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Ancient & Loyal


Where is Wigan

The Metropolitan Borough of Wigan is situated about mid-way between the seaport of Liverpool and the inland city of Manchester, in the County of Lancashire, in the North West of England.

Wigan is the twelfth largest metropolitan district in the country with a population of 310,000 people. It covers an area of 77 square miles which incorporates the towns and villages of; Ashton-in Makerfield, Aspull, Astley, Atherton, Billinge, Golborne & Lowton, Haigh, Hindley, Ince-in-Makerfield, Leigh, Orrell, Shevington, Standish, Tyldesley and Winstanley.

Click to see map location of Wigan


Wigan's New Market

A market has been held at Wigan since the 13th century.

Wigan's new market was built in the 1980's in a style that would fit in with the town's architectural style.


Ancient Wigan

The motto of Wigan is “Ancient & Loyal”. Ancient is clear in that Wigan was a Roman town, called Coccium, built for strategic reasons on a hill at a bend in the River Douglas. Coccium was situated on the main Roman road from Chester (Deva) to Lancaster. Roman urns and coins have been found on the banks of the river at Wigan, and remains of Roman Wigan are located below “The Wiend”, one of the town’s oldest streets. But the most important fragment of Wigan’s Roman past is part of a Roman altar stone which is built into the wall of the beautiful 14th century Parish Church of All Saints, which has been described as a “mini-Cathedral” by many writers.

The remains of another Roman road which linked Wigan and Manchester have been found at Tyldesley and 2 urns containing hundreds of Roman bronze coins minted between 259 and 273 AD were found near this road in 1947.

Legends abound, one of the most famous is that after the Roman withdrawal from Britain, King Arthur made a desperate attempt to stave off the invading Anglo-Saxons here. Again, archaeologists have found signs of what seems to have been a great battle fought at those times not far from Wigan, on the banks of the River Douglas.

The Danes as well as the Anglo-Saxons must have settled here like in other parts of Lancashire and the rest of the North. The old streets of Wigan are called “gates”, Standishgate, Wallgate, etc. from the Old Norse word “gata” meaning street.

The origin of the name of the town appears to derive from a personal name although local legend has it that it come from the “Wiggin Tree” or Rowan Tree and the name of the town is, in fact, pronounced “Wiggin” in the local dialect.

Moving on to the Medieval period, Wigan was the first borough town in Lancashire and one of the first in all England. It received its royal charter from Henry III in 1246 as a borough with market privileges and self-governing byelaws, making it one of the four original royal Boroughs of Lancashire, equal to Liverpool, Lancaster and Preston and Wigan market is still going strong today – over 700 years later. (see photos above)

Another local legend, perhaps the most famous, tells the story of “Mab’s Cross”. In 1295 William de Bradshaigh (or Bradshaw), acquired Haigh Manor by marrying Mabel le Norreys. The story says that William was away in the Crusades so long that Lady Mabel believed him to have died and married a Welsh knight. However, Sir William returned seven years later, disguised as a beggar, slew the Welsh knight and the couple were reunited. As penance for her bigamy, Lady Mabel was obliged to walk barefoot from Haigh to a cross in Wigan Lane, which has come to be known as “Mab's Cross”

Astley Hall, dating from 1650 was known as "Dam House". It was the home of the protestant Mort family and later became Astley Hospital. The story which surrounds the house is about Anne, a daughter, who fell in love with a Catholic called James Speakman. Her father paid the Speakman family to leave the district, and Anne pined away and died. Her ghost, in the form of a "Grey Lady", is said to wander the paths between Astley and Bedford looking for her lover.

Loyal Wigan

Wigan remained loyal to the crown in the English Civil Wars as was the headquarters of the Earl of Derby. The battle of Wigan Lane – one of the final battles of the Civil War was fought here. In 1660 after the restoration of the Stuarts to the English throne King Charles II presented a special sword to the Mayor of Wigan and the title “Ancient & Loyal” to the town in gratitude for its support for his father’s cause.

After the exile of James II, many Wiganers remained loyal to the Stuarts. Wigan Jacobites took an active part in the Lancashire plot of 1690-94. Bonny Prince Charlie stayed in Wigan twice, once on his triumphant way to “take the throne” and second in his retreat, escape and later exile.

Coming soon! - This page is still under construction.


Coal has been mined in the area of the Metropolitan Borough of Wigan for centuries. Supposed Roman workings have been found, but coal mining is first mentioned in a document dated 1330, referring to land around Ashton-in Makerfield. There are probably well over 1,000 mine shafts in the Wigan area and twenty six workable coal seams still exist. Over the 600 year history of mining in Wigan more than 700 million tons of coal have been extracted yet a similar amount still lies underground. The last mine in the Wigan area closed, however, due to the national policy of closures and cheap imports, in 1992. Today it would be hard for a visitor to believe that in the 19th Century, Wigan was known as "Coalopolis" - the veritable capital of coal!


Wigan Pier

The expression "Wigan Pier" was coined in the 1920's by the Music Hall Comedian George Formby Sr. - the joke being the suggestion that Wigan, a well known inland industrial town of the period, could have a pier as if it were a seaside resort.

"The Pier" is in fact a set of warehouses and wharfs on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal at Wigan, which have passed from Music Hall joke in the 20's to an award-winning Industrial Heritage Museum in the 80's.



Trenchfield Mill

Just along the canal from Wigan Pier, and forming part of the same Industrial Heritage Complex, is the impressive Trenchfield Mill, which contains the world's largest working mill steam engine.



The Genealogy Database

* See also separate entries for the towns and villages which make up Wigan Metropolitan Borough.


When George Orwell came to Wigan to research his book, "The Road to Wigan Pier" (1937), he first lodged with John and Lily Anderton at 72 Warrington Road, but moved after a week to the filthy lodging he describes in detail in his book. Some critics have said that the Anderton's home didn't suit the author as it was too clean and decent.

There are 27 people named Anderton in Wigan in 1881:

  • 47 James St, 1881
  • 53 Carloline St, 1881
  • Colin Field House, 1881
  • 8, Standishgate, 1881
  • 166, Scholes St, 1881
  • 81, Wigan Lane, 1881
  • 2, Hope St, 1881
  • 82, Scholfield Lane, 1881
  • 49, Silver St, 1881
  • 6, Hodson St, 1881
  • Other database entries for Wigan:

  • Wigan, 1685
  • 1767 Returns of Papists, Chester Diocese, p. 56
  • 1767 Returns of Papists, Chester Diocese, p. 57
  • 1767 Returns of Papists, Chester Diocese, p. 58


    Return to: The Andertons of Lancashire

    Return to: The Anderton Surname Resource Centre

    Return to: Related Places Index