For other uses, see Kirkby (disambiguation).

St Chad's Church, a local landmark
 Kirkby shown within Merseyside
Population 40,472 (2011 Census)
OS grid referenceSJ409988
    London  180 miles (290 km) SE 
Metropolitan boroughKnowsley
Metropolitan county Merseyside
RegionNorth West
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode district L32, L33
Dialling code 0151
Police Merseyside
Fire Merseyside
Ambulance North West
EU Parliament North West England
UK ParliamentKnowsley
List of places

Coordinates: 53°28′57″N 2°53′31″W / 53.4826°N 2.8920°W / 53.4826; -2.8920

Kirkby i/ˈkɜːrbi/ is a town in the Metropolitan Borough of Knowsley, Merseyside, England. Historically in Lancashire, it developed from the 1950s to the 1970s as a housing overspill of Liverpool. It is roughly 5 miles (8 km) north of Huyton and 6 miles (10 km) north-east of Liverpool. The population in 2011 was 40,472. It is believed to have been founded in 870 although there is archaeological evidence for settlement from the Bronze Age.[1]


Historically in Lancashire, Kirkby is believed to have been founded circa 870,[2] although archaeological digs have produced evidence of habitation in the Bronze Age.[1] The name Kirk-by, from the Old Norse word elements 'kirkja' and 'byr', believed to be of Danish origin, meaning 'church' and 'settlement' or 'village'. The town's 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.[2][3] 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 factoryROF Kirkby – was established in 1939 and completed in 1941. At its peak, the factory employed over 20,000 workers.

By 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 land in the surrounding areas and moving industry and people to newly developed 'overspill' estates. This process culminated with the purchase of 4,070 acres (16.5 km2) of land, including the land comprising Kirkby, from the Earl of Sefton in 1947 for £375,000 (£13.2 million inflation adjusted[4]). Kirkby would become the largest of these overspill estates for Merseyside. As development of the town grew, in 1949 Liverpool requested to have it officially designated a new town. but this proposal was rejected.[5] Large-scale development began in February 1950 with the construction of the Southdene neighbourhood, with the first houses finished in 1952, the 5,000th in 1956 and the 10,000th in 1961. A population of 3,000 n 1951 swelled to over 52,000 by 1961, making it the fastest growing community in the UK by far. The Kirkby Urban District was created in 1958.

Such vast growth 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 was combined with that of Huyton with Roby Urban District, Prescot Urban District, parts of Whiston Rural District and parts of West Lancashire Rural District to form the present-day Metropolitan Borough of Knowsley.


Kirkby has been represented at the Houses of Parliament by George Howarth since 1986 first as part of the Knowsley North constituency and currently as part of the Knowsley North and Sefton East 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 wards, 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 parliamentary constituency of North West England which has nine Members known as MEPs.


Kirkby lies 6 miles (10 km) north-east of Liverpool and lies within Merseyside in North West England. It is 180 miles (290 km) north-west of London, 5 miles (8 km) north-west of Huyton, the borough administrative headquarters.

The River Alt 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)[6] is similar to that experienced throughout the Mersey basin and slightly cooler than the English average. Average sunshine hours at 1394.6[7] are slightly above the average for the UK of 1339.7.[8] January is the coldest month with an average mean temperature of 4.7 °C[6] while July is the hottest at 16.7 °C.[6] 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).[8] 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.[7] The nearest weather station of the Met Office is at Manchester Airport.

Climate data for Kirkby and the Liverpool area
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 6.8
Daily mean °C (°F) 4.7
Average low °C (°F) 2
Average rainfall mm (inches) 71.5
Mean monthly sunshine hours 49.6 67 95.2 138.9 188.8 172.5 183.8 170.5 127.2 97.7 60.6 42.8 1,394.6
Source #1: The Weather Channel (Temperature Data)[6]
Source #2: Met Office (Sunshine and Rainfall Data)[7]


The population of the town stood at 42,744 at the 2011 census.[9] This represented just over a quarter of the total population of the borough of Knowsley and was 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, which forced workers to move elsewhere seeking employment. Housing demand has increased in recent years, however, with significant developments being built across the town. This demand can somewhat be attributed to the demolition of high-rise flats 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 British Government, the borough of Knowsley, including Kirkby, had a population of 145,900 at the 2011 census, with a balance of 52.6% female and 47.4% male.[9] This is down from 150,459 recorded in the 2001 census.[9]

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%. A high proportion of the town are of Irish Catholic descent as a result of historical emigration into Liverpool.

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 in the town since 1861. As can be seen, the population of the town had been 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, though, and the town was estimated by the NHS to total around 44,120 as of 2006.[10]

Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.
YearPop.±% p.a.
YearPop.±% p.a.
Source: A Vision of Britain through Time[11]


Kirkby Industrial Estate, formerly ROF Kirkby, still employs many of the town's workers; the town's industrial heritage, however, 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.

Economic output

This is a chart of trend of regional gross value added (GVA) of Kirkby at current basic prices published (pp. 240–253) by the Office for National Statistics with figures in millions of pounds sterling.

Year Regional Gross Value Added[note 1] Agriculture[note 2] Industry[note 3] Services[note 4]
1995 2,370 17 1,145 1,208
2000 3,060 12 1,174 1,873
2003 3,564 14 1,306 2,243

Regeneration efforts

Kirkby has seen considerable regeneration efforts in recent years. The Kirkby Sports Centre, one of the main athletic and cycling centres (velodromes) in the region, was demolished in 2007 and replaced by a new leisure facility (which excluded a track).

In December 2006, a proposal was made by Tesco and Everton F.C. for an extensive redevelopment of the town centre, including a new 50,000 seater stadium for the football team and associated retail developments.[12] The proposals also include a hotel, leisure and retail facilities. It has also been stated therein that the town's public amenities would be increased to include a walk-in health centre. But this would be 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 of people support regeneration in general, but is not clear whether residents favour this particular development, which would 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 F.C. scheme appears to be tempered by concern over the effect the stadium will have on residents.[13]

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, which 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 against the proposals for a Tesco/Everton F.C. development.

Another action group called Kirkby Residents In Support of Progress (KRISP), which supports the scheme, was formed specifically to back Tesco's 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 F.C. scheme and the decision had been made by UK Government to 'Call it in', which led to a public inquiry. All sides gave evidence and await the inspector's recommendations. The decision may not be made until November 2009.

It now seems that the majority of residents who voted to 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 Kirkby 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 and flawed development scheme. Alas, this was to no avail, as the Secretary of State rejected the application outright on 26 November 2009 and so ended the infamous fiasco known as "Destination Kirkby".

In 2012, Knowsley Council decided to close the Kirkby Civic Suite, the towns only multi-purpose venue for theatre/dance productions, conferences, marriages & other types of events.


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 station to Liverpool city centre (on the Merseyrail Northern Line) and Manchester (via Wigan, 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.


Educational services in the town are provided by the Knowsley Local Education Authority.

Primary Schools

Performance table

The following table shows information on the secondary schools in Kirkby.

School Type Total number of pupils % of GCSE pupils reaching the Level 2 threshold
(five or more good GCSEs and equivalents)
All Saints Catholic High School co-educational with sixth form929[14]40%[15] All Saints Catholic High School
Kirkby High School co-educational Academy with no sixth form781[16] 32%[15] Kirkby High School
National average 52.8%[15]
Knowsley average 36.7%[17]

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 two secondary schools and sixteen primary schools.

Secondary education overhaul

An extensive overhaul of primary and secondary education provision in Knowsley saw all three of Kirkby's secondary schools closing by the end of the 2008–2009 school year, being replaced by two new Learning Centres.[18] Ruffwood and Brookfield which were due to merge in September 2009 merged a year early due to Ruffwood being branded a failing school in an Ofsted report.[19] From this shake-up emerged a new All Saints Catholic High School and Kirkby Sports College Center for Learning. On 1 September 2013 Kirkby Sports College became an academy and from this the school was relaunched as Kirkby High School[20]

Religious sites

St Chad's Church, Kirkby, St Michael's & All Angels RC Church, St Mark's CE Church, St Andrews CE Church, St Mary, Mother of God RC Church, Kirkby Baptist Church, St Joseph's RC Church, St Martin's CE Church, St Peter & Paul RC Church, Northwood Chapel and Lifegate Church are all within the boundaries of Kirkby.

Sports and recreation

Kirkby is home to the youth academy of Liverpool F.C. (Built on the site of dissolved local club Kirkby Town's ground at Simonswood Lane). It was also the proposed new site for the new stadium for Everton F.C. which has recently been declined.

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[21] before they were dissolved in 1997.[22]

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

Other sports figures originating from Kirkby:

Notable people

Public services

Policing in Kirkby is provided by Merseyside Police. The force's Basic Command Unit in the Knowsley borough has a station in Kirkby on St Chad's Drive. 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.

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. Fazakerley Hospital is the nearest hospital to Kirkby. There are nine GP surgeries and four dental practices. Ambulance services are provided by the North West Ambulance Service with a station based in Kirkby.

The British Telecom Simonswood exchange provides local telephone and ADSL internet services to the area,[64] with a number of other companies offering services through local loop unbundling.[64] Virgin Media services are also available to the town, providing television, telephone and cable internet.[64]


The main local newspapers are the Liverpool Echo (evening) tabloids published by the Trinity Mirror group.

There are also two main free local newspapers, the Kirkby Extra and the Knowsley Challenge.

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


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.

Behind the Rent Strike, a 1974 documentary by Nick Broomfield documenting the 1972 14-month-long rent strike in Kirkby by 3000 social housing tenants in protest at the poor condition of housing in the town and the rent rises brought about by the Housing Finance Act 1972.

Letter to Brezhnev, the 1985 film was shot in Liverpool, including key scenes in Kirkby. The film starred Margi Clarke who was born in the town.

See also


  1. Components may not sum to totals due to rounding
  2. includes hunting and forestry
  3. includes energy and construction
  4. includes financial intermediation services indirectly measured


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