|Businesses in Wigton||Towns and Villages of Cumbria|
Wigton, a town that existed before AD1100, lies on the Solway Plain between the Caldbeck Fells and the Solway Coast. The meaning of its name comes from Wiggeton, meaning a farmstead or village of a man called Wicga plus the old English personal name ‘tun’. Its nickname was “The Throstles Nest”-a throstle is another name for a thrush. There are a number of stories as to the origin of the nickname. One says a Wigton man returned home from World War I and, upon seeing the town, said, ‘Away lads, it's the throstle's nest of all England!’
This traditional market town-a market takes place every Tuesday in the covered market hall-was a busy place even in Roman times. Just south of the town lay the cavalry station, Olenacum. It was one of a number of Roman forts (similar to the mile castles on Hadrian's Wall) that allowed the Romans to keep watch in case of raids across the Solway Firth.
The pre-medieval street plan of the town is still visible today. Horse fairs and an auction mart bring buyers and sellers from the north of England and southwest Scotland. Market Hill was the site of the original livestock market. A melange of events took place here and included cock-fighting, bear-baiting, religious meetings, and Chartist riots.
Wigton received a market charter in 1262, and its triangular marketplace became the town's centre. There was once a wooden market cross (it was burned down by accident during the Trafalgar victory celebrations in 1805)
on the site of the present granite memorial fountain, built in 1872 by George Moore in memory of his wife, whose face is carved on the fountain. The feature of the fountain is its four bronze reliefs depicting the Acts of Mercy by Pre-Raphaelite sculptor Thomas Woolner. The market town's wealth was reflected in the Georgian architectural style of its buildings (look to the upper stories of the buildings to see this today). Highmoor Bell Tower, completed in 1887, played tunes three times every day.
St Mary's Church, built in 1788, replaced the AD1100 church-it was falling down. Unfortunately not much in the way of details is known about the earlier church. When it was demolished, locals helped themselves to the stones for their own use. The 1788 church contains stained glass windows and a 1912 organ with 1100 p ipes. The church was redesigned in the 1950's under the direction of the Rev. John Ford. The nave was given a dark blue ceiling with gilt medallions, and the chancel ceiling was painted with stars. The Rev. Ford also had the gravestones laid flat. John Betjeman complimented the church in “English Parish Churches”, when he called it a ‘triumph in paint’. The church also contains a muniment chest that formerly held communion silver.
The Kings Arms Hotel was originally a coaching inn. Charles Dickens stayed here with Wilkie Collins in 1857. He describes his stay in “The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices”. Unfortunately, he didn't see Wigton in very complimentary terms, calling it one of the ‘most dismal places ever seen by eyes’. He described the houses as having ‘roofs of dull black, stained fronts, and dark rimmed windows, looking as if they were all in mourning’. He mentions quite a large number of linen draper's shops for such a small town, all in the same street. He noted a sweetmeat shop called a “Salt Warehouse”, a watchmaker's, and the omnibus that goes to the railway.
The modern author and broadcaster, Lord Melvyn Bragg, was a native of Wigton and used the town (called Thurston in his writings) and the surrounding area as the setting for his novels.
Wigton is a centre for shopping, pubs and restaurants, theatre, bowls, swimming, tennis and sports. It's a starting point or a base for hiking and biking trips in the Solway Plain and Caldbeck fells of Cumbria.
Photos courtesy of Nigel Monckton , Alexander P Kapp , Humphrey Bolton , John Fielding The Geograph Britain and Ireland project.
Wigton is on the B5304 11 miles (17km) SW of Carlisle
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