Runcorn in Cheshire expanded significantly in the 1970s. The New Town project provided modern and planned places to live and work for the many people moving to Runcorn from Liverpool. But newsreel cameras caught aspects of the town’s history even as far back as 1932.
Chemical Works Explosion (1932)
One man died and two others were injured when an explosion ripped through a chemical works located along the Manchester Ship Canal at Runcorn.
The building was completely destroyed. While not many people outside heard the explosion, others inside buildings heard it from more than a mile away.
Thankfully the other workers on site escaped unharmed, despite the significant damage to the site.
Heard … Miles Away! (1932) – British Pathé (YouTube)
New Bridge 1960
The old transporter bridge, built in 1905, could only take 100 vehicles an hour across the Manchester Ship Canal. In bad weather it struggled to move even half of that number.
But in 1960, the new £3 million bridge linking Runcorn and Widness was under construction, with a planned opening in Spring 1961. Demolishing the old transporter bridge was planned to take two years.
There’s the briefest glimpse of a workman walking across the narrow steelwork with nothing more than a hardhat as safety gear. It’s not even a smooth walk, as he finds footholds at the very edge of the sheer drop. Terrifying!
New Bridge Big Strides (1960) – British Pathé (YouTube)
And next we have the newsreel of Princess Alexandra arriving for the unveiling ceremony in 1961.
There’s quite a few nice clear shots of local adults and children, and a nearby street too.
Princess Opens Bridge (1961)- British Pathé (YouTube)
Runcorn in 1974
For some reason, in 1974 the National Film Board of Canada made several documentaries about New Towns in Britain. This 36 minute episode looks at Runcorn.
It includes footage of
- Local people across a variety of settings
- Local streets in different areas
- Lots of interesting building
- Arthur Ling, Architect & Town Planner
- A young man (legally) smoking on the bus
- The shopping centre
- A Robin Reliant
- Bus services at the heart of the transport planning
- Cars were to run round the edge, with access routes into each community
- Essential services for the town centre included a police station, law courts, library, dance floor, and social club.
- R.L.E. Harrison, Chief Architect & Planning Officer
- About £100 million was spent, with about half from private sources
- Adventure playground in use
- Russell Daye, Social Development Officer
- Castlefields Community Centre
- OAP Luncheon Club (in suits & hats)
- One man feels that people leaving Liverpool were leaving a lot behind, but others enjoyed the nearby countryside and the safe environment for their children. Children playing out without worrying about the roads was clearly important, although leaving friends behind had clearly been an issue
- Mr & Mrs Hanson & children, recently arrived from Liverpool
- Mr & Mrs Hanson moved to a bigger house, but they said Runcorn’s rents were double what they were in Liverpool
- Vandalism from bored teenagers was a problem
- Discussion of the factory sites on the map
- Envisioned that 33% of the local workers would work outside Runcorn
- Francis J.C. Amos, City Planning Officer – Liverpool
- Professor Peter Hall, chairman School of Planning Studies, University of Reading
- Discussion of working class lives changed by the environment and nearby facilities
British New Towns: Runcorn documentary (1974)- British Pathé (YouTube)