KIRKDALE, a township, in the parish of Waltonon-the-Hill, union and hundred of West Derby, S. division of Lancashire, 2 miles (N. by E.) from the Exchange of Liverpool; containing in 1846, 9322 inhabitants. The township derived its name from its position midway between the town of Liverpool and the parish church of Walton-on-the-Hill, which, previously to 1700, was the parish church of Liverpool: as the road from the town to the church lay through a hollow part or gentle vale across this township, the place was called Chirkdele, now Kirkdale. Of the families which held lands here soon after the Conquest, was one of the local name. The Waltons were connected with the township in the reign of Henry III.; and the family of More, or de la More, established themselves here in 1280, and built a seat near Liverpool, called More Hall, which, with Bank Hall, was in their possession for upwards of twenty generations. The latter mansion was situated near the sea; it was a curious model of the style of architecture that prevailed five centuries ago, and was then esteemed a very grand structure. Among the distinguished persons from Lancashire who, in the reign of Edward III., accompanied the Black Prince in the royal expedition against France, was William de la More, of Bank Hall, who, for his valour and prowess at the battle of Poitiers, in 1356, was created by the prince a knight banneret; and when Liverpool was besieged in 1644 by the army of Charles I. under Prince Rupert, it was defended by a strong garrison of the parliamentary forces under Colonel More, also of this family. Bank Hall was totally demolished in 1778, and a neat farmhouse was built on its site: the house and farm are now the property of the Earl of Derby.
The township comprises 652 acres of land. Immediately beneath the surface is a deep layer of the finest clay for bricks; and below the clay, in most parts, are rocks of red sandstone. The vicinity of Kirkdale to Liverpool, with which town it is now joined, has greatly and rapidly increased the population, and the value of the land, on which several hundred houses have been erected within the last fifty years. The new docks of Liverpool extend the whole breadth of the township, northward, along the shore of the Mersey; and the township is also intersected from south to north by the Liverpool and Leeds canal, the great road leading to Ormskirk, Preston, &c., and by the Liverpool and Bury, and the Liverpool, Ormskirk, and Preston railways. The only cotton-mill of which Liverpool can boast, is in Kirkdale; it was built in 1838, and employs 950 hands: the operations are confined to spinning.
On an elevated spot here, opposite the mouth of the Mersey, and distant from it about half a mile, stands the County Gaol and House of Correction, covering an area of five acres, and surrounded by a wall 27 feet high, the western portion of which was blown inwards by the hurricane of January 6th, 1840, but immediately restored. The governor's house is on the north side, and a handsome sessions-house built of stone in the Ionic order faces the south: the adjourned quarter-sessions for the county, and the petty-sessions for the hundred of West Derby, are held here. The whole of the prison is in course of being rebuilt on the plan of the model prison at Pentonville, London, from designs by Arthur Hill Holme, Esq., architect, of Liverpool. The new building consists of four wings projecting at right angles from a great central hall, each wing having accommodation for 120 prisoners in separate cells, besides workrooms, baths, &c., on the basement. The chapel stands between two of the wings, near the hall, and the interior, arranged as the segment of a circle, affords space for 400 prisoners, each in a separate stall, so as to prevent them from seeing each other, while all are visible to the chaplain and the officers of the gaol, in front. To this chapel is a tower, containing a vestry, a clock, and bell-turret surmounted by a spire, the apex of which is 100 feet from the ground.
St. Mary's Church, here, is a brick edifice on the west side of the great road, built principally through the exertions of Thomas Dover, Esq., who, at the time of its erection, resided in the district. It was opened for divine service on the first Sunday in August, 1836; and the Rev. D. James, F.S.A., was appointed first incumbent. In 1844 it was deemed expedient to enlarge the building by extending it at both ends, which has greatly improved the proportions of the whole. The east end, facing the road, has two entrances with decorated canopies, a four-light window with rich tracery and bold mouldings, and above it, resting on a highly-decorated corbel supported by a carved head of Wycliffe, a beautiful open bell-turret, though too small for so large a church. The communion end, which in this instance is towards the west, now has windows filled with stained glass of brilliant colours; also a fine screen. The original flat ceiling was removed at the time of the enlargement, and the roof thrown open; the old framing was cased and ornamented with shafts, arches, tracery, and pendants, and the new coved ceiling divided into square compartments by ribs which intersect each other and are covered at the joints with handsome bosses. The roof is admitted to be unequalled for beauty and elegance in Liverpool. The architect already named designed and executed the alterations. The original number of sittings was 960; the present number is 1372, of which 525 are free. The cost of the original building, including the organ and fittings up, was £4000; the cost of the enlargement and improvements, exclusively of the stained glass windows, which were presented, was £2050. The patronage is vested for forty years in five Trustees; it will afterwards be in the patron of Walton-on-the-Hill. The tithes of the township have been commuted for £85. On the same high ground whereon the prison is built, are the Industrial Schools, built by the parish of Liverpool, for the purpose of carrying out the government plan of instructing the children of the poor in the various arts of industry: the buildings are on a magnificent scale, and entirely occupied. St. Mary's Cemetery, one of the public cemeteries of Liverpool, occupies nearly three acres; the front is exceedingly beautiful, and has a fine arched entrance gateway.