Thursday, 9 August 2012

Thursday Tour of NW England - Ormskirk

Ormskirk is a small market town in West Lancashire, about half way between Liverpool and Preston. Its name is Old Norse from ‘Ormres kirkja’ meaning the church of Ormre. One source suggests that Ormre may have been a Viking who converted to Christianity and founded the church, but there is no archaeological evidence to support this.

There is no reference to Ormskirk in the Domesday Book of 1086, but about a century later the lord of Latham granted the church at Ormskirk to Burscough Priory. Ormskirk was at the junction of the main roads to Liverpool, Preston and Wigan, and by the 13th century, it had developed into a small town. Its market charter was granted by Edward I in 1286.

With its weekly markets, the town became a focal point for local farmers to trade their goods, and shops and inns also catered to the needs of the market visitors. Later, an engineering industry grew up, based on making and mending agricultural machinery.

The market is still held twice weekly, on Thursdays and Saturdays, in the now pedestrianised centre of the town.

The church of St. Peter and St. Paul is believed to be on the site of the original church. Its exact age is unknown but it does have some fragments of Norman architecture.
It has many links with the Stanley family who owned land in North West England (and became the Earls of Derby). Many family members are buried in the Derby Chapel, including Thomas Stanley, the first Earl, who betrayed King Richard III by changing sides during the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. He failed to bring his troops to support the royal forces and this, together with his brother William’s last minute intervention, led to the death of Richard and victory for Henry Tudor.

A later Earl, James Stanley, was beheaded during the 17th century Civil War. His body is buried in one coffin, and his head in a separate casket.

The church is unusual is that it has both a tower and a spire, and is unique in that both are at the same end of the building. Legend has it that Ormre had two sisters, one of whom wanted a tower, the other a spire. In fact, the steeple dates from the 15th century and the tower from the 16th century.

Photos of Ormskirk Market, Thomas Stanley, and Ormskirk Church all from Wikimedia Commons and released into public domain.    


  1. I enjoy these types of tours of different places, especially those I haven't seen. Thanks for sharing.

    I like the photo of the church (love architecture) and all the extra facts.

  2. Interesting post about a historic place. Those blackguard Stanleys--should we call them the blacksheep of Derby?

  3. Thanks, D.G. The church is certainly a very unusual design, with its tower and spire next to each other!

  4. John, so glad you share my opinion of the Stanleys! I can't ever forgive Thomas and William for the Battle of Bosworth! Damned traitors!

  5. What a lovely place it must be! Thank you for the trip

  6. Another fascinating post, Paula. Particularly intrigued by the tower/steeple

  7. Thanks, Jenny. It really is an unusual church, isn't it?

  8. Thanks for sharing these little details with us - I've been forgetting to include churches in my new fantasy novel so far!

    Relax and take a cookie -