Places: Ormskirk

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EDC 5/7/1 – Hugh Holland contra Joan Bruckefeld or Holland



The parish of Ormskirk comprised the townships of Lathom, Ormskirk, Burscough, Bickerstaffe and Scarisbrick and the chapelry of Skelmersdale.

The parish church occupies an elevated position surrounded by the town of Ormskirk. It is unusual in having both a spire and a tower and is thought to be unique in having both at the same end of the building. During the remodelling of the church between 1877 and 1891 James Dixon commented on the number of burials under the floor and described it as ‘Internally, one of the most objectionable to the eye of taste’.

The original parish church was probably a wooden Saxon construction, replaced by a small Norman stone building subsequently enlarged in the Early English style, of which the earliest surviving part dates from about 1170. This was further extended by the addition of a number of chapels over the centuries, including the Bickerstaffe Chapel of the fifteenth century. The spire dates from the fifteenth century and the tower was built in 1540-50 to accommodate eight bells from Burscough Priory which was dissolved in 1536. The earl of Derby tried unsuccessfully to save the priory church but when his efforts failed the moved his family patronage to Ormskirk parish church. It is thought that the bell tower may include stone from Burscough Priory buildings.

The parish church building was badly damaged during the Civil War as Parliamentarian troops besieged the nearby home of the Stanley family at Lathom House and perhaps took out their frustration on the building which was so closely associated with the family.

The parish was appropriated to Burscough Priory, and the vicar, usually a canon of Burscough until the suppression, was paid an annual stipend of £10, together with a house and four acres of land. This arrangement continued after the dissolution of the priory when the parish passed to the crown by whom it was leased out. In 1549 the earl of Derby bought the right of presentation of the vicar

The parish of Ormskirk was a discharged vicarage which means that any vicar was ‘dischardged and acquited for ever’ from payment of a tax called first-fruits on taking over the vicarage because the value of the living was £10 per annum.

The weekly market held in the town of Ormskirk dates from the thirteenth century, and there were also two fairs each year. The Quarter Sessions were held there twice a year until 1817.

The town of Ormskirk saw very little industrialisation, and most attempts to establish industries such as textiles soon came to nothing, although some industry proved to be more stable, notably a ropeworks. Coal was mined in some areas of the parish, particularly Skelmersdale. The flat land surrounding the town of Ormskirk, which was a type of wetland known as a moss, now drained, continues to be a valuable market gardening area, specialising in potatoes.

The black and white image of the Norman window is from James Dixon, ‘Notes on certain discoveries made during alterations at Ormskirk church, with obervations’, Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, volume 30 for 1877-8; the other black and white images are reproduced courtesy of Hathi Trust.


Historical sketches of Ormskirk, Ormskirk Church: Lathom, Lathom House, past and present; Lord Lathom, the siege of Lathom House, and reminiscences connected there with; Burscough Priory, &c., &c. (Ormskirk, 1881).

‘The parish of Ormskirk: Introduction, church and charities’, in A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 3, ed. William Farrer and J Brownbill (London, 1907), pp. 238-246. British History Online [accessed 3 January 2023].

‘Townships: Ormskirk’, in A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 3, ed. William Farrer and J Brownbill (London, 1907), pp. 261-264. British History Online  [accessed 4 January 2023].

‘Houses of Austin canons: The priory of Burscough’, in A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 2, ed. William Farrer and J Brownbill (London, 1908), pp. 148-152. British History Online [accessed 3 January 2023].

‘Orby – Ormskirk’, in A Topographical Dictionary of England, ed. Samuel Lewis (London, 1848), pp. 479-483. British History Online  [accessed 3 January 2023].

‘Skellingthorpe – Skeyton’, in A Topographical Dictionary of England, ed. Samuel Lewis (London, 1848), pp. 113-115. British History Online  [accessed 3 January 2023].

Several articles in Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire by James Dixon and other contributors cover the history of the parish and township of Ormskirk. They are available online:

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