St Helens 50 years ago this week

This week’s stories include the opening of The Sutton Arms in Elephant Lane, St Helens’ mothers are advised to give birth at home, a wedding feature in the St Helens Reporter, the Blessed Julie Gala and Donkey Derby in Bobbys Lane, Sunday sport in Prescot and St Helens Art Club’s annual exhibition.

We begin on the 3rd with the official opening of The Sutton Arms by Councillor Tom Wilcock, the Mayor of St Helens.

The pub on the corner of Elephant Lane and Sherdley Road had been built on land that Alf Sutton had sold to Greenall Whitley in 1967.

As part of the deal the Elton Head Road haulage contractor had insisted that the new £40,000 pub be named The Sutton Arms.

An unusual feature was a mural behind the lounge bar of a 1840s Ordnance Survey map of St Helens and there was also a collection of sporting scenes painted by Reporter cartoonist Cliff Gerrard.

Bob and Edna Johnson were the first managers of the pub that seated 300 and instead of the usual beer cellar, The Sutton Arms had six 36-gallon tanks at floor level which did away with old-fashioned beer barrels.

The pub closed in 2011 and suffered severe fire damage by suspected arsonists in two attacks a year later before the building was demolished.

Prescot’s Highways, Lighting and Open Spaces Committee decided this week to permit Sunday sport on their recreation grounds.

Sports facilities including bowls, tennis and pitch and putt were being allowed but not yet organised football matches.

The Conservative leader of the council, Cllr. L. Mawdsley, disclosed that he had received many requests for the playing of tennis on the King George V Playing Field and Cllr. Bradley said it was a “matter of personal conscience”.

However Cllr. Dutton was concerned that noise from children playing on the swings would ruin the peace of nearby residents.

St Helens Corporation had granted the playing of Sunday sport within their public parks and fields in 1961.

However Haydock (which was not yet part of the St Helens borough) had yet to sanction the playing of football on their sports fields on the Sabbath, although permission was expected soon.

The clergy had for years used their influence to prevent Sunday sport and in this month’s parish magazine the Vicar of Haydock railed against the current trend.

The Rev. S. Wilson said if sport and entertainment of all kinds became legal on Sundays, the traditional English Sunday would largely disappear.

He wrote that the “old fashioned Sunday had good points. It was a needed opportunity for rest of mind and body, and for refreshment of the spirit. It was a day when the family could be together, and could go visiting.”

Rev. Wilson worried that what was sometimes called the “Continental Sunday” with its “fun and games” would become part of the new English way of life.

Redgate Boys Silver Band left for Frankfurt on the 5th where they would compete against other countries in the World Festival of Music.

The band frequently toured Europe and its thirty-six members would be appearing on German television.

“Birds Make Their Nest Between Two Bicycle Wheels” was the headline to a story on the front page of the St Helens Reporter on the 6th.

William Berks from Clock Face Road told how two thrushes had entered his shed through a broken window and built a nest in two wheels that were hanging on a nail.

The male bird had become so domesticated that it went to Mr Berks when he whistled and there were now four or five youngsters in the nest.

Meanwhile in Rainford 13-year-old Philip Pye reported that a blackbird had laid eggs in a nest in an old washhouse adjacent to his home in Holly Crescent.

However the Reporter’s main story bore the headline: “Give Birth At Home Advice To Mothers”.

This came from the Borough’s recently retired Medical Officer who hit out at what he called the “conveyor belt system” currently employed at maternity hospitals.

Dr Gerald O’Brien felt a 48-hour stay in hospital was too short for any mother; especially one having her first baby and a full eight-day stay was far better.

The doctor felt that new mothers were being released prematurely from hospital because of the high demand for maternity beds.

In 1967 20.6% of all births took place at home and Miss A. I. Robinson, a supervisor of midwives, felt this figure could be higher, saying:

“Mothers whose babies are delivered at home are far happier. Our midwives do a splendid job, and for a mother to have her baby at home is like being in a private ward.”

The birth rate in the town had actually been declining over the past ten years, mainly – Dr O’Brien believed – because couples were moving outside of the borough boundary.

Read the remainder of “St Helens 50 Years Ago This Week” over on Facebook

‘St Helens 50 Years Ago This Week’ is written and researched by Stephen Wainwright.

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