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Kirkby ( ; the second k is silent) is a town in the Metropolitan Borough of Knowsleymarker in the former council district of Merseyside, historical and geographical county of Lancashiremarker in Englandmarker. The town was developed from the 1950s through 1970s as a means to house the overspill of Liverpoolmarker. It is situated roughly north of Huytonmarker, the administrative HQ of the borough and about north-east of downtown Liverpool. The population of the town as of the 2001 census is 40,472. It is traditionally believed to be founded in 870 although there is evidence for settlement from the Bronze Age.


Historically a part of Lancashire, Kirkby is believed to have been founded circa 870,although archaeological digs have produced evidence of habitation in the Bronze Age. The name Kirk-by, literally meaning "church" and "settlement" is of Old Norse origin whose settlers arrived via Ireland around 900.The first direct evidence of a settlement dates from 1086 and the Domesday Book, with a reference to Cherchebi - population 70.Ownership of the land containing modern-day Kirkby - established as the West Derby Hundred in the 11th century - passed through many hands, until 1596, when the Molyneux family purchased the hundred in its entirety. After a brief loss of patronage in 1737, as a result of the head of the family taking holy orders, in 1771 the Molyneux family were made Earls of Sefton and regained their lands.

Although remaining largely farmland until the mid 20th century, initial transport links to the area began in 1848, with the building of the Liverpool and Bury Railway through Kirkby. The East Lancashire Road (A580 road) added road connections in 1935, and industrial development was being considered prior to the outbreak of the Second World War. A Royal Ordnance filling factory - ROF Kirkby - was established in 1939, being completed in 1941. At its peak, the factory employed over 20,000 workers.

After the end of the war, Liverpool had suffered much damage from the Blitz and much of its remaining housing stock was poor and considered slums. In an effort to improve these conditions Liverpool Corporation began a policy of buying surrounding areas and moving industry and people to newly developed 'overspill' estates. This process culminated with the purchase of of land, including the land comprising Kirkby from the Earl of Sefton in 1947 for £375,000 (£ inflation adjusted ). Kirkby would become the largest of these overspill estates for Merseyside. As development of the town grew Liverpool requested to have it officially designated a new town in 1949 but this was rejected. Large-scale development began in February 1950 with the construction of the Southdene neighbourhood with the first houses being finished in 1952, the 5,000th in 1956 and the 10,000th in 1961, with a population in 1951 of 3000 swelling to over 52,000 by 1961, making it the fastest growing community in the UK by far. The Kirkby Urban Districtmarker was created in 1958.

Such a vast growth rate caused many problems, not the least of which was that the construction of local amenities had not kept the same pace. For example, while occupation of the council estates of Southdene had begun in 1952, the first shops were not completed until 1955 and the first public house was not open until 1959. Additionally, the people who were being moved into Kirkby during this period came from the poorest areas of Liverpool. During this time Kirkby industrial estate was steadily expanding to become one of the largest in England until at its peak in 1971 the estate provided employment for over 26,000 people.

Kirkby achieved independent Urban District status in 1958. This was then abolished and on 1 April 1974 its former area combined with that of Huyton with Roby Urban Districtmarker, Prescot Urban Districtmarker, parts of Whiston Rural Districtmarker and parts of West Lancashire Rural Districtmarker to form the present-day Metropolitan Borough of Knowsleymarker.

Following the 1993 murder of Kirkby toddler James Bulger, UK tabloid and broadsheet newspapers attacked Kirkby, and Liverpool in general, accusing them of false grief ('self-pity city')and blaming the town's decrepit state for his death – much in a similar vein as editorials and comments following the Hillsborough disaster.


Kirkby has been represented at the Houses of Parliamentmarker by George Howarth since 1986 first as part of the Knowsley North constituency and currently as part of the Knowsley North and Sefton Eastmarker constituency. He currently holds a 16269 majority, down from the 30708 majority from the 1997 general election which at the time made it the second safest Labour seat in the country. He was preceded by Robert Kilroy-Silk, Labour (1974-1986), Harold Soref, Conservative (1970-1974) and Harold Wilson, Labour (1950-1970), although the representing constituency has varied due to regularly shifting boundaries. The boundaries will change once again at the next general election.

Kirkby is commonly divided into four districts - Southdene, Westvale, Northwood, and Tower Hill. Its electoral ward, however, do not coincide with these divisions, and consist of Cherryfield, Kirkby Central, Northwood, Park, Shevington and Whitefield. There are 18 local councillors all of whom represent the Labour Party, who often run unopposed.

Kirkby is in the European parliamentarymarker constituency of North West England which has nine Members known as MEPs.


Kirkby lies north-east of Liverpool and roughly within the geographic centre of Merseyside in the north-west of England. It is north-west of London, north-west of Huyton, the borough administrative headquarters.

The River Altmarker flows through the extreme south west of the town, with the Kirkby Brook tributary passing through the centre.


Due to its position near the north-west coast of England, Kirkby has a temperate maritime climate: its Köppen climate classification is Cfb.Its mean annual temperature of 10.2 °C (50 °F) is similar to that experienced throughout the Mersey basin and slightly cooler than the English average. Average sunshine hours at 1394.6 are slightly above the average for the UK of 1339.7. January is the coldest month with an average mean temperature of 4.7 °C while July is the hottest at 16.7 °C. Rainfall at 806.6 mm (31.76 in) is slightly lower than the England average of 838 mm and much lower than the UK average of 1,125.5 mm (44.29 in). October is the wettest month with an average rainfall of 86 mm (3.39 in) and April is the most dry with 49.1 mm (1.93 in) of rain. The nearest weather station of the Met Office is at Manchester Airport.


The current population of the town stands at 40,472 as of the 2001 census. This represents just over a quarter of the total population of the borough of Knowsley and is somewhat down from its peak of 52,207 in the 1961 census, largely due to falling birth rates and the slow decline of the industrial estate forcing workers to look elsewhere. However, housing demand has increased in recent years, with significant developments being built across the town. This demand can somewhat be attributed to the demolition of high-rise flat and maisonettes - built during the 1960s, but fallen into disrepair - on a town-wide basis, and the resultant need for replacement housing stock.

According to statistics of the UK Government, the borough of Knowsley, including Kirkby, had a population of 150,459 at the 2001 census with a balance of 53% female and 47% male.

The borough is overwhelmingly of a white ethnic background at 98.42% against a national average of 90.9%. In order of population size other ethnic groups are represented as multiracial at 0.83%, Chinese at 0.24%, other Asian at 0.23% and black at 0.22%.

The borough is mostly Christian at 85.63% compared to the national average of 71.74%, with the next most significant grouping at 5.84% describing themselves as non-religious much lower than the national average of 14.59%. Just 0.17%, 0.11%, 0.07% and 0.03% would describe themselves as Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Jewish, respectively.

Population change

Below is a table outlining population change of the town since 1861. As can be seen the population of the town was on a gradual downward trend from 1861 to 1931 before beginning to soar when Liverpool Corporation began to develop the area on a mass-scale. The annualised growth rate from 1951 to 1961 was over 30%, making it by far the fastest growing town in the country. The total population of Kirkby peaked in 1971 at 59,917, and has since seen a steady decline. Recently the town's population has been growing however and the town is estimated by the NHS to total around 44,120 as of 2006.

Year 1861 1871 1881 1891 1911 1921 1931 1951 1961 1971 2001 2006
Population 1,451 1,397 1,401 1,283 1,211 1,116 1,151 3,078 52,088 59,917 40,472 44,120
Source: A Vision of Britain through Time


Kirkby industrial estate, formerly ROF Kirkby still employs many of the towns workers, however the town's industrial heritage has largely faded away, with service industries moving in to replace the factories. Major employers currently active in the town include QVC and Barclaycard, with several other call centre companies also based in Kirkby.

Regeneration efforts

Kirkby has seen considerable regeneration efforts in recent years. The Kirkby Sports Centre, one of the main athletic and cycling tracks in the region, was replaced by a new facility in summer 2007.

In December 2006, a proposal was made by Tescomarker and Everton FC for an extensive redevelopment of the town centre, including a new 50,000 seater stadium for the football team and associated retail developments. The proposals also include a hotel, leisure and retail facilities. It has also been stated there the town's public amenities would be increased including a walk-in health centre. But this is at the cost of losing one of the largest open public green spaces in the town.

Public response to regeneration plans

According to local reports, Knowsley Borough Council hosted public consultation events about possible redevelopment options in summer 2007, which indicated most respondents showed they had reservations about the proposed football ground.

It is claimed that a majority support regeneration in general but is not clear whether residents favour this particular development which is to include a Tesco superstore, new town centre shops and the Everton stadium. Results of the public consultations have not been released into the public domain. Reports suggest local support for the Tesco Everton scheme appears to be tempered by concern over the effect the stadium will have on residents.According to local reports, there was an alternative scheme where an Asda would have been built in Kirkby but Tesco has bought up most of the Town centre. The ASDA scheme seems to have fallen by the wayside.

Public meetings about the Tesco development have also been held by local pressure group Kirkby Residents' Action Group and in other forums. These include a public meeting in St. Chad's Church, where 500 people attended and a public march was organised to demonstrate against the stadium proposals.

The action group was formed to campaign for a referendum of the people of the town. It appears that public opinion is not clear as to support for or opposition to the proposals for a Tesco/Everton FC development.

Another action group called Kirkby Residents In Support of progress (KRISP) who support the scheme was formed specifically to back Tescos claims about the development. However, KRISP has not been heard of since the Inquiry ended

Knowsley MBC Planning Committee were 'minded to approve' the Tesco/Everton FC scheme and the decision has been made by UK Government to 'Call it in' which led to a Public Inquiry. All sides gave evidence and await the Inspectors recommendations. The decision may not be made until November 2009.

It now seems that the majority of residents who voted support the scheme as all wards in Kirkby returned Labour Party candidates into office in the May 2008 local government election. Opposers of the scheme point to overall votes (52% to 48%) to other parties and rightly claim this as a victory however they counted in this a newly formed political party to fight the campaign and other parties including the lib dems and Tories. All were beaten, but 1st 4 Kikrby missed out on gaining a council seat by a mere 16 votes!. At the original Planning Committee four Lib-Dem Councillors voted in favour of the proposals. The Labour Party Candidates openly supported the controversial development scheme.


Kirkby has 40 listed buildings but perhaps its most notable landmark is the grade II listed St Chad's Churchmarker. It was built in 1871 and is situated on an ancient church site just outside Kirkby town centre. The grade II Kirkby war memorial cross is also situated in the churchyard of St Chad's.


The M57 motorway runs adjacent to Kirkby, and the M58 connects just to the north of Kirkby. Other major routes include the A580 East Lancashire Road and the A506. The area is well served by public transport, with rail connections from Kirkby railway stationmarker to Liverpool city centre (on the Merseyrail Northern Line) and Manchestermarker (via Wiganmarker, on the Kirkby Branch Line). Stagecoach Merseyside provide the vast majority of bus routes in Kirkby and these connect Kirkby with several nearby districts of Liverpool and Merseyside. Kirkby was planned to be the terminus of the first line of the Merseytram tram service until the scheme's termination by the Government.


Primary schools

  • St Chad's C of E Primary School
  • Millbrook Primary School
  • Westvale Primary School
  • Holy Angels Catholic Primary School
  • Simonswood Primary School
  • Overdale Primary School
  • St Mary's Catholic Primary School
  • Park Brow Primary School
  • Cherryfield Primary School
  • St Joseph's Catholic Primary School
  • St Laurence's Catholic Primary School
  • Eastcroft School
  • St Peter & Paul's Catholic Primary School
  • Ravenscroft Primary School

Further education

Kirkby's further educational needs are provided by Knowsley Community College which supports the whole of Knowsley, including a main centre based in Kirkby town centre. It has a yearly intake of over 12,000. Kirkby also has three secondary schools and sixteen primary schools.

Performance table

The following table shows the percentage of pupils gaining five GCSE A*–C level grades, including English and Maths in 2007.

School Type Eligible pupils % pupils reaching the Level 2 threshold
(five or more good GCSEs and equivalents)
All Saints Catholic High School co-educational with sixth form 253 25 All Saints Catholic High School
Brookfield High School co-educational with no sixth form 156 25
Ruffwood School co-educational with no sixth form 171 11 Ruffwood School
National average 46.7
Knowsleymarker average 26.5

Future plans

An extensive overhaul of primary and secondary education provision in Knowsley will see all three of Kirkby's secondary schools closing by the end of the 2008-2009 school year, being replaced by two new Learning Centres. Ruffwood and Brookfield which were due to merge in September 2009 will now merge a year early due to Ruffwood being branded a failing school in an Ofsted report.

Religious sites

St Chad's Church, Kirkbymarker, Holy Angels Catholic Church, St Michael's Catholic Church, St Mary "The Mother of God" Catholic Church, St Joseph's Catholic Church, St Peter & St Paul Catholic Church, St Mark's C of E Church, St Andrews C of E Church, St Martin's C of E Church, Northwood Chapel and Kirkby Christian Fellowship are all within the boundaries of Kirkby.

Sports and recreation

Kirkby is home to the youth academy of Liverpool. It is also the proposed new sitemarker for the new stadium for Everton.

The most popularly supported football teams in the town are Liverpool and Everton, although in the past the town had its own non-league team, Kirkby Town, later renamed Knowsley United before they were dissolved in 1997.

The town has also been home to a number of notable footballers, including:

Notable people

Public services

Home Office policing in Kirkby is provided by Merseyside Police. The force's Knowsley BCU has a station on St Chad's Drive in the town centre. Public transport is co-ordinated by the Merseyside Passenger Transport Executive. Statutory emergency fire and rescue service is provided by the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service, which has a station in Kirkby on Webster Drive in the town centre.

Waste management is co-ordinated by the local authority via the Merseyside Waste Disposal Authority. Kirkby's Distribution Network Operator for electricity is United Utilities; there are no power stations in the town. United Utilities also manages Kirkby's drinking and waste water.

Kirkby is served by Knowsley NHS Primary Care Trust. Aintree Hospital is the nearest hospital to Kirkby as there is none within the town itself. There is however, nine GP surgeries and four dental practices within the town. Ambulance services are provided by the North West Ambulance Service with a station in Kirkby town centre.

The British Telecom Simonswood exchange provides local telephone and ADSL internet services to the area, with a number of other companies offering services through local loop unbundling. Virgin Media services are also available to the town, providing television, telephone and cable internet.


The main local newspapers are the Liverpool Echo (evening) and the Liverpool Daily Post (morning). Both are tabloids published by the Trinity Mirror group.

The local BBC radio station is Radio Merseyside and the local ITV franchise holder is Granada Television


Kirkby served as the basis for the fictional Newtown setting of the 1960s BBC TV series Z-Cars which was one of the first soap operas on television.


  1. ONS 2001 Census, via

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