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.