Projects: Wigford Suburb

News Flash March 2016: 
The Survey of Lincoln is contributing ideas to the Bricks & Bones Community Heritage Project recently started within the Wigford part of Lincoln. More details to follow - or visit www.bricksandbones.org.uk
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The Survey conducted a survey of, and published Wigford: Historic Lincoln South of the River, a booklet on the suburb of Wigford - that part of Lincoln south of the River Witham.
 
Settlement in Wigford goes back at least to the first century BC. People living on the banks of the river had their way of life disrupted in AD50-60 with the arrival of the Romans, who were responsible for building the predecessor of the High Street and in the 2nd century for laying out the first commercial suburb

The area was abandoned in the 5th century but again became a thriving suburb in the 10th century. Four parish churches survive (only three as places of worship) but in the 11th/12th century there were twelve.

 

Wigford was both an industrial suburb, with tanning, pottery making and tiling in evidence, and the Lincoln home of several of the county's aristocracy. None of their mansions survives above ground St Mary's Guildhall, built in the middle of the 12th century, probably for King Henry II, has recently been restored and studied, revealing a long and interesting history.

 

Industrial Archaeology

 

High Street has been the home of bell founders, tanners, glue-makers, steam-engine builders, farm machinery manufacturers and more. Military tanks were designed and tested in the locality. A surviving tall tower marlks the location of a wind-powered mill.

 

Over the years, the area has seen boats, road-coaches, horse-drawn and electric trams, and railways.  A hotel was built specifically to cater for railway passengers.

 

As the suburb filled out so communities developed, each with their own church, school, and shops. Much of this has now disappeared but recollections, documents, buildings, and photographs survive to be recorded.

 

Documents

 

Deeds in Lincolnshire Archives tell us about the status of the owner or occupier; plans show extensive plots of land being gradually partitioned to create side streets. Census returns and street directories can be used to show who lived in each house, for how long, and where they came from.

 

Along with the detailed history of each property, the Survey has revealed the importance of the tanning industry in Wigford. Almost the entire river frontage, from Boultham Avenue to Firth Road, was occupied by tanneries although only one survived into the 20th century. In their place came a variety of industries forming a thriving industrial zone. Steam flour a coach factory, and an engineering works were once part of the scenery. All now gone but they can be located and studied using records of the time.

 

Architecture

 

In addition to the Saxon-Norman church towers of St Mary-le-Wigford and St Peter at Gowts and the 12th century St Mary's Guildhall, the High Street was once lined with medieval stone and timber-framed buildings. Of these, those built on the High Bridge are a rare survival (although reconstructed in 1901) .

 

The High Street is now a patchwork of Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian and 'Modern' architecture. Behind the main street lies a grid of Victorian and Edwardian terrace houses, built to house workers in Lincoln's expanding industries.

 

Prominent local and national architects have played their part in the development of the suburb. They range from William Watkins' Arts-and-Crafts/Gothic facades; W A Nicholson's main elevation of the Corn Exchange and St Mark's Station; William Mortimer and Sons' Lloyds Bank; Clark, Hall, Scorer and Bright's Barclays Bank, to Frederick Gibberd and Partners' Homer House (Portland Street) and the Thomas Cooper Memorial Baptist Chapel (High Street).

 

Some notable buildings have, however, been lost without record or study.