St Helens 100 Years Ago This Week

In this, St Helens 150th year, we take a look back at 1918, when St Helens was celebrating its 50th anniversary. Read what was happening at that time, 16th April to 22nd April 1918.

This week’s many St Helens’ stories include a bad case of child neglect in Thatto Heath, the YMCA hut disaster, a Fingerpost man’s claim for compensation, the death of the policeman involved in the “trial of the century” and the 1918 version of “put that light out”! But we begin with a football interview in the Echo.

Wouldn’t it be good if referees appeared on Match of the Day to explain their controversial decisions? Well a century ago officials were happy to talk and on April 16th Harry Rylance’s interview was published in the Liverpool Echo.

The referee from Earlestown had three days earlier been in charge of Everton’s game against Southport Central, which the Toffees had won 6 – 1.

However Southport claimed that the ball in Everton’s first goal hadn’t crossed the line and so referee Rylance told the Echo how he knew it had.

There must have been something in the water in Earlestown at that time as John Alderson from Cross Lane also refereed top games.

There’d been three Acts of Parliament since 1880 that provided compensation to injured workers and the widows of those killed at work.

However the granting of compensation was often not automatic, especially if you were a bit slow in claiming or had other health issues.

An example of this was the case of Richard Eden, who sued the St Helens Smelting Company on the 17th.

Eden told St Helens County Court that he’d injured his foot at the works and had to spend two weeks in hospital. Upon returning to his job, Eden – of Graham Street in Fingerpost – was put on light duties.

However he was soon called up into the army but after five months was discharged. Expert evidence was given that the man also had a chronic skin disease, which led to his army discharge.

So the judge decided that Richard Eden was not entitled to any compensation for his injury at work.

Two years ago the YMCA had begun a national scheme to provide soldiers with places to rest and enjoy recreation.

These large huts were located abroad and in Britain at military camps and in railway stations.

The St Helens branch of the YMCA claimed to have been the first in the country to pay for a hut in France.

However in the St Helens Reporter on the 19th there was news that the Germans had badly damaged the St Helens’ hut through shell-fire and it was now in their hands.

Many citizens of the town had contributed to collections to pay for the hut and a new appeal would now be launched.

Virtually every week a number of St Helens’ residents would appear in the Police Court after failing to obscure lights in their homes or shops.

At a hearing on the 19th, both the police and magistrates heavily criticised careless people who failed to pull down their blinds during the blackout.

Alderman Alfred Foote told one defendant that: “If bombs are dropped and people are blown to pieces you will be guilty of murder. You will be just as much to blame as the Kaiser”.

The six people who were charged included John Hull, who ran the Clarence Hotel in Duke Street on behalf of his aunt, who was the licensee.

Arthur Ellerington, the St Helens Chief Constable, lived in Dentons Green Lane. As he was driving to work along Duke Street one evening, Ellerington saw a strong light coming from a rear window of the Clarence. In court the Chief Constable said:

“If people could only see what I have seen in other parts of the country they would put their blinds down; but they do not know and they do not care. They won’t care until some of them are blown up.”

On the same day Richard Baxendale, a retired Superintendent in Lancashire County Police, died at his home in Warrington Road, Rainhill at the age of 78.

As an inspector he’d investigated the so-called “trial of the century” in 1889 in which Florence Maybrick was sentenced to death at St George’s Hall in Liverpool.

The 27-year-old was found guilty of poisoning her husband, James Maybrick, although many thought her only crime was confessing to adultery.

Inspector Baxendale had discovered arsenic in Maybrick’s home and had the remains of the victim disinterred and analysed.

The St Helens’ ironmonger Robert Brook and grocer George Welsby both served as jurors in the sensational trial. During the 1990s James Maybrick was named as a prime suspect in the “Jack the Ripper” killings.

On April 20th timber merchant James Crooks was advertising in the Preston Herald for “timber fellers” to participate in a “large fall” in the Preston district.

Crooks’ house in Eccleston Park was somewhat appropriately called ‘Woodlands’, although his saw mill and timber yard were in Shaw Street.

In 1900 the St Helens Reporter said Crooks was the largest dealer in round timber in the country, with his premises covering a “considerable area of ground”.

His business was so great that Crooks owned his own boats to transport timber to various ports.

Read the rest of the article here

‘St Helens 100 Years Ago This Week’ has been a weekly feature on the Sutton Beauty & Heritage Facebook page since March 2016. The article is written and researched by Stephen Wainwright.

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