Wigan and Leigh Archives Online
Back to News

Volunteer Week 2024

We’re lucky to have a fantastic team of volunteers across our heritage services for Wigan Council at Archives: Wigan & Leigh, Wigan Local Studies, and the Museum of Wigan Life. Last year (2023) our volunteers racked up an impressive 6755 hours on their projects – that’s the equivalent of 281 days!


Many of our volunteers are doing lots of essential work behind the scenes. For example, Sandy, Sheila, Nick, Kai, Olivia and Riley have been hard at work in the museum stores, carefully cataloguing and cleaning some of the thousands of items kept there – they have also prepared many of these for the ‘What’s in Store’ exhibition which is now on at the Museum.

Volunteers at Archives: Wigan & Leigh

Above: Volunteers at Archives Wigan & Leigh


At Wigan and at Leigh the volunteers have been working on cataloguing, cleaning and conserving our historic documents and books. Others have been using the collections to do research projects designed to help showcase our local history and heritage.


Many of the current projects regarding improving our finding aids are reaching fruition. This is valuable work designed to make our collections more accessible. So, we thought we’d take a look below at some of the results!


Who was in the workhouse?

We get dozens of enquiries every year from family history researchers, and others looking to trace relatives through admissions and discharge registers from workhouses at Wigan and Leigh. Sadly, these records have not survived. However, we do hold 93 years’ worth of Guardian Minute Books, which occasionally refer to workhouse occupants by name. For a few years now our volunteers past and present have been working on creating a database by pulling out the names of all those mentioned. Ali, Bob, Jenny and Lorna are now in the final stages of this project, and Valerie and Glenys have been typing up their findings. We’re about 90% complete so get in touch if you have a name you would like us to search. Not all occupants of the workhouse are mentioned in these books but it’s always worth a look!


Crime and Punishment

The Quarter Sessions courts in Wigan were held four times a year (hence the name) and dealt with less serious crimes than the courts of assize – such as theft and assault. We hold thousands of records, which cover the period 1733-1965. Carl, Peter, Hannah and Arthur are pulling out key names, dates, crimes and other details to make a searchable index for records prior to 1924. We’re halfway there!


Above: A volunteer at Archives: Wigan & Leigh working on the Guardian Minute Books.



Mapping the Wigan Borough

These huge map cabinets held in the Archives’ strong rooms contain hundreds of County series Ordnance Survey maps for the borough and surrounding areas dating from the 1840s onwards – Andrea, Glen and Sylvia have spent many weeks in the basement listing the maps. While many historic maps are now viewable on National Library of Scotland’s website and other platforms, you can’t beat the quality and clarity of the originals – and we can’t wait until the finding aid is complete and ready to use.




A large collection of rugby photographs have been box listed and dated by John, who brought his knowledge of the faces and names of the period to the task at hand.

Searchroom regulars will be familiar with our ‘reference print boxes’ – containing thousands of black and white images of the townships that make up Wigan Borough. Well – there are more! At Leigh Michael has been busy putting them in order and correcting the descriptions and David has been doing the same over in Wigan with the green folders.


Second World War Ancestors

 Around 10 years ago our volunteers complied a fantastic database of soldiers who were mentioned in the Wigan and Leigh newspapers during the First World War. Kate and Les have now started a similar project for members of the armed forces who died during the Second World War and whose deaths were mentioned in local newspapers. It should prove to be a very valuable resource and we hope to have it ready to view early next year.


Above: A volunteer getting hands on with some maps and plans



A Big Thank You!

 These are just some of the projects our volunteers are working on across the different sites and we just wanted to say a big ‘thank you’ to all of them and celebrate all their hard work!



You can view some of our existing volunteer-created user guides and transcriptions here: Archives: Wigan and Leigh collections