the history of our local area
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|Winwick: History and Antiquities: Part 3|
|Written by Steven Dowd|
ITS HISTORY AND ANTIQUITIES.
Part 1. Etymology of Winwick.
THE DOMESDAY SURVEY.
Sir Peter Leycester tells us from Camden that parishes in England began to be formed about 636, (11) which is so near the period at which King Oswald fell that we may well imagine it to be the era when Winwick became a parish in Neweton Hundred, where a church was in due time to be built and dedicated to him as its saint by a popular canonization. In 1086, when the Domesday Survey was made, this church had been built, and its district or parish is thus described:—"In Neweton, in King Edward's time, there were five hides. One of these was in the demesne. The church of the same manor had one carucate of land, and Saint Oswald of the same vill had two carucates of land free of everything. The other land of this manor 15 men called drenghs held for 15 manors, which were be-rewicks of the manor, and among them all these men rendered 30s. There is a wood there x. leagues long and vi. leagues and vii. furlongs broad, and there are hawk's aeries. All the free men of this hundred except ii. had the same customs as the men of Der-beishire; but in August they mowed two days more than those on the King's tillage lands. The two excepted men had five carucates of land, and had the forfeitures for bloodshed and rape and pannage (in the woods) for their men. The rest were the King's. The whole manor rendered to the King a farm of x. pounds and xs. There are now six drenghs, and xii. villeins and iv. bordars who have ix. carucates amongst them. The demesne is worth iv. pounds."
This meagre description of the hundred of Newton, eight centuries ago, which contained the whole of the two parishes of Winwick and Wigan and an area of nearly 54,000 acres contrasts very strikingly with its present appearance and condition. Going back for a few minutes to the date of the survey and ascending Bil-linge or Ashurst hill, if we cast our eyes over the wide borders of what was onee Newton hundred, instead of a rich cultivated country divided by numerous enclosures smiling like a garden, teeming with population, and accessible on all sides by roads, canals, and railways, and busy in the pursuit of arts, commerce, and manufactures, we shall see a great wood tenanted by wild animals, some of them of races now nearly extinct, divided here and there by large commons of moor, heath, and waste, with an occasional mere or small lake of water about which are thinly scattered the mud cabins of its 150 inhabitants, placed in the midst of their small green patches of cultivation, which look like islets in a dreary waste, and at the two extremities of the district their towers pointing heavenward the two churches of Winwick and Wigan, then probably humble structures of wood.
If from the place we turn our attention to the people, we shall see, perhaps, two or three franklins or yeomen, each in his short green kirtle, with hose of the same colour, a leathern cap, a short sword, a horn slung over his shoulder, a long bow in his hand, and in his belt a sheaf of arrows. In another direction a serf of one of the privileged franklins is driving his master's swine to feed upon the mast and acorns of the neighbouring wood. He has a staff in hand; his dress is a long jacket made out of the skin of some four-footed animal, tanned with the hair on. It has been put over his head like a frock, and is buckled round his waist with a girdle. He has sandals and not shoes upon his feet. On one side hangs his gypsiere, pouch, or scrip, and on the other a ram's horn, with which from time to time he issues his commands to his attendant hound, and collects his stock of grunters when they wander or miss the pasture. The evening sun is casting slant beams on Winwick tower and across the velvet turf of its adjoining demesne, at the call of its single bell a priest is hastening to perform the office of Vespers.
Transcribed by Steven Dowd from the original book which he owns, Originally publication is from 1878, this text version and layout, edits and errors is © 2008 Steven Dowd, for use at the Newton-le-willows website