© 2015 DECLAN MULRONEY
Leigh is mentioned in the Domesday Book as Legra and has been a fishing and seafaring community for over 1000 years, but its been a lot more too.
The mariners of Leigh were expert seamen, captains and admirals, and some became brethren of the Guild of Trinity House, such as the Haddocks and Salmons. Many London merchants owned ships which were built in Leigh, and their masters and crews were Leigh men.
William Camden (1551 -1623) the Elizabethan historian described Leigh as ‘a proper fine little towne and verie full of stout and adventurous sailers’.
In 1588 ships were paid to keep watch for the Armada, and the Spanish Ambassador told Phillip of Spain that Leigh had built 31 vessels that could be armed. In the event a number of Leigh ships with Leigh masters went to fight or assist the English fleet against the Armada.
In the Dutch wars of the 17th century Admiral Blake brought his damaged fleet to Leigh after losing a battle with the Dutch in the Medway. He then took his repaired fleet of 60 ships to win against them at Portland Bill.
During the Napoleonic Wars at least one Leigh resident appears to have been involved in the Nore Mutiny and may have been at Trafalgar.
The Railway came to Leigh in the 1850s and many old properties were lost, but from then on the Town began to grow up the hill.
Leigh like many another town lost men during the Great War and the little fishing and cockling boats and their valiant volunteer crews of Leighmen went to Dunkirk in World War Two to help rescue the British Expeditionary Force from the beaches, some losing their lives at sea, as with the tragedy of the Renown.
There was, and is, of course, the fishing industry which reached its peak in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The men of Leigh were 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 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.'
From 1066 everyday
Leigh has been making history
Lets keep it that way