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 8th to 14th October 1968.

This week’s 16 stories include the St Helens’ churches that were keeping their doors locked, new safety measures at Windle Island, a Parr man joins the Black and White Minstrels, the new Sherdley housing estate, the “kinky lighting” at Sacred Heart Youth Club, a cheeky objection to St Joseph’s new social club, Bold Colliery’s success story and why Haydock and Ashton Youth Band had been banned from competing.

However we begin with the ‘Children’s Corners’, or similarly named columns, that used to be in local newspapers.

They were usually hosted by an ‘uncle’ or ‘auntie’, although what appears to have been the first host of the St Helens Reporter’s ‘Children’s Circle’ went by the name of ‘Daddy’!

That was around 1910 to 15 and the column had the motto ‘Love One Another’. The war brought it to a close when there was less love around – especially for Germans – but the column was later resurrected as the ‘Children’s Reporter’ run by Uncle Ben and Aunt Bessie.

The St Helens Newspaper had their own version conducted by Auntie Pollie and the Liverpool Echo’s Children’s Corner in 1968 was hosted by an Auntie Joan.

It was the latter that on October 8th congratulated Janet Stewart from Prescot for her “wonderful achievement” in collecting 3,500 halfpennies for the Echo’s Cot Fund at the Royal Liverpool Children’s Hospital.

That’s a heck of a lot of coins and apparently the little girl had roped in all her family and had them saving their halfpennies for ages!

At St Helens Licensing Court on the 8th St Joseph’s Catholic Church in Peasley Cross applied for a provisional licence for their new social club. However Peasley Cross Labour Club cheekily objected, as they didn’t appreciate the competition.

They planned to build a new club of their own on land opposite the church’s social club and were concerned they would lose custom. Fr. Duddy said the church had been fundraising for their new building for thirty years and the Licensing Justices granted his application.

The Guardian reported on the 8th that over the past twelve months Bold Colliery had turned a £¾ million loss into a £50,000 profit.

Output had increased by a third per man shift and the Coal Board was now offering jobs to another 100 miners. Its coal was in great demand with half going to the nearby power station, 25% to industry and 25% for domestic use.

The acting manager Ken Houghton said Bold’s improved position was down to increased machine running time, and reducing the number of coal faces from 7 to 5.

Technological advancements were also improving productivity at the colliery and a union official was talking of a life expectancy for the mine of between 50 to 100 years, as operations extended under Cheshire.

The first of a planned 20-part lecture course on astronomy and space exploration took place at Central Library on the 8th, with the Apollo 11 moon landing just months away.

Another attraction during the evening was the greyhound racing at Park Road. The names of the dogs included ‘Milk Waggon’, ‘Metal Man’, ‘Saw Mill’, ‘City Gent’, ‘Red House’ and ‘Gold Foil’. Not a Rex among them!

The St Helens Soroptimist Club celebrated their 25th Anniversary Charter Dinner at the Town Hall on the 10th. About 180 Soroptimist members, their families and friends, attended the event with the guest speaker being Stanley Parr, the Assistant Chief Constable for Lancashire.

In 1966 J. B. and B. Leach had held an auction on behalf of Lord St Helens (Michael Hughes-Young) to sell 27½ acres of land that faced Sherdley Park.

Blackburn-based Northern Development Homes acquired the site for £228,000 in order to build an extensive housing estate and on October 11th they were advertising the newly built homes in the Echo.

“Your New Home is Well Within Your Reach at Beautiful Sherdley Park, St. Helens. Only 25 Minutes From Liverpool City Centre”, was the headline to the ad. It continued:

“We have 9 different types of architect designed houses and bungalows available on this delightful estate. Ideally situated with shops and schools nearby, as well as acres and acres of open parkland.”

Mortgages of up to 95% were available for the bungalows and semi-detached houses that were on sale from £3,495, as well as for the four different types of detached homes that were priced from £4,750.

If you’ve ever wondered when churches in St Helens began locking their doors during the day, the answer appears to be the late 1960s.

Before then people could freely enter churches in the town in order to pray or meditate. The St Helens Reporter’s lead story on the 12th described how vandalism and theft had led to an increasing number of church leaders ending open access and bolting their doors.

This had been on the advice of the police and the Church Insurance Company. Rev. Harry Bradshaw, the Vicar of St Thomas’s in Westfield Street, had closed his doors through obscene writing being daubed.

The Rev. J. G. Williams of St Mark’s in North Road told the Reporter: “We have had a terrible amount of trouble”. In a single year £700 worth of damage had been done – including £220 worth of lead stripped off the roof.

Over the years hundreds of windows had been smashed at St Mark’s and St David’s Youth Club in Folds Lane and the Children’s Hall in Windle Street.

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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