An Illustrated History of Old Sutton in St. Helens, Lancashire

Part 35 (of 87 parts) - Pudding Bag in Sutton (St.Helens)

An Illustrated History of Old Sutton in St.Helens
Part 35 (of 87 parts) - Pudding Bag in Sutton
An Illustrated History of
Old Sutton in St.Helens
Pudding Bag in Sutton
Researched and Written by Stephen Wainwright ©MMXVI
The Pudding Bag district by St.Helens Junction was a close-knit, thriving community that's now long-gone. The origin of the name is that puddings, such as jam roly-poly, used to be made in narrow-necked muslin bags and the Pudding Bag houses were enclosed in a triangle composed of two sides of railway lines. It was a cul-de-sac containing Woodcock Street and Railway Terrace that had a single opening that served as a means of ingress and exit; like a pudding bag with an opening at just one end.

An 1881 map of the 'Pudding Bag' district of east Sutton which was contained within a triangle of railway lines

An 1881 map of the 'Pudding Bag' district within a triangle of railway lines

1881 map of the 'Pudding Bag' district

As many as two hundred people lived within Pudding Bag and their houses were built exclusively for railwaymen and their families. Originally Woodcock Street was known as Church Street, but its name was changed in 1902 to prevent confusion with the St.Helens town centre road of the same name.

The Golden Cross pub in Woodcock Street in Pudding Bag, Sutton, formerly Church Street

The Golden Cross pub in Woodcock Street in Pudding Bag, Sutton

The Golden Cross in Woodcock Street

Pudding Baggers had their own pub, the Golden Cross, which was originally known as the Golden Ball (also possibly Church Inn). The first landlord was William Woodcock and the street was later said to have been re-named after him. It's also claimed that the derivation of the pub's name was that it was the first port of call for worshippers after leaving the morning mass at St.Anne's Church nearby.

Also close by was the Providence Foundry and many workers would quench their thirsts with a pint at the pub, which in the late nineteenth century would cost them a tanner (2½p). On 28/6/1889 in the St.Helens Lantern a correspondent referred to the Golden Cross as: '…the home of sixpenny for the isolated denizens of Pudding Bag.'

Woodcock Street opposite The Golden Cross pub in Pudding Bag - contributed by Geoffrey Moore

Woodcock Street opposite The Golden Cross pub within Pudding Bag

Woodcock Street in Pudding Bag

In its early years with much railway traffic, life in Pudding Bag could be quite chaotic. Getting in and out meant lengthy waits at a level crossing by the Golden Cross and often residents would have to thread their way between heavy wagons to get to their homes. William Crooks (1795 - 1861) was a gateman at the level crossing and on May 20th 1861 was killed whilst attempting to move some wagons off the line. An engine was shunting some other wagons into a siding and a collision took place and Crooks was knocked down and killed.

His inquest took place at the Golden Cross on the following day and was reported in the St.Helens Weekly News of 25th May 1861:
 On view of the body and after hearing the evidence several members of the jury expressed an opinion that the crossing was extremely dangerous and that at least an over footbridge ought to be constructed for the safety and convenience of the public, frequently the crossing was blocked up with wagons. 
As a result of these recommendations, a bridge was built over the track from Woodcock Street into Penlake Lane by the Sheeting Sheds, creating a second route into Pudding Bag. The main means of access was under an arched railway bridge which was locked nightly at 11pm and all day Sunday.

The bridge that led from Woodcock Street into Penlake Lane - contributed by Geoffrey Moore

The bridge that led from Woodcock Street into Penlake Lane

The Pudding Bag bridge that led from Woodcock Street into Penlake Lane

Almond family in the Golden Cross pub in Woodcock Street, 'Pudding Bag', Sutton
Almond family at the Golden Cross
The above photograph was taken from Pudding Bag and shows the footbridge into Penlake Lane. In the background is Penlake House which used to be the home of John Perry who writes:
 I spent all my early life from 1942 living in Penlake House with my grandparents, Mr. & Mrs. Doorbar, until just before its demolition. I knew nearly all the people in Woodcock Street and Railway Terrace such as the Longs, Williams, Roberts, Marsh's, Billingtons and many more. My grandfather was a foreman at the Sheeting Sheds and my father and mother also worked there. My other grandparents lived in Pavillion Cottage at the other end of Penlake Lane. If you were not known, walking through Pudding Bag felt like an ambush in the early days!  
Although Ron Padmore was not born in Pudding Bag, he has many memories of staying with his family there. Like many small boys, he enjoyed a particular liking for steam trains:
 I spent many happy times in Pudding Bag in my childhood days. My late mother was born at 15 Woodcock Street and my uncle Bob Long lived there too. I have early memories of standing on the bridge leading to Penlake Lane and getting enveloped in steam from the trains underneath. If I was sat in the house and heard one coming, I would be out like a shot to see it, my little legs going like the clappers just to get a glimpse of the train. In those days I had never been on a train, so I was very fascinated to see one. 

Also see: Memories of Sutton Part 17 article My Penlake Memories written by Marie
There were at least two shops in Pudding Bag. During the early years of the twentieth century years a Mrs. Caulfield ran a grocer's shop and a Mrs. Chisnall sold clothing, workmen's shirts, towels etc. Many of the 45 or so houses were occupied by families and each evening the field in front of Railway Terrace was full of children enjoying themselves playing hop-scotch, piggy, rounders, top-and-whip or happily skipping.

It's said that you could alway tell when the coalman had been. The rear cobbled entries in Pudding Bag were so narrow that it was impossible to get a horse and cart to the coal-holes in the back yards of houses. So the coal man had to carry his sacks from the front door to the back, leaving black dust all over the furniture, carpets and kitchen shelves. Some houses shared one small brick wash-house and there was a washing rota between neighbours.

Left: Raymond Roberts pictured outside 13 Woodcock Street in Pudding Bag with Val Wright of no. 11 on an Excelsior Talisman bike c.1951. Right: Inside the Roberts house at 13 Woodcock Street in the late 1940s - contributed by Bryan Bickerstaff

Left: Raymond Roberts outside his home at 13 Woodcock Street with Val Wright of no. 11 about 1951; Right: Inside no. 13 in late 1940s

Outside and inside the Roberts house at 13 Woodcock Street, Pudding Bag

There were many characters in Pudding Pag with one known as 'Piggy' Brown, because he kept pigs on the bit of land behind his house. The houses, owned by the railway company, were maintained by local builder (and undertaker) Albert Hawley, who could often be seen in his overalls undertaking repairs. Norman Smith tells this website that he can recall BBC regional news filming a report during the early 1960s, about a haunting in one of the Woodcock Street houses. “I was on the footbridge watching filming”, he writes.

Left: George Hill; Right: Boys at the rear of 28 Woodcock Street in Pudding Bag - contributed by George Hill Jnr.

George Hill and boys at the rear of 28 Woodcock Street in Pudding Bag

Left: George Hill; Right: Boys in the back yard of 28 Woodcock Street

Frances Holroyd used to walk through Pudding Bag as a boy, not knowing that an ancestor of his had lived there:
 My great, great grandfather was builder John Fisher. He was married to Alice nee Holland, daughter of a farmer in Mill Lane, Sutton. They had nine children together and lived in Church Street / Lane (which was renamed Woodcock Street) in the Pudding Bag. When I was at St Anne's school I would often walk through the pudding bag and stare at the house, it was quite a large house and I remember it had a stone above the door with the initials J and A together with a date. I wondered who these people could have been but had no idea at that time that they were my ancestors. 

Radio / tv engineer Gordon Roberts outside his home at 13 Woodcock Street with his Rothery Radio van c.1955

TV engineer Gordon Roberts outside his home at 13 Woodcock Street c.1955

Radio / tv engineer Gordon Roberts outside 13 Woodcock Street c.1955

In a Whalley's World article in the St.Helens Star, former 'Puddin' Bagger' Mrs. V. McNicholas provided a list of all the residents from around the middle of the 20th century. The names of the households in Railway Terrace were Mr. & Mrs. Gee, Mr. & Mrs. Foster, Mr. & Mrs. Johnston, Mr. & Mrs. Cain, Granny Johnson & Mrs. Appleton, Mary Fisher, Mr. & Mrs. Barr, Mr. & Mrs. Olwyn Dearden, Mr. & Mrs. Keeley, Mr. & Mrs. Warburton, Mr. & Mrs. Bond, Mesdames Lythgoe, Johnson and Worrall. Monastery Lane: Mr. & Mrs. Price, Mr. & Mrs. Flavell, Mr. & Mrs. Kitts and Mesdames Hill, Griffin and Marsh. Woodcock Street: Mr. & Mrs. Hart, Mr. & Mrs. Royle, Mr. & Mrs. Williams, Mr. & Mrs. Moore, Granny Moore, Mr. Brown and his two spinster sisters, Mr. Hitchen, Mrs. Webster, Mrs. Tibbins, Mrs. Abbott, Mrs. Stanley, Mrs. Wright, Mr. & Mrs. Roberts, Mr. & Mrs. Long and Grandad Williams. Bridge to Penlake Lane: Mr. & Mrs. France, Mesdames Boyes, Campbell, Parfitt, Billington & Sheridan, Mrs. Marsh and Noah. Jim Lythgoe (b. 1949) adds the Scott, McGowan, Hart and Eccleston families to the Railway Terrace list. Ken Jukes writes that his Gran and Grandad, James and May Jukes, lived at 5 Railway Terrace, next door to elderly Mrs. Johnson, until just before demolition. Ken also remembered neighbours Olwyn Dearden - known to him as Aunty Olwyn - and Mr. Keeley who drove a green Robin Reliant.

A sketch of Railway Terrace in Pudding Bag made and contributed by Carol Meredith (née Sneyd) about 1971

Sketch of Railway Terrace in Pudding Bag made by Carol Meredith (née Sneyd)

A sketch of Railway Terrace made c.1971 by Carol Meredith (née Sneyd)

The above sketch of Railway Terrace was made by Carol Meredith about 1971, just before demolition. Carol had just started teacher training studying art when she made the sketch. When she showed it to her father, he told her that the house was where his own father had been born, which Carol hadn't known. The Golden Cross pub closed on September 30th 1963 and the Pudding Bag houses were demolished in the early 1970s.
If you're a former 'Puddin' Bagger', do please contact me with your memories.
Next:  Part 36)  Sutton Crime Part 1
Stephen Wainwright
This website has been written and researched and many images photographed by myself, Stephen Wainwright, the Sutton Beauty & Heritage site owner. Individuals from all over the world have also kindly contributed their own photographs. If you wish to reuse any image, please contact me first as permission may be needed from the copyright owner. High resolution versions of many pictures can also be supplied at no charge. Please also contact me if you can provide any further information or photographs concerning Sutton, St.Helens. You might also consider contributing your recollections of Sutton for the series of Memories pages. Sutton Beauty & Heritage strives for factual accuracy at all times. Do also get in touch if you believe that there are any errors. I respond quickly to emails and if you haven't had a response within twelve hours, check your junk mail folder or resend your message. Thank you! SRW
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