HomeQ and AHistory of WiganContactsNewslettersProjectsMeetingsLinks


[Home] [Newsletters] [Next] [Previous] [Index]

No. 2 March 97

Monthly Newsletter

The Prehistoric Collection


As a follow up to the work we did last year on the Sites and Monuments Record (SMR), I asked Yvonne Web of the Wigan History Shop to look at all the relevant prehistoric and Roman material they have in storage there.  She has now done this for all the prehistoric items, and has given me a listing with tentative identifications for each object.  Here is a summary of her findings.

The task of identification has not been easy and, in some cases, only speculative, as much of the relevant documentation is either missing or contradictory.  There have been a number of lists and registers produced over the years, the most important being the Library Manuscript dating from the late 19th century.  The earliest entries in this have been crossed out and about five pages have been removed altogether.  The rest of the entries are numbered but are only contemporary from 1935 and it ends in 1967.  According to Yvonne this register is in very poor condition and cannot be handled without some conservation work.

In 1970 a list was drawn up by Hilary Fairclough, who made the first attempt at identifying the items, but with what authority is unclear as whatever information she had no longer exists.  She also created a numbering system, which was retained when the items went on display in 1977 in the old Powell Museum (now demolished).

In the late 1980's a new numbering system was introduced by Wendy Smith the Library’s first Collection Manager, who compiled a retrospective accession register.  Finally between 1991-94 the inevitable computer database was compiled.

The Listing

Item Registration No. (1980) SMR No. Place Found Date
Stone Axe- head B22.001 4913.1.0 Bottling Wood 1890/1911
Polished Stone Axe-head B30.004 3139.1.0 Boar’s Head Railway Stn. 1928
Bronze Age Battle Axe B35.007 3136.1.0 Walkden Ave 1933/1935
Polished Stone Axe-head     Derbyshire  
Polished Stone Axe TN.0005 4134.1.0 Leigh Cricket Field 1912
Shaft-hole Adze B75.017 0395.1.0 New Springs School 1974
Flint Scraper B73.027 0371.1.0 Winstanley  

Of the seven items listed, only the last three can be positively identified.  As you can see the Bottling Wood axe and the Walkden Avenue axe have two find dates and there are also conflicting descriptions.  This suggests that there may have been more than one axe found in each area.  The problem with the Boar’s Head axe is that on some of the listings it is confused with the one from Derbyshire.  Four of the axes were sectioned for geological examination (Petrology) between 1978-79.  This was organised by Mrs F Roe, studying for a doctoral thesis at Oxford.  It is not certain who did the examination, either Sheffield or Nottingham University, but the full report was apparently never received.  Yvonne does have the results however, i.e. items 1 and 3 are Group XV impure sandstone, item 2 is altered volcanic rock and item 6 sandstone/quartzite.  Item 4 was not sectioned but is said to be Group VI Langdale.  The implications for the SMR are that at least two new items can be added i.e the Shaft-hole Adze and the Flint Scraper.  (Yvonne says she can organise a viewing for us later in the year.)


We have now got a full programme of speakers for the year.  In addition to the ones mentioned last month, we have Jonathan Pratt in July talking on Wigan in the 17th century, and by popular request, in September once again we have Martin Charlesworth, who’s talk is entitled the Greeks, the Persians, the Romans - and the Britains!? - sounds good.

Next Meeting

The next meeting of the Society will be on Wednesday 5th March at the history shop at 7.30 pm as usual. This month speaker is Bob Blakeman who is the Outreach Officer at the History Shop.  He will be giving us a talk on Medieval Wigan. 

Hope to see you at the meeting - B.A.