St Helens 50 years ago this week

This week’s many stories include the killer pits near Walkers Lane, a visit by Princess Alexandra to Haydock, a reprieve for Victoria Park’s Mansion House, the golf “firing range” in Bishop Road, Redgate Boys Silver Band’s German success and why Harold Wilson refused to sponsor a Rivington Road pupil’s sponsored walk to Ormskirk.

We begin on the 10th when fifty foremen and chargehands at Stoves of Rainhill decided to work to rule and ban overtime.

The men were unhappy with their £19 per week basic pay and felt they deserved to be paid in the region of £30.

The management had offered them an increase of £1 per week but they said that wasn’t enough.

On the 11th the members of the Town Council’s Amenities Committee considered whether the historic Mansion House in Victoria Park should be demolished or more cash spent on modernising it.

A similar dilemma is currently being faced by the present council with regards to the Gamble Building / Central Library.

However the sums required in 1969 were much more modest than the couple of million required today for the Gamble.

£7,000 had already been spent on what had originally been known as Cowley House to create a café and flat for the park-keeper.

However the builders had discovered dry rot which would cost another £2,000 to put right (around £35,000 in today’s money).

The council’s Deputy Building Manager told the meeting: “You have to decide whether to go ahead and spend more to cure the dry rot or demolish the house and write off the £7,000 you have spent so far.”
Undertaking the work would lead to other expenditure having to be reduced in order to find the £2,000.

However the committee voted to proceed and save the building that had been built in 1851 for solicitor John Ansdell.

The Maud Commission report on local government reorganisation was released on the 11th and proposed a new Metropolitan Merseyside.

This area would have a population of two million and extend from Southport to Chester and contain St Helens.

The Guardian said the report was received in the north with a mixture of “forthright opposition, anxiety, confusion, and a little praise”.

In the actual 1974 re-organisation Merseyside became a metropolitan county (and not a metropolitan area) with a reduced size.

However Lord Redcliffe-Maud’s report was the start of St Helens leaving Lancashire, which I for one still lament!

On the 12th Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra, The Honourable Mrs Angus Ogilvy – to state her full title – visited Haydock to open what was described as a giant oil terminal.

This she achieved by pressing a button that changed the traffic lights on the terminal’s traffic control bridge to green. Waiting road tankers then moved forward to be loaded with oil products.

Hundreds of onlookers cheered as the largest island oil distribution centre in Europe – that cost Shell-Mex and BP £3 million to build – was officially opened.

About 100 members of the British Red Cross Society had formed a guard of honour when the princess arrived, as Alexandra was the president of the Red Cross cadets.

The Queen’s first cousin would return to St Helens in 1989 when in her capacity of Vice-Patron of the YWCA, she inspected the Nunn Street community centre in Parr after it had been given a £100,000 makeover.

Pictured on the front page of the St Helens Reporter on the 13th was Rita Knowles sunbathing in Sherdley Park during her lunch-break.
The “pretty” 17-year-old worked at Jacob’s clothing factory on the Parr Trading Estate and was wearing one of their bikinis – hence the interest by the Reporter’s male photographer!

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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