Glimpse history through old images of St Helens, Merseyside.
VE DAY 1945
Ms Grace Armstrong wrote an account of her experiences walking around the streets of St Helens during the VE Day celebrations in 1945. The Libraries Service made a video reading out her account and showing a range of archive pictures of the time.
An account of VE Day in St Helens, 1945 – St Helens Borough Council on YouTube
Royal Visit 1950
In 1950, Princess Elizabeth – the future queen Elizabeth II – visited the Pilkington glassworks factory. The Royals returned to the town four years later as the Queen and Duke, during their tour of Lancashire.
St. Helens (1950) – British Pathé on YouTube
St Helens in 1988
This home video starts at Rainford Metals in Mill Lane. After just over a minute of men working inside, the footage moves to the building’s exterior, then on to an industrial unit with motorbikes.
About six minutes in, we see a main shopping street, with large numbers of people waiting patiently for their buses.
A lot of different shots of the street and nearby junctions take in the fashions of the day, alongside the shops and businesses of the time.
H. Samuel, Manweb Electricity, Bensons, Midland Bank and Yorkshire Bank are just some of the businesses seen clearly in the footage.
VTS 01 3 st helens 1988 – Tony Liptrot on YouTube
Looking Back in 1995
‘St Helens Through the Decades’ was made in 1995. It was a history video showing how the town had changed over time. Of course the irony was that the film footage of the ‘modern’ streets and houses is now itself several decades old.
St Helens (through the decades) – St Helens History Channel on YouTube
In June 1990, a bus enthusiast recorded some of the buses travelling through the town centre. The footage can be bought on a DVD, but the trailer is free to watch on YouTube.
What the filmmaker also unwittingly did was record the sights and sounds of the streets at that time. We see buildings, local homes and businesses, a red telephone box, cars, and pedestrians. Even the adverts on the side of the buses are a step back in time.
ST HELENS BUSES June 1990 – DaveSpencer32 on YouTube
Extract from ‘History, Topography, and Directory of Mid-Lancashire, with an Essay on Geology’ by P. Mannex
Published in 1855
SAINT HELENS is a flourishing market town and parish , in
the hundred of West Derby , 9 miles S.W. from Wigan , 12
E. by N. from Liverpool , 21 W. by S. from Manchester , 30 % S.W.
from Preston , and 2014 N. W. from London , -rail distances .
parish comprises the township of Windle , and portions of the town
ships of Parr and Sutton ; and the town is situate at the junction of
those townships and that of Eccleston , a considerable part being
in each township , in the heart of an important coal district . It was
formerly subordinate to the parish church of Prescot , but by an order
in council , dated December , 1852 , has been constituted a separate and
independent parish .
The establishment here of the various important
works which have so materially contributed to the increase and
prosperity of the town , may be ascribed to the cheap and abundant
supply of coal , the proximity of the place to the port of Liverpool ,
and the facility afforded by railway for the conveyance of manufac
tures and merchandise to all the principal towns in the kingdom .
” In the year 1773 , ” writes Mr. Baines , ” a commercial company
was established , called the British Plate Glass Company , who were
incorporated by act of Parliament , and erected their manufactory
at Ravenhead , in the township of Sutton , near St. Helens . This
establishment occupies nearly 30 acres of land , and is enclosed by
a wall , round which are placed the houses of the workmen , which
renders it a sort of distinct colony . The buildings cost at that time
£ 40,000 , and about 300 people are constantly employed in these
works , which are the largest of the kind in the kingdom .
manufacture was introduced by workmen from France , and is
brought to great perfection . Plates of glass are cast of the dimensions
of 140 by 72 inches , and concave and convex mirrors made of 36
inches diameter . The glass is as brilliant in colour and as perfect
in every respect , as the French or Venetian plates , and is finished
in such a manner as to render it perfectly free from that mistiness
to which foreign fabrics are subject . The casting of glass is
performed here with great skill and dexterity ; and the plates are
of more than double the dimensions of those made in the Venetian
way of blowing , with the further advantage of all kinds of borders
and mouldings . ”
” Near to St. Helens , ” continues the same writer ,
” in the townships of Sutton and Eccleston , there are three other
manufactories for crown and flint glass , and black glass bottles , as
well as several black earthen and stone ware potteries , and a large
cotton mill ; there are also two large breweries , viz . , one at Denton’s
green , and one at St. Helens .
About 45 years ago , an extensive
copper work was erected here by the proprietors of the Paris mine ,
in Anglesea , Messrs . Hughes , Williams , and Co. , for the purpose of
smelting and refining copper ore ; and the same company had a
branch of their works upon the Sankey Canal .
works manufactured 30 tons weekly of small copper bars , not
exceeding in weight seven ounces troy each , These ingots were
made for the East India Company , and exported to China , where
they are said to have passed for coin .
The copper works were
discontinued in the year 1815 , but without producing any material
interruption to the progressive prosperity of St. Helens the mining
and manufacturing operations of which have risen to such a mag
nitude that there are at present , ( May , 1825 , ) no fewer than 69
steam engines at work in this and the adjoining townships , whose
aggregate amount of power is equal to the strength of 1369 horses . “
Thus wrote Mr. Baines about thirty years ago , since which time ,
many extensive glass and other works have been established here ,
as will be seen by the Directory .
The London and Manchester
Plate Glass Works were established in 1837 , in the township of
Sutton , under the name of the Liverpool and Manchester Glass
Company ; but not having proved prosperous , were sold in 1845 to
a new Company , styled the London and Manchester Plate Glass
Company , who have since enlarged operations to such an extent ,
that their works now rank as the largest plate glass works , not only
in Great Britain , but probably in the world . They are under the
efficient management of William Blinkhorn , Esq .
In addition to
the extensive Glass , Bottle , and Earthenware manufactories , there
are also in the town and neighbourhood four Breweries , several
Brick – makers , manufacturing Chemists , Coal Proprietors , Copper
and Smelting Works , three Oil Refiners , Slate and Timber Merchants ,
Stone Masons , Quarry Owners , and the various other miscellaneous
trades usually found in most towns ; and St. Helens has long been
famed for the manufacture of watch movements of great excellence .
The town is well lighted with gas by a company incorporated by
act of parliament , in 1832 , and the works , which are situate in
Warrington street , at the east side of the town , contain two gas
ometers , one capable of holding 140,000 , and the other 25,000
cubic feet of gas , which is sold to the consumers at a low rate . Mr.
Joseph Pritchard is manager .
St. Helens is also furnished with
an abundant supply of good water , from the Eccleston Water
Works , situate about two miles from the town , on the Prescot
road . These works were constructed in 1853 , by the St. Helens
Improvement Commissioners , at a cost of about £ 12,000 .
reservoir is capable of containing about 500,000 gallons , and the
water is lifted by a 50 horse power Cornish engine , and conveyed
to the town by a 12 – inch pipe . The works are now very efficiently
managed by Mr. Joseph Whittle .
The Parish Church of St. Helens , dedicated to St. Mary , is a
spacious brick edifice in Church street , enlarged in 1816 , to double
its former size . In the same year a new burial ground was purchased
from Bamber Gascoyne , Esq . , at a cost of between £ 3000 and
£ 4000 . The dimensions of the present Church are 75 by 783 feet ,
and the stipend of the minister arises from land left for that purpose ,
and from purchases made with money obtained from Queen Anne’s
Bounty . Previous to its enlargement it was dedicated to Saint
Helen ; hence the name of the town . The living is a perpetual
curacy , in the gift of trustees , and now in the incumbency of the
Rev. Edward Carr .
St. Thomas’s Church , Westfield street , is a handsome cruciform
brick building , with stone facings , erected in 1839 , at a cost of about
£ 4000 . It contains a fine stained glass window , with a life – size
figure of Saint Thomas in its centre , and the figures of a lamb and
dove in its side compartments . This district church will afford
sitting accommodation to about 800 persons . The living is a perpetual
curacy , worth £ 170 per annum , in the gift of the representatives
of the late Peter Greenall , Esq . The Rev. George Thornton
Mostyn is the present incumbent .
Christ Church , Eccleston , is also a district church , and was
built in the year 1838. It is a neat gothic edifice of red freestone ,
with a spiral tower at the west end , and will seat about 400 persons .
The living is a perpetual curacy , in the patronage of Samuel Taylor ,
Esq . , and incumbency of the Rev. R. P. Crockett .
St. Peter’s Church , in the township of Parr , is a neat building ,
and the living is now in the incumbency of the Rev. Abraham
St. Michael’s Church , Sutton , is under the ministry of the Rev.
H. E. F. Vallancey .
The Catholics , who are a numerous body in St. Helens and
neighbourhood , have a spacious Church at Low House , Crab street ,
capable of seating about 1000 persons . It is dedicated to St.
Mary , is richly decorated , and has a good organ . The Revs .
Thomas Ullathorne , J. C. Maxwell , and E. Costello , are the
officiating priests .
St. Anne’s Catholic Church , Sutton , is a hand
some gothic building , erected in 1849 , at the sole expense of Mr.
John Smith , of Mount Pleasant , Sutton , who has also erected here
a Monastery and School . The Rev. Fathers Bernardine , Albert ,
and Xavier , are the officiating priests .
There is another very neat
Catholic Church at Black Brook , about 2 miles E. by N. from St.
Helens , erected in 1845 , by the Misses Orrell of that place . It is
a stone building , in the Gothic style of architecture , is dedicated in
honour of the Blessed Virgin , under the title of the Immaculate
Conception , and is now under the pastoral care of the Rev. John
” A Catholic Chapel , ” says Mr. Baines , ” which formerly stood
at Windleshaw , near St. Helens , is supposed to have been dedicated
to St. Thomas , from a well , which is still called St. Thomas’s well .
This old chapel is said to have been demolished during the wars of
Charles I. , and the yard is still used as a burial ground .
Chapel of modern date was opened on the 1st of September , 1793 ,
at Lowe House , for which the congregation is indebted to the
munificence of Mrs. Eccleston of Cowley hill . ”
or ruin , about three miles north from St. Helens , is the property of
Sir Robert Gerard , bart .
The Independents have a chapel in Ormskirk street , first erected
as early as the year 1710. It was rebuilt in 1826 , and is now a
large brick edifice , under the ministry of the Rev. John Edmonds .
In Raven street is a Friends Meeting House , one of the most ancient
in the county , endowed with considerable property , the interest of
which is applied to charitable purposes .
The Wesleyan Methodists
have chapels in Tontine street , St. Helens , and Nut grove , Sutton ,
the former built in 1814 ; and the Primitive Methodists have one
in Mount street .
Schools are established in connection with all the places of
worship , and several are on the national system . St. Thomas’s
National School is a neat building , erected in 1843 , by subscrip
tion , aided by a grant from the National Society ; and the
National School , in Baldwin street , which was enlarged in 1854 ,
has an endowment of £ 25 a year . The Wesleyan School , in
Waterloo street , was built in 1854 , by subscription , and a government
grant . In 1835 , a school was erected in Westfield street , by the
late Peter Greenall , Esq . , and was subsequently endowed by his
widow . It is conducted by Miss Jane Hordley . The Catholic
School , Crab street , is a large building , erected by subscription , in
1850 , and is numerously attended .
St. Helens also enjoys the advantage of a few endowed free
schools , where several children , of both sexes , are instructed in
reading , writing , arithmetic , & c . Cowley’s British Schools , in College
street , owe their foundation , we believe , to Sarah Cowley , who , in
the year 1714 , bequeathed an estate in Parr , for the instruction of
the children of poor parents , belonging to Windle .
A SAVING’S BANK was opened on the 18th of June , 1855 , since
which date , to the 3rd of September following , the number of
depositors was 76 , and the amount of deposits about £ 900 .
There are at present 5 trustees , and about 100 managers . The
Bank is open on Mondays from 12 to 1 , and on Saturdays from 6
to 7 P.M. Mr. J. Marsh , is Actuary .
The Rainhill County Pauper Lunatic Asylum , in the township
of Sutton , about two miles south from St. Helens , is a large and
beautiful building of red freestone , in the Italian style of architecture ,
and attached to it are about 48 acres of land , the principal portion
of which is cultivated , and tastefully laid out in ornamental grounds .
This laudable and truly charitable institution was opened 1st of
January , 1851 , for the reception of insane paupers , of whom there
are now , ( August , 1855 , ) upwards of 400 , of both sexes .
establishment is superintended by J. D. Clayton , Esq . , surgeon , & c .
Richard Adams , Esq . , is house surgeon , and Mr. R. C. Lewis , clerk
and steward . Attached to the institution is a neat Gothic church ,
having sitting accomodation for 166 male , and 173 female patients ,
and 43 officers . Rev. H. H. Higgins , M.A. , is chaplain .
The Town Hall , is a substantial building in the Market place ,
where petty sessions are held once a fortnight , and a court every
alternate Wednesday , under the new county court act , for , the
recovery of debts not exceeding £ 50 . W. A. Hulton , Esq . , is judge ;
W. Massey , high bailiff ; and John Ansdell , clerk of the county
court and to the magistrates .
A Mechanics ‘ Institute , also held in
the Town Hall , affords facilities for the moral and intellectual
improvement of the inhabitants of the town and neighbourhood .
Here is also a News Room , of which W. Johnson is secretary ; and
in the Town – hall buildings are Assembly Rooms , Police and Con
stabulary Station , and Town Commissioners ‘ Office . W. Storey
is superintendent of police ; J. Mc . Manus , surveyor to the com
missioners ; J. Edge , collector ; ‘ and Edward Johnson , solicitor and
The Market is held on Saturday , and fairs for toys , pedlery , & c . ,
are held on the first Tuesday after Easter week , and the first
Saturday after 11th of September .
The Market House , and oblong brick building , opposite the
Town hall , erected in 1851 , is well lighted from a partially glazed
roof , and is used for the sale of pedlery , vegetables , and other articles ;
and adjoining the Town hall is a neat range of butchers ‘ shops ,
occupying the north side of Exchange street . “
St. Helens is described in the parliamentary census as being in
the township of Windle , under which head the population is returned .
According to these returns the number of inhabitants in 1801 was
3252 ; in 1811 , 4294 ; in 1821 , 4820 ; in 1841 , 6918. But the
actual population of the town is now computed at about 18,000 .
Windle township is nearly all the property of Sir Robert Gerard ,
bart . , who is lord of the manor , and its rateable value in 1854 ,
amounted to £ 23,640 6s . 5d .
Denton’s Green is a small but
pleasant village in this township , 14 mile N. by W. from St. Helens .
It contains a brewery , two good inns , a few farm houses , and some
cottages . A court leet and baron is held here annually , in November ,
at the Gerard’s Arms inn , by Sir Róbert Gerard .
Moss Bank is
another village in Windle , occupying a healthy and pleasant situa
tion , 2 miles N. from St. Helens . Here are also two respectable
inns , two schools , a few farm houses , and several cottages . The
Church of England service is performed on Sunday , in the National
School here , which is a neat building , opened the 30th of April . The other is a Catholic School , supported by Sir Robert
Gerard , who also supplies the school with all necessaries .
forms a considerable suburb to St. Helens , and Gerard’s Bridge
is a considerable village in Windle , 1 mile N.N.E. from St. Helens .
Here are chemical works and an extensive earthenware manufactory .
To our notice of Eccleston , at page 619 , we may add , that its
population in 1801 , was 6247 , and in 1851 , 8508.
belongs to various owners , and contains the hamlets of Ashton
Green 1 mile E.S.E. from St. Helens . It formerly belonged to a
family of that name , barons of Kendal , and subsequently to the
Byroms . Its rateable value in 1855 was £ 11,292 18s . 4d .
eastern , and south – eastern portions of the town , extend into the
townships of Parr and Sutton , and the western portion into that
of Eccleston .
The rateable value of Sutton in 1854 , was £ 27,694
8d . , and its population in 1841 was 4975 , and in 1851 , 5288 .
Ravenhead , and Marshall’s Cross , are two hamlets in Sutton town
ship , the former one mile S.W. , and the latter 2 miles S. from St.