St. Mary's Church
Wigton shown within Cumbria
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Wigton is a market town , civil parish and electoral ward in Cumbria, England. Historically in Cumberland, the town lies just outside of the Lake District in the borough of Allerdale. It is the central town of the Solway Plain, situated between the Caldbeck Fells and the Solway coast. It is served by Wigton railway station on the Cumbrian Coast Line, and the A596 road to Workington and (via the A595 road) to Carlisle. The town of Silloth-on-Solway lies twelve miles to the west, beyond Abbeytown, along the B5302 road.
On the Wiza and Wampool becks (dialect word meaning "brook" or "stream" - from the Old Norse bekkr), the market town of Wigton is an ancient settlement and evolved from a pre-medieval street plan, which can still be traced today.
The Romans had a cavalry station, Maglona, known locally as "Old Carlisle", just to the south of the town with a large Vicus (civilian settlement) associated with it. Probably of Anglian origin, Wigton was an established settlement long before the Normans arrived in the area. Odard de Logis became William II's Sheriff of Carlisle was made Baron of Wigton about 1100 AD (source: Testa de Nevill 1212 quoted in Higham p5) when it became a Norman barony gaining its market charter in 1262 (source: Quo warranto Inquest c1292 quoted by Higham p6). The de Logis barons changed their name to de Wigton around 1208 but the family died out in 1348 and the manor passed to the Barony of Cockermouth. Although the town's layout is generally anglian or medieval, its architectural style is Georgian which remains largely intact.
In the middle of Wigton's market place is the George Moore Memorial Fountain built in 1872, of particular interest are the four bronzes around the fountain, the work of the Pre-Raphaelite sculptor Thomas Woolner. These depict the "four acts of mercy". St. Mary's Church dates from 1788, but there was a church on this site from the 12th century. (source: 'A New Illustrated History of Wigton')
A private secondary school, the Wigton School (also called the Friends' School or Brookfield) was founded to the north of the town in 1815 with an initial enrollment of eight pupils. After reaching a maximum enrollment of 250 or so in the 1970s and 1980s, the school closed, following sustained drop-off in student numbers and, finally, damage by fire.
The appearance of the church owes much to the vision of Rev. John Ford (father of the broadcaster Anna Ford) in the 1950s when he had gravestones laid flat and the interior painted in the present colours. A novelty not to be missed is Highmoor Bell tower - built during the Industrial revolution and completed in 1887 - it played tunes three times daily.
Fiddleback Farm, a Grade 2* listed building, is situated approximately 100 yards to the West of the A595, was used, amongst other purposes, for supplying provisions and materials from "Old Carlisle" to Hadrian’s Wall. It is thought that the farm site was the first "Mile Station" from Old Carlisle. Fiddleback. The building was originally fortified to repel invading Celts. It later become a place of worship. Constructed in the shape of a fiddle, it was built about 300 hundred years ago, along with two other buildings in the shape of musical instruments by a wealthy and eccentric land-owner. During renovation works, the skeleton of a cat was discovered above one of the old entrance doorways, Another Grade 2 listed building, constructed in the shape of an accordion, still stands. A third, built in the shape of a banjo, was demolished for unknown reason, in the 1920s.
Wigton today is a thriving market town, with livestock auctions being held regularly at Hopes Auction Company. The main employer is Innovia Films.
In 2004 the town was the first settlement in the United Kingdom to enforce a curfew on teenagers under the age of 16. It was in place for two weeks, and its aim was to reduce the amount of vandalism in the town centre. It followed nightly vandalism campaigns, which included smashed shop fronts, as well as intimidation of elderly members of the community. The curfew attracted national attention, with the local secondary school receiving visits from agencies such as Sky News. It had some effect, with less vandalism taking place ever since.
Wigton's principal employer is the Innovia Factory (locally known as The Factory) in the centre of the town.
In 1936 the British New Wrap Co Ltd was formed in Wigton, Cumbria, and production of cellulose film began at the site which had previously been a jam-making facility, and then set up to produce "artificial silk" or Rayon. In 1936 the company changed its name to British Rayophane Ltd.
The company's main products are:
- Labels and graphics
- Cellophane and Propafilm - bubble-produced BOPP film
- Substrates for plastic banknotes - used for multiple currencies worldwide including the new British polymer banknotes
- Plastic labels - replacing paper labels due to their resistance to tearing, scuffing and water damage. Clear labels are especially popular as they give the 'upmarket' appearance of graphics printed directly onto a bottle or container
- UV-resistant films - for promotional and POS/POP graphics
Wigton is also home to:
- Reays Coaches is based in Wigton and employs around 200 staff.
- VV Rouleaux, supplier of ribbons and tie-backs, operates its only UK warehouse in Wigton.
- Melvyn Bragg, writer and broadcaster was born and lived his early life in the town and, when raised to the peerage, took Lord Bragg of Wigton as his title
- Charles Dickens, visited the town, and it was subsequently mentioned in The Two Idle Apprentices
- Anna Ford, broadcaster, was brought up in Wigton
- Thomas Holliday, one of a handful of Dual-code rugby internationals
- Robert Smirke, artist, born in Wigton
- William Perry Briggs, Medical Officer of Health to Wigton Rural District Council (188?-1928)
Campylite specimen from Caldbeck Fells
- "Town/Ward parish population 2011". Retrieved 19 June 2015.
- Armstrong, A. M.; Mawer, A.; Stenton, F. M.; Dickens, B. (1950). The place-names of Cumberland. English Place-Name Society, vol.xx. Part 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 166.
- Higham, J. (1993). A New Illustrated History of Wigton. Carlisle: Bookcase.
- "The Friends’ School, Wigton (Brookfield)". Wigton Old Scholars Association. Archived from the original on 2012-07-21. Retrieved 2010-09-11.[dead link]
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