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Skelmersdale is located in Lancashire
 Skelmersdale shown within Lancashire
Population 38,813 
OS grid reference
   – London  180 mi (290 km) SE 
District West Lancashire
Shire county Lancashire
Region North West
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district WN8
Dialling code 01695
Police Lancashire
Fire Lancashire
Ambulance North West
EU Parliament North West England
UK Parliament West Lancashire
List of places

Skelmersdale is a town in West Lancashire, England. It lies on high-ground on the River Tawd, 6 miles (10 km) to the west of Wigan, 13 miles (21 km) to the northeast of Liverpool, 15 miles (24 km) south-southwest of Preston. As of 2006, Skelmersdale had a population of 38,813,[1] down from 41,000 in 2004. The town is known locally as Skem. The first recorded use of the name Skelmersdale appears in the Domesday Book of 1086. It was under the rule of Uctred as part of the hundred of West Derby.

The urbanisation and development of Skelmersdale largely coincided with the Industrial Revolution. Industrial scale coal mining began in the early 19th century and continued to expand during that century to give rise to Skelmersdale as an important colliery village. The town forms part of the Wigan Urban Area.

Skelmersdale was designated as a new town in 1961.


  • Geography 1
  • History 2
    • Toponymy 2.1
    • Early history 2.2
    • New town 2.3
  • Transport 3
    • Road 3.1
    • Bus 3.2
    • Rail 3.3
  • Education 4
  • Economy 5
  • Shopping centres 6
  • Sports 7
  • Cadet Forces 8
    • Air Training Corps 8.1
    • Army Cadet Force 8.2
    • Sea Cadet Corps 8.3
  • Twin towns 9
  • See also 10
  • References 11
    • References 11.1
    • Further reading 11.2
  • External links 12


As its name suggests, Skelmersdale is situated on a small valley through which the small River Tawd, a tributary of the River Douglas, runs through. The town was designed to accommodate both plant life and compact housing estates. Even in the town centre there is an unusually large amount of forestation. The large Beacon County Park lies to the west of Skelmersdale, where the iconic Beacon Point lies, along with the golf club.

The town borders the village of Upholland to the east, eventually leading into the Wigan area of Greater Manchester, West Lancashire's administrative centre Ormskirk to the north-west, and Saint Helens to the south. The M58 runs through Skelmersdale.

The New Town is the larger eastern half of the town, the Old Town 'Old Skem' is the smaller portion to the west.



Skelmersdale means "Skjaldmarr's valley", from the Old Norse personal name Skjaldmarr + probably Old Norse dalr (or Old English dæl) "dale, valley". The name was recorded as Skalmeresedel in 1136. One placename book suggests that it may be of Celtic origin, with the placenames being in Celtic placename order: "Element/personal name/word", rather than "Personal name/word/element", as with Old English placenames.

It is known locally as "Skem",[2] with a further distinction being made between "Old Skem" (the area which was a small mining town prior to 1961) and the broader swathe of development which has now developed.

Early history

Until the creation of Skelmersdale Urban District Council at the end of the 19th century, the town was part of the Parish of Ormskirk in the West Derby hundred, an ancient subdivision of Lancashire, covering the southwest of the county.

In the mid-14th century, the manor of Skelmersdale was held by William Dacre, 2nd Baron Dacre.[3]

Skelmersdale's population in 1851 was only 760, but 50 years later it had increased to 5,699. It was a busy coal mining town.[4] Sadly, there were over 100 fatalities in Skelmersdale collieries from 1851 to 1900, according to the Reports of the Inspectors of Coal Mines, and an unknown number of serious injuries. In 1880 there were 14 Skelmersdale colleries – most of them closed in the 1920s and '30s.

Skelmersdale war memorial

The miners, many of whom were Welsh immigrants, brought with them their own brand of Nonconformist Christianity. By the start of the 20th century there were at least six dissenting chapels in the town: two Wesleyan (Berry Street, closed in the 1920s, and Liverpool Road, closed 1969), an independent Methodist, a Primitive Methodist, a Congregational, and a Welsh Chapel (closed in 1963).

Today, there is little to remind people that the town was ever associated with the once great Lancashire Coalfield.

There were also numerous brickworks in the area, and in the early-20th century Victoria County History, Skelmersdale was described as "a particularly bare, unpleasing district" owing to its coal mines and brickworks.[5]

New town

Skelmersdale was designated a New Town in 1961, designed to house overspill population from the north Merseyside conurbation. The town was the first in the second wave of designations.

Due to the arrival of a large number of former Liverpool residents, the town retains a strong cultural association with Liverpool. Although the traditional accent may perhaps be exaggerated upon in younger generations, the role of Liverpool in the recent history of Skelmersdale cannot be understated, and many do still feel a close connection with the city.

Skelmersdale endured mixed economic fortunes during the last three decades of the 20th century. With the economic downturn in the late 1970s large industrial employers left the town en masse, resulting in an increase in crime, drug abuse and poverty. Today, West Lancashire has a crime rate well below the national average. 2006 was to see a regeneration drive for the town coordinated through English Partnerships and the Northwest Regional Development Agency and publicly headed by the designer Wayne Hemingway.[6] Among the proposals was a new central focus for the entertainment and commerce for the town in the evening.[2]

In 2012, a £20m vision to create a thriving town centre for Skelmersdale was revealed. It is expected to create as many as up to 500 permanent jobs, and current projections seem to satisfy that target. Although Skelmersdale faces a looming employment crisis, the regeneration of the town centre is a step towards recovery, and up to 100 extra jobs would be generated during the scheme's construction phase alone.

Proposals include a new food store as well as number of bars, shops and restaurants, and plans to include a five-screen cinema are also in the works. A new promenade would be fronted by these establishments to overlook the Tawd Valley Park, and a new civic square would also be created between the Concourse Shopping Centre and the town library. Regeneration specialists St Modwen have been working on the proposals with West Lancashire Council and the Homes and Communities Agency.



Hope Island, one of many roundabouts found within Skelmersdale.

Skelmersdale was originally designed to work on a roundabout system, on which it still sits today. For ease of access there is a vast subway network allowing pedestrians to move through the town without needing to cross potentially hazardous roads. However, in recent years, the subway system has been called into question with regards to its safety and sustainability, as they are not regularly maintained by the County Council.

There are no traffic lights in the town. Skelmersdale's road system has improved with better signage, although visitors still frequently get lost.

The M58 motorway (Liverpool – Wigan Motorway) runs along the south of Skelmersdale from the nearby M6 motorway to the Switch Island interchange at Liverpool. The A570 and the A577 both provide connections.

The New Town areas of Skelmersdale have a road-naming system where "Road" and "Street" are rarely used and single-name roads are common, e.g. Abbeywood, Fairburn, Brierfield, Thornwood. "Road", "Street", "Lane" and "Drive" do appear in road names, but only in the parts of the town (bordering on Ormskirk, St. Helens and Wigan) that pre-date the New Town development. The road names in New Town areas are also arranged in a loosely alphabetical format with large areas being defined by a single letter, for example Larkhill, Leeswood, Ledburn and Lindens all connect to Ashley Road in the Ashurst area.

Roads in the industrial estates and the main roads in the town such as Gillibrands Road follow the usual naming conventions, although the industrial estates do feature street names beginning with the same letter (such as Pikelaw Place, Penketh Place, Pinfold Place, Priorswood Place) all part of the Pimbo Industrial Estate.++


From September 2011, the company providing most of Skelmersdale's bus services, Arriva, closed their depot in Skelmersdale, which employed 129 people. The depot was first constructed for Ribble Motors in the 1970s, and the premises will now be sold. Skelmersdale is now served by buses from Arriva depots in St. Helens, Bootle and Southport.


Since the closure of Skelmersdale railway station in 1956, the town has become the second most populous town in the North West Region (after Leigh, Greater Manchester) without a railway station.[7] The nearest railway station is Upholland railway station on the Wigan Wallgate to Kirkby branch line (historically part of the Liverpool and Bury Railway line.[8]) The Skelmersdale Branch previously connected Skelmersdale to Ormskirk and Rainford Junction.

In March 2009, Network Rail proposed to extend the existing quarter-hourly Liverpool Central to Kirkby service, to terminate at a new station in the centre of Skelmersdale. Rainford will then become an interchange station for services to and from Wigan Wallgate.[9] In June 2009, the Association of Train Operating Companies published a report, Connecting Communities, which also recommended the opening of a new rail link to Skelmersdale.[10] This time the recommendation was via the Skelmersdale Branch from Ormskirk.


Skelmersdale has a number of primary schools, and has three high schools. These are Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic High School an Engineering College, Lathom High School a Technology College and Glenburn Sports College.

In 2013, Our Lady Queen of Peace achieved a 99% GCSE pass rate, with almost every student achieving 5+ A* to C's.[11] Lathom High School attained its best GCSE results ever, with 66.2% of students receiving 5+ A* to C's.[12]

West Lancashire College has a campus in the centre of the town. The college merged with Newcastle College in 2007[13] and was recently graded as 'outstanding' in a recent OFSTED inspection.[14]

There is a Transcendental Meditation movement community within Skelmersdale, called "European Sidhaland".[15] It has a Maharishi School that has performed well in OFSTED and school league tables. In 2011, it was one of 24 schools that applied for and received government funding as a flagship free school.[16]

Skelmersdale also is home to a large public library whose facilities include free internet access and an extensive local history section.[17]


Although consisting predominantly of housing estates, Skelmersdale's industry includes the Co-operative Bank[18] (Skelmersdale's single largest employer), distribution centres for Asda[19] and P&G,[20] a Walkers snack food factory,[21] the international headquarters and UK manufacturing centre of Turtle Wax[22] and many others. Skelmersdale houses the corporate base and a distribution centre for Matalan, the discount clothing and homewares store.[23] Frederick's Dairies is located in Skelmersdale who make ice cream for Cadbury.[24]

Shopping centres

Skelmersdale's town centre is made up of The Concourse Shopping Centre,[25] colloquially known as "The Conny".

The Concourse is now home to many stores such as Sports Direct, Home Bargains and Argos, as well as a McDonalds restaurant and KFC, both of which are located in the nearby car park.

There are an abundance of smaller shopping parades in Skelmersdale which include Sandy Lane, Digmoor Parade and Ashurst Shopping Centre.


The town's football team, Skelmersdale United, plays in the Unibond Northern Premier League Premier Division and was a FA Vase winner in 1971. One of its former players was Steve Heighway, who went on to play for Liverpool F.C. for many years. Everton's, Leon Osman once in Skelmersdale and sent his son to St James Catholic primary School in Ashurst.

The town is also host to an archery club, The Bowmen of Skelmersdale[26] whose collective members hold 19 county records[27] and 14 World Records held by three individuals from the same family (Melissa-Jane Daniel, Harriet Daniel and Gary Daniel), 6 of which were claimed at the National Flight Championships on 19 August 2006 held at RAF Church Fenton.[28]

Cadet Forces

Skelmersdale has units of the Air Training Corps, Army Cadet Force and Sea Cadet Corps. These units take part in the local community life and are routinely seen attending the Remembrance Sunday parade in the old town.

1439 Sqn Crest showing Ashurst Beacon and Canadian Maple Leaf

Air Training Corps

1439 (Skelmersdale) Squadron, Air Cadets, formed at Upholland Grammar School in 1941 as 'The Beacon Squadron' and provided airmanship training for young men and those about to join the RAF in time for the Battle of Britain. The Squadron continues to provide airmanship training to young men and women in addition to other activities.

Army Cadet Force

The Army Cadets are part of 'S' Company of the Lancashire Force. They are based at Daniels Lane.

Sea Cadet Corps

The Sea Cadets are also well established in Skelmersdale as "TS Rodney" and are based at Tawd Road.

Twin towns

West Lancashire is twinned with Erkrath (Germany) and Cergy-Pontoise (France)

See also


  1. ^ Great Britain" World Gazetteer""". Archived from the original on 9 Feb 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Ward, David. "Back to the drawing board", The Guardian, 18 January 2006. Retrieved on 12 May 2008.
  3. ^ Edward Baines, William Robert Whatton, Brooke Herford, James Croston, The history of the county palatine and duchy of Lancaster, vol. 5 (J. Heywood, 1893), p. 2
  4. ^ Pevsner, Nikolaus, Sir (2002) North Lancashire Yale University Press, New Haven ISBN 0-300-09617-8 p. 226;
  5. ^ "Townships: Skelmersdale". A History of the County of Lancaster Volume 3. Victoria County History. 1907. pp. 282–284. Retrieved 2 January 2010. 
  6. ^ welcome to skelmersdale vision > progress diary
  7. ^ Network Rail (November 2008) Merseyside Route Utilisation Strategy (RUS) Draft for Consultation, Page 93
  8. ^ "Disused Stations:Skelmersdale" Subterranea Britannica
  9. ^ Network Rail Merseyside RUS Draft
  10. ^ Train operators back half billion rail reopening blitz, Transport Briefing, 15 June 2009
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Skelmersdale College (Dissolution) Order 2007". Office of Public Sector Information. 1 August 2007. Retrieved 27 August 2008. 
  14. ^ OFSTED (25 July 2008). "Full college inspection report". Retrieved 27 August 2008. 
  15. ^
  16. ^ Byrne, Michael (1 September 2011). "Maharishi School in Skelmersdale hits back over Free School status criticisms". 
  17. ^ "Welcome to the Library and Information Service web site". Lancashire County Council. Retrieved 26 February 2008. 
  18. ^ "The Co-operative Group – Project Formation". Business in the Community. 2010. Retrieved 2 October 2010. 
  19. ^ "Asda Wal-Mart UK logistics and distribution centres". The Tracing Paper. 1 February 2009. Retrieved 2 October 2010. 
  20. ^ "Proctor & Gamble Celebrates Investment in Skelmersdale". Northwest Regional Development Agency. 11 October 2004. Retrieved 2 October 2010. 
  21. ^ Heller, Lorraine (5 October 2005). "Walkers to open new snack factory in UK". Bakery & Snacks. Decision News Media. Retrieved 2 October 2010. 
  22. ^ "Turtle Wax gets £1.6m to expand". Crain's Manchester Business. Crain Communications. 7 October 2009. Retrieved 2 October 2010. 
  23. ^ Wainwright, Martin (14 October 2004). "Industrial retreat opens way for a 21st century city". The Guardian. UK: Guardian News and Media. Retrieved 2 October 2010. 
  24. ^ "New Cadbury ice cream range for winter". Talking Retail. Metropolis International Group. 4 December 2007. Retrieved 2 October 2010. 
  25. ^ Welcome to The Concourse Shopping Centre, Located in Skelmersdale
  26. ^ Bowmen of Skelmersdale
  27. ^ Flight World Records
  28. ^ Result from National Flight Championshions 2006


Further reading

  • Wilson, L. Hugh (1964) Skelmersdale new town planning proposals : report on basic plan prepared for the Skelmersdale Development Corporation by L. Hugh Wilson, Hugh Wilson & Lewis Womersley Chartered Architects & Town Planners, with a foreword by A.J. Kentish Barnes, Chairman of the Skelmersdale Development Corporation, Skelmersdale Development Corporation;
  • Riley, Frank (1986) People in Need of a Future: A Survey of the Long-term Unemployed in Skelmersdale Ecumenical Centre, Northway, Skelmersdale;
  • Howe, Don and Frank Riley (1982) Skem – The Broken Promise: Unemployment in Skelmersdale New Town Liverpool Industrial Ecumenical Mission;

External links

  • Skelmersdale Heritage Society website
  • Potential Rail Improvements in North Western England – Evidence presented to the Transport Select Committee, 2002–03
  • Skem News
  • Ormskirk & Skelmersdale Advertiser
  • Champion Newspapers
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