Coat of Arms
One of the first things the new mayor did was to apply for a Coat of Arms. The design was entrusted to a Leigh historian, and later librarian, William Duncombe Pink. The Coat of Arms was accepted and registered on the 23rd December, 1899.
The crest on the Leigh shield commemorates the Powys family. They were the family of Lord Lilford – hence their connection with Atherton.
The crest consists of a ‘bear’s paw’, from the Powys arms. It is grasping a spearhead of the Urmston family. The Atherton family had previously acquired part of the inheritance of the Urmstons.
The motto is ‘Aequo pede propera’, to ‘hasten with equal foot’ or more easily translated as ‘to make progress steadily.’
The Coat of Arms depicts the three townships and that part of Atherton included in the new town.
The spear in the top left-hand corner represents Westleigh. This comes from the arms of the Urmston family. The manor existed in Richard the First’s time (1189 – 1199).
In 1292 Sigreda, the heiress of the manor, married Richard de Urmston, and the manor passed to the Urmston family and remained there until the last of the male Urmstons died in 1659. Of his three daughters only one had children. After, the manor and the church changed hands separately, in several lots and at different times.
The Urmston Coat of Arms had three spearheads - one of which is shown on the Leigh Coat of Arms.
In 1312 the family of Bradshaw, or Bradshaigh, became the name of the chief landowner of the manor of Pennington. Margaret, Lady of Pennington, married Hugh de Ratcliffe, during the reign of King John. Their son changed his name to Pennington, but in 1312 the name Bradshaw or Bradshaigh became the name of the chief landowner. The family held the manor until 1703 when John, the last of the male line died. Bradshawgate, the main shopping street in Leigh, commemorates this family name.
The arms of the Bradshaws, the longest serving lords of the manor, consist of three stars. One star appears on the Leigh Coat of Arms.
The earliest mention of the Bedford manor is in 1202 when it was held by Sir Henry de Kighley. This family held it until the sixteenth century, but never actually lived there.
A Bedford family, the Shuttleworths were known as landowners from the fourteenth century. They became prominent after the Kighleys. A descendant of the Shuttleworths, Richard, married one of the Urmston’s three daughters and brought part of the Westleigh inheritance to Bedford.
Shuttleworth House, or Sandypool Farm is behind the Timperley Lane housing estate. It is near to the old manor house, Bedford Hall, now Bedford Hall Farm.
The arms of the Shuttleworths were three shuttles. One of the shuttles is in the left-hand corner of the Leigh coat of arms.
There was some disagreement about the choice of the Shuttleworths to represent Bedford because there was a family with its own coat of arms close by.
This family, the Sales of Hope Carr, had a great deal of influence in Bedford for over four hundred years, and owned more of the land than the Shuttleworths.
The opportunity was taken in 1893 to tidy up the Leigh boundary. A part of Atherton actually protruded into Bedford and Pennington. Like those areas, it was served by the Leigh Gas Company. So, in 1893, it was made part of the Urban District of Leigh.
It was actually a narrow strip of land, at the end of Bradshawgate and Chapel Street, where Queen Street is today. Mr. Pink decided that the Atherton connection should be represented in the new shield.
The Athertons held the manor in direct line for five centuries. They were very influential, not only in the area, but in the County as well. Seven of the family were knighted.
Richard, who died in 1726, was the last male descendant. His only child Elizabeth, married Robert Gwillym and their son, Robert Vernon Gwillym took the name and arms of Atherton. One of his daughters lived at Atherton Hall and married Thomas Powys, a son of Lord Lilford.
The Atherton coat of arms has three sparrowhawks. One of these is shown on the fourth quarter of the Leigh shield.