Roman & Medieval Wigan

Little is known about Wigan in the 1st and 2nd Centuries A.D. - during the Roman occupation of Britain.
What we do know has been discovered from artefacts found in and around Wigan.

* Coins found in the Weind tell us who was the Roman Emperor and therefore the time the Romans were in Wigan.
* Roman Pottery was also found in the Weind.
* The foundations of an old Roman building, were also found under the shops in the Weind This tells us that there used to be warehouses (stores 8m x 20m) on that site.
* The Weind also was the site of Roman smelting hearths. Here they made, or repaired, tools, weapons and pottery. Cannel coal, used as fuel, was found nearby.
Wigan was obviously used for short spells as a military post when the Romans were conquering Northern Britain.
It was known in those days as Coccium.
Marus Bridge was also a Roman name.
When the Roman soldiers moved to another district they would take all their belongings with them -including the buildings !
They would be dismantled and rebuilt wherever the soldiers settled next. This
would explain why only small numbers of artefacts have been discovered in Wigan.
As you come into Wigan, from Marus Bridge, you will go under a railway bridge, and on the right is the site of an old gas works - this used to be the Roman cemetery!
Wigan was just half way between Chester and Preston - which were also Roman towns.

1. How do we know who lived in Wigan in the 1st and 2nd Centuries ?
2. Where, in Wigan, did the Romans have a storehouse ?
3. What are smelting hearths used for ?
4. What fuel was used by the Romans in their smelting hearths ?
5. What did the Roman soldiers do with their buildings when they moved ?
6. What did the Romans call Wigan ?
7. What kind of Roman artefacts have been found in Wigan ?


Can you find Roman names for any other towns in Britain ?


The answer is the Lord of the Manor
but :-
King Henry III gave the people of Wigan a Charter in 1245. This allowed them to have a weekly Monday Market & a 3-day Fair (at All Saints Festival) for themselves and not for the benefit of the Lord of the Manor. King Henry III granted another Charter, 13 years later, for a Fair at Ascensiontide.
Mansel (1st Lord of the Manor) may never have even seen Wigan but he got £12,000 rent a year from it ! He also collected rent from approx. 300 villages altogether all over Britain. Mansel achieved battle honours in Italy & France, for which he received these rents as reward.
The first Royal charter in 1246 made Wigan Village into a Town.
This allowed anyone in Wigan to become a Burgess or Freeman for the annual rent of 12d (5p today). In return they were given 5 roods of land (1.25 acres), the right to feed pigs on common land, take timber from the woods and free access to the market without paying a toll. They did, however, have to still grind their corn in the Rector's mill and bake bread in his ovens.
Wigan Manor House (or hall) had a moat and is now known as the Rectory.
331 years later, in 1577, Dr. John Bridgernan was an important figure in Wigan history. He did live in Wigan as Rector, even after he became Bishop of Chester. He fought with the Mayor & Burgesses of Wigan over the Manorial rights, which he won - mainly because of his friendship with King James I.
Wigan is one of the 4 oldest Boroughs in Lancashire and was ranked equal to Liverpool, Lancaster and Preston. In 1635 it was the wealthiest!
The Corporation
The earliest official borough records date from the 1600's. These show that Wigan was governed jointly by a Corporation, consisting of the Mayor, Aldermen, burgesses and Lord of the Manor. They were responsible for Justice, election of a Mayor, the raising of taxes and the creation of freemen - who were the only people allowed to trade in the Town.
The work of the corporation was conducted by the 'Court Leef in the Moot Hall (opposite were Library Street is today).
The work of the corporation wasn't a democratic "one man one vote." The Burgesses had the votes & though these were originally freemen who rented a Burgage plot from the Lord of the Manor, they were elected later by the other Burgesses on payment of a fine. They were a privileged class of wealthy merchants, landowners & gentry whose main concern was the protection of their own wealth
The Manor & The Corporation
The Lord of the Manor was in charge of collecting the fees from the Burgesses, rents from the corn mills, tolls from the fairs & the choosing of MP's. The Corporation in the 1500's had begun to take over because the Lord of the Manor was often absent. For instance the Burgesses took it upon themselves to punish "new" crimes with new punishments such as the cucking stool, the scolds's bridle, and the whipping post and stocks (in the Market Place) or the Brideswell prison (in Miligate).
They also began another Market day on Friday without asking for the Lord of the Manor's permission.
Dr. John Bridgeman (Rector & Lord of the Manor in 1618) took them to court to reclaim his Manorial rights. The Lord Chief Justices, in order to keep the peace, tried to be fair and allowed the Rector to remain Lord of the Manor but he had to share equally the income from the courts, fairs & markets.
The Moot Hall was to be used by both parties to hold their separate courts. The Lord of the Manor continued to hold his court Leet even though he mode little profit from it. The Corporation had at last gained all the power and taken over from the Lord of the Manor.
The End of the Manorial Power
In 1663 the Corporation was again taken to court by the Rector - now George Hall. The Corporation was allowed to pay a rent for the lease (loan) of the court, fair & market to the Lord of the Manor every 21 years. The Rector could still hold his court once every 2 years. The Corporation were not allowed to arrest or try the Rector or his family & servants without his permission.
In 1860 Corporation compulsorily bought the Rector's rights and the lease ended & the Manor of Wigan no longer existed.