Welcome to Visit St Helens, Merseyside Places
The Walkfo guide to things to do & explore in St Helens, Merseyside

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St Helens (pronunciation (help·info) is a large town in Merseyside, England, with a population of 102,629. It is the administrative centre of the Metropolitan Borough of Sthelens. The area developed rapidly in the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries. Glass producer Pilkington is the town’s only remaining large industrial employer. When you visit St Helens, Merseyside, Walkfo brings St Helens, Merseyside places to life as you travel by foot, bike, bus or car with a mobile phone & headphones.


St Helens, Merseyside Places Overview: History, Culture & Facts about St Helens, Merseyside

Visit St Helens, Merseyside – Walkfo’s stats for the places to visit

With 38 audio plaques & St Helens, Merseyside places for you to explore in the St Helens, Merseyside area, Walkfo is the world’s largest heritage & history digital plaque provider. The AI continually learns & refines facts about the best St Helens, Merseyside places to visit from travel & tourism authorities (like Wikipedia), converting history into an interactive audio experience.

St Helens, Merseyside history


The southern part of what became the traditional county of Lancashire was at least partially settled by the Brigantes, a Celtic tribe, who were subjugated by the Romans during their 1st Century conquest. The first recorded settlements are the Manors, Parishes and Titled Lands listed in the Domesday Book.

Industrial development

St Helens, Merseyside Industrial development photo

Until the mid-18th century, the local industry was almost entirely based on small-scale home-based initiatives such as linen weaving. The landscape was dotted with similarly small-scale excavation and mining operations, primarily for clay and peat, but also notably for coal. It is the coal to which the town owes its both its initial growth and development and the subsequent development of the coal-dependent industries of copper smelting and glass. Sitting on the South Lancashire Coalfield, the town was built both physically and metaphorically on coal; the original motto in the borough council’s coat of arms was “Ex Terra Lucem” (“From the Ground, Light”) and local collieries employed up to 5,000 men as late as the 1970s. During the boom years of the British coal industry (1913 was the peak year of production, with 1 million employed in UK mining industry) the St Helens division of the Lancashire and Cheshire Miners’ Federation (the local miners’ union) had the largest membership (10%) of that federation. The discovery of winnable coal seams is mentioned in 1556, referred to as “Beds of cinders or coke … have been discovered three feet thick” during the digging of a clay pit and is commonly attributed to the Eltonhead family (Elton Head Road, the modern B5204, shares the name of the family) whilst reference to the significant distribution of “potsherds” during excavation suggests that some light industry had been under way for some time before (perhaps as far back as the 13th century) and the clay and pottery industries lasted in the area through to the early 20th century. A dispute arose between the landlord Bolds and the tenant Eltonheads, eventually resulting in an agreement to compensate the Bold family. The majority of the land had been turned over to arable farming since at least the 12th century according to the historical family records of William De Daresbury. The township of Sutton was recorded as “by itself being assessed at four plough-lands”. Plow or ploughlands are assessed at 120 acres (49 hectares) apiece. The pastoral use of the local land was common even in 1901, with William Farrer noting of Eccleston that the “country is of an undulating nature and principally dedicated to agriculture, fields of rich and fertile soil being predominant” and describing the produce as “chiefly potatoes, oats, and wheat on a clayey soil which alternates with peat”. Even so, Farrer also notes that several old quarries and shafts still existed within the area while also making reference to a “brewery at Portico, and a pottery near Prescot, while glass, watchmakers’ tools, and mineral waters are also manufactured”. Two hundred years earlier, Farrer may well have seen a different sight: St Helens was scarred and pitted by shallow mining operations, often quickly abandoned, left to flood and exceedingly prone to collapse. The primitive mining techniques, and limited ability to bail out gathering water, meant many pits had short lifespans. Complaints are recorded in Sutton Heath in particular about the plans to expand mining across the town, but the lure of a stable income ultimately won out against the objections. 100 years later, the Council rejected a planning application for an open cast mine — underlining the finality of the decline of coal mining in the area. In the 18th century, however, coal was an enabling force for the town that opened up opportunities for further commercial and industrial developments, which in turn drove demand for the rapid movement of raw goods not simply out of the town (coal to Liverpool to fuel its shipping and steel works for instance, but also its salt works) but also in promoting an influx of raw products for processing. The dependence of St Helens on its transport links is evident from claims made to Parliament in 1746 for maintenance and extension of the turnpike road after local flooding had damaged it. “because Prescot, being Three Miles nearer to Liverpoole than St Helens, Persons will naturally go to the former Place for Coals, if they can be supplied as well and as cheap there as at the latter”— T.C. Barker quoting Witness John Eyes, Merseyside Town in the Industrial Revolution: St. Helens, 1750–1900 It is clear that St Helens’ development owes as much to its location on the south Lancashire Coalfield as it does the fact that Liverpool, Chester and other centres of industry were not, and yearned for the fossil fuel of choice. It was essential therefore for the town to maintain, and invest further in, transport links and promote itself as a hub for the growth of Liverpool, with its provision of raw materials benefiting from its location and promising transport links. Liverpool, recognising the need for a ready supply of coal for its forges, responded with a petition for the extension of the Liverpool to Prescot Turnpike. This soon developed into a far more forward thinking development which was at the heart of the Industrial Revolution: canals. It was originally proposed merely to make the Sankey Brook navigable, but the eventual outcome was a complete man-made canal linking St Helens to the River Mersey and the city of Liverpool. The Sankey Canal was opened in 1757, and extended in 1775, to transport coal from the pits in Ravenhead, Haydock and Parr to Liverpool, and for raw materials to be shipped to St Helens. The transport revolution centred on the region encouraged an influx of industry to the hitherto sparsely populated area. With industry came job opportunities and population growth. Between 1700 St Helens grew from a sparsely populated array of manor houses and their tenants into a sprawling span of mining operations. Owing primarily to the abundance of coal reserves, the quality of local sand, and the availability of salt in nearby Cheshire, glass making is known to have been ongoing in the Sutton area since at least 1688, when the Frenchman John Leaf Snr is recorded as paying the Eltonhead family £50 for a lease of 2½ acres (1 hectare) of Sutton’s Lower Hey. The glass industry got a significant lift with the Crown-authorised “British Cast Plate Glass Company” established in Ravenhead in 1786; it latched onto the success of similar enterprises to set the region as the market leader for glass. The foundation of the companies owed as much to industrial leaders from outside the town (and the finance they provided) as to its natural resources. But the synchronous development of the steam engine was a significant development, with James Watt’s stationary steam engine design leading the way. Water could be pumped from deeper than ever before, and mines could be driven to find even more dense seams. At the same time, the growth in use of machinery (e.g. for mills, forges, and ships) rapidly increased the demand for coal – to which the town responded. Land exchanged hands in St Helens rapidly, as established families moved out of the growing towns filled with the working classes to more gentrified and less industrially developed places. In their place came self-made wealthy industrialists such as John Mackay (who first leased land in St Helens in the 1760s from King George III before buying the land constituting Ravenhead Farm from the Archbishop of York), Michael Hughes, the Gambles, and later Thomas Beecham, Thomas Greenall and the Pilkingtons. A few established families remained, such as the Gerards of Windle Hall. They made their land available for industrial use. “if any … good colliers … will apply at Thatto Heath Colliery, they will meet with constant employ and the best encouragement.”— Mike Fletcher quoting John Mackay, Black Gold & Hot Sand, 200 One of the first major industries to grow out of the transport innovations in the region was copper smelting. The Parys mining company, led by Michael Hughes, leased land from John Mackay close to the newly constructed Sankey Canal at Ravenhead (where Ravenhead Colliery had since been established). This allowed copper ore carried from the Parys Mountain mine in Amlwch in Anglesey, North Wales to arrive in the St Helens region via the Mersey directly at the point where coal was being excavated to fire the forges of industry. Some 10,000 tons of copper ore yielding over 1,300 tons of copper passed along this route. At the same time the Gerards were renting out land in Blackbrook to Patten & Co. from nearby Warrington. The company smelted using the Gerards ‘own coal, then moved the coal downstream from a private wharf on the navigable brook. The boom did not last: by 1783, coal industry leaders such as Mackay, Sarah Clayton and Thomas Case were all dead, penniless or both as a global constriction on coal shipments stifled the industry. An over-reliance on shipping to the USA during the War of Independence (1775–1783) ruined many people, and led to the permanent loss of several smaller industries. It took partnership and coordination with other industries for the mining industry to recover; with the US embargo lifted, the US the town’s troubles were soon overcome if not forgotten, although this was not the last troubling incident. The demand for chemicals such as alkali from the glass industry soon led the Gamble family to start their lime and alkali pits, saving on import costs. The growing demand for chemical processing also contributed heavily to the growth of Widnes. The Liverpool and Manchester Railway opened in 1830. It passed through the southern edge of the town at Rainhill and St Helens Junction, and furthered its economic development as a centre of industry.

The decline of the mining industry

The last coal mine located close to the town centre (Ravenhead Colliery) and those located in the outlying districts of St Helens, including those that were just outside the original 1887 County Borough boundary, were all closed between 1947 and 1991. The closures were opposed by the National Union of Mineworkers during the year-long Miners’ Strike of 1984–85.

St Helens, Merseyside economy & business

Urban regeneration projects

St Helens, Merseyside Urban regeneration projects photo

Since the millennium St Helens has become a focus for a whole borough scheme of Urban Regeneration initiatives in coordination with local Housing Authorities, Business and Art Projects in addition to European, Regional and Central Government funding such as the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund, the North West Regional Development Agency and The Mersey Partnership as part of the European Regional Development Fund. The whole project is coordinated by St. Helens Council under their umbrella corporate branding “St Helens; The Heart of the North.

Historic and notable buildings

St Helens, Merseyside Historic and notable buildings photo

St Helens Town Hall built in 1876 to replace the original (damaged by a fire in 1871) The Gamble Institute, built in 1896, is named after Sir David Gamble, who was the first mayor and gifted the land for the building. St Mary’s Lowe House Catholic Church is an unusual and striking landmark with a 130 ft (40 m) tower and a dome of a mixed Romanesque.

St Helens, Merseyside geography / climate

St Helens, Merseyside Geography photo

The St Helens Borough covers roughly 30 km² (12 sq miles) of soft rolling hills used primarily for agricultural purposes. The highest point in the borough is Billinge Hill, 4+1/2 miles (7 km) north of the town centre. Carr Mill Dam is Merseyside’s largest body of inland water, with lakeside trails and walks.

Why visit St Helens, Merseyside with Walkfo Travel Guide App?

Visit St Helens, Merseyside PlacesYou can visit St Helens, Merseyside places with Walkfo St Helens, Merseyside to hear history at St Helens, Merseyside’s places whilst walking around using the free digital tour app. Walkfo St Helens, Merseyside has 38 places to visit in our interactive St Helens, Merseyside map, with amazing history, culture & travel facts you can explore the same way you would at a museum or art gallery with information audio headset. With Walkfo, you can travel by foot, bike or bus throughout St Helens, Merseyside, being in the moment, without digital distraction or limits to a specific walking route. Our historic audio walks, National Trust interactive audio experiences, digital tour guides for English Heritage locations are available at St Helens, Merseyside places, with a AI tour guide to help you get the best from a visit to St Helens, Merseyside & the surrounding areas.

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Walkfo: Visit St Helens, Merseyside Places Map
38 tourist, history, culture & geography spots


  St Helens, Merseyside historic spots

  St Helens, Merseyside tourist destinations

  St Helens, Merseyside plaques

  St Helens, Merseyside geographic features

Walkfo St Helens, Merseyside tourism map key: places to see & visit like National Trust sites, Blue Plaques, English Heritage locations & top tourist destinations in St Helens, Merseyside


Best St Helens, Merseyside places to visit

St Helens, Merseyside has places to explore by foot, bike or bus. Below are a selection of the varied St Helens, Merseyside’s destinations you can visit with additional content available at the Walkfo St Helens, Merseyside’s information audio spots:

St Helens, Merseyside photo World of Glass (St Helens)
The World of Glass is a local museum and visitor centre in St Helens, England. It focuses on topics relating to the history of the town and local industries such as coalmining and glass-making.

Visit St Helens, Merseyside plaques

St Helens, Merseyside Plaques 2
St Helens, Merseyside has 2 physical plaques in tourist plaque schemes for you to explore via Walkfo St Helens, Merseyside plaques audio map when visiting. Plaques like National Heritage’s “Blue Plaques” provide visual geo-markers to highlight points-of-interest at the places where they happened – and Walkfo’s AI has researched additional, deeper content when you visit St Helens, Merseyside using the app. Experience the history of a location when Walkfo local tourist guide app triggers audio close to each St Helens, Merseyside plaque. Explore Plaques & History has a complete list of Hartlepool’s plaques & Hartlepool history plaque map.