What are the Archives?

Old document with writing and original sealArchives are the records, mainly handwritten, produced by any organisation in the course of its administration. They are not designed specifically to meet the needs of future researchers, but if studied carefully they can be used to answer many questions about the period in which they were produced.

For example, the archives of the former Wigan Court of Quarter Sessions (which survive from 1733 onwards), were kept as legal records, but today they can tell us something about social conditions and petty crime in Victorian Wigan.

Similarly, parish registers were ordered to be kept in England from the mid-16th century onwards, for legal and ecclesiastical reasons: today, however, they constitute the main source for genealogical research for the era before civil registration was introduced in 1837.

Wigan Archives Services

The purpose of the Wigan Archives Service is to collect, preserve, catalogue and make available to the public the records of the district. These records include archives of the local authority itself, schools, churches, businesses, solicitors, families, estates and individuals as well as maps, ephemera and photographs.

Our collections comprise the holdings of the original Wigan Borough Archives Office together with the archives of the other local authorities which combined in 1974 to form Wigan Metropolitan Borough. The Archives Service has statutory responsibilities:

  • It acts as the diocesan repository for records of parish churches in Wigan and Winwick deaneries.
  • It is appointed by the Lord Chancellor to keep records under the 1958 Public Records Act, and by the Master of the Rolls as a place of deposit for manorial and tithe documents.

Record storage conditions

Records are kept in specially designed boxes in strongrooms. These rooms ensure that the records are stored in optimum conditions for their continuing survival.

The boxes further aid the preservation of the records: they are made from acid-free cardboard and can offer some protection against fire and water damage. Mobile racking is used to maximise the amount of shelving available for storage.

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