Our project at the Rectory has been on-going for the last 4 years. Our original aim was to try and locate the old Frog Lane, which became buried under landscaping when the present Hall was constructed. However we are also hoping to discover earlier features, such as a Medieval moat, which is reputed to have surrounded the site in the 15th century.
The Rectory belongs to Wigan’s All Saint’s Parish Church which dates at least to the 11th century – it’s thought to be the ‘Church of the Manor’ mentioned in the Doomsday book. (The current church is an 1840’s rebuilt but the tower and side chapels are original.)
We also know that there has been Rectors of Wigan since the late 12th century. These Rectors were also the Lords of the Manor which suggests that the Rectory was also the Manor House for Wigan. We have every reason to suppose that it was located on the current Rectory site.
The current Hall sits on a low hill at the bottom of Hallgate which is a road linking it to the Church. This current building was constructed in 1875 by Orlando Bridgeman who was the Rector at the time. It was his researches into the history of the Parish Church which revealed that the Rectory site was once had a moat with a gatehouse and even drawbridge – these features are not now visible and do not appear any maps.
Our only image of any previous building on this site is a drawing dating from 1826 – which we know was built in 1695 from the date-stone which is now built into the cable end of the current building. We also know that it was built more or less on the same site as the current Hall however subsidence due to mining made it unsafe and it had to be pulled down.
The first accurate maps of Wigan date from the early 19th century. This 5ft OS Map from 1847 shows the previous Hall with the current extent of the grounds overlaid in red. (The Hall is now surrounded on two sides by the Deanery to the west and Wigan College to the east.) We can see quite clearly that the old Frog Lane used to run well inside the current boundary. (Using overlays we were able to select the best area for our excavations.)
Our first site, which we called Area 1, is located on the left hand side of the entrance where the old Frog Lane began to turn into Hallgate (here is a detailed blog of our activities there). Most of the excavations on this site were completed at the end of 2010 but we have returned here earlier in 2012 to investigate some unanswered questions form our initial work (here is a detailed blog of our most recent activities there). We have also investigate another site called Area 4 in the far right hand corner where we hoped to discover evidence of a back entrance to the Hall (here is a detailed blog of our activities there).