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, 6th to 12th August 1918.

This week’s stories include “one of the most disgusting cases” ever heard in St Helens Police Court, the brainless burglary of a Corporation Street confectioner’s, a fight in Windle City, the milk delivery boy thief from Thatto Heath and awards for a “plucky” rescue attempt from a Ravenhead reservoir.

However we begin with the announcement of the final total that had been raised during the recent War Weapons Week in St Helens.

It amounted to £84,431 9s 6d which had been achieved through the sale of war savings certificates and bonds. That was a remarkable total being equivalent to around £5½ million in today’s money.

A letter from the Controller of the National War Savings Department had been received which confirmed that an aeroplane would be named ‘St. Helens’ in recognition of the “patriotic achievements of which the district may be proud.”

The inquest on Thomas Hammett from Earlestown was held on the 7th. The fitter at Pilkington’s Cowley Hill glassworks had died as a result of placing a cover on a fan. The ladder that he was stood on suddenly slipped and the 48-year-old struck his head against the wall.

Hammett had been standing near the bottom of the ladder and the Coroner remarked that it was an extraordinary thing that a man stood so near to the ground should meet with a fatal accident. This was in an era when safety helmets were not worn at work.

Being sent to prison for taking apples off a tree seems rather harsh. However the magistrates in St Helens Police Court warned Frank Bailey on the 8th that prison would be his fate if he nicked any more fruit.

The youth from Sunbury Street in Thatto Heath had been seen by Sergeant Latham in the gardens of Nutgrove Hall stuffing his pockets with apples. The Bench fined Frank – who was aged about 15 – the sum of 20 shillings.

Two Prescot boys named Walter Pye of Duke Street and Norman Ellaby from Ward Street appeared in court on the 8th. The lads – aged eight and nine respectively – were charged with stealing a letter containing a cheque for £3 3s from the shop of a Mr. Reid.

When arrested the boys said they’d looked through the shop’s letterbox in Eccleston Street and seen a letter lying on the floor. They then used a stick to work it to the door.

The following day the pair went to Parr’s Bank to try and cash the cheque, only to find it closed. When they again called at the bank they were arrested.

The lads learnt that banks weren’t in the habit of handing out cash to little boys in lieu of cheques made out to someone else! The magistrates granted them bail while further enquiries were made.

An amusing story of a man being kicked from behind while his trousers were coming down was told at the Police Court on the 9th. John Comber claimed that Robert Luke from Windle City had struck his wife and then fought with him.

The 41-year-old miner explained to the magistrates how his braces had broken and as he was fastening them up, Luke took a running kick at him from behind. It was a one-sided story as his fellow pugilist had failed to answer the summons to appear in court.

However the police – who acted as prosecutors – held much sway over the magistrates. They would routinely sum up defendants’ characters by telling the Bench they were known “liars”, “drunkards”, “thieves” etc. – often offering no evidence to support their claims.

So when Superintendent Dunn told the magistrates that the defendant was a “very violent man”, that was enough for them and Robert Luke was fined £5 in absentia.

Also on the 9th farmers John Heyes of New Street and Robert Kinnell from Lea Green appeared in court separately charged with cutting oats before they were fully matured.

The food shortage had led to a swathe of legislation that was intended to boost production but which farmers often found hard to fathom.

Both men told the magistrates that they’d sown the oats alongside other crops on their farms for use as horse fodder and didn’t realise it was illegal.

The Bench said they had committed a serious offence but would only impose a nominal fine of 10 shillings each as a warning to all farmers.

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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