696, and died at Wigan 1722. (fn. 131) Fr. Charles Brockholes built a house about 1740, the upper room being designed as a chapel. (fn. 132) Near this a chapel was built in 1785, and enlargement being necessary it was replaced by the present church of St. John in 1819. It is still served by the Jesuits. (fn. 133) The other churches, served by secular clergy, are St. Mary's, Standishgate, built in 1818; (fn. 134) St. Patrick's, Scholes, founded in 1847 and rebuilt in 1880; St. Joseph's, 1870; and the Sacred Heart, Springfield, 1903. A convent of Sisters of Notre Dame is served from St. John's. (fn. 135)
The grammar school was founded before 1596.