WIGTON (surveyed in 1848)
Wigton is in Dumfries and Galloway, situated on the north side of the mouth of the River Bladenoch , where it flows into Wigton Bay on the Irish Sea. The name Wigton means ‘Wicga’s farm’. It is derived from Wicga, an Old English personal name and tun, the Old English word for ‘farm’. It was recorded as Wyggeton in 1293. Wigton was a royal burgh, probably from the fourteenth century, although the earliest surviving charter dates from the reign of James II in 1457. Wigton Castle, which had probably been built by Alexander III in the 1280s was demolished by the Bruces in 1310, and only traces of foundations were visible at the time of this survey. The Fleming family had been made Earls of Wigton in 1341, but this was tranferred to the Douglas family in 1372, again reverting to the Flemings from 1606 until 1747. Wigton's population in the 1841 census was 1,972.
The town had a large central, roughly triangular, open green area, bordered by North High Street and South High Street. Most of the properties extended at right angles to these two roads, although there was a parallel back lane on the north side, which was partially built up at the time of the survey.
The parish church, formerly the Church of St Machute had been largely rebuilt in 1730. In the Statistical Account of 1845 this building was described as an ‘old, mean-looking edifice’.
Trade and Industry
The harbour of Wigtown was about Ľ mile from the town centre. At this period it was chiefly used for the shipping of grain and other agricultural produce. There was little industry beyond those required to cater for local needs, although there was a small distillery at Bladenoch about a mile from the town.
The land in the area around the town included much bog and moorland at the northern end of the parish, but better improved ground further south. Quarries to the north and west of the town were probably used for buildings in the town itself.
The parish church lay at the east end of North High Street, on the site of an older church. There was also a Free church and a United Presbyterian church. The Statistical Account records a number of Roman Catholic families but they do not appear to have had a church in the town. Wigton is notable for having memorials to five Presbyterian martyrs executed there during the Civil War. Two women, Margaret Wilson and Margaret McLaughlan, were tried and condemned to death by drowning on 11 May 1685 because they refused to renounce their Presbyterian views. Three men, William Johnston, John Milroy and George Walker were executed the following day.
The main schools in the mid-nineteenth century were the Wigton Academy, the Wigton normal school and a charitable school.
The county jail in the town was in a poor condition at the time of the survey.
Culture and Society
There was a public bowling green in the open area in the centre of the town. This whole area had been landscaped and planted for public leisure at the beginning of the century. The town also had a well-stocked public library, which had been established in 1794.