A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 7. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1912.
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This township, which contains the church, is comparatively central for the main portion of the parish. It has an area of 857 acres, (fn. 1) and the population in 1901 numbered 3,693. The surface is generally level; the highest ground is in the centre and at the west end—here 100 ft. above sea level is attained— and it slopes away to the north and east, forming a slight valley, through which the boundary brook flows.
The principal road is that from Preston westwards; along it the town is built, as it descends from the Mill Hill on the east, rises, falls and rises again to the Willows at the west. A road branches south to Freckleton, from the old market square, and another north to the church. Further west is the road leading to the railway station in Wesham. The market cross was demolished about a hundred years ago. (fn. 2)
The town had in 1825 manufactures of sail-cloth and cordage, and also of fine and coarse linen; and the cotton manufacture had been introduced. (fn. 3) This last has continued to expand, and affords employment to the majority of the people.
The market has long been obsolete. (fn. 4) The dates of the fairs have been changed from time to time; there are now three cattle fairs—4–5 February, 28–9 April and 18–19 October.
Kirkham and the district were visited by the plague in 1631. (fn. 5)
Halfpenny tokens were issued in 1670 and 1671 by Kirkham traders. (fn. 6)
In 1754 there was a 'chalybeate water called Humphrey's Spa' to the north of the town. (fn. 7)
The cucking-stool was used at Kirkham. (fn. 8)
A football match used to be played in the streets on Christmas Day in the afternoon. (fn. 9)
The printing press is said to have been in use in the town about 1790. (fn. 10)
'The town hall or moot hall was destroyed by fire some eighty years ago [c. 1810]; it formerly stood in the market place. The ground floor was occupied by shop-keepers, and part of the upper story was used as a flax-dressing room, the remaining space being taken up by the large room in which the town's business was transacted. This room was approached from the outside by a flight of stone steps.' (fn. 11) The urban district council meets in Station Road.
Zachary Langton, third son of Cornelius Langton of Kirkham, born 1698, and educated at the local grammar school and at Magdalen Hall, Oxford, acquired some reputation as a divine, publishing an essay Concerning the Rational Human Soul. He died in 1786. Thomas Parkinson, likewise born at Kirkham (1745) and educated there, became Fellow of Christ's College, Cambridge, and Archdeacon of Huntingdon and Leicester. He distinguished himself as a mathematician, and was elected F.R.S. in 1786. He died in 1830. Philip, son of Humphrey Shuttleworth vicar of Kirkham, was born in the town in 1782. After education at Winchester he went to New College, Oxford, becoming warden in 1822. This dignity he held till he was made Bishop of Chichester in 1840. He wrote against the Tractarians. He died in 1842. (fn. 12)
In 1066 KIRKHAM, like the whole parish, was part of the fee of Earl Tostig; it was assessed as four plough-lands. (fn. 13) This probably included Wesham and other hamlets, Kirkham proper (fn. 14) —the later township—being no doubt then or soon afterwards a rectory manor, held by the clerks or others responsible for the church, (fn. 15) and it always descended in the same way as the rectory, the history of which has already been recorded. The Dean and Chapter of Christ Church, Oxford, leased the manor to the Cliftons of Lytham, (fn. 16) but in 1871 the manor and part of the land were sold to Thomas Langton Birley. (fn. 17) No courts are held.
Soon after receiving Kirkham the Abbot and convent of Vale Royal in 1296 constituted a free borough there. The burgesses were to have a gild, with gaol, pillory and cuck-stool and other means of punishing malefactors, the assize of bread and ale, and other liberties of a borough; their bailiffs were to be presented to the abbot. Perquisites of the courts, stallage and other dues were reserved to the abbey. (fn. 18) A charter for a weekly market and a fair at Midsummer had been granted to the town by Edward I in 1287. (fn. 19)
In 1599 the mayor and burgesses of Preston, in virtue of their charters, which granted all the toll and stallage of the wapentake of Amounderness, complained that they had been defrauded of their dues by the bailiffs of Kirkham. The bailiffs in reply quoted their charters, and stated that the Abbot and convent of Vale Royal had had, in addition to the Midsummer fair, another fair at St. Luke's Feast (viz. 17–21 October), by prescription. (fn. 20)
'Formerly the fee-farmer convened annually a jury of thirteen inhabitants who constituted a court leet and met in June, when they nominated two bailiffs for the borough, a constable for the borough, town and township, with tax-layers, viewers of fish, flesh and other provisions; scavengers, by-law men, affeerers, swine-ringers, pinders or pounders, assizers of bread and beer, and leather searchers. The lord himself appointed a collector of tolls. The bailiffs and twelve or more burgesses constituted a corporation.' (fn. 21) A court of requests was granted in 1770, and used to meet monthly for the recovery of small debts. (fn. 22)
A local board was appointed in 1852, (fn. 23) and this was in 1894 transformed into an urban district council of nine members. There was no school board. The Fylde Rural District Council holds its meetings in the town. Kirkham and the district around are supplied with water by the Fylde Water Board; the gas supply is in the hands of a private company, formed in 1839. (fn. 24)
Kirkham occurs as a surname, (fn. 25) but in mediaeval times there does not seem to have been any important resident family. (fn. 26) The mill was held by the Cottams. (fn. 27) Many of the neighbouring gentry had burgages or lands in the town. (fn. 28)
William Walker, attorney, had his estate sequestered by the Parliament for adhering to Charles I. (fn. 29) James Lowde recorded a pedigree in 1664. (fn. 30) Thurstan Whalley of Warton registered an estate at Kirkham in 1717, being a 'Papist.' (fn. 31)
The Roman Catholic church of St. John the Evangelist, at the Willows, represents the old mission at Mowbreck. This was transferred to Kirkham in 1809, when the chapel of Holy Cross, taken down in 1883, was opened. The present church, designed by Pugin, was consecrated in 1845. (fn. 34) There are registers from 1775.