Townships: Kirkham

Pages 150-153

A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 7. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1912.

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Chicheham, Dom. Bk.; Kirkeheim, 1196; Kirkeham, c. 1200; Kirkam, 1260; Kirkham, 1271.

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 soil is boulder clay, sand and gravel, overlying red marls.

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.

The court-house and police station is in Freckleton Street; the workhouse of the Fylde Union (1844) is at the west end of the town.

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 parish church has been described above.

The Wesleyan Methodist church was built in 1844. (fn. 32) The Congregationalists' first chapel, Zion, was built in 1810 and the next in 1818; the present church replaced it about 1900. (fn. 33)

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.


  • 1. Including 2 acres of inland water.
  • 2. Lancs, and Ches. Antlq. Soc. xx, 184.
  • 3. Baines, Dir. 1825, i, 655–6.
  • 4. It was in 1825 held on Thursday, according to the charter.
  • 5. Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. xiv, App. iv, 47. There were about 200 burials in August and September 1631, the only 'Mr.' being one Henry Clifton (26 Aug.).
  • 6. Lancs, and Ches. Antiq. Soc. v, 79.
  • 7. Pococke, Travels through England (Camd. Soc), ii, 6.
  • 8. Fishwick, Kirkham (Chet. Soc), 205.
  • 9. Ibid. 206.
  • 10. Loc. Glean. Lancs, and Ches. i, 31.
  • 11. Fishwick, op. cit. 25.
  • 12. Accounts of these three worthies may be seen in the Dict. Nat. Biog.
  • 13. V.C.H. Lancs, i, 288a.
  • 14. From the boundaries of the manor in 1682 it appears that Kirkham proper was assessed as 18 oxgangs of land; Fishwick, op. cit. 21.
  • 15. This seems clearly implied by the wording of Sheriff Godfrey's grant (1093) to Shrewsbury Abbey of' the church which he used to have in the demesne of St. Michael [of] Kirkham, with the priests and the land which pertains to them'; Farrer, Lancs. Pipe R. 270. In later charters it is merely the 'church' of Kirkham which is named; later no ' manor' occurs apart from the church. In 1246 William de York, provost of Beverley and rector of Kirkham, secured the acknowledgement that an oxgang of land in Kirkham held by Robert son of William de Kirkham and another held by Alan de Newton were not lay fees but free alms pertaining to the church; Final Conc. (Rec. Soc. Lancs, and Ches.), i, 103, 106. The Abbot of Vale Royal was plaintiff in several cases in 1292 in respect of sums owing to him; Assize R. 408, m. 30, 34, &c. The abbot in 1314 claimed a messuage, 2 oxgangs of land, &c., against Adam son of Henry de Blackburn and Alice his wife; De Banco R. 204, m. 136.
  • 16. Fishwick, op. cit. 25. The Cliftons had usually been lessees of the rectory and manor. The Abbot of Vale Royal in 1526–7 gave William Clifton a receipt for £16, rent of the manor of Kirkham; Kuerden MSS. iv, K 18. In 1582 Thomas Clifton, in right of a grant from the Abbot of Vale Royal, claimed certain perquisites of the court of the manor of Kirkham against Richard Davy; Ducatus Lanc. (Rec. Com.), iii, 109. A lease of the manor to Thomas Fleetwood of Calwich in 1601 is printed in Porter's Fylde, 374. A rental of the lands in Kirkham, as well as an account of the tithes (1508–9) belonging to the abbey, is preserved in Towneley's MS. OO.
  • 17. Information of the Dean of Christ Church. Formerly the rectory and manor were leased separately, the terms being twenty-one years in each case. The last leases, granted in 1850 to Thomas Clifton, were not renewed. Another part of the land was in 1871 sold to George Wray and the remainder, together with the rectorial tithes of Kirkham proper, was annexed to the vicarage under Acts 29 Chas. II, cap. 8 and 1 & 2 Will. IV, cap. 45. At the same time several annexations of tithe-rent charges were made to various district churches. For the Birley family see Burke, Landed Gentry. T. L. Birley, the purchaser of the manor, died in 1874 and was succeeded by his son Mr. Henry Langton Birley, who is said to be the present lord of the manor.
  • 18. A bad copy of the original charter is printed by Fishwick, op. cit. 209–10. A 17th-century translation is in the possession of W. Farrer. No confirmation by the Crown is known. In 1330 the community of Kirkham rendered an ox to the abbey; Ormerod, Ches. (ed. Helsby), ii, 167. The burgages are constantly mentioned. In 1375 a burgage in Preston was exchanged for one in Kirkham; Kuerden MSS. iv, P 118. John de Slaidburn and Alice his wife had a burgage settled upon them in 1407; ibid. K 17. In the same year John de Bradkirk granted a parcel of his burgage to Robert son of John the Smith, wh ch burgage he had had from Adam de Newton. The parcel was a corner at the south end adjoining a burgage called the Kilnyard. The deed was attested by the bailiffs Robert de Myerscough and John the Smith; Earwaker MS. Christopher Singleton in 1560 claimed a burgage and land called 'an oxeon' (oxgang) against Lawrence Singleton and others; Ducatus Lanc, ii, 232, 233, 296. See also ibid. 262, 277. Several extracts from the bailiffs' records, 1680–1743, are printed in Fishwick, op. cit. 20–5. Various payments are recorded ' for his freedom within the borough of Kirkham.' At the court leet of Oct. 1681 Thomas Hodgkinson was steward and there were fifteen jurors; two bailiffs were appointed, a serjeant, constable, galdlayers, burleymen, prisers, leather-searchers and flesh and fish viewers. 'The seal of the borough is a dove with an olive branch in its mouth. The original seal is still in the possession of the bailiffs, but is not in a perfect state of preservation'; ibid. 25.
  • 19. The market day was Thursday and the fair was for five days at Midsummer, 23–7 June. The charter is known from the abbot's reply in 1292 to the writ 'de quo warranto,' and from the copy in an inspeximus of 1401; Plac. de Quo Warr. (Rec Com.), 383; Cal. Pat. 1399–1401, p. 508. This inspeximus is printed in Fishwick, op. cit. 18. In 1292 the abbot claimed various privileges for 'his men' at Kirkham on the ground of a charter given to Vale Royal in 1269–70. In 1498 the abbot proved his right to the market and fair; Pal. of Lanc. Plea R. 86, m. 6. The charter was confirmed by Queen Elizabeth in 1560.
  • 20. Duchy of Lanc. Plead. Eliz. clxxxix, P 5; cxciv, P 13. For decrees see Lancs, and Ches. Rec. (Rec. Soc. Lancs, and Ches.), ii, 238, 242.
  • 21. Baines, Lancs, (ed. 1870), ii, 484.
  • 22. Act of 10 Geo. III.
  • 23. Land. Gaz. 13 Jan. 1852.
  • 24. A public lamp lighted with oil at the town's charge was ordered to be erected ' in the middle of the borough of Kirkham in some convenient place' in 1692; Baines, op. cit. 487.
  • 25. See a preceding note. In 1259–60 Richard le Boteler claimed the custody of the son and heir of Ralph de Kirkham against Roger de Hetton; Curia Regis R. 166, m. 36.
  • 26. The list of those who contributed to the subsidy in 1332 is printed in Exch. Lay Subs. (Rec. Soc. Lancs, and Ches.), 71. No freeholders are mentioned as 'of Kirkham' in 1600.
  • 27. The mill seems to have been held in shares. In 1326 Adam son of Richard the Harper and Maud his wife claimed a fourth part of the mill of Kirkham against the Abbot of Vale Royal; De Banco R. 260, m. 218. William Cottam (or Cotom) in 1442 claimed the third part of the mill against Robert son of William Cottam; Pal. of Lanc. Chan. Misc. 1/10, no. 7. Some deeds of the family are preserved in Kuerden MSS. iv, K 17, 18. From these it appears that Nicholas son of Adam Aldwayn in 1372 gave a tenement in Kirkham to John son of Thomas son of Henry de Cottam. John de Cottam in 1391 acquired a messuage from Thomas Southwood and Cecily his wife; Final Conc, iii, 38. Again, Richard son of Michael de Staining and Christiana his wife in 1356 granted a burgage in Kirkham to Adam Skillicorne, and Edward Skillicorne in 1399–1400 gave it to William Cottam; Kuerden, loc. cit. William's lands were in 1427–8 settled on his children Robert, James, Joan, Amice and Margaret, while two years later John Cottam, vicar of Kirkham, gave a half-burgage to his father William with remainders to Robert, James and William sons of William, to Peter son of John Cottam, to Amice, Joan and Margaret, daughters of William. From another deed it appears that the vicar was a grandson of John Cottam, who was no doubt the John mentioned in 1372. Alice widow of William Cottam in 1435–6 released her dower in Kirkham, Frecklcton, Newton, Warton, Bankhouses and Goosnargh to her son Henry; and in 1446–7 William son of Henry Cottam made a feoflrnent of his lands; ibid. Margaret daughter of John Cottam, clerk, had in 1463 a burgage which was to descend to William Cottam, and (in default) to the right heirs of William son of John Cottam. Roger son of James Cottam in 1489–90 released to William son of Henry Cottam all right in a burgage, &c.
  • 28. The following appear in the inquisitions: James Anderton of Euxton in 1552 held his lands in Kirkham of 'New College' (Christ Church), Oxford, in socage by a rent of 15d.; Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. ix, no. 14; xi, no. 31. He had purchased them in 1532 from Rainbrown Robinson and Elizabeth his wife; Pal. of Lanc. Feet of F. bdle. 11, m. 85. Evan Brown's burgages, &c., were in 1545 said to be held of the king, but George Brown's, in 1567, were held of the Dean and canons of Christ's Coll., Oxf., in socage, by a rent of 14d.; 5 Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. vii, no. 24; xi, no. 4; xiv, no. 42. The Kirkham lands of John Boteler of Rawcliffe were in 1502 stated to have been held (like Rawcliffe itself) of the Earl of Derby; ibid, iii, no. 45. The tenure is not recorded in later inquisitions. The Clifton of Clifton estate in Kirkham was in 1512 held of the abbey of Vale Royal, in 1551 and later of the king as of the dissolved abbey, and in 1585 of the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church; ibid, iv, no. 12; ix, no. 18; xiv, no. 21. The 'manor' is not named in any of the inquisitions. William Clifton of Kidsnape also held of the abbey; ibid, v, no. 21. George Hesketh of Poulton died in 1571 holding burgages, &c., of 'the lord of Kirkham' by the rent of 2s. 6d.; ibid. xiii, no. 15. In 1622 the same were found to be held of Cuthbert Clifton; Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Rec. Soc. Lancs, and Ches.), iii, 364. The tenure of William Skillicorne's messuages, windmill and lands (1600) is not stated. John Westby of Mowbreck in 1581 held two messuages, &c., of the dean and chapter; Duchy of Lanc. Inq. p.m. xv, no. 6; Lancs. Inq. p.m. (Rec. Soc), i, 34. James Bradley of Bryning held a burgage and windmill similarly in 1617; ibid, ii, 79. In addition Sir Robert de Pleasington held land in 1387 and William Ambrose in 1421; Final Conc, iii, 29, 79; Kuerden fol. MS. fol. 37.
  • 29. Cal. Com. for Comp. ii, 1398. He had left his house at the beginning of the wars for Bangor in North Wales and had contributed voluntarily to the maintenance of the king's forces. He compounded in 1646, but the fine was raised to £220 on information that he had joined Prince Rupert in Lancashire, after professing penitence and being made an officer of Parliament. George Crooke's leasehold estate was sequestered for his recusancy; ibid, i, 721.
  • 30. Dugdale, Visit. (Chet. Soc.), 191.
  • 31. Estcourt and Payne, Engl Cath. Nonjurors, 140.
  • 32. Hewitson, Our Country Churches, 327; the first attempt to establish Methodism was a failure; the second, in 1841, resulted in the present chapel.
  • 33. Preaching commenced in 1805 in a small room. There is a memorial to the Rev. R. M. Griffiths, the minister from 1816 to 184.8. A full account ia given in Nightingale's Lancs. Nonconf. i, 92– 103.
  • 34. Liverpool Cath. Annual.