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ORMSKIRK (St. Peter and St. Paul), a market town and parish, and the head of a union, in the hundred of West Derby, S. division of Lancashire; containing, with the chapelry of Skelmersdale, and the townships of Bickerstaffe, Burscough, Lathom, and Scarisbrick, 14,608 inhabitants, of whom 4891 are in the town, 13 miles (N. N. E.) from Liverpool, on the road to Preston, 40 (S. by W.) from Lancaster, and 209 (N. W. by N.) from London. Ormskirk is not found in the Domesday survey; but, according to very credible tradition, the parish belonged to Orm, the Saxon proprietor of Halton, who, driven from his possessions in Cheshire, established himself in Lancashire, and, by his marriage with Alice, daughter of Herveus, a Norman nobleman, ancestor of Theobald Walter, obtained large estates in this county. He was the founder, no doubt, of the church; the word kirk, with his own name, constituting the name of the parish. It is certain, that a church, and the name of Ormskirk, both existed in the reign of Richard I., when Robert, son of Henry de Torbock and Lathom, who is supposed to have been a descendant of Orm, founded the priory of Burscough, which was endowed with a great part of the parish, including the manor of Ormskirk. On the dissolution of monasteries, the manor was granted to the Earl of Derby, in whose family it has ever since continued. In the civil war of the 17th century, this place was the scene of a conflict between the royalist and parliamentary forces on the 20th August 1644, in which the former were defeated with considerable loss; and on the 16th October, in the same year, a skirmish took place, which has been denominated Ormskirk fight. The town, which is situated on an eminence, eight miles from the sea, overlooks the surrounding country, and enjoys a salubrious air and delightful prospects. It is clean and well built, and consists chiefly of four streets diverging at right angles from a central area used as a market-place: the lighting act is in operation. There are, a small silk-factory, three roperies, and a steam flour-mill. The loamy soil around the town produces a great quantity of carrots, which are sent to Liverpool, and the farmers are noted for the culture of early potatoes. The inhabitants have also long been famous for making gingerbread, which is of exquisite flavour; it meets with a rapid sale, and is even exported. The Leeds and Liverpool canal is not more than three miles distant, and here is a station of the Liverpool and Preston railway. The market, granted in the 14th of Edward I. to the prior of Burscough, is on Thursday; and fairs are held on Whit-Monday and Whit-Tuesday, and September 10th and 11th. Petty-sessions take place on the last Friday in every month; and a court leet occurs in October, at which a constable and other officers are appointed for the town. The powers of the county debtcourt of Ormskirk, established in 1847, extend over the registration-district of Ormskirk. The length of the parish, from Martin Mere on the north-west, to Skelmersdale on the south-east, is twelve miles; the breadth from Lathom on the east, to Ormskirk on the west, between four and five miles; and the area is 30,083 acres. A stream, called the Merebrook, flows from Bickerstaffe, by the south side of Ormskirk, through Scarisbrick, and into Martin Mere. The Tawd brook, rising upon Bickerstaffe Moss, runs between Lathom and Ormskirk, and winds down to the Douglas near Newburgh. The Eller brook, a pellucid rivulet, issues from Lathom, and passing by the priory of Burscough, falls into the Douglas north of Burscough. The Golforden, mentioned by Leland as near Lathom, is now unknown. The soil of the parish is generally a dark vegetable loam, well calculated for the culture of green crops, particularly carrots and potatoes, as already mentioned. From this cause, there is more land in tillage than is usual in the Lancashire parishes; and the arable and pasture may be estimated as in very nearly equal portions. Of the peat-mosses, which abound, the principal are Bickerstaffe Moss, Hosher Moss, Scarisbrick Moss, and Burscough Moss, from all which are frequently dug up trees, chiefly oak and fir, that have been buried for ages, and preserved from decay by the tanning action of the peat earth. Though humid, swampy, and even boggy in many parts, the soil does not affect the salubrity of the climate, longevity prevailing in an unusual degree. Coal is obtainable in Bickerstaffe and Lathom; and stone in other divisions. The township of Ormskirk comprises 214 acres only, of which 174 are pasture, and 44 arable. The living is a discharged vicarage, valued in the king's books at £10; net income, £367, with a house; patron and impropriator, the Earl of Derby. The original church was probably built by Orm, as before said, soon after the Conquest; the date of the first rebuilding is unknown, but the tower seems to have been raised in the reign of Henry VIII. In 1553, two chantries, which had been suppressed, were restored; and in 1572, the Stanley chapel and vault were constructed in accordance with the will of Edward, the third earl of Derby, surnamed "the Bountiful;" for a cemetery for that noble family, the deceased members of which have been interred here since the Dissolution. Within the chapel, on the south side, is a dilapidated figure of a knight, carved in stone, originally a full-length, but reduced by the operation of time to one-half; and reclining on the same stone is a full-length carving of a lady, now much defaced: on the north side are two similar figures. These effigies are vulgarly called the Kings and Queens of Man. The present body of the church was built in 1729-31; the spire having been blown down, was rebuilt about 1790: the whole edifice was improved and altered in 1828, and the spire, having fallen into decay, was a third time rebuilt in 1832. Another church was erected here in 1848; and at Bickerstaffe, Burscough, Lathom, and Skelmersdale are also incumbencies. There are places of worship for Independents, Unitarians, and Wesleyans; also a Roman Catholic chapel, built about a century ago, and dedicated to St. Oswald: over the altar of this last is a copy by Gainsford, of the Four Marys by Annibal Caracci. The free grammar school was founded about 1614, and is endowed with various benefactions producing £138. 15. per annum. A school in Church-street was built in 1824, at the expense of James, Earl of Derby, for a Blue-coat school, now merged in some national schools; and Roman Catholic schools were built in 1847. The poor-law union of Ormskirk comprises twenty-one parishes or places, containing a population of 34,975.
From: A Topographical Dictionary of England by Samuel Lewis (1848), pp. 479-483. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=51194 Date accessed: 20 July 2010.
Birth, marriages and deaths were kept by the government, from July 1837 to the present day. The civil registration article tells more about these records. There are several Internet sites with name lists or indexes. A popular site is FreeBMD.
Online index of Lancashire Births, Marriages and Deaths Lancashire_BMD
Lancashire Online Parish Clerks
An extremely useful resource for research in Lancashire Parishes http://www.lan-opc.org.uk/
Include here information for parish registers, Bishop’s Transcripts and other types of church records, such as parish chest records. Add the contact information for the office holding the original records. Add links to the Family History Library Catalog showing the film numbers in their collection
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Records of wills, administrations, inventories, indexes, etc. were filed by the court with jurisdiction over this parish. Go to Lancashire Probate Records to find the name of the court having primary jurisdiction. Scroll down in the article to the section Court Jurisdictions by Parish.
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