The Case for Coccium
It is generally accepted that there were three Roman Roads leading into Wigan. These were traced and identified by 19th century antiquarians, i.e. the Reverend Edmund Sibson and W. Thompson Watkin. Both were keen to establish Wigan as Coccium, the Roman station which appears in the 3rd century Antonine Itinerary, lying somewhere between Ribchester and Manchester. Wigan is not on the direct route between these two places so not surprisingly other candidates for Coccium have been claimed (and still are).
Edgeworth was favoured (in 1979) by Rivet and Smith but a settlement here has never been found (despite extensive searching over the years).
Blackrod was preferred (in the 18th century) by Whitaker who claimed the A6 as the Roman Road out of Manchester.
Belmont has also been suggested and more recently
Standish, was identified by Wadelove (in Britannia 2001) based mainly on the fact that the projected line of the Roman Road leading north from Warrington to Preston would pass Wigan some distance to the East.Chance finds over last 150 years have strongly suggested that Wigan had a Roman origin, but it wasn’t until the early 1980’s that excavations in the Wiend in the town centre, provided for the first time, real evidence for Roman occupation in Wigan. This was followed in 2005, by the discovery of a large Roman bathhouse in the Millgate area, proving emphatically that Wigan was a very significant settlement in the early 2nd century AD (you can see details of the excavations here).
It is now generally accepted that Wigan stands on the Roman settlement of Coccium. However, very little has been seen in recent years of the roads the antiquarians detected in the 19th century. The Wigan Archaeological Society (as well as others) have carried out many investigations on these routes leading into Wigan and we have recorded these activities over the years in our Newsletters. You can see details of our more recent investigations on the road leading north to Walton-le-Dale here and south to Warrington here.
Historical Environment Record – or Sites and Monuments Record (SMR)
In the late 1990’s the Society was involved in creating and maintaining the SMR. The map shown below shows the data for the Roman period (as known at the time) and includes the Roman roads as indicated on early OS maps and described by the 19th century antiquarians (the numbers refer to the entries in the SMR).The following is a list of all the investigations carried out by the Society over the years:-
Possible 4th Road
The antiquarian’s case for Wigan was base on the distances quoted in the Itinerary, which are ‘reasonably’ correct (far closer than any other claimant). There is a problem, however, with the accepted route from Wigan to Ribchester, which is via Walton-le-Dale and Preston. It is actually 26 Roman miles and is also not in a direct line. A direct route in fact would be much more accurate – in fact almost spot-on. Could it be that, by the late 3rd century, a route this way had been established? Various map alignments in the direction of Ribchester have been looked at over the years, in particular David Ratledge, formally of Lancashire County Council and also Jack Smith formally of Chorley Archaeological Society. However up to recently there have been no investigations on the ground. You can see details of our recent research here.