The Quarrelling Sisters

Making my way downstairs for breakfast I could hear my two nieces arguing over something really trivial but to them it was all out war. Hmmm, quarrelling sisters, the weather is dry and clear, today would be a good time to go and visit another pair of argumentative siblings.

The Parish Church in Ormskirk, dedicated to St.Peter and St.Paul has a quirk that is shared with only three other churches in the country. It boasts a spire and a tower but is unique in that it is the only church in the country to have both at the same end.

Ormskirk Parish Church

Ormskirk is a market town approximately 12 miles from Wigan in West Lancashire. The flat terrain of the surrounding area making it ideal for agricultural use. It still has a thriving market which dates back to around 1286 when the monks of the priory at Burscough were granted a charter by Edward I for a weekly outdoor market to be held on a thursday. This was later amended in 1876 to include a saturday market.

I parked the car and made my way into the grounds via the graveyard at the back of the church. A lot of the stones laid on the ground date back to the mid 17th century and some of the stones have been used to make steps up to the church, which were very slippery due to a cloudburst earlier.

According to legend the town was founded by viking invaders around 840AD and one specific viking named Orme built a church or ‘kirk’ (it was not unusual for vikings to convert to christianity after settling here) on the elevated sandstone outcrop, hence giving rise to the name Ormes Kirk and the name of the  town today. Another story has it that Orme had two sisters who could not agree as whether the church should have a tower or a steeple, so Orme built both to quell any further arguments. This story, as much as it gives the church a fanciful past is not true. The steeple dates back to the 15th century with the tower being added on over a century later.

The church is the oldest building in the town and is believed to have been built on the site of the original ‘kirk’ but its exact date is unknown. Many parts of the church have been added over the centuries and it now incorporates Celtic, Saxon and Norman features in the masonry.

Ormskirk Parish Church – view of the tower

The tower was added in 1540-50 and completed in 1570. It is said to have been built to accommodate the bells from Burscough Priory, closed due to Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536.

The outside of the church, is, at intervals adorned with some really great looking carvings and the overall feel is one of a church that is steeped in a rich architectural and historical heritage.

Stone Carvings – note the Legs of Man crest on the left

Stone carving

Stone carving

I had hoped the church would be open to view the interior but alas it was closed.  Walking back to the car I took a route back through the town and passed a pub called The Snigs Foot (a snig is an eel, so where the foot comes from is beyond me) made me chuckle anyway.

Description: Church of St Peter and St Paul

Grade: II*
Date Listed: 11 May 1953
English Heritage Building ID: 386382

OS Grid Reference: SD4130608436
OS Grid Coordinates: 341306, 408436
Latitude/Longitude: 53.5692, -2.8877

Location: A570, Ormskirk, Lancashire L39 3AG

Locality: West Lancashire
Local Authority: West Lancashire Borough Council
County: Lancashire
Country: England
Postcode: L39 3AG


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