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St Chad's Church, Kirkby2.jpg
St Chad's Church, a local landmark
Kirkby is located in Merseyside
Kirkby shown within Merseyside
Population Expression error: "40,472 (2001 Census)[1]" must be numeric 
OS grid reference SJ409988
• London 180 miles (290 km) SE
Metropolitan borough
Metropolitan county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district L32, L33
Dialling code 0151
Police Merseyside
Fire Merseyside
Ambulance North West
EU Parliament North West England
UK Parliament
List of places
53°28′57″N 2°53′31″W / 53.4826°N 2.8920°W / 53.4826; -2.8920Coordinates: 53°28′57″N 2°53′31″W / 53.4826°N 2.8920°W / 53.4826; -2.8920

Kirkby (About this sound pronunciation ; IPA /ˈkɝbiː/ — the second "k" is silent) is a town in the Metropolitan Borough of Knowsley on Merseyside in England. The town was developed from the 1950s through 1970s as a means to house the overspill of the Liverpool City Region. It is situated roughly 5 miles (8 km) north of Huyton, the administrative HQ of the borough and about 6 miles (10 km) north-east of downtown Liverpool. The population of the town as of the 2001 census is 40,472.[1] It is traditionally believed to be founded in 870 although there is evidence for settlement from the Bronze Age.[2]


Kirkby is believed to have been founded circa 870[3], although archaeological digs have produced evidence of habitation in the Bronze Age[2]. The name Kirk-by, literally meaning "church" and "settlement" is of Old Norse origin[2] whose settlers arrived via Ireland around 900. The first direct evidence of a settlement dates from 1086 and the Domesday Book, with a reference to Cherchebi - population 70[3][4]. Ownership of the land containing modern-day Kirkby - established as the West Derby Hundred in the 11th century - passed through many hands, until 1596, when the Molyneux family purchased the hundred in its entirety. After a brief loss of patronage in 1737, as a result of the head of the family taking holy orders, in 1771 the Molyneux family were made Earls of Sefton and regained their lands.

Although remaining largely farmland until the mid 20th century, initial transport links to the area began in 1848, with the building of the Liverpool and Bury Railway through Kirkby. The Kirkby Urban District was created in 1894. The East Lancashire Road (A580 road) added road connections in 1935, and industrial development was being considered prior to the outbreak of the Second World War. A Royal Ordinance filling factory - ROF Kirkby - was established in 1939, being completed in 1941. At its peak, the factory employed over 20,000 workers.

After the end of the war, Liverpool had suffered much damage from the Blitz and much of its remaining housing stock was poor and considered slums. In an effort to improve these conditions Liverpool Corporation began a policy of buying surrounding areas and moving industry and people to newly developed 'overspill' estates. This process culminated with the purchase of 4,070 acres of land, including the land comprising Kirkby from the Earl of Sefton in 1947 for £375,000 (£13,464,869 inflation adjusted).[5] Kirkby would become the largest of these overspill estates for Merseyside. As development of the town grew Liverpool requested to have it officially designated a new town in 1949 but this was rejected.[6] Large-scale development began in February 1950 with the construction of the Southdene neighbourhood with the first houses being finished in 1952, the 5,000th in 1956 and the 10,000th in 1961, with a population in 1951 of 3000 swelling to over 52,000 by 1961, making it the fastest growing community in the UK by far.

Such a vast growth rate caused many problems, not the least of which was that the construction of local amenities had not kept the same pace. For example, while occupation of the council estates of Southdene had begun in 1952, the first shops were not completed until 1955 and the first public house was not open until 1959. Additionally, the people who were being moved into Kirkby during this period came from the poorest areas of Liverpool. During this time Kirkby industrial estate was steadily expanding to become one of the largest in England until at its peak in 1971 the estate provided employment for over 26,000 people.

Kirkby achieved independent Urban District status in 1958. This was then abolished and on 1 April, 1974 its former area combined with that of Huyton with Roby Urban District, Prescot Urban District, parts of Whiston Rural District and parts of West Lancashire Rural District to form the present-day Metropolitan Borough of Knowsley.

Following the 1993 murder of Kirkby toddler James Bulger, UK tabloid and broadsheet newspapers attacked Kirkby, and Liverpool in general, accusing them of false grief ('self-pity city'[7]) [8] and blaming the town's decrepit state for his death – much in a similar vein as editorials and comments following the Hillsborough disaster. (This was despite the fact that the boy's killers were not from Kirkby, but from the Walton district of Liverpool.)


Kirkby has been represented at the Houses of Parliament by George Howarth since 1986 first as part of the Knowsley North constituency and currently as part of the Knowsley North and Sefton East constituency. He currently holds a 16269 majority, down from the 30708 majority from the 1997 general election which at the time made it the second safest Labour seat in the country. He was preceded by Robert Kilroy-Silk, Labour (1974-1986), Harold Soref, Conservative (1970-1974) and Harold Wilson, Labour (1950-1970), although the representing constituency has varied due to regularly shifting boundaries. The boundaries will change once again at the next general election.

Kirkby is commonly divided into four districts - Southdene, Westvale, Northwood, and Tower Hill. Its electoral wards, however, do not coincide with these divisions, and consist of Cherryfield, Kirkby Central, Northwood, Park, Shevington and Whitefield. There are 18 local councillors all of whom represent the Labour Party, who often run unopposed.

Kirkby is in the European parliamentary constituency of North West England which has nine Members known as MEPs.


Kirkby lies roughly within the geographic centre of Merseyside in the north-west of England. It is 180 miles (290 km) north-west of London, 5 miles (8 km) north-west of Huyton, the borough administrative headquarters and 6 miles (10 km) north-east of Liverpool, the largest city in the Merseyside conurbation.

The River Alt flows through the extreme south west of the town, with the Kirkby Brook tributary passing through the centre.


Due to its position near the north-west coast of England, Kirkby has a temperate maritime climate: its Köppen climate classification is Cfb. Its mean annual temperature of 10.2 °C (50 °F)[9] is similar to that experienced throughout the Mersey basin and slightly cooler than the English average. Average sunshine hours at 1394.6[10] are slightly above the average for the UK of 1339.7. [11] January is the coldest month with an average mean temperature of 4.7 °C[9] while July is the hottest at 16.7 °C.[9] Rainfall at 806.6 mm (31.76 in) is slightly lower than the England average of 838 mm and much lower than the UK average of 1,125.5 mm (44.29 in).[11] October is the wettest month with an average rainfall of 86 mm (3.39 in) and April is the most dry with 49.1 mm (1.93 in) of rain.[10] The nearest weather station of the Met Office is at Manchester Airport.

Climate data for Kirkby and the Liverpool area
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 6.8
Daily mean °C (°F) 4.7
Average low °C (°F) 2
Average rainfall mm (inches) 71.5
Mean monthly sunshine hours 49.6 67 95.2 138.9 188.8 172.5 183.8 170.5 127.2 97.7 60.6 42.8 1,394.6
Source #1: The Weather Channel (Temperature Data)[9]
Source #2: Met Office (Sunshine and Rainfall Data)[10] (1971–2000 averages)


The current population of the town stands at 40,472 as of the 2001 census[1]. This represents just over a quarter of the total population of the borough of Knowsley and is somewhat down from its peak of 52,207 in the 1961 census, largely due to falling birth rates and the slow decline of the industrial estate forcing workers to look elsewhere. However, housing demand has increased in recent years, with significant developments being built across the town. This demand can somewhat be attributed to the demolition of high-rise flats and maisonettes - built during the 1960s, but fallen into disrepair - on a town-wide basis, and the resultant need for replacement housing stock.

According to statistics of the UK Government, the borough of Knowsley, including Kirkby, had a population of 150,459 at the 2001 census with a balance of 53% female and 47% male.

The borough is overwhelmingly of a white ethnic background at 98.42% against a national average of 90.9%. In order of population size other ethnic groups are represented as multiracial at 0.83%, Chinese at 0.24%, other Asian at 0.23% and black at 0.22%.

The borough is mostly Christian at 85.63% compared to the national average of 71.74%, with the next most significant grouping at 5.84% describing themselves as non-religious much lower than the national average of 14.59%. Just 0.17%, 0.11%, 0.07% and 0.03% would describe themselves as Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Jewish, respectively.

Population change[edit]

Below is a table outlining population change of the town since 1861. As can be seen the population of the town was on a gradual downward trend from 1861 to 1931 before beginning to soar when Liverpool Corporation began to develop the area on a mass-scale. The annualised growth rate from 1951 to 1961 was over 30%, making it by far the fastest growing town in the country. The total population of Kirkby peaked in 1971 at 59,917, and has since seen a steady decline. Recently the town's population has been growing however and the town is estimated by the NHS to total around 44,120 as of 2006.[12]

Year 1861 1871 1881 1891 1911 1921 1931 1951 1961 1971 2001 2006
Population 1,451 1,397 1,401 1,283 1,211 1,116 1,151 3,078 52,088 59,917 40,472 44,120
Source: A Vision of Britain through Time[13]


Kirkby industrial estate, formerly ROF Kirkby still employs many of the towns workers, however the town's industrial heritage has largely faded away, with service industries moving in to replace the factories. Major employers currently active in the town include QVC and Barclaycard, with several other call centre companies also based in Kirkby.

Economic output[edit]

This is a chart of trend of regional gross value added (GVA) of Kirkby at current basic prices published (pp. 240-253) by the Office for National Statistics with figures in millions of pounds sterling.

Year Regional Gross Value Added[14] Agriculture[15] Industry[16] Services[17]
1995 2,370 17 1,145 1,208
2000 3,060 12 1,174 1,873
2003 3,564 14 1,306 2,243

Regeneration efforts[edit]

Kirkby has seen considerable regeneration efforts in recent years. The Kirkby Sports Centre, one of the main athletic and cycling tracks in the region, was replaced by a new facility in summer 2007.

In December 2006, a proposal was made by Tesco and Everton FC for an extensive redevelopment of the town centre, including a new 50,000 seater stadium for the football team and associated retail developments.[18] The proposals also include a hotel, leisure and retail facilities. It has also been stated there the town's public amenities would be increased including a walk-in health centre.

Public response to regeneration plans[edit]

According to local reports, Knowsley Borough Council hosted public consultation events about possible redevelopment options in summer 2007, which indicated most respondents showed they didn't want a football ground.

It is claimed that a majority support regeneration in general but is not clear whether residents favour this particular development which is to include a Tesco superstore, new town centre shops and the Everton stadium. Results of the public consultations have not been released into the public domain. Reports suggest local support for the Tesco Everton scheme appears to be tempered by concern over the effect the stadium will have on residents.[19] According to local reports, there is an alternative scheme where an ASDA will be built in Kirkby that is generating a better public response.

Public meetings about the Tesco development have also been held by local pressure group Kirkby Residents' Action Group and in other forums. These include a public meeting in St. Chad's Church, which according to local reports, the Chief Executive of Knowsley tried to stop, where 500 people attended and a public march was organised to demonstrate against the stadium proposals.

The action group was formed to campaign for a referendum of the people of the town. It appears that public opinion is not clear as to support for or opposition to the proposals for a Tesco/Everton FC development.


Kirkby has 40 listed buildings but perhaps its most notable landmark is the grade II listed St Chad's Church. It was built in 1871 and is situated on an ancient church site just outside Kirkby town centre. The grade II Kirkby war memorial cross is also situated in the churchyard of St Chad's.


The M57 motorway runs adjacent to Kirkby, and the M58 connects just to the north of the town. Other major routes include the A580 East Lancashire Road and the A506. The area is well served by public transport, with rail connections from Kirkby railway station to Liverpool (on the Merseyrail Northern Line) and Manchester (via Wigan, on the Kirkby Branch Line). Stagecoach Merseyside provide the vast majority of bus routes in Kirkby and these connect Kirkby with several nearby districts of Liverpool and Merseyside. Kirkby was planned to be the terminus of the first line of the Merseytram tram service until the scheme's termination by the Government.


Kirkby's further educational needs are provided by Knowsley Community College which supports the whole of Knowsley, including a main centre based in Kirkby town centre. It has a yearly intake of over 12,000. Kirkby also has three secondary schools and sixteen primary schools.

Performance table[edit]

The following table shows the percentage of pupils gaining five GCSE A*–C level grades, including English and Maths in 2007.

School Type Eligible pupils  % pupils reaching the Level 2 threshold
(five or more good GCSEs and equivalents)
All Saints Catholic High School co-educational with sixth form 253 25[20] All Saints Catholic High School
Brookfield High School co-educational with no sixth form 156 25[20]
Ruffwood School co-educational with no sixth form 171 11[20] Ruffwood School
National average 46.7[20]
Knowsley average 26.5[20]

Future plans[edit]

An extensive overhaul of primary and secondary education provision in Knowsley will see all three of Kirkby's secondary schools closing by the end of the 2008-2009 school year, being replaced by two new Learning Centres.[21] Ruffwood and Brookfield which were due to merge in September 2009 will now merge a year early due to Ruffwood being branded a failing school in an Ofsted report.[21]

Religious sites[edit]

St Chad's Church, Kirkby, Holy Angels Church, St Michael's Church, St Mark's Church and St Andrews Church are all within the boundaries of Kirkby.

Sports and recreation[edit]

Kirkby is home to the youth academy of Liverpool FC. It is also the proposed site for the new stadium for Everton FC.

proposed new site for the stadium of Everton FC.

The most popularly supported football teams in the town are Liverpool and Everton, although in the past the town had its own non-league team, Kirkby Town FC, later renamed to Knowsley United FC before they were dissolved in 1997.

The town has also been home to a number of notable footballers, including:

Public services[edit]

Home Office policing in Kirkby is provided by Merseyside Police. The force's Knowsley BCU has a station on St Chad's Drive in the town centre. Public transport is co-ordinated by the Merseyside Passenger Transport Executive. Statutory emergency fire and rescue service is provided by the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service, which has a station in Kirkby on Webster Drive in the town centre.

Waste management is co-ordinated by the local authority via the Merseyside Waste Disposal Authority. Kirkby's Distribution Network Operator for electricity is United Utilities; there are no power stations in the town. United Utilities also manages Kirkby's drinking and waste water.

Kirkby is served by Knowsley NHS Primary Care Trust. Aintree Hospital is the nearest hospital to Kirkby as there is none within the town itself. There is however, nine GP surgeries and four dental practices within the town. Ambulance services are provided by the North West Ambulance Service with a station in Kirkby town centre.

The British Telecom Simonswood exchange provides local telephone and ADSL internet services to the area,[22] with a number of other companies offering services through local loop unbundling.[22] Virgin Media services are also available to the town, providing television, telephone and cable internet.[22]


The main local newspapers are the Liverpool Echo (evening) and the Liverpool Daily Post (morning). Both are tabloids published by the Trinity Mirror group.

There are also two main free local newspapers, the Kirkby Extra and the Knowsley Challenge.

The local BBC radio station is Radio Merseyside and the local ITV franchise holder is Granada Television.


Kirkby served as the basis for the fictional Newtown setting of the 1960s BBC TV series, Z-Cars which was one of the first soap operas on television.

Letter to Brezhnev, the 1985 film was shot in Liverpool, including key scenes in Kirkby. The film starred '80s Mersey icon Margi Clarke.

Notable people[edit]


  1. ^ a b c ONS 2001 Census, via
  2. ^ a b c "What's in a name: Kirkby". National Museums Liverpool. Retrieved 2007-10-24. 
  3. ^ a b "Kirkby Timeline". Metropolitan Borough of Knowsley. Retrieved 2007-10-24. 
  4. ^ "The National Archives - Document Search for "Cherchebi, Knowsley"". The National Archives. Retrieved 2007-10-24. 
  5. ^ UK Consumer Price Index inflation figures are based on data from Clark, Gregory (2017). "The Annual RPI and Average Earnings for Britain, 1209 to Present (New Series)". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved November 6, 2017. 
  6. ^ Ravetz, Alison (2001). Council Housing and Culture: The History of a Social Experiment. Routledge. p. 101. ISBN 0415239451. 
  7. ^ Margolis, Jonathan (1993-02-28). "SELF-PITY CITY". The Sunday Times.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  8. ^ Raven, Charlotte (2001-06-26). "Why the Bulger mourning marathon sickens me". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-10-24.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  9. ^ a b c d ""Annual Climatology for Kirkby, 30 year"". The Weather Channel. The Weather Channel, 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-30.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "weatherchannel" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  10. ^ a b c ""Manchester Airport climate averages, 1971-2000"". Met Office. Met Office, 2006. Retrieved 2008-05-30.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "MetOffice" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  11. ^ a b ""UK climate averages, 1971-2000"". Met Office. Met Office, 2006. Retrieved 2008-05-30. 
  12. ^ "Knowsley Profile" (PDF). Knowsley Public Health Intelligence Team. Knowsley NHS Primary Care Trust. Retrieved 2008-06-01. 
  13. ^ "Kirkby Ch/CP: Total Population". A Vision of Britain Through Time. Great Britain Historical GIS. Retrieved 2008-06-01. 
  14. ^ Components may not sum to totals due to rounding
  15. ^ includes hunting and forestry
  16. ^ includes energy and construction
  17. ^ includes financial intermediation services indirectly measured
  18. ^ "Proposals for Kirkby town centre". Metropolitan Borough of Knowsley. Retrieved 2007-10-24. 
  19. ^ "Your Kirkby Your Future - Consultation Results" (pdf). Metropolitan Borough of Knowsley. Retrieved 2007-10-04. 
  20. ^ a b c d e "Schools in Knowsley". BBC. Retrieved 2008-05-27. 
  21. ^ a b "Future Schooling in Knowsley - Executive Summary" (pdf). Metropolitan Borough of Knowsley. Retrieved 2007-10-24.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "learningcentres" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  22. ^ a b c "Simonswood (LVSIM) Exchange Data". Samknows. Retrieved 2008-05-27. 

External links[edit]