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, 14th to 20th May 1918.

This week’s St Helens’ stories include the performing parrots at the Hippodrome, Birth of a Nation at the Oxford, Sunday gambling near Kirkland Street, the death of a Rainford builder (who built the buildings in these photos) and the curious letter sent by a Rigby Street herbalist that landed him in prison.

And in the national news section the Daily Mirror complains of “considerable unrest in doggie-land” and there’ll be more on the controversial “conshies” of Knutsford. However we begin with yet another case of bigamy.

There were an extraordinary number of such cases during the war – mainly committed by soldiers.

A week ago Arthur Gooseman had appeared in Prescot Police Court and admitted a bigamous marriage, saying: “Yes. I married her. I never got on with my first wife, and see what this has driven me to.”

The secret life of the private had been uncovered after his legal wife had written to his camp at Knowsley Park about her separation allowance. This was the benefit payment paid to soldier’s dependants.

Arthur Gooseman of the East Lancashire Regiment was back in Prescot Police Court on May 14th and his two wives were there too.

The second ‘wife’, Frances Gregory, was a widow whose husband had died on October 31st 1917, leaving her with twin children to bring up.

In November she met Gooseman in Manchester and they got engaged two weeks later. It was a rapid courtship but it was a hard life for widows with children unless they could find another husband.

The magistrates at Prescot committed the 37-year-old Gooseman for trial at Liverpool Assizes and on June 11th he was sent to prison for 9 months.

Throughout the week what these days is considered to have been one of the most racist films ever made was screened in St Helens.

It was D. W. Griffith’s ‘Birth of a Nation’, which was shown at the Oxford Picturedrome (later Plaza, Cindy’s and now the Cinema Bar).

The Oxford’s advert on the front page of the St Helens Reporter said the “mighty spectacle” was the: “most stupendous and fascinating motion picture drama ever created.” The price of admission was 3d, 4d, 6d or 9d, with Entertainment Tax extra.

Meanwhile the Hippodrome in Corporation Street had their usual mix of music hall artistes including Roelgin’s Parrots (“Great Bird Act”), M. Gintaro (“Top-Spinner & Juggler”) and The Two Violets (“Speciality Dancers”).

A review of the performance of Roelgin’s Parrots at Aberdeen said they: “went through a variety of neat tricks, such as swinging, cycling, driving a miniature motor car, turning somersaults, etc.” I’d liked to have seen that!

There was also a male and female comic but top of the bill was the celebrated violinist Mary Law, who had played at Royal Command performances and toured Australia. Sadly she would die in 1919 at the age of just 20.

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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