St Helens 50 years ago this week

This week’s stories include the rat-infested junkyard in Marsden Avenue, why the historic bells at St Helens Parish Church might stop ringing, a tragedy in the St Helens Canal, the Nolans sing in a Peasley Cross club, the demolition eyesores in the town and more wrestling takes place at the Plaza.

We begin on the 8th when many children enrolled as members of the British Red Cross cadet corps at a ceremony held at the Methodist Church Hall in Burrows Lane, Eccleston.

On the following day the St Helens Branch of the Society for Cancer Relief held a coffee morning in the Assembly Rooms of the Town Hall.

This week Pilkington’s announced that they had won an order for almost 25,000 sq. ft. of glass for the new BOAC terminal at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Most of the order was for 15mm thick glass that only their new float glass process could produce and which was needed to withstand high wind pressures.

On the 10th The Pilkington Players began three nights of performances of the American play ‘Inherit The Wind’ by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee at the Theatre Royal.

Also on the 10th what was described as the most modern factory in Europe for producing amino-plastics moulding materials was official opened at Whiston. BIP Chemicals’ new plant created up to 220 jobs.

“Twilight tippers have turned a quiet suburban road into a rat-infested junk-yard”, claimed the Reporter on the 11th.

They were writing about Marsden Avenue in Eccleston where “almost every morning” old cars, beds and stoves were dumped.

The problem was that the avenue was broken into two sections that were joined by a “junk strewn” dirt track.

Residents claimed that in winter the path was ankle-deep in mud and in summer it became an “evil-smelling” health hazard.

Mabel Webster whose house faced the junkyard said her dog had recently chased two rats out of her garden. She told the Reporter: “If a councillor lived here this lot would have been shifted years ago.”

Miss Webster and the other residents had poured gallons of disinfectant over the track but the rats were still thriving and their homes were plagued with flies.

For two years Pilkington’s had been trying to negotiate with St Helens Corporation to close the unmade strip of land and incorporate it into their recreation ground at Ruskin Drive.

Both sides told the Reporter that discussions were on-going and they hoped to find a solution soon.

The newspaper also described calls for a fence on a stretch of the St Helens Canal behind the town’s abattoir after the tragic death of a five-year-old on Easter Monday.

John Woods had been attempting what was called a “tightrope walk” along the raised edge of the canal when he fell and was trapped amongst dumped tyres and other rubbish.

His 6-year-old pal Garry Smith raced to John’s home in Parr Street and his stepfather Ronald Simpson sprinted to the canal.

When he got there he found the little boy’s body floating in the water and John was declared dead on arrival at Providence Hospital.

Garry’s mother told the Reporter: “We need some kind of a fence. It is a menace. The Hotties are all fenced and patrolled, but there is nothing down at the bridge.”

She was referring to the stretch of the St Helens Canal (a.k.a. Sankey Canal) that was warmed by hot water that was pumped out of Pilkington’s.

A spokesman at the Town Hall was sympathetic but said the canal was not owned by the Corporation but by the British Waterways Board.

The Reporter also featured a campaign by Councillor Joe Mulcrow to clean up demolished areas of St Helens.

Several hundred homes had already been torn down as part of the huge Corporation re-development scheme.

However some of the demolition contractors had left behind an eyesore of timber, bricks and general mess and the ratepayers were complaining.

One was Elizabeth Horton who lived in Graham Street in Fingerpost across the road from the ruins of terraced houses.

“It’s horrible living here”, she said. “I pull back the curtains in a morning and I have to look at that. We want it levelling off until building work starts and all the bricks and rubble moved.

“It has been like this since Christmas. If the kiddies fall there they will cut themselves to pieces. I’m too ashamed to ask visitors here because they always comment on it. I pay £30 rates to look at that mess.”

Councillor Mulcrow said he was very concerned about the forthcoming Park Road demolition: “When those houses come down the ward will look even more of an eyesore.”

However the man from Atlas Street who would be made mayor in 1977, emphasised that the responsibility to clear the sites lay with the contractors and not the council.

Read the remainder 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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