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 5th to 11th November 1968.

This week’s many stories include Father Christmas arriving by Wells Fargo at Helena House, a shocking act of vandalism in Billinge, Guy Fawkes night in St Helens, a plaque to commemorate mining, a new town centre housing project and a councillor complains about a Rainhill clinic.

However we begin on the 5th when the first pop group from behind the Iron Curtain performed at the Theatre Royal. Omega Red Star was a 5-piece from Hungary and they were supported by a pop singer from Yugoslavia called Branko Miler.

The 5th was, of course, Guy Fawkes’ Night and unlike today most celebrations took place at private homes.

One of the few organised events took place at Beecham’s Social Club in Bentinck Street / Sutton Road, where 200 members and their children enjoyed a bonfire, fireworks display and homemade hotpot.

Considering the large number of private bonfires in St Helens, Guy Fawkes night went off pretty smoothly. Only three people were taken to hospital and two were soon discharged after treatment.

These were Thomas Johnson from Daresbury Road in Eccleston who received a firework burn on the palm of his hand and 15-year-old John Lamb from Cartmell Avenue who received a neck burn.

However 9-year-old Michael Dolan from Dorothy Street in Thatto Heath suffered a more serious eye injury and had to be rushed to St Paul’s eye hospital in Liverpool.

The St Helens fire brigade received eight calls but they were all from people who wanted them to check that their bonfires were burning safely.

Firemen and ambulance crews were, however, stoned in Birkenhead and Ellesmere Port but there were few casualties and incidents in Liverpool and on the Wirral.

Doctors and nurses believed that appeals in newspapers for a more responsible use of fireworks and bonfires had let to the improved situation on Merseyside.

However in Manchester four children had to undergo extensive plastic surgery, with two 4-year-olds having had rockets embedded in their chests.

On the 6th St Helens Town Council decided to apply to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government for permission to borrow £844,170. All local authorities had to have loans sanctioned by the Government, to ensure they didn’t get into too much debt.

The cash would be used for a town centre housing project in the triangular area that was bounded by the new ring road, Liverpool Road and Westfield Street.

The near 5-acre site had been derelict for two years and when completed the development would house 60 one-bedroom flats and 126 three-bedroom maisonettes. There were also plans to build a pub called the New Church Tavern, subject to Greenall Whitley obtaining a licence.

Also at the council meeting Councillor Patrick Gill called for a memorial to be created “in memory of the debt we owe the miner”. This was after production ceased at Ravenhead Colliery, the last coal mine to close within the then boundaries of St Helens.

Cllr. Gill was thinking of a tablet, plaque or plate that could be placed in a public place and the matter was referred to the Corporation’s Parliamentary Committee for consideration.

A plaque was in fact created which currently hangs in the Town Hall and reads:

“THE MINER – The closing of the Ravenhead Pit on 18th October 1968 was the end of five centuries of hewing coal in this county borough. Honour the miners whose toil produced the coal on which the industries of Saint Helens were founded. And which added so much to the wealth of the nation.”

At a meeting of the Divisional Health Committee this week County Councillor Nellie Holley complained that the clinic at Rainhill was “filled to bursting”.

She said considering the large number of young people in Rainhill, the clinic had been built on too small a scale and was “not half large enough”. When they had requested a pram park to cater for 60 prams, only space for 12 had been created.

Also on the 6th a two bedroom detached bungalow on the new housing estate opposite Sherdley Park was advertised in the Echo for £3,695, with a mortgage of up to 100% available. Little chance of that today!

Barclaycard had only been introduced in 1966 and they had a two-page advert in the Echo on the 6th. They listed all the shops in the Merseyside district that took their card including these from St Helens:

Lesley’s (baby shop), Hayward’s (drapers), P. & H. Jolley (gifts) and K. W. Courtman (tailors) all of Westfield Street; Oxleys (dept. store) and Lockie Press (stationers / printers) both Claughton Street; The Marley Shop (floor coverings) Bridge Street; Griffin’s (furniture) and Lilian Rogers (gifts) both Duke Street; Hardy & Co (furniture) and Direct Raincoat (clothing) both Church Street; Bill Lewis (sports) Baldwin Street; Fryer’s (tyres) Eccleston Street; Clan Carpets, Boundary Road and F. S. Laughton (photography) Cotham Street.

Margaret Leyland was rushed to St Helens Hospital on the 7th after being hit in the head by an airgun. The 13-year-old from Scholes Lane was on her way to see her friend Linda Kenny when she was struck on the forehead.

Margaret had a minor operation at the hospital and was then discharged to her home in Thatto Heath. The police interviewed a man in connection with the incident.

Zenda Kelly from Litherland Crescent in Haresfinch was pictured in the Echo on the 7th having won the Liverpool heat of the Miss Top Teen competition. 18-year-old Zenda would now go on to the finals in London in December.

An early morning fire at Green Gate Brickworks on the 8th gutted their sanding department that generated warm air to dry the bricks. There was expected to be disruption to production for at least four days.

A new innovation at the ABC St Helens in Bridge Street was ‘Friday Nite is Late Show Nite’. This began on the 8th with a double-header of X-rated films. Vincent Price in ‘The House of Wax’ and the ‘Phantom of the Rue Morgue’ were shown from 11pm, finishing at 1:40am.

The St Helens & District 22nd annual Autumn Show was held in the Town Hall on the 8th and 9th November. The various classes included chrysanthemums, cacti and arts and crafts.

St Helens Corporation displayed a colourful Spanish garden and Whiston Hospital’s stand exhibited different types of chrysanthemums. Admission was a shilling and Stanley Kostrzewski from Wilson Street in Prescot won the Challenge Trophy for the third consecutive year.



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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