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Skelmersdale /ˈskɛlmərzˌdl/ is a town in West Lancashire, England, on the River Tawd, 6 miles (10 km) west of Wigan, 13 miles (21 km) northeast of Liverpool and 15 miles (24 km)southwest of Preston. In 2006, it had a population of 38,813.[1] The town is known locally as Skem /ˈskɛm/.

The Concourse, Skelmersdale.JPG
The Concourse shopping centre, Skelmersdale
Skelmersdale is located in the Borough of West Lancashire
Shown within West Lancashire
Skelmersdale is located in Lancashire
Location within Lancashire
OS grid referenceSD487062
• London180 mi (290 km) SE
Shire county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtWN8
Dialling code01695
AmbulanceNorth West
EU ParliamentNorth West England
UK Parliament
List of places
53°33′00″N 2°46′34″W / 53.550°N 2.776°W / 53.550; -2.776Coordinates: 53°33′00″N 2°46′34″W / 53.550°N 2.776°W / 53.550; -2.776

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.


Skelmersdale is situated in a small valley on the River Tawd. 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 Country Park lies to the east 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.

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 on the east side of the town.

Early historyEdit

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]

Modern historyEdit

In 1858, Blague Gate railway station in Skelmersdale was opened on the new Ormskirk to Rainford line. It was renamed to Skelmersale railway station in 1874, before closing in 1956 and its demolition shortly after 1968.

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 collieries—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 townEdit

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.

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 a 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. As of January 2019, none of these developments have yet been realised.

According to urban planning consultancy Space Syntax, Skelmersdale's fragmented streets have made its city centre relatively incaccessible and has resulted in a segregated land use.[7]



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,[when?] the subway system has been called into question[by whom?] with regards to its safety and sustainability, as they are not regularly maintained by the county council.[citation needed]

Until recently, traffic lights were not present in Skelmersdale, Whalleys Road containing the only two traffic lights due to a new housing district adjacent to the road,(local backlash of this development is present, although it is likely that it will be ineffective). 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.


In September 2011, the company providing most of Skelmersdale's bus services, Arriva North West, closed its depot in Skelmersdale, which employed 129 people. The depot was first constructed for Ribble Motor Services in the 1970s, and the premises were 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.[8] 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.[9]) The Skelmersdale Branch previously connected Skelmersdale to Ormskirk and Rainford Junction.

In 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.[10] In 2009, the Association of Train Operating Companies published a report, Connecting Communities, which also recommended the opening of a new rail link to Skelmersdale.[11] This time the recommendation was via the Skelmersdale Branch from Ormskirk. In February 2017, Lancashire County Council identified the site of the former Glenburn Sports College / Westbank Campus site as the preferred location for a railway station for the town. Despite the Glenburn Sports College being owned by the council, the Westbank Campus site is owned by Newcastle College and requires purchase by the council in order for the station to be built.[12] In September 2017, Merseytravel and Lancashire County Council committed £5 million into a study to investigate the possibility of re-opening the station. Combined with the creation of a new station at Headbolt Lane in Kirkby, it is believed that the scheme could cost around £300 million to develop.[13]


Skelmersdale has a number of primary schools, and had three high schools: Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Engineering College, Lathom High School and Glenburn Sports College, though the last of these closed on 31 August 2016.[14]

West Lancashire College has a campus in the centre of the town. The college merged with Newcastle College in 2007[15] and was recently graded as 'outstanding' in a recent Ofsted inspection.[16]

There is a Transcendental Meditation movement community within Skelmersdale, called "European Sidhaland".[17] 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.[18]

Skelmersdale also is home to a large public library whose facilities include free internet access and an extensive local history section.[19]


Although consisting predominantly of housing estates, Skelmersdale's industry includes the Co-operative Bank[20] (Skelmersdale's single largest employer[citation needed]), distribution centres for Asda,[21] P&G,[22] Victorian Plumbing,[23][24] a Walkers snack food factory,[25] Chemist 4 U[26] and many others. Skelmersdale houses the corporate base and a distribution centre for Matalan, the discount clothing and homewares store.[27] Frederick's Dairies is located in Skelmersdale who make ice cream for Cadbury.[28]

Shopping centresEdit

Skelmersdale's town centre is made up of the Concourse Shopping Centre,[29] colloquially known as "the Connie". The Concourse is home to a number of national chain stores such as Poundland, Home Bargains and Argos, as well as a McDonald's restaurant and KFC, both of which are located in the nearby car park. The Concourse used to have an artwork by Alan Boyson, in the shape of pyramids.[30] These were located in front of the entrance opposite the ecumenical centre until the early to mid 1980s, but were taken down to be replaced by the glass extension.[30]

There are also 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 Division One North and was a FA Vase winner in 1971. One of its former players was Steve Heighway, who went on to play for Liverpool. Former Everton midfielder- Leon Osman, played for the club in his youth. He his son to St James Catholic Primary School in Ashurst. Current Cardiff City player Craig Noone also once played for the club

The town is also host to an archery club, the Bowmen of Skelmersdale[31] whose collective members hold 19 county records[32] 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.[33]

Cadet ForcesEdit

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 CorpsEdit

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. They are based on Daniels Lane.

Army Cadet ForceEdit

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

Sea Cadet CorpsEdit

The Sea Cadets had a unit in Skelmersdale until May 2018. As of now, all senior cadet functions have been ceded to Sea Cadets Southport, and the unit now only trains junior cadets, before moving them to Southport.

Twin townsEdit

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

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ ""Great Britain" World Gazetteer". Archived from the original on 9 February 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. ^ "座りっぱなしの生活と老化の関係".
  7. ^ "Your smart home is trying to reprogram you. It's failing". CityMetric. Retrieved 27 July 2017.
  8. ^ Network Rail (November 2008) Merseyside Route Utilisation Strategy (RUS) Draft for Consultation, Page 93
  9. ^ "Disused Stations: Skelmersdale Station".
  10. ^ "Network Rail Merseyside RUS Draft".
  11. ^ "Transport Briefing subscriber log in".
  12. ^ Council, Lancashire County. "Details - Lancashire County Council". Retrieved 23 February 2017.
  13. ^ Houghton, Alistair (18 September 2017). "Skelmersdale rail link moves step closer as £5m funding revealed". liverpoolecho. Retrieved 19 September 2017.
  14. ^ "Half-empty Glenburn Sports College in Skelmersdale to close". BBC. 20 May 2015.
  15. ^ "Skelmersdale College (Dissolution) Order 2007". Office of Public Sector Information. 1 August 2007. Retrieved 27 August 2008.
  16. ^ Ofsted (25 July 2008). "Full college inspection report". Archived from the original on 28 June 2008. Retrieved 27 August 2008.
  17. ^ "Maharishi European Sidhaland". Maharishi European Sidhaland. Archived from the original on 13 March 2010. Retrieved 5 May 2010.
  18. ^ Byrne, Michael (1 September 2011). "Maharishi School in Skelmersdale hits back over Free School status criticisms".
  19. ^ "Welcome to the Library and Information Service web site". Lancashire County Council. Archived from the original on 12 June 2011. Retrieved 26 February 2008.
  20. ^ "The Co-operative Group – Project Formation". Business in the Community. 2010. Archived from the original on 26 September 2010. Retrieved 2 October 2010.
  21. ^ "Asda Wal-Mart UK logistics and distribution centres". The Tracing Paper. 1 February 2009. Archived from the original on 1 August 2010. Retrieved 2 October 2010.
  22. ^ "Proctor & Gamble Celebrates Investment in Skelmersdale". Northwest Regional Development Agency. 11 October 2004. Archived from the original on 8 July 2011. Retrieved 2 October 2010.
  23. ^ "Skelmersdale, Here We Come! | Victorian Plumbing Bathroom Blog". Retrieved 15 September 2016.
  24. ^ "Champ CyberNews :: Your story".
  25. ^ Heller, Lorraine (5 October 2005). "Walkers to open new snack factory in UK". Bakery & Snacks. Decision News Media. Retrieved 2 October 2010.
  26. ^ Ghayour, Philip (11 May 2018). "Skelmersdale litter pickers out in force ⋆ Business Lancashire".
  27. ^ 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.
  28. ^ "New Cadbury ice cream range for winter". Talking Retail. Metropolis International Group. 4 December 2007. Archived from the original on 26 July 2011. Retrieved 2 October 2010.
  29. ^ "Concourse Shopping Centre".
  30. ^ a b "Alan Boyson – Sculptor of Skelmersdale New Town's Pyramid". Modernism North West. 9 February 2012. Archived from the original on 8 November 2016. Retrieved 7 November 2016.
  31. ^ "Bowmen of Skelmersdale Archery Sports Club - North-West Lancashire".
  32. ^ "Flight Records".
  33. ^ "Result from National Flight Championshions 2006" (PDF).[permanent dead link]

Further readingEdit

  • 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 linksEdit