St Helens 50 Years Ago This Week

In this, St Helens 150th year, we take a look back at 1968, when St Helens celebrated the 100th anniversary of its formation. Read what was happening at that time, from the 4th to 10th June 1968.

This week’s stories include the killer St Helens Canal, the sewage that flowed into houses in Billinge, the Fingerpost demolition gangs, “cultural vandalism” in Newton and Saints’ initiative to recruit a “dozen lovelies” to “decorate the terraces”!

However we begin at the Theatre Royal, where a puppet performance of ‘Snow White and the Seven Musical Dwarfs’ was given throughout the week.

The two-hour programme was described as “Britain’s first full-size puppet spectacular” and was presented by Ray and Joan da Silva’s company.

Their 20-foot high puppet stage was claimed to be the largest in the country and allowed for simultaneous operation of marionettes from above and glove and rod-type puppets from below.

Cowley had three job adverts in The Guardian on June 4th. The boys’ school wanted a master to take charge of PE and a master to teach French to sixth-formers.

Meanwhile Miss Jackson, the headmistress, was seeking an assistant master or mistress to teach maths and science to the junior part of the girls’ school.

At a meeting of the Billinge Public Health Committee on the 4th there was a discussion about sewage overflowing into houses in Greenslate Road.

This had occurred on several occasions and it was felt that Billinge Hospital might be contributing to the problem by disposing of hospital dressings down the drain.

The council decided to relieve the blockage by installing a new manhole in Greenslate Road. Their surveyor added that if the problem persisted he would hire a television camera to discover the cause.

The Guardian reported on the 5th how Newton-le-Willows’ resident Cedric Sumner had called plans to demolish an historic building “cultural vandalism”.

A benefactor called John Stirrup had built Dean School House in Newton in 1646 for the teaching of English. The last master of the school had died in 1875 and Winwick Education Foundation was now the property’s owner.

They’d told Newton Urban District Council that it would be too expensive to provide basic amenities. These included the installation of utilities like water, electricity and gas, as well carrying out repairs.

Set in a small wood the red sandstone house had been listed by the Ministry of Works as a building of architectural interest. However the council had issued a closure notice and was considering demolition.

Here’s a headscratcher. What cost 1d in St Helens in 1879 and still cost a penny in 1968? The answer is the library fine for the late return of books.

This had been a penny a week (or part of a week) since the first library had been established in the town when Benjamin Disraeli was prime minister.

At a meeting of the Libraries Committee on the 6th, Herbert Caistor, the St Helens Chief Librarian, said that the pennies did mount up.

In fact the fines for overdue books brought in over £1,000 per year, which helped to offset the cost of running the library service.

However Mr Caistor felt that the charges needed reviewing and he would report back with suggestions to the next meeting of the committee.

“Come on girls, show a leg – it’s all in a good cause!”, was how the St Helens Reporter began its report on Saints’ new initiative.

The Knowsley Road club was looking to recruit twelve attractive, mini-skirted girls in club colours – “a dozen lovelies”, as the Reporter put it.

Not as cheerleaders – that had yet to cross the Atlantic. But to “decorate the terraces” on home match days selling score tickets and generally looking “gorgeous”.

The idea was the brainchild of Basil Lowe, the Saints’ club secretary, who believed his initiative would be successful. “After all, the girls in St Helens are the prettiest in the country”, gushed Basil!

The Reporter included a photograph of “attractive” Doreen Fisher from Albion Street who was the “club’s first personality girl” and who “illustrates the glamour girl touch which Knowsley Road officials are seeking”. And yes Doreen was pictured showing a leg!

And there’ll also be the answer to this question: What cost 1d in St Helens in 1879 and still cost a penny in 1968?

Read more of “St Helens 50 Years Ago This Week

‘St Helens 50 Years Ago This Week’ is written and researched by Stephen Wainwright.

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