Page:The History of the Church & Manor of Wigan part 1.djvu/10

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vi Introduction.

at length comparatively worthless, as the value of money decreased, and they have long since been given up. Each burgess was also bound to pay for his burgage and garden a rent of one shilling. The rest of the land was held in demesne, or by tenants at will; and even so late as Queen Elizabeth's time the fee farm rents and those received from the tenants at will formed a considerable portion of the parson's income.

As the feudal system declined — having done its work in making Englishmen the best soldiers in the world — and as the wealth and power of the burgesses and people increased, the rights and perquisites of the lords of the manor became gradually less and less, until the last figment of secular authority was done away with by the late rector, who, with the patron's consent, made over to the Mayor and Corporation the tolls of the markets and fairs shortly before his resignation of the benefice.

In studying the materials for the compilation of these parochial annals, I find that the ancient manorial rights and privileges of the rectors have ever been a fruitful source of litigation between them and their people, insomuch that the inhabitants of Wigan from time to time seem to have inherited a traditionary feeling that it was their duty as citizens to resist and curtail these rights to the best of their power, in which indeed they generally succeeded, as will be shewn in the following pages.

From the general kindness and courtesy which I have received, as rector, from all classes of the community, I