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*** IMPORTANT INFORMATION ***

This page is now out of date.

Click here to visit WLCT and to view opening times.

Have your sayHeritage Services?

Wigan Leisure & Culture Trust plan to reduce opening times for the Archives at Leigh to 1 day a week and the History Shop at Wigan to 3 days per week.

These facilities are superb and are visited by researchers from around the world. Sometimes I need to book a microfilm reader 2 weeks in advance. Is it just me, or shouldn't the opening hours be increased?

Heritage Services Clarification (30th Jan 2007)

Statement on the position regarding Wigan Heritage Services from Rodney Hill, Chief Executive of Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust.

View statement

Heritage Services Statement (12th Feb 2007)

Statement from Rodney Hill, Chief Executive of Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust.

View statement

 

Paul Stebbing from Chesterfield says...
What a shame to hear about the proposals for the History Shop. As a user of many libraries and archives, and someone who works in the field, I can say that the facilities at the History Shop are amongst the very best. With more and more people being drawn to local and family history research, this is not the time for local authorities to be cutting back. Outreach activities are important, but not at the expense of the public service. Think again Wigan!

 

RON HUNT from Wigan says...
Copy of e.mail sent to R.Hill
I am writing to say that, by reducing the opening hours of the history shop. It will have a detrimental effect on the research of Local History. It is difficult enough to book time on the microfilm viewers now. It will be nigh impossible if the opening hours are reduced.
Quote: Carole Tyldesley said in the article "We envisage that the alteration of the opening times will not have a substantial effect on the service we provide"
Can you ask the above person. How by restricting the opening hours it will benefit the people of Wigan who regularly use the facilities at the History Shop ?
Would it be possible for Ms.Tyldesley to chair a meeting. Where she could explain, to the regular users, how, by reducing the access to the History Shop it will be of benefit to the Wigan public?
I would suggest that this is just another 'Cost Cutting' exercise to subsidise the councillors pay rise.

 

John Stopforth from Canada says...
My wife and I have spent part of two holidays in Wigan one in 2004 and another in 2006. Two days of each holiday we were at the History Shop researching my ancestors. The equipment is old but the
courteous staff made up for it. If on our third visit we don't have access to the History Shop, we can always spend our tourist dollars in Preston.
Last year we rented a car
in Wigan, parked in your parkade four times, ate
in your restaurants three
times bought items
in your mall and shopped
at Tesco.

 

Louise from Carnforth says...
I visited Wigan's History Shop recently (90 miles). I was dismayed to find what was left of the once wonderful Wigan Reference Library empty, run down and tatty. I had been a student at the art college across the road in the 70s and used this wonderful house of treasures weekly.

It was my 1st visit in 30 years as I am researching my families' social history and family tree.

I have done a great deal online, but now I am at a stage where all the records are manual, photographic and maps. Wiganworld is a brilliant resource and signposts people to the History shop. I went with great expectations and had been to Salford's Family History resource the day before.

I waited in a queue for it to open at 10am and we all worked until it closed at 1pm. I barely had time to look at 2 films and it was time to go. I will have to make another 90 mile journey (and take a days leave) to get to grips with anything here. The staff were busy with other jobs and not able to assist much with resources, I achieved precisely nothing in the 3 hours and told that I was extremely lucky to get onto any machine as they are all booked in advance.

This is in stark contrast to Salford, where 1 man serviced a number of us and I came out with local; background; historical; family; technical info; an armful of photocopies; a head buzzing with ideas and 4 pages of handwritten notes - he apologised that he couldn't, in his oppinion, help me!!

Wigans service resource is already 3rd rate in comparison, in Salford, films are sourced loaded, rewound and put away, websites found etc etc, books and resources are brought and suggested, references searched for you, a truly helpful experience and yes he was really busy with us all and answering phones etc. Equipment is in better condition too. If you cut it any more it will become a white elephant, tokenistic, lipservice.

3 hours spent in Wigan was thoroughly useless, 3 hours in Salford was excellent. Wigan need to look to improve the service they provide already, not cut it further especially when the essence of the task in hand is time - hours and hours of searching cannot be done in a rush - it won't be fit for purpose. (I left a healthy financial donation in Salford's box in appreciation...)

 

geoff from wigan says...
I feel that wlct trust are really letting the people of Wigan down with the new proposals.Shorter opening hours,no matter how you try to wrap it up,is a backward step.In fact the history shop could do with new equipment and longer opening hours,as some of the above comments indicate.Perhaps we should be taking a leaf from Salford,s book,if Louise,s experince is anything to go by.
This is a typical example of an organisation living in it,s very own ivory tower,and ignoring what people want,and deciding what is best for us.Us being the people who stump up the money for these people to play about with.Ask what people want and they will tell you.(no chance eh!)

 

Daniel from Wigan says...
If the proposals for the History Shop have to go ahead then the council need to keep opening hours/days to suit the people using it by opening at least every Saturday and in the afternoons/evenings during the week. In todays world opening during weekdays 9 - 5 does not suit the majority of people. It is important to keep the history shop as popular and accessible as ever.

 

Phil from Wigan says...
These proposals are a disgrace. The appalling 'spin' in the press release just makes it worse. These are cutbacks, pure and simple. I would like to hear from any of the interested parties who were supposedly consulted about this, as I can't believe anyone with any interest in the town's heritage would have supported the cuts in opening times.

 

Vickie Withington from Hindley says...
Unfortunately I am unable to use the facilities at the History Shop as much as I would like, in fact I have only been able to call in on occassion to ask for assistance in my family history research. On the occassions I have been in I have found the staff to be extremely helpful with one lady finding the information I needed and posting it on to me. I find it difficult enough to access the facilities due to my family commitments. Reducing the opening hours would make a difficult task impossible for me and many others in my situation!

 

John from Wigan says...
Copy of e-mail to Rodney Hill
Dear Mr Hill,

I am somewhat shocked and dismayed at the proposals to reduce the opening hours at the History Shop to three days per week as from 12 February.

I can understand if the facility was being under utilised, and the cost of employing staff made the whole department not cost effective to operate.

However, I have been using the History Shop for some 19 years now, and have always found the facility at sometime over subscribed with more people trying to access the records than machines available. To reduce the opening hours can only magnify and increase the problem

In recent years you have made many advanced in improving the facilities including the introduction of desktop PC and increasing the numbers of film readers. This has resulted in the History Shop becoming what I would describe as a "Centre Of Excellence" regards local and family history. To reduce the availability would only damage its reputation

I cannot understand why it must take all the staff at the History Shop to record and catalogue museum objects. Can I ask do the objects belong to the Wigan Council, and what advantage would the cataloguing of these items provide to those who have a keen interest in family and local history ?.

In was only in recent weeks that I was asked to complete a satisfaction questionnaire regards the facilities which I made some quite positive and constructive comments. I have always found the staff very helpful, courteous and willing to assist and guide in the right direction.

Is this truly a requirement to catalogue artefacts or just another cost cutting exercise by the council ?. I feel you owe it to the people of not only Wigan but those who origins are from the area who are proud of their heritage that you reinstate the operating hours to normal

If I may quote a line from your own report made to Cabinet Members of the Council on 30th March 2006 (and I quote)

"For the History Shop to be the first port of call for everyone discovering their own or Wiganís history and heritageĒ

Can I ask that you keep to your word and retract the proposals to reduce the opening hours at both Leigh Archives and Wigan History Shop with immediate effect.

Have Council members been advised of this change in opening hours?. I will certainly be making representation to my local councillor to provide his understanding of the situation.

No doubt this e-mail will; immediately be moved into the "deleted items" folder but I would be grateful of at least some explanation into your proposed reduction in hours.

I await in anticipation for a positive response to this e-mail

 

Mark Wright from Prestwich, Manchester says...
Dear Wigan World,
Looks like you will be taking over as regards keeping Wigan's heritage alive!
I am absolutely dismayed at the proposals. I have used all three service sites and the staff are second to none, albeit run off their feet! To take them away from their specialities and cut back their opening periods for the sake of cataloguing museum objects is obviously a cost cutting exercise, anyone could do the work, properly supervised of course.
Having worked in local government myself for many years I am dismayed to see how so often thesdays 'fly by night' career managers are allowed to come in and make change for change's sake. As they say "if it aint wrong don't fix it!"
Thereagain views of the public do not matter thesedays, decisions are taken and then the public are consulted after the fact, very sad,
Yours sincerely,
Mark

 

Terry Boardman from Atherton ( not Wigan take note ) says...
What a load of waffle from Rodney Hill trying to counter what members of the public really know is the case, namely that we are heading back down the good old "centralise everything in Wigan syndrome". Those of us in Atherton who may as well be in outer Mongolia have seen our district go more and more downhill over the years since 1974 as Big Brother Wigan keeps investing in itself.
Now it even wants to collar our heritage under the guise of reaching out to the community.
How often will we be 'reached'when all the other boroughs want their piece of the action as well?
Living in Atherton I regularly take the trouble and expense to use Leigh Library's local studies collection and pick the brains of it's expert Tony Ashcroft who's devastated at what is happening to him. In future I'll have to catch him on his one day a week, along with 30 other people!
I notice the History Shop at Wigan will still be open 3 days a week, why do they get priority? When I've been it just has a few sad characters compiling their pointless family trees.
The Vision to me definitely looks cross -eyed!

 

Frank Heyes from Tyldesley says...
What I'd like to know is if there are 12 districts in Wigan Borough for these community curators to reach out to how much attention will each community get over a typical year, a few weeks obviously!
Compare this with the History Shop, Leigh Archives and Leigh Local Studies Library being open virtually all year!
Where on earth do these ( highly paid ) officials get these hair brained schemes from? I despair.

 

Phil from Wigan says...
Rodney Hill's 'clarification' statement is nothing of the sort. Will the reduction in hours really be only temporary, and be reversed at the end of this year? What are the specifics of the new activities being proposed, for which existing Heritage Service staff and resources are being diverted? How has the demand for these new activities been assessed? 'Up to' 800 with special needs and 'up to' 2,700 schoolchildren will benefit. Are these the numbers who have expressed an interest, or are they just totals of all those groups, who may yet be blissfully unaware of what is being planned for them? Mr Hill's statement is just words, typical local government guff, in fact, peppered with vague and meaningless buzzwords. 'Curating in the Community'...? Good grief, who dreamt that one up? What WLCT have at Leigh and the History Shop is a well used and appreciated service, with a proven demand. As others have said, it's hard to book a film reader. So what is needed is an expansion of these services, not a cutback (not even a 'temporary' one, though there may be others who share my cynicism about the chances of the opening hours ever being restored). Finally, I would like to ask if the reduction in hours was a decision taken solely by WCLT officers, or whether it was discussed, sanctioned or authorised by elected councillors?

 

Brian Jones from Leigh says...
Hello,
Phil from Wigan has hit it on the nail as regards the waffle, the open ended period of virtual closure and the Trust doing it's own thing with Wigan's collections without their or their residents say so.
A little bird at Leigh Library ( one of many such 'birds' who the Trust have kindly put on 90 days notice unless they accept new contracts by the way! ) tells me the Trust is in dire straits financially. That probably explains the Trust taking staff off their duties to sort the museum collection mess out.
What an absolute mess!

 

Phyllis Ainscough from Leigh says...
Hello Wigan World,
It's very good of you to let people air their views about this terrible state of affairs.
I started my family tree a few months ago and have visited both the the archives and Leigh Library.
If the staff had not been there to start me off and help me I would have been lost, in fact at times when staff were out on lunch no one else in the library had a clue how to help me!
If the staff are taken away apart from one day ( which may not suit me )from these two sites I will be lost and have to give up my new hobby.
Why are decisions thesedays always taken by faceless bureaucrats who are frightened of confronting their customers like me?
I'd love to meet this Rodney Hill character to see if he really is human after reading his 'clarification' as he calls it. Anyone who writes like that is certainly not a Plonk Loner thats for sure!

 

Terry Donnelly from Atherton says...
Dear Wigan World,
Firstly keep up the good work, I wish we had someone doing a website like yours for Atherton.
I am an ex miner aged 76 and regularly use both Leigh Library and the archives but can only manage to visit on Wednesdays. If the one day opening does not suit me I will be most upset as the research I do into local coal mining history has become part of my weekly routine which I look forward to.
How sad it is when those in charge seem completely out of touch with us council tax payers who pay their fat cat salaries!
Thanks
Terry

 

Alf Molyneux from Bolton says...
Dear WW,
Very sorry to hear of the news, I have used Wigan's heritage services a lot over the years and on all days of the week. To hear of the cutbacks and the removal of staff from their highly skilled duties is unjustifiable and smacks of managers sticking their oars in where they have no need to. All I can say is they must be very low calibre managers to feel the need to do this,
Regards
Alf

 

Phil Gregory from Westhoughton says...
Dear editor,
It's good to see the public voicing their concerns through your website. I just wonder if the managers and councillors are also reading these comments? Is there a chance you could forward them to them? Might just do the trick,
Thanks,
Phil

 

Bill Melling from Leigh says...
I work as a parttime, unpaid volunteer in the archives at Leigh. I first used the archives several years ago and at that time there was a staff of at least four including someone working full time on the magnificebt photographic collection. Since then the numbers have been whittled down to a single archivist who ha s to look after everything. The decision to staff the archives only one day a week will sound their death knell .How can they expect one man, working one day a week, to answer queries, extract material(and put it away again),catalogue new material and conserve existing records. The system would rapidly descend into chaos, something that is already beginning to happen in the photograhic collection where there is an increasing backlog of photos waiting to be put back in their proper files.
Access to the archives will be by appointment only and is likely to be limited to three or four appointments only- hardly the higher quality service the trust managers claim is their aim
There is some fine management speak about "long term solutions" by storing in salt mines but no consideration has been given as to how the collections will be maintained until this is possible(if ever).
I have e-mailed my concerns to Lord Smith, the leader of the council(leader@wiganmbc.gov.uk)and my local MP and I would ask anyone who really cares about this matter to do the same






The present plans are a hasty, illconcieved,and are being pushed through without any consultation with users of the service or the wider public. The rapid implementation term solution tBy the time the plans for central storage, whether in Manchester or a salt mine, come to fruition the collections would be in such a state of chaos that it would cost thousands of pounds to salvage them.

 

Denise Stewart from Leigh says...
I can only echo what the archives volunteer Mr Melling has said in his comments to you that the whole idea is being rushed through without proper consultation. As a local vicar in charge of a parish coming under the Diocese of Liverpool for which the archives is the repository I am most annoyed that our records will be less accessible. I often need to access them at short notice and the chances that in future that will coincide with the one day opening is unlikely. Certainly no-one has contacted either the local churches or our HQ as far as I am aware. I will be contacting Diocesan HQ about this matter.
Regards
D.Stewart

 

Phyllis Ainscough from Leigh says...
Hello again Wigan World,
I wrote to you recently about this terrible mess the Trust has created. Now I hear our local expert Mr Davies at the archives is possibly going to resign as a result.
This man is the acknowledged expert on coal mining in Lancashire and of national status in that field also. He has written a number of books and has given hundreds of much enjoyed talks ( including to our local history group ) to societies all over the country. In fact he is probably the best speaker we have ever had. He has even appeared on TV and radio.
If we lose him then it will be a sad day all round and I for one will go straight to the chief executive and councillors and demand some answers!
Buck your ideas up Mr Hill and your Trust or else!
Phyllis Ainscough
Former Headmistress

 

Amanda Ragaa from Wigan says...
Since starting research into my family history, almost a year ago now,I have visited the History Shop on many occasions. The staff there have always been extremely helpful and informative, as have the many "regulars" who have been going there, some, for many years and who have a lot of expertise and experience to share.

Like many other patrons who have expressed their views on this page, my love of Family History "got off the starting block" at the History Shop.

As others have already stated, the facility is, in fact, SO popular that microfilm readers must be booked in advance and it can sometimes be very frustrating when none is available on either of the two weekdays on which I don't work, or when one is available, but only for an hour or two; nothing like enough time to do any serious study!

In addition to this, there are a number of "regulars" who use the readers on the same days, week in, week out, often carrying out (unpaid) very useful research for the benefit of all. I include people like Freda, who is one of the people compiling the Wigan Cemetery Index on this website: a labour of love indeed! If opening times are to be reduced, the only fair way of allowing access for all would, presumably, be to ration visits in terms of their frequency and time spent on each visit. Although fairer, this would obviously curtail the sort of research that individuals/groups like the Friends are doing. It would also be necessary in order to prevent professional (paid)researchers from "hogging" the resources and limiting the opportunities of ordinary members of the public. This leads me, in my cynisism, onto a further point: how surprising would it be if, in the future, we are informed by Mr Rodney Hill that the normal range of services will be reinstated, but under a new fee paying scheme? Perhaps an annual membership fee supplemented by a "pay as you search" charge each time anyone visits? Although the thought infuriates me when so much public money is wasted on pointless and useless initiatives that most people are not interested in and won't make use of, even this prospect is better than having no amenities at all. I would be prepared to pay a reasonable fee if that's what were needed to provide specialised staff and maintenance of equipment.But,as I have said, it shouldn't ever come to that. Local History belongs to the people of the borough and should be freely accessible to all.

On the subject of accessibility, I fully agree that there is a real need for a lift. Many of the patrons and visitors are elderly. Others are disabled and/or in ill health. I personally know of people who would love to visit, but are prevented from doing so because they wouldn't be able to get up the stairs. However, offering the need for refurbishment and modernisation as one of the reasons for temporarily restricting access is very lame. I work at Wigan & Leigh College where, over the last year or so, we have had restructuring and expansion work on a massive scale. Several hundred staff and students use the building every day. The College has not had to close or restrict any of its services as a result and health and safety has not been compromised.

Moving on to another lame excuse. It is scandalous that fully qualified professionals, such as those who work in the Heritage Services, should be set to work on cataloguing museum articles. As Mark Wright has said, appropriately supervised students in the field and/or volunteers with appropriate training could carry out the bulk of this work. I do agree with the rationale behind some of the proposed projects, such as taking heritage into schools and to diverse, harder to reach groups, but all of this can be done (and indeed is already being done) without present provision being reduced. The school parties which regularly visit "The Way We Were" (something else that's up for the chop)are testimony to the fact that Wigan's and the region's social and industrial past already features significantly on the school History syllabus and is unlikely to be improved upon by cutting back on staffing in Heritage Services. What nonsense! It's an insult to expect people to believe these feeble excuses.

Actually, I got a bit excited recently when I read in the local press that library opening times were to be reviewed and possibly expanded to include Sundays so that more people would be able to access them. Whilst feeling sorry for the people who would possibly have to work weekends against their wishes, I thought it made sense, as "customer led provision" is the name of the game these days...in everything. I dared to hope that this might extend to other services, such as the History Shop, as it would be marvellous to be able to spend a Sunday afternoon there. I'm sure I'm not the only working person who would find that extremely convenient. Imagine my shock when I read that, in fact, the opposite is to happen.

To end, I refer to the very positive experience enjoyed by Louise when she visited Salford's heritage services. I have found the same on visiting the County Records Centre, at Preston, where I have recently made quite a few visits to research the Chorley branch of my family. The service is second to none, it's bigger, brighter and more modern. There is an ample staff, both professional and knowledgeable and available immediately when needed. There is even a room where you can eat a packed lunch so as not to waste valuable time leaving the building and walking the ten minutes into Preston centre. The icing on the cake is that many, if not most, of the records available at the History Shop are also available there. It even has some Wigan church records that the History Shop does not have. I'm not comparing Wigan unfavourably, as the two places are entirely different in their remits; Preston is there to serve the whole of the county of Lancashire, including those places which now fall outside its boundaries, including records for practically the whole of Merseyside. All that said, it lacks the "local feel and the personal touch" and doesn't have the History Shop's character.

How ironic would it be if Wigan people start heading to Preston because of a poor service here, leading to the council making even further cuts due to the services being "under utilised"? Sadly, it doesn't take a huge leap of imagination to envisage that happening!

 

Phyllis Ainscough from Leigh says...
Hello possibly for the last time Wigan World,
I say that as I hear from Leigh Library staff ( those on 90 days notice! ) that the trust / council are going ahead with their proposals for reduced opening whether we like it not, probably within a month or so. So much for all those concerned people above who have taken the trouble to voice their concerns. We are supposed to live in England, not North Korea!
Phyllis

 

Bill Grimes, family historian from Bickershaw, near Leigh says...
All I can say is those two men who are being taken away from running the records department and the history desk at Leigh, as well as Chris Watts ( a real mine of family history knowledge ) at the History Shop, with the resulting closures must be worth their weight in gold!
Why else would even the worst and most incompetent managers engineer such a situation?
The reactions in the previous letters ( emails ) are the end result.
Astonished of Bickershaw

 

Bill Melling from Leigh says...
On page 9 of your "stuff" feature on the 1939 Picture post magazine there is a picture with the caption "In Wigan`s library of 100,000 volumes, the seventh largest public library in Britain. Its 1000 books of Shakespeareana, its incunabala (rare books all dating back to before 1500)and its mining reference books are all famous.In charge for 20 years has been Mr Arthur Hawkes."
Poor old Arthur must be turning in his Grave.
To be serious though, if they could provide such a quality service,with 9500 unemployed, how come we are in such dire straits now. All I can think is they must have had a better Business Plan.
P.S. What has happened to the "incunabula"?

 

Elizabeth from Wigan says...
Just to point out what Amanda says about disabled facilities at the History they have a special disabled room on the ground floor which is used for disabled people .

 

Sue hesketh from Orrell says...
I have just heard about the change of hours in Wigan History shop, I find this hard to believe, every time I inquired about a reader machine there was always a waiting time, sometimes even the day after, I am all for improvements but I fail to see how this is going to improve the requirements of people who do not live with in the Wigan Borough, let alone those who do. Its is hard enough searching for your family ties etc, I know that a lot of Parish registers have been indexed and that Wigan History shop has been given these, of what use will these be if the History shop is closed? I can see more people going up to Preston where these index's are also there so Wigan is going to miss out again, You are going to lose people who have a lot of knowledge and experience about Wigan's past and Heritage, it is time that the so called People at the top started to listen to the people on the ground who pay there wages, I know that there are a lot of volunteers who worked at the History Shop so I don't see the reason for lesser hours but maybe they should be increased and better equipment bought. Once again Wigan and Leigh are going to suffer at the hands of Bureaucrat's some of which don't even belong in Wigan let alone born and bred in the Ancient and Loyal Borough

 

Anonymous from Wigan says...
Just read Sue Hesketh's piece, well done I say!
Sadly no amount of complaining will change the minds of those "managers" you mentioned. I work in the libraries department where we have been put on 90 days notice by the most ruthless and stupid set of managers you could come across. Not one of them either comes from this area or even lives here today. In fact the second in command Ian Bancroft lives in north wales! So much for his loyalty to the borough.
Sadly the same managers are concocting their cock eyed vision for the heritage section who I feel sorry for. Once they've done their dirty work they'll be off to the next career promotion.
Whatever happened to managers with the same skills as their workforce who knew and understood their jobs and managed them only when needed to.
The current breed are purely Tesco degree carrying producers of the very worst type of waffle bound strategies, reports, agendas, reports to committee etc.
Anyone would think we worked for a massive multinational company. There are more managers than actual people delivering a service to the public.
As a local "stakeholder" which is what these pseudo managers call me ( yes I'm not a human being or a local resident ) I am furious at the way things are heading.
Please pass the latest comments on to the powers that be wherever they are hiding thesedays!

 

Fred Holcroft from Whelley says...
What a sign of the times when your last correspondent has to keep anonymous, this is supposed to be good old down to earth Wigan, not Russia.
I suppose the next management move is Polonium in staff pies treatment!

 

Mathew Walker from Howe Bridge says...
I must admit having just come across your superb web site and reading the comments about the heritage dept news ( which is news to me ) I will not now be giving my large collection of photos and documents to the heritage department and will keep them in the family.
I might even give them to you as you seem to be doing a better job than the council at keeping interest in local history alive. Keep up the good work,
Mathew

 

Bill Melling from Leigh says...
As an unpaid volunteer working at the archives I do not have to toe the party line. I totally agree with what "anonymous" says and can understand why they withheld their name. In my experience the views of the people working at the coalface are seldom sought and usually ignored and their morale is at rock bottom. The management are determined to push their scheme through and the reduced hours are still scheduled to start next week. My feeling is that they will sit out the present protests in the hope that the public will accept it as a Faite accompli. If you value the present services it is vital that eveyone who uses them should keep fighting for them - protest to your Councilllor, Your MP, the leader of the council, the local press and radio. Demand some answers and do not rest until you get one

 

Glenys McClellan from Leigh & District Family History Society says...
Leigh & District Family History Society will be celebrating their 25th Anniversary at the Derby Room of Leigh Library on the 20th February BUT the celebrations will only be that we are still allowed to continue meeting and helping each other with our hobby.

We are certainly not celebrating the way the powers that be treat their staff and customers (not stakeholders) at the three Heritage sites. The Society have written to Rodney Hill (although we cannot guarantee he will read the letter) and sent copies to the three MPs and Councillors of the Borough.

All the above comments already voiced e.g., less hours meaning customers will go elsewhere, so then the demand drops, the loss of staff morale and expertise and the fact that local archives are for local people seem to be irrelevant to managers in ivory towers away from the people who pay their salaries and use the facilities of which they are the custodians.

If these facilities had never existed, the managers would not have the highly paid jobs!!

 

Jaruslav Kominski from Poland (now Leigh) says...
Helo,
I now live about Leigh, from Poland. I think your history very intresting and am sad to know of the closings. This is not very good idea,
Goodbye
Jaruslav

 

Bert Tyldesley from Standish says...
Hello Mr Wigan World,
Thanks for keeping local memories alive.
I had to write after the man from Poland took the trouble.
It looks well when one of our new immigrants who might only have been here a few months feels the need to write in!
What on earth must he think of us?
Thanks
Bert

 

John from Wigan says...
Not that I expected a reply but I guessed right. Mr Hill hasn't had the decency to acknowledge or respond to my e-mail. Jusrt show's what he thinks of the whole issue NOT BOTHERED

 

Amanda Ragaa from Wigan says...
I have just been looking at the Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust website (www.wlct.org.uk). Interestingly, one of their undertakings is to "Respond to your feedback and enquiries as speedily as possible, and certainly within Ten working days". I wonder if Rodney Hill is aware of his own mission statement. Judging by the comments of John, and others who have had no response to their communications, it would appear not.

 

RON from Wigan says...
I propose that next time the History shop is open. We ALL go down en mass and Have a SIT IN. Making sure we inform the local TV and Radio stations of our intentions. Flasks, Butties and sleeping bags would be required.
As mentioned in previous postings The people in charge have no affinity with the town What do they care? I asked Mr Hill if Ms. Tyldesley would chair an open meeting in order for the born and bred Wiganers and Leighers to voice our concerns. Also to give the Council the opportunity to put their points to us face to face. Still awaiting a reply.... Did I expect anything else?
Yet another nail in the Wigan heritage coffin. Hey but cheer up. We will soon have the Grand Arcade!!!!!!

 

Sue Hesketh from Orrell says...
In reply to RON, what use will a Grand Arcade be if the visitor's of the History Shop and Leigh Archives have gone to Preston or the Surrounding area's, they have to go into Wigan for something to eat as it is and the car parking is also a big problem. Wigan is becoming a ghost town with all the character being taken away from it, the moto "Should be pull down all the old buildings and lets build new with no character in them at all", INSTEAD OF ANCIENT AND LOYAL you can see an Arcade similar to the new one in any town, so this is all the more reason to keep the History Shop and Leigh Archives open, I SOMETIMES WONDER WHO THIS COUCIL IS lOYAL TO.

 

Jim Bryant from Swinley, Wigan says...
"By eck wor a reet owd rumpus" as George Formby might have said!
It's times like this when you realise how much we all really care about our history and how proud we all are that we can research it with pride and on the days that suit us.
Sadly, and not to put a damper on those prepared to be burnt at the stake outside the History Shop or the Leigh outlets, those aliens in charge will just say "we'll ride the storm until the fuss dies down".
They know every trick in the book those faceless bureaucrats we reward so highly!
Placard bearing history enthusiasts marching up and down Library Street under the gaze of the media can only do good, count me in!
Jim

 

RON from Wigan says...
When I mentioned the Grand Arcade. I was being facetious ;0)
Don't worry when they start congestion charges. It will soon become another Galleries

 

Frank Evans from Abram says...
I feel sorry for these people who have been taken off their jobs, just shows you how you get treated thesedays at work. In my day it was "tools down boys" and all out in support!

 

ALF from Bolton says...
Frank's right, It's a shame these people cannot let us know what they think personally. They know their own jobs inside out plus they know exactly how the public feel. Must be very frustrating, frightened of losing their jobs I suppose.

 

Glenys McClellan from Leigh & District Family History Society says...
I do hope everyone reads the latest press release dated 12th February 2007.
You will see that our comments have been noted and I have been assured that we will be listened to in the future as well.
To the Heritage Services - thank you for listening.

 

Frank Evans of Abram from Abram says...
Poor old Glenys! She may think progress has been made but the opening hours will be shorter!
The end result is still a shambles.
After visiting Wigan pier on Sunday and talking to staff soon to loose their jobs I now know why the bosses are saying "the position will be reviewed in December". Thats when the pier closes for good!

 

Brian Jones from Leigh says...
Hello again,
My little bird in Leigh Library tells me they ( the staff ) are still on track for being sacked if they don't accept the new contract.
The manager who drew the contract up she tells me is having three weeks off now because his wife's had a baby!
She reckons those three weeks has cost us council tax payers £3000.
I can see the film now when it comes out "Carry On Culture"!!!

 

TONY PEERS from ST.HELENS says...
I NOW LIVE IN ST .HELENS AND WORK IN WALES IF THEY DONT OPEN SATURDAYS IT MEANS I CANT CARRY ON WITH MY FAMILY TREE IVE FOUND SO MUCH OUT FROM THE HISTORY SHOP MORE THAN I FOUD OUT FROM SOUTHPORT DBM AND ANY CENSUS

 

Jim Findlayson from Heaton, Bolton says...
Hello there,
I'm in the same situation as Tony from St Helens, suppose now I'll have to wait ten years till I retire. By then they'll have closed the lot down!

 

Mathew Walker from Bolton says...
I've just found out about the virtual closure of these services all for the sake of admin work, what a shame. What sort of fools ( pretending to be managers ) devise these schemes?
Just having retired I was all set for starting my family history but not being able to get in to Leigh on the days they will be open I'll have to forget it and take up crown green bowling instead!
Thanks a lot.

 

Joe Bryant from Leigh and proud of it! says...
Dear Wigan World,
People will only stand so much of Wigan taking our facilities and local experts away from us. Come election time they won't get my vote, after voting Labour for 45 years.
I certainly won't be using that monstrous carbuncle of a shopping centre they're putting up. Last time I went to Wigan there were many shops shut in the arcade and here they are building more!
I see they are bragging on their web site about getting four stars for running the council. Talk to anyone who works for Wigan and then you'll know how they do it. They treat their staff like **** and are the lowest paying council in the north west!

 

Francine Dalrymple from Gerrards Cross, Bucks says...
My word, having just come across your superb web site ( I have Wigan area ancestors but now eat 'posh pies' down south! ) I am at a loss why what is earmarked to happen is doing so.
It looks as though the services involved which are to suffer rely on individuals to operate them. If so they must be very highly motivated individuals!
I know local authorities have had to cut back on funding and staffing since the days of Mrs Thatcher but surely this is the limit when the last member of staff is also taken away.
To take staff away on other duties is an insult and must be a very desperate measure as the expected public outcry is guaranteed. Surely these 'other duties' can never be so important that they are allowed to affect public services for however short a period?
I hope the managers involved realise the folly of their actions and reassess the situation.
Once they do I shall pay your fascinating area a visit.
Bye

 

Jim from Scholes, Wigan says...
Just read that ladys comments from down south. Good on you your ladyship!
I'll tug my forelock to anyone who speaks up for us like that, whether the powers that be will ever see her comments is another matter.

 

Frank on't bins from Hindley says...
I'll echo Joe Bryant about low paying Wigan. I work for the council on the bins for just above the minimum wage. My manager earns three times what I do for shuffling paper and attending meetings of his fellow back scratchers.
There's far too much of "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" goes on in this council, always has and all.

 

Jim Gladden from Orrell says...
Just read Franks comments. Wigan are currently advertising for a deputy chief executive on a wage of £150,000. Couple this with the chief execs wage of around £200,000 and you have two people costing us council tax payers a third of a million a year. You could employ 150 staff for that amount actually doing work which has a direct impact on the public!
Talk about corruption.

 

Harold Lowe from Wigan says...
This council got thousands of lottery pounds to improve the history shop.What they are now doing is not an improvement,will they be giving that money back?

 

Peter Fairhurst from Bexhill on Sea, East Sussex says...
Copy of letter to Rodney Hill.

Dear Mr. Hill,

We can trace my fatherís family back to the 18th century; my great-great-grandfather was born in Ince in 1787. We know that my grandfather was born in Haigh in 1843 and that my father was born in Wigan in 1893. We know, too, that my great-great-grandfather is buried in St. James Church, Orrell; that my great grandmother is buried there, as is my grandfather, each with several members of their families.

We know that my grandfather was an accomplished engineer and designed and patented a machine for bottling mineral water in 1886. In 1897 he patented parts of an internal combustion engine and, in 1888, built the first motor car in Wigan around his engine. We know that at least one of my ancestors was a Ďpit brow lassí and that a great uncle of mine was the lock keeper at Plank Lane, Abram.

I was born in St. Helens and was a student in the fifties, at Upholland College and for two years at Wigan Tech. I am now a retired teacher living on the South Coast, I am a District Councillor, a former Mayor of Bexhill and Chief Executive of the Town Museum.

I know a great deal about my ancestors, much of which I have learned from your History Shop and the people associated with it. My wife and I have visited the History Shop several times; the staff has always been extremely helpful. We have also worked with several others by telephone, letter and e-mails in our quest for family information. We have recently been delighted with the work of Gerry Rigby who, I believe has written to you concerning the decimation of the service available to dedicated historians and the general public who have, until now, been able to access the wealth of material cared for at the History Shop.

I am amazed that your council has chosen to reduce the hours of opening at the History Shop; surely, in this day and age when more and more people are interested in genealogy and family history, extending the facility would have been a better course of action. We, at Bexhill Museum, are currently embarking on a £1.5 million Lottery and Council funded extension programme. In about 18 months time Bexhill will have a wonderful new building adjoining our present historic museum. The Council and people of the town will never have a vast archive



like that which you have in Wigan but will, however, appreciate our unique collections and agree that our Museum is making a very important contribution to the regeneration of Bexhill.

Please, please reconsider and reverse the decision to drastically cut the opening hours of the History Shop, I accept that times are hard and money is difficult to come by but I do urge you to understand the benefits to the community of such a wonderful facility.

 

"Friend" of the History Shop from Wigan says...
Hello Mr Wigan World,
I thought you and the many supporters who were against the cuts in all three services may like to know that they and the rest of the public have been duped.
The number of days may have been increased but the hours reduced! No change there.
What I may ask are staff doing at the History Shop when they boot us, their own volunteers out at 3pm?!!
I can understand the upper echelons having plenty of paper shuffling to keep themselves busy but what about the rest? Feet up swilling tea and coffee behind those venetian blinds no doubt!
My days as a "friend" are definitely numbered, just when I was really getting motivated and planning projects for the future.

 

Christine from Beech Hill, Wigan. says...
As a newcomer to Ancestry Research, I was looking forward tofind the time to visit Wigan and start my searching. Due to work commitments I have found that hard to do and NOW I have read that the History Shop will be closed on more days a week. When I looked up the new hours, I was working EVERY time the History shop would be open. Then I looked up the local Family History Society and what do I find, that the only time it has a meeting-------YES, I'm at work. NOW what do I do????????

 

anon from Hindley says...
with regards the question
"what has happened to the incunabala"?
I don't know, but someone tells me that there are an awful lot of very old and valuable books rotting away in the basement of Leigh Library. They have been there for fifteen years, previous to which they were kept at Station Road, and before that under Wigan Baths. These books have been kept in cardboard boxes and many have disintegrated beyond restoration. It is an absolute shame and disgrace that these beautiful books should have been neglected in this way. Staff have
repeatedly complained to management about this situation and after all these years the decision has finally been made to get a valuer in and probably sell off the remains of our heritage worth salvaging. Too little, too late. These books should have been preserved for the people of Wigan and Leigh.

 

Bill Melling from Leigh says...
I have just heard that Alan Davies, the archivist at Leigh Town Hall, has handed in his resignation and will be leaving in about three weeks time.

 

Jonathan Parton from Lancaster says...
Seeing the news from your last correspondent saddens me. I was a regular user of the archives a couple of years ago and remember Mr Davies's enthusiastic help given to me, but also his frustration trying to run the archive single handedly. To expect him to do the same over two days a week is nothing short of constructive dismissal, no-one would stand for that sort of treatment.
What low calibre managers the department must have to create these situations. More importantly who is likely to take on such a post in the future!

 

Joe Grimes from Atherton says...
Hello,
Just read Mr Mellings note.
It's a sad day for all when someone with Alan's specialist local knowledge packs in and a sure sign of the way he is being treated. If anyone was ever in the right job he was and much appreciated by us locals, god help who comes next!
I despair,
Joe

 

Amanda Ragaa from Wigan says...

I have twice visited the History Shop in recent weeks after an absence of some months. Despite the reduction in opening hours I was very pleasantly surprised to find that it appears to be "business as usual". I don't know what is going on behind the scenes, but my experience as a service user was actually no different to how it had been before the recent changes were introduced. There were more volunteers than staff around on the Thursday, but they seemed well informed and very helpful. On the Monday it was fully staffed.Microfilm readers were available for immediate use and waiting times for those who book don't seem to be any longer than before according to the "regulars" I spoke to. Extra microfilm readers had been introduced, including a new, much more modern one.

Well done to the volunteers and long may this continue.

 

Andy Lomax from Kitt Green says...
Dear Mr WW,
Amanda (above)may be pleasantly surprised in actually getting some half decent service at the History Shop but she comes from one angle, that of the fanatical family tree brigade who make excessive demands of staff at the best of times.
The heritage department should be much wider in it's scope and services than giving priority to people carrying out the pointless excercise of creating family trees, which their children eventually throw in the bin!
Keep up the good work Mr WW,
Andy

 

Jim of Hindley from Hindley not Wigan! says...
Too right what Andy says, I went to the History Shop recently to quietly read local history books and was surrounded by sad eccentric people wondering who else was in their grandad's grave and how to find out!
Get a life I say,
Jim (75)

 

Wilfie from Aspull says...
A quick 'spanner in the works'. Much as I understand how important the History Shop is to those involved in family history research, lets not forget that isn't the only use it has - indeed if some enthusiasm was shown for other uses (like the childrens activities which are occasionally organised), maybe more local people would take notice and offer their support. As it stands, the History shop is a dull, shabby and frankly unwelcoming place, which needs cheering up and using - for all sorts of purposes, by a lot more people. Hasn't the council got a highly paid marketing department (bet they have). Its time for them to get off their backsides and promote this facility, and time wiganners started to make use of it - use it or lose it I say. This town had a rich history, and it would be lovely to ensure our kids know about it - and maybe even our visitors from further afield - after all, what else do we have to offer - a shopping arcade the same as every other town in Britain - Ha!

 

julie from wigan says...
they are my family records and i want to see them with my granchildren are the council cutting council tax as well as services

 

John Taylor from Leigh says...
I met Alan Davies the archivist who packed in months ago due to the top heavy waffle swamping managerial style in place.
It was obvious to me how relieved he was to get out of the corrupt and nasty set up in place. What a state of affairs and god help whoever's doing his job now!
Good luck for the future Alan!

 

Amanda Ragaa from Wigan says...
Jim of Hindley: "....sad and eccentric"? This description doesn't match any of the many people I have met at the History Shop! Not only is this a very judgemental and pejorative generalisation on your part, but it's one I find bizarre, considering you have stated you have an interest in local history yourself and like to read up on it. Family history enthusiasts share EXACTLY the same interest as you, but have taken it one step further by personalising it. Their interest lies more in the personalities that make up their own history moreso than locations, industry, economics, politics etc. However, these aspects are all interwoven and, from the serious family historian's viewpoint, it is impossible not to become interested in all these other angles and dimensions of our ancestors' lives as well. I know of quite a few people who have developed a great enthusiasm for British social and economic history leading on from an initial interst in family history only. I fail to undertand how we are sad and eccentric, but you are not. What's the great difference between us?

Are we also to assume that you will opt for an unmarked grave and won't want any of your nearest and dearest to know where you are buried in case - perish the thought - a descendant, many years from now, shows an interest in you and wants to know where you are buried? Now that would truly be sad, in my opinion.

Andy: you sound very bitter. Why do you describe family historians as fanatics? Studying and recording my family history is just one of MANY interests that I have and, though I take it very seriously in that I am very meticulous and diligent, I have other interests which take up much more of my time. I think the same goes for all the other genealogists of my acquaintance.

I have compiled the core of my research on my father's side (dating back 250 years) into a journal which I have published. I have been inundated with requests from family members for further copies. People have been delighted with the results and relatives living overseas and even distant relatives with whom we have been out of touch for years have got back in touch with each other through this project. I have even been contacted by relatives connected to us four generations back, whom we have never met in person, also showing interest. Elderly relatives in particular have absolutely loved it. Please tell me how that can be pointless!

The History Shop, like all public services and private enterprises, must meet the needs of its users or will go under. Those needs will be different at different times. It so happens that at the present time, genealogy is an EXTREMELY popular pastime. I don't have any statistics relating to HS user interests, but I'm sure some exist, as regular visitors have all been asked to complete surveys. It may be the case that currently the majority of regular visitors go there to study family history.

If so, what's wrong with that? Should we be on a guilt trip? As far as I can see, the more people who use the HS, for whatever reason, the better. There is less chance of closure and more chance of future investment on top of that which has already been promised.

The History Shop is big enough, has enough resources and enough staff to cater for all its patrons' needs. Why is it necessary to hold in contempt fellow users who happen to have an interest you don't share? You can happily read your books whilst others look at their microfilms. Sounds good to me! As for family historians taking up too much of the staff time this is just not true. Not only are there ALWAYS volunteers on hand (who come in for that very purpose) to help newbies who might need a bit of guidance, but those of us with more experience are always more than happy to help out with practical help and advice.

Wilfie: I take on board some of your points and agree that it would be nice to see more happening downstairs. It's very sad to see the main area empty most of the time. I am very much looking forward to seeing the expected modernisations, including a lift. Somewhere for people to sit and have a coffee whilst taking a break from their reading/research would be wonderful, too.

However - "dull, shabby and unwelcoming"...never! The place is charming, especially upstairs. It has a feel to it that the bigger, better equipt and more modern centres, such as Preston, could never have. The retention of the original features, along with the musty smell of the wood and old books, for me, add to the experience. The staff are fantastic, can't do enough to help and are even on first name terms with patrons.

I think people should be more appreciative of this fantastic place and should be more tolerant of others who use it.

It's big enough for all of us!

 

Bill Melling from Leigh says...
Twelve months ago the Leisure and Culture Trust announced reduced opening hours for the Archives, History Shop and the History Desk at Leigh Library. As a result of widescale protests they issued a Press Statement on the 12th of February 2007 which assured us that "The new times are temporary until December 2007" It is now 2008 so when can we expect the old opening times to be restored?

 

Amanda Ragaa from Wigan says...
Bill,

There was a recent press announcement that from the end of this month opening hours will once again be extended. In the case of the History Shop, new opening times will be from 10.00 (rather than 10.30) on weekdays and Saturdays and until 4.30 (rather than 4.00)on weekdays.

Unfortunately, the late night opening on Monday (it used to stay open until 7.00) and Wednesday opening have not been reinstated.

Although it's not as good as before, it is at least a step in the right direction. It would be wonderful to see the opening times increased yet further. Let's hope it happens.

 

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