Our gruesome history

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WE will soon be able to learn more about our ancestors’ brushes with Victorian law and order, thanks to a group of university history students.

The second-year undergraduates from Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) are cataloguing and conserving documents stored at Leigh Town Hall relating to the 1869 Quarterly Sessions in the town as part of their History in Practice Module.

The young historians are working in partnership with Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust (WLCT) archivist Alex Miller to preserve for posterity the records concerning the fate of Wiganers of yesteryear at the hands of Victorian England’s system of crime and punishment.

The records concern the Quarter Session Courts, which met four times a year to try minor and petty crimes, and for which records date back to 1733.

The History in Practice unit will also see the students plan an exhibition to showcase the archives to the Wigan and Leigh public, and put together an education pack for local schools.

WLCT archivist Alex Miller said: “We have taken three students this year, and they are working on a pilot project indexing the nineteenth century records of the Wigan Court of Quarter Sessions, exploring Victorian crime and punishment in all its unpleasant detail!

“In the coming months we hope to publish the lists of the innocent and the guilty on our website.”

Last year students archived documents related to railway industrialists the Walker brothers, preparing a touring exhibition and drop-in session which travelled around the borough.