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 2nd July to 8th July 1968.

This week’s 15 St Helens’ stories include a brave rescue of an elderly woman from the St Helens Canal, strikes at UGB, Rockware and Greenall Whitley, a public inquiry into plans to demolish homes near Taylor Park and the Theatre Royal hosts the judging of the Centenary Queen contest.

And the national news section features Monica Rose, John Lennon’s strange art exhibition and the Skegness’ woman attempting to break the world record for being buried alive in a coffin!

However we begin in Peasley Cross on July 2nd at 11pm when 130 machine minders at United Glass’s Sherdley Works staged an unofficial strike. They were dissatisfied with their bonus payments and a second walk out took place on the following day.

Nearly 80 female workers at Rockware Glass also walked out of their factory on the 3rd to hold a mass meeting. The women were employed as stitchers and claimed the “unbearable” conditions during the present heatwave made it far too hot to work.

This was because of the heat from hot water tanks that had led to three of the women fainting. The management refused to discuss their complaints while they were out on strike and so they agreed to return to work and hold talks.

A public inquiry took place at the Town Hall on the 3rd to consider objections to St Helens Corporation’s plans to demolish 25 dwellings and a combined house / shop.

These were mainly situated in Conway Street but also in nearby Moxon Street and Dunriding Lane, not far from Taylor Park. All of the premises were at least 100 years old and some were far older.

The St Helens Medical Officer told the inquiry that many of these properties were in a serious state of disrepair with fractured walls, sagging roofs, bulging chimneystacks and dampness.

Dr Gerald O’Brien added that: “The houses are old and worn out and are unfit for human habitation”.

However the owner-occupiers of ten of the houses disagreed. One was highly aggrieved having spent £560 (about £10,000 in today’s money) on extensive renovations just weeks before a housing inspector declared his home to be unfit.

An official from the Ministry of Housing conducted the inquiry and planned to publish his findings at a later date.

During the evening of the 3rd Chris Barber and his Jazz Band made their first appearance in St Helens at the Theatre Royal. Chris is now in his 89th year but the trombonist still plays over 30 gigs each year in Britain and Europe.

The Corporation Street venue used to be called the ‘Theatre Royal and Opera House’ and on the following day they lived up to that name with a performance by the renowned operatic tenor Alberto Remedios.

Also on the 4th about 250 workers at Greenall Whitley’s brewery in Hall Street resumed work after walking out earlier in the week. Their grievances concerned pay and the distribution of labour.

The St Helens Reporter was published on the 6th and wrote that: “Dreams of becoming a famous pop singer could become reality for 17-year-old David Wheelock, 148, Kentmere Avenue, Carr Mill. Next Friday, under the name of Dave Andrews, his first single disc called ‘The Beatin’ Of My Heart,’ coupled with ‘I’m On My Way’, will be released.”

They also reported that at the recent Billinge Public Health Committee meeting the members had received the monthly report from their Medical Officer of Health. Dr McPherson Robertson reported 29 cases of measles in Billinge during May and one case of scarlet fever.

Also on the 6th over 400 children from fifteen St Helens’ schools took part in the annual festival of the St Helens Teachers’ Folk Dance Society.

The event took place on the playing field of St Peter and St Paul Primary School and one of the attractions was a dancing display from the maypole dancers of the Parish Church junior school in Standish Street.

There was a record attendance at the Herbert Street Independent Methodist Church Field Day in Sutton on the 6th.

In bright sunshine a colourful procession traversed the main streets of St Helens before arriving at the Hoghton Road football ground for the annual sports. The Redgate Boys’ Band provided the music.

Also on that day the judging of the St Helens Centenary Queen took place at the Theatre Royal. There was a choice of “12 lovely finalists” with 23-year-old Margaret Young declared the winner and Pat Stoneking and Janet Waring named runners up.

One of Margaret’s tasks at the Centenary Show in Sherdley Park in three weeks time would be to sell cigarettes to the visitors!

The judging of St Helens Corporation’s ‘£100 Golden Spot Talent Contest’ also took place during the evening, which was compered by Norman Vaughan.

On the following day at a special service, the Bishop of Warrington dedicated a new organ at St Ann’s Church in Rainhill.

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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