Historicaleigh: Leigh Society and Leigh Heritage Centre

March 5, 2020 by Carole Mulroney

The Leigh Society and Leigh Heritage Centre has been around since the 70s. If you live in Leigh you cannot have failed to visit the Old Town – and we are right there in its midst in the Heritage Centre next to Strand Wharf.

We started life as a conservation and amenity society but decided early on that Leigh needed a museum and it was clear from the outset that the interest in Leigh local and family history was great and worldwide so answering that interest has become one of our main roles.

We are consulted and respond to all planning applications in the 4 Leigh Conservation Areas and our aim is to secure the preservation of features of historic and public interest – it’s a daunting task.

The Society carried out major fund raising in the late 1990s and obtained a Lottery Grant to restore Plumbs Cottage which today forms part of our exhibit as a Victorian fisherman’s cottage. 

Leigh has been a fishing community for over 1000 years and our ancient mariners were expert seamen, captains, admirals, and some became brethren of the Guild of Trinity House. 

William Camden (1551 - 1623) the Elizabethan historian described Leigh as ‘a proper fine little town and very full of stout and adventurous sailers’. 

Our motto is ‘An eye to the future and an ear to the past in the heart of Leigh’.

Leigh has played its part in the defence against the Spanish Armada, in the Dutch Wars in the Great War and of course in the Second World War by sending its ‘little ships’ to Dunkirk with tragic consequences.

Major events these may be, but behind them all are the ordinary people of Leigh who, through the centuries, have plied their trades and made the town what it was and what the Leigh Society and the Heritage Centre strive to preserve.

The character was summed up eloquently by a 19th century Methodist Minister of Leigh who said: 
“The fishermen I came into contact with at Leigh were old men with no scholarship. They told me of their thoughts; the things they said within themselves as they Coastguard Cottages sailed with the stars and with the wild waters about and beneath them. For sheer poetry I have never heard more beautiful things than fell from the lips of those unlettered men”.

I can’t say better than that! Over many years researching my own Leigh family (which is linked to all the fishing families) I have amassed a 24k+ database of people who, even in a small way, have a connection to Leigh and I help wherever I can with other researchers who are interested in Leigh, its families and local history.

I can be contacted at carole.mulroney@btinternet.com or via the Heritage Centre. You can look at my website leighlives.co.uk for more interesting stories about Leigh and you can join the Leigh Society for £12pa (covering the whole household – you can download a membership form at www.leighsociety.com). You will receive 3- 4 Leighway magazines a year (previous editions going back to 1999 are on our website) and reduced rates to our 6 talks a year which are held at the Community Centre. We also have other events throughout the year and of course we always love to see you at the Heritage Centre.