The Case for Coccium
This Roman station appears in a 3rd century Roman document known as the Antonine Itinerary. The 10th Iter of the Itinerary places it 20 Roman miles from Ribchester and 17 from Manchester. The location of Wigan being this Roman settlement was keenly advocated by two antiquarians in 19th century, the Reverend Edmund Sibson (minister of Aston-in-Makerfield) and W Thompson Watkin. They identified and traced 3 Roman roads leading into Wigan, the routes of which were shown on early maps and, although not much of these have been seen since, they have been generally accepted over the years. However Wigan is not on the direct route from Ribchester to Manchester and so, not surprisingly, other candidates for Coccium have been claimed (and still are). Alternatives include Edgeworth (Rivet and Smith,1979), Blackrod (assuming the A6 is a Roman road – Whitaker 18th C), Belmont and Standish (Wadelove, Britannia 2001).
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, with 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 by academics, historians and archaeologist 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. Wigan Archaeological Society have carried out many investigations on these routes leading into Wigan and recorded 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.
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.