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

Sports Day

I’ve posted lots of other people’s memories of Edge Hill, but what of my own? I’ve worked at Edge Hill for almost four years but it’s influenced my life for much longer than that.

I grew up in and around here – I went to Ormskirk Grammar School for seven years and one of the annual rituals was walking up Ruff Lane to hold the Sports Day at Edge Hill College (or EHCHE as is was known then). It may not surprise you to learn that I wasn’t my form’s best athlete but even then I was a bit of a geek so for five years one of my friends Craig Rigby and I ran the score keeping.

This was advanced stuff! We didn’t have Excel or Access – we wrote software from scratch to log results, show a running total and work out top girl and boy within minutes of the last race.

The first few years we were locked in the entrance to Stanley Hall, barely allowed out into the sunlight but eventually Sporting Edge was built and we got stationed in the gym before it was fully finished with a view across the events below.

The opportunities I got to develop my skills while at school stood me in good stead for my working life.

Back in the mid-nineties Edge Hill played a role in connecting up Lancashire’s schools to the internet and that included providing dialup internet and email access to Ormskirk Grammar.  Originally the Grammar was connected through Demon Internet but Edge Hill was able to offer a similar service for free.

This involved a SLIP connection (pretty rare because most ISPs only provided PPP) and email queue.  Our original Demon addresses ended but Edge Hill didn’t support dashes in subdomains so my email address had to change to [email protected] A few months after I started at Edge Hill I got to take a look at the DNS configuration and was far too excited to see still at the bottom of one of the files!

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!

To Ireland; To Scotland; To London!

To Ireland; To Scotland; To London!

It’s been far too long since we’ve had a decent post about maps! This one comes from the 1992 prospectus that described a region of contrasts and has all the quirky features we love to pick apart!

Just the one road is present – the M6 showing how to get to Scotland and London but none of the other roads that might actually get you to Ormskirk. The ferry route to Ireland is a nice touch. The best bit, however, has to be the coastline. I appreciate the sand dunes at Formby may have changed significantly over the years but it appears to be drawn from memory or possibly to make the Mersey look like a smiling face!

The North West – Region of Contrasts

Last month I posted some text from the 1985 prospectus describing Ormskirk and the local area. Let’s see how things had changed by 1991:

Seaside towns, city lights or rural life – as an Edge Hill student, you’ll find them all close by. Ormskirk is well-placed for motorway and rail links so there’s plenty of chance to get away from it all whenever the mood takes you.

A short walk away from the College, Ormskirk has everything you’ll need on a day-to-day basis. It’s large enough to offer all the usual amenities yet still retains the friendly atmosphere characteristic of so many busy market towns.

Catch a bus from outside the campus and in half an hour you’re in Southport. Funfairs, nightclubs and restaurants all add to the town’s seaside flavour, and if you’ve an eye for a bargain, check out the indoor Markets and ‘junk’ shops too!

For a taste of city life, take a trip to Liverpool. Visit Anfield or Goodison Park; take a ferry ‘cross the Mersey, or explore the city’s two impressive cathethals. Manchester is well worth a visit too – especially if you enjoy the theatre, cinema and the Arts.

If you’re a country-lover, the Martin Mere Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust is only three miles away, whilst the Trough of Bowland, Lakeland and Peak District National Parks are well within striking distance. Make the most of your time at Edge Hill – the best of the North West awaits you!

Always good to have a dig at Southport and its “junk” shops! The descriptions aren’t so far off what we say today, but what is it you like about the local area? Have your say in the comments!

Ormskirk in 1609


A very special guest map this week that doesn’t even feature Edge Hill.  Above is a map of Ormskirk from 1609.  The original is held by Ormskirk Library and this scan is available on the Lancashire County Council website.  This map explains why Aughton Street and Moor Street are much wider than the other two streets and predates by quite some time the clock tower which now stands at the cross roads.

Ormskirk’s changed quite a lot over the last 401 years, and not just because of the University!

75 years in Ormskirk


From the first issue of Campus Link, the news letter aimed at keeping local residents up to date with what’s going on at Edge Hill:

Edge Hill University is preparing to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the opening of its Ormskirk campus next month.

The University, then a teacher training college for women, first came to Ormskirk on 2nd October 1933 after relocating its main campus from Durning Road in Liverpool.

The H-shaped main building, which is still the centrepiece of the campus today, was unveiled by Lord Irwin in a tree-planting ceremony, who then unlocked the door of the main entrance and declared the college open.

The building housed 176 students, 13 staff, a matron, a secretary and two cooks in four residential halls – Clough, Stanley, John Dalton and Lady Margaret – all named after members of the Derby family.

An article published in the Ormskirk Advertiser just prior to the opening of the campus says: "Ormskirk has now become an important centre for Higher Education. A stretch of the green fields between St Helens Road and Ruff Lane was chosen as the site of the college, and here during the last two years the buildings have been slowly rising until today they stand as one of the finest and most modern of their type."

The ladies attending the new 1930s college had very different experiences to Edge Hill students today. Their days started at 6:15am with ‘lights out’ by 10pm and any spare time was spent on morning prayers and cooking classes.

Edith Greenwood, 84, who studied in at the college during its first year in Ormskirk, says: "I must have been one of the first to use the new building in Ormskirk. It was a tremendously exciting time – everything was so new and modern. It was obviously built well if it’s still being used by students today.

"It was a big change for the girls who had come from Liverpool. They were used to all the noise of a busy city and then they found themselves in what felt like the countryside!"

Give Way


Time once again for my regular look into maps of Edge Hill and today we feature a map which is still in use.  That means I have to be careful not to offend anyone by picking holes in its design and bizarre choices of locations, but fortunately that’s not a problem as I really like this set of maps.

The one above shows directions to the Ormskirk campus but we have maps for most of Edge Hill’s other campuses too.

They’re created by Give Way and show just the roads and junctions you’re likely to follow to get to your destinations, showing which way to go and even signposts to look out for.  They’re simple yet packed full of extra information like contact details.