Geoffrey Shryhane’s Wigan World

Geoffrey Shryhane
Geoffrey Shryhane

HOW many town halls has Wigan had?

We know of three – but details of the earliest town hall from the 17th century seems to be lost in the mists of time.

The present town hall is rightly the very finest building in our town – on Library Street. Old crows like myself recall the days when it was Wigan and District Mining and Technical College. And it was world famous, being the No 1 mining education facility.

It was converted to the town hall around 20 years ago.

Before that, the town hall was on King Street from the middle part of the 1800s.

Amazingly, it was the only town hall in the country to house the police and fire stations.

The town hall (known as Moot Hall) was in the Market Place.

In 1720, the then Wigan MPs, Earl Barrymore and Sir Roger Bradshaigh, built the new hall – an interesting example of community bribery which was very common at election times.

The hall was a quadrangular building and was active for many years, but in its last days the ground floor was divided into booths occupied by butchers. How daft does that seem?

The upper part was useless and was conspicuous by its railed balcony from which many a political speeches were delivered. The royal arms of George I were carved in stone and described by the architect Whitehouse in 1826 as “a fine piece of sculpture as any in the north of England.” Broken, the stones found their way into Mesnes Park.

In 1872, the shambles of a hall was demolished ... and locals reckoned it would have soon fallen down anyway. Several tablets are preserved in Wigan Archive.

Another building on King Street was built in 1886 of solid stone in the Italian style. The outer walls were only demolished last year.

MY hearing is not what it was.

“I beg your pardon ... what did you say?”

I suppose the gradual fading away of the senses are all part of getting younger!

“Younger ... did you say younger?”

So let me tell you about some sounds enjoyed by readers of this page. Some are fairly obvious. Some sounds are loved by some and hated by others.

Church bells and chiming public clocks are either top of the pops or bottom of the flops. I love ‘em and on blissful summer nights, wished I lived near Standish Parish Church when the bells ring out their very English sounds. The change-ringing of bells is particular to this country. The bells abroad ring randomly.

Some folks like the sound of manual lawn mowers come Sunday afternoon, and others the chant of the crowds at football and rugby stadiums.

Me – I like the sounds of the “pips” which mark the hours on Radio 4 and the chimes of Big Ben at 6pm and midnight. I’m sure one of the bongs is louder than the others.

Being something of a bed slug, I know nothing about the dawn chorus, but am told it’s blissful. One of these mornings ...

One lady from Orrell said she loved clip-clop sound of horses hooves and hated the sound of the roaring M6 on windy wet mornings.

The bells in old fashioned telephones are a nostalgic hit – and thankfully that has been replicated on mobile phones.

The gentle ticking of grandfather clocks comes on the list, as does treading on pebbles on the beach and out-of-tune carol singers gladden some hearts.

WE are having another romp through the quiet acres of Hindley Cemetery again. Am I apologetic? Not one little bit.

To many people, graveyards are endlessly fascinating. Count me among them.

After searching out the grave of 1924 Olympic medallist Arthur Farrimond a couple of weeks ago, local historians Joan and Jack Topping took me to a very sad grave.

Well, I don’t reckon there’s such a thing as a happy one. But you never know, do you?

Not far from the main road was the grave of Albert Edwin Kenyon, husband of Mary Ellen, and his tombstone revealed: Killed by an express train at Springs Branch on 18th December 1889. Seems the poor man took his own life.

Or could it have been an accident?

Well, if it was suicide then the monument gives the reason why.

In July of the same year, Mary Ellen gave birth to twins – a boy and girl, Edwin and Ann Pinder who died shortly after birth.

Edwin lived for four days and Ann for 12 hours.

Also on the head-stone were these words: He is not dead, only sleeping in the sweet refuge on his master’s breast.”

There is no indication that the wife and mother is buried in the grave.