Now the library is the social rendezvous

From the Changing Face of Ormskirk series:

Ormskirk Library

By Clifford Rimmer, Librarian

When the Lancashire County Library opened its first library centre in Ormskirk in 1926, it was housed in a room adjoining the old Fire Station in Derby Street, and opened for four hours a week.

Borrowers visiting the library would see on the opposite side of the road a very fine example of Georgian architecture, Knowles House, and it is intriguing to note that on the site of this house, only a few yards, but 34 years away, from the place it began, the Ormskirk library came to its present home.

Before that time, however, the library was moved in 1940 to converted shop premises at 42 Aughton Street, where the adult library was housed upstairs in the “front bedroom” and the children’s library In the “bark bedroom”.

Although this move, with its much improved selection of books, was greatly appreciated by the readers of Ormskirk, some of whom will still remember with nostalgia the homely atmosphere of the adult library, with its cheerful open fire during the winter months, it was not very long before its inadequacy was being felt.

The Ormskirk library became the divisional headquarters for the surrounding district, including the libraries at Maghull, Rainford, Skelmersdale and Burscough, and a large number of library centres in the smaller villages.

Mobiles take to the road

The problem became acute when, in 1948, the first of the mobile libraries began operating from the library, to serve an area of some 130 square miles of South-West Lancashire.

The facilities for the storage of books were almost non-existent, and the condition of the premises was such that books allowed to remain -on the store shelves for more than a few weeks mildewed or, at the least, became musty.

The present library did not make its appearance without complaints from some Ormskirk residents, who felt, not without justification, that they should do all in their power to preserve the best of the old town, among which was included Knowles House.

It was suggested that the facade and some proportion of the house should be retained and extensions added at the back of the house.

Apart from the architectural difficulties, this conflicted with the functional requirements of a modern library and it was necessary to demolish this fine house which is preserved only in photographs in the possession of the library.

The building which, in 1960 seemed to be the last word in library architecture, already appears dated, its air of solidity, both inside and outside, contrasts strangely with the lighter and less stolid libraries now being erected in the county.

But despite occasional criticisms from the architectural standpoint, the consensus of opinion, particularly among newcomers to the town, is one of surprise that a relatively small town such as Ormskirk has so impressive a library.

A visit to the present library, particularly on a busy Saturday, shows it to be not just a place for borrowing books, but a social rendezvous for all the family to visit and a workshop for the student, who possibly regrets occasionally that perfect silence is no longer possible or indeed desirable.

Copyright Liverpool Daily Post

How to beat the problem of traffic

Town Centre

Continuing a series of posts from the Liverpool Daily Post’s Changing Face of Ormskirk supplement is this map of Ormskirk Town Centre showing plans for pedestrianisation.

The problems facing Ormskirk are similar to those facing most towns large and small in this country – problems created and aggravated to a large degree by the motor vehicle.

[T]he Ormskirk town centre control map was prepared in 1964. This plan endeavours to retain the character and atmosphere of the existing town whilst encouraging redevelopment and revitalisation of those parts of the central area which are less attractive or in danger of becoming rundown from a business point of view.

The four chief factors which have governed the preparation of the plan are:

  1. The segregation of pedestrians and vehicles within the shopping centre.
  2. Circulation of traffic
  3. Rear servicing
  4. Adequate car parking facilities.

The article goes on to suggest some of the more outlandish ideas of the time including the M59 running from Bickerstaffe to Preston!

Changing Face of Lancashire Map

Liverpool Daily Post Map of West Lancashire

© 1968 Liverpool Daily Post. Based on the Ordnance Survey map; Crown Copyright reserved.

Today’s post also comes from “The Changing Face of Ormskirk”, a supplement published in 1968 in the Liverpool Daily Post.

Looking at an older map of the region shows just how much has changed over the last 40 years. When this was first printed, Skelmersdale had been designated a New Town for just seven years; the railway passing through is still present even though it was axed by Beeching.

The villages marked are quite different to those one would highlight today – Newburgh outclasses Parbold, Mere Brow has been relegated by the rise of Tarleton, Burscough and Burscough Bridge have all but merged into one and I imagine only the people who live say Pinfold rather than Scarisbrick.

The M6 from Warrington to Preston opened five years earlier but the M62, M57, M58, M65, M61 and M55 were just a glint in an over-enthusiastic urban planner’s eye.

Next time we’ll look at what The Changing Face of Ormskirk has to say about Ormskirk town centre itself.

College pride in achievement

Edge Hill College of Education

On a recent visit to the archives I came across some copies of a supplement to the Liverpool Daily Post titled “The Changing Face of Ormskirk”. Published on Monday 10th June 1968, there are a few articles that may be of interest to you, dear readers. First up is one from our own principal.

By P. K. C. Millins, Principal

In the spring of 1882 the chairman of Liverpool School Board, Mr. S. G. Rathbone, called together a number of gentlemen interested in the progress of education to confer as to the advisability of establishing a training college, interdenominational in character, for about 80 young ladies.

A committee was formed and later a large house was purchased in Durning Road in Liverpool which, together with an additional wing for classrooms and dormitories, cost £16,483.

The College started in January, 1885 with 40 students, five resident staff and four visiting lecturers. A further 40 students came a year later.

In 1894 selected students were allowed to rcad for degrees and 10 years later 68 had graduated; 64 at Liverpool and four at London.

After 1918, however regulations precluded this possibility and it was to be nearly 40 years before Edge Hill students were to be able to take a degree course whilst still studying in College.

Twenty years after its foundation, the College had trained some 1,600 teachers 56 of these were engaged in training teachers and at least 175 were known to be headmistresses.

Came back to college

On October 14, 1965 the oldest surviving former student. Mrs. Agnes Sutton, aged 91, came to College. She recalled incidents during her course in 1893-94.

Each student then had a basin and jug of cold water in the bedroom and was allotted 20 minutes weekly for a bath.

The quilts which covered their beds were known as white elephants and had to last the whole term.

On Thursday evenings students were allowed to attend a gymnasium in Liverpool, clad in thick blue serge tunics, buttoned up to the neck, with long sleeves to match.

Over this tunic, winter and summer, dress skirts had to be worn, for, in he words of Mrs. Sutton, it was considered indecent to show even our ankles.

A move in 1933
In 1933, the College, having been acquired by Lancashire County Council moved into imposing new buldings on St. Helens Road at the outskirts of Ormskirk.

From 1941-46 the College was evacuated to Bingley the West Riding, and shared premises with the training college there. Its buildings were converted into a hospital.

Tangible evidence still remains of the occupation, from a number of temporary wooden huts to a small brick building firmly believed to have been used as a mortuary.

Life must have been pleasant and comfortable for the 250 residential students and 25 staff in 1957. It seemss to have been a close-knit, efficient and happy community. But many surprises, even shocks, were around the corner. In 1958, 41 men students were admitted. In 1960 an extra year was added to the two-year course.

In 1961-62 a significant expansion took place and many new buildings were added. By 1963 nearly 600 men and women were at Eage Hill, of whom about 500 were in residence.

Growth goes steadily on

The College has continued to grow ever since, until last September 944 students. 310 men and 634 women, as well as 112 staff were on the 45-acre campus, 508 students were in residence, 274 in approved lodgings and 162 lived at home. Some were of maturer years and the oldest student was in fact 56. Edge Hill is now among the ten largest of the 160 colleges of education in England and Wales. Next September it will have over 1,000 students.

Recent years have seen many important developments. The College is no longer fully residential. All second year students have to live out. Many homes in Ormskirk, Aughton and Burscough have been opened to them and the College is grateful for all the kindness and understanding which have been so readily shown. The hostesses are firm friends of the College and are represented on the joint staff-student lodgings committee.

Other links too are being steadily forged with the locality through such bodies as the Business and Professional Women’s Clubs, Ormskirk and District Schools’ Sports Association, Rotary and U.N.A.

In College all areas of study are under incessant review. Departments responsible for the “traditional” subjects are constantly re-shaping the content of syllabuses, redesigning fresh approaches and evolving more flexible modes of examination.

New subjects have been introduced: inter atia, careers guidance, drama, the educa-tion of immigrant children, the education of slow-learning children. French. German, international studies, social work three-dimensional studies, as well as woodwork.

Exchange with other countries

Since 1948 Edge Hill has been a constituent college of the Institute of Education of Liverpool University and in 1965 its students were permitted to study for a four year B. Ed. degree.

This term 23 students from France and Germany are studying here for six weeks and Edge Hill students have taken their places abroad.

Each year thousands of teachers undertake further study in College. This term [..] are studying full-time. Others come for a day, a week-end or a week. Some attend one day a week over a period of months. In January this year a curriculum development centre, under the uidance of a teacher of Lancashire Education Authority was opened in one of the College houses on Ruff Lane.

In 1966 the College took the initative of offering the accommodation to County Hall.
At the beginning of the year too a new education block and multi-purpose hall were completed. Both buildings are wired for closed circuit television within the last few weeks.

© 1968 Liverpool Daily Post.

Thanks to Alison Gow, Executive Editor (digital) for Liverpool Daily Post & Echo for helping me get permission to republish bits from the supplement.