Church of St Peter and St Paul, Ormskirk

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Church of St Peter and St Paul
Ormskirk Parish Church - - 12855.jpg
Church of St Peter and St Paul is located in the Borough of West Lancashire
Church of St Peter and St Paul
Church of St Peter and St Paul
Location in West Lancashire
Coordinates: 53°34′09″N 2°53′16″W / 53.5692°N 2.8877°W / 53.5692; -2.8877
OS grid reference SD 4130608436
Location Ormskirk, Lancashire
Country England
Denomination Anglican
Status Parish church
Functional status Active
Heritage designation Grade II*
Designated 11 May 1953 (1953-05-11)
Deanery Ormskirk
Archdeaconry Wigan & West Lancashire
Diocese Liverpool
Province York

The Church of St Peter and St Paul is in the market town of Ormskirk, Lancashire, England. Dating from no later than the 12th century, it is one of only three churches in England to have both a western tower and a central spire, and the only one to have them both at the same end of the church. It is an active Anglican parish church in the Diocese of Liverpool. The church is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade II* listed building.[1]


The exact date of the foundation of a church in Ormskirk is unclear, although it is likely that there was a church on the site of the present one in Saxon time.[2] The Anglican parish of Ormskirk encompassed the settlements of Lathom, Burscough, Bickerstaffe, Scarisbrick and Skelmersdale.[3] Parts of the present church existed in the 12th century, although the building has been altered and added to over successive centuries. The north wall of the chancel dates from c. 1170.[3] A chapel was added to the south c. 1280.[3] The steeple was added in the late 14th century.[1] The large west tower was built c. 1540–50. The tower was probably built to house the bells from Burscough Priory, which had been suppressed c. 1536 as part of Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries.[3] This is one of only three churches in England to have both a western tower and a central spire.[nb 1] Between 1877 and 1891 the Lancaster architects Paley and Austin and their successors carried out restoration work in the church. These included reflooring and reseating the church, installing a new heating system, removing the galleries, and rebuilding and reroofing parts of the church.[7]



The church is situated on a raised piece of land in the north-west of the town.[8] Mostly in the Perpendicular Gothic style,[9] it is constructed of coursed squared sandstone, with stone slate roofs. It has a nave, with aisles to the north and south. The large square tower is to the west, approximately 84 feet (26 m) high and 40 feet (12 m) square; it has three unequal stages and diagonal buttresses. The upper-most stage has a crenellated parapet and crocketed pinnacles. The tower has arched three-light belfry windows with tracery and stone louvres.[1]

The steeple sits on the south-east corner of the tower (also at the west end of the nave), approximately 25 feet (7.6 m) higher than the tower.[2] The steeple is square, with an octagonal bell stage.[9] The bell louvres are Decorated Gothic.[9] To the north of the building is the chancel and vestry. The Scarisbrick Chapel is to the south, and the Derby Chapel to the south-east.[2]

In his Passages from the English Notebooks of 1876, Nathaniel Hawthorne commented that the church "has not exactly a venerable aspect, being too good in repair, and much restored in various parts".[10]

Interior and fittings[edit]

Two of the effigies in the church

The nave's ceiling is of wood and has carved hammerbeam trusses. The five-bay aisle arcades have moulded piers and two-centred arches. Between the steeple and the south aisle there is a chamfered arch.[1] The vestry has in its western wall, an unglazed window that opens into the north aisle. It has a square head and original iron stanchions and saddle bars.[3]

The Derby Chapel is enclosed to the north and west by a 17th-century wooden screen with high balusters and wrought iron fleur-de-lis cresting.[3][9] The chapel also contains three alabaster Derby effigies (probably to Thomas Stanley, 1st Earl of Derby and his two wives) and two tomb chests.[1][3] The Scarisbrick Chapel contains a hatchment and a wall monument.[1] James Stanley, 7th Earl of Derby is also buried at the church.

The church has a ring of eight bells hung for change ringing, all cast in 1948 by John Taylor & Co of Loughborough. It also houses a bell cast in 1576 by Henry Oldfield of Nottingham, but this is no longer in use.[11][12]

External features[edit]

The churchyard contains the war graves of 15 Commonwealth service personnel of World War I, and 12 of World War II.[13] Also buried here is Second Boer War Victoria Cross recipient William Edward Heaton (1875–1941).[14]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ The other churches with both a western tower and a central spire are in Wiltshire; St Mary's Church in Purton and St Andrew's Church in Wanborough.[4][5][6]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Historic England, "Church of St Peter and St Paul, West Lancashire (1221160)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 28 June 2012 
  2. ^ a b c D., J. (7 November 1868), "Ormskirk Church", The Church of England Magazine, London: J. Burns, W. Edwards, LXV, p. 289, OCLC 35981180 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Farrer & Brownbill (1907), pp. 238–246
  4. ^ "Church of St. Mary, Purton", Wiltshire Council, 2008, retrieved 19 September 2010 
  5. ^ Richardson (1919), p. 10
  6. ^ Boughen, Tony, "Ormskirk, St Peter & St Paul", Lancashire Churches, retrieved 19 September 2010 
  7. ^ Brandwood et al. 2012, pp. 230–238.
  8. ^ Harland (2010), p. 47
  9. ^ a b c d Pollard, Pevsner & Sharples (2006), pp. 531–34
  10. ^ Hawthorne (1876), p. 444
  11. ^ "Ormskirk—SS Peter & Paul", Dove's Guide for Church Bell Ringers, 15 September 2009, retrieved 22 September 2010 
  12. ^ "Ormskirk", Database of historically significant bells and bellframes, 29 October 2007, archived from the original on 29 July 2010, To see the record, enter "Ormskirk" in the "Parish or Location" text box and hit "Search the database" 
  13. ^ ORMSKIRK (SS. PETER AND PAUL) CHURCHYARD, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, retrieved 16 February 2013 ; CWGC Cemetery report, breakdown from casualty record.
  14. ^ "VC Graves, Lancashire", Victoria Cross Trust, retrieved 11 April 2015 


External links[edit]