through the centuries...
One of the roads the Romans constructed through Britain nearly 2000
years ago ran northwards from the Cheshire salt towns, over the
Mersey, through Wigan to Preston and Lancaster. Another of these
roads has been partly traced from Wigan to a Roman port on the west
coast, passing through Ormskirk around Ottershead Farm where Roman
coins were found. Other Roman relics include a quern discovered at
Slack Farm and are now in the museum at Wigan.
The derivation of the name of Ormskirk is undoubtedly Scandinavian.
The Vikings are known to have landed on the coast in the 9th
century and they penetrated inland, possibly along the disused
Roman road, to settle at Ormskirk and places round about. Ormskirk
might signify the place where Orm founded a settlement and built a
church - but there are other theories.
Although Ormskirk is not included in the Domesday survey of 1086,
it was an important town and was the administrative centre of the
Hundred of West Derby.
The scanty remains of Burscough Priory which still stand in Abbey
lane just off the A59 between Ormskirk are now schedules as an
ancient monument. It was founded for the Black Canons (Augustinian
Order) in the early 12th century by Robert de Lathom and became one
of the most important religious houses in Lancashire. After the
Priory had been surrendered to the Crown at the dissolution of the
monasteries in 1536, the property was granted by Henry VIII to Sir
William Padget, KG, who was the principal secretary of state.
By Tudor times, many of the nobility had residences at Ormskirk,
including Lord Stanley, descendant of the ancient sovereigns of the
Isle of Man who was Lord of the manor and lived at the Mansion
House in St Helen's Road. Another family of ancient lineage, the
Lathoms, lived at Lathom Hall. William Shakespeare is said to have
played here in 1587 and in 1588 he is reputed to have appeared in a
theatre which stood behind the Ship Inn (now a shop) on Moor Street
in Ormskirk, as well as Rufford Old Hall.
During the Civil War of the 17th century, Ormskirk became the scene
of much activity. A skirmish occurred in 1644 between the Royalists
and Parliamentarian forces at Aughton Moor, and the parish church
of Ormskirk was later bombarded. The siege of Lathom House in 1644
is remembered as an outstanding historical event; for when most of
Lancashire stood wholeheartedly for Parliament, this was the only
fortified residence held for the king. A Parliamentary assault was
withstood for seven months but the house eventually surrendered in
1645 an orders were issued for this fortified family residence to
be completely destroyed.
During the coaching era Ormskirk and its numerous inns were busy
with travellers passing through town. It is recorded that in the
mid-19th century some 30 coaches left Ormskirk each day, proceeding
northwards to Preston and Lancaster, and southwards to Cheshire and
London. However, with the advent of railways the coach traffic
declined. The railway line from Liverpool through Ormskirk to
Preston was opened in 1849 and Liverpool had by then become an
important town and port with the result that instead of criminals
being brought from Liverpool for trial at Ormskirk, the Quarter
Sessions were transferred to Liverpool.