Kirkham (St. Michael)

KIRKHAM (St. Michael), a market-town and parish, in the union of the Fylde, hundred of Amounderness, N. division of the county of Lancaster; containing 11,604 inhabitants, of whom 2903 are in the town, 9 miles (W. by N.) from Preston, 22 (S. by W.) from Lancaster, and 226 (N. W. by N.) from London. This place is of Saxon origin, and derived its name from its church, which, soon after the Conquest, was given by Roger de Poictou to the abbey of St. Peter and St. Paul in Shrewsbury, from which it was by Edward I. transferred to the monks of Vale Royal in Cheshire, in whose patronage it remained till the Dissolution. The town may be considered as the capital of a district called the Fylde: it stands picturesquely on rising ground commanding a view of Preston and the Fylde, and the air is very pure and healthy. About 80 persons are employed in weaving calico; and an old established flaxmill, conducted by John Birley and Sons, employs about 500. A savings' bank and a newsroom were opened in 1844, under the management of Adam Wright, Esq. There is a station on the Preston and Wyre railway, and the Lancaster canal is distant only about three miles. Within the same distance is the estuary of the Ribble, near the mouth of which a guide is stationed to conduct travellers across the sands at low water to Hesketh bank, the passage being dangerous to persons attempting it without such assistance. The market is on Tuesday; the fairs are on February 4th and the following day, April 29th, and October 18th. The county magistrates hold a petty-session every alternate Tuesday; and a constable and other officers are appointed annually at the court leet of the lord of the manor. The powers of the county debt-court of Kirkham, established in 1847, extend over the greater part of the registration-district of the Fylde.

The parish is one of the most extensive in the county, containing 17 townships, and comprising about 130 square miles, or 38,871 acres. Of the compact portion, the river Wyre forms the northern, and the Ribble the southern, boundary; with Plumpton on the western, and Salwick and Clifton on the eastern, extremities. These boundaries are independently of Goosnargh with Newsham, and Whittingham, townships, both which, though severed from the other 15 townships, form a portion of the parish, about eight miles in length and five miles in breadth. The surface for the most part is level, and unvaried, descending gradually, by an almost imperceptible slope, from the margin of the ancient forests of Bleasdale and Bowland on the east, to the banks of the Wyre and Ribble. The land in many parts is of excellent quality; there is some peat-moss and marsh. In the township of Kirkham are not more than 803 acres. The principal old Halls are Westby, Preese, Bradkirk, and Mowbreck; and in the vicinity of the town are several good modern mansions, among which may be named, Milbank, the seat and property of Thomas Birley, Esq., and Carr Hill, belonging to Thomas Langton Birley, Esq.

For ecclesiastical purposes, the parish was divided in 1846, when seven new and distinct incumbencies were formed, viz.: Goosnargh, Hambleton, Lund, Ribby with Wrea, Warton, Weeton, and Whitechapel; which are all described under their respective heads. In Kirkham parish are retained the townships of Little Eccleston with Larbrick, Kirkham, Medlar with Wesham, Great and Little Singleton, and Treales with Roseacre and Wharles. The old living is a vicarage, valued in the king's books at £21. 1. 0½.; net income, £921; patrons and appropriators, the Dean and Canons of Christ-Church, Oxford. The great tithes of Kirkham township have been commuted for £43, and the small for £89; the appropriate glebe consists of 99 acres, and the vicarial of 2½ acres. The original church was built in the year 640; the late church previously to 1586; and the body of the present edifice in 1822, at a cost of £5000: in 1845, a tower surmounted by a graceful spire 150 feet high was added, at a cost of £1500; it has a peal of eight bells. An endowment of £70 per annum is paid to a curate for daily prayers in the church; it is derived from land left by Dr. Grimbaldeston, of the township of Treales. At Great Singleton is a chapel, forming a perpetual curacy. The Independents, Wesleyans, and others, have places of worship; and at the distance of half a mile, on the road to Blackpool, stands the Roman Catholic chapel of St. John, built in 1845, from a design by Mr. Pugin. It is an elegant structure of stone, in the style of the 12th and 13th centuries, and has a tower surmounted by a beautiful spire; the interior contains some private chapels, has a gorgeous altar, and is rich in stained glass: a peal of six fine-toned bells, also, has been put up, the first peal introduced into a Roman Catholic chapel since the Reformation. This chapel owes its erection to the Rev. Thomas Sherburne, of the Willows. The free grammar school, originally founded by Isabel Birley, was in 1655 endowed with a portion of the proceeds of the rectory of Kirkham, purchased by the Drapers' Company with funds bequeathed in trust to them by Henry Colborne. The endowment was augmented by the Rev. James Barker in 1670, by Dr. Grimbaldeston, and other benefactors; the aggregate income being now £550. The school has an exhibition of about £100 per annum to either of the Universities, founded also by Mr. Barker, who likewise left £80 a year for apprenticing boys. A parochial school, established in 1760, has an endowment of £80 per annum, appropriated to the clothing and instruction of girls; and among the other schools are some national and infant schools in connexion with the Church; and two, belonging to Roman Catholics, endowed with £62. 8. per annum. Dr. Shuttleworth, late Bishop of Chichester, was born here.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, 7th edition, published in 1848.