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

Part 73 (of 92 parts) - Memories of Sutton Part 24

Introduction: Memories of Sutton is a series of recollections of Sutton's past that have been contributed by visitors to this website. If you have any memories or personal experiences - perhaps from your childhood - that you'd like to share, do please contact me. I'll be delighted to hear from you!  SRW

‘My Childhood in Sutton’ by Ellen Hackett (née Keenan)

An Illustrated History of Old Sutton in St.Helens
Part 73 (of 92 parts) - Memories of Sutton Part 24
Introduction: Memories of Sutton is a series of recollections of Sutton's past that have been contributed by visitors to this website. If you have any memories or personal experiences - perhaps from your childhood - that you'd like to share, do please contact me. I'll be delighted to hear from you!  SRW

‘My Childhood in Sutton’ by Ellen Hackett (née Keenan)

An Illustrated History of
Old Sutton in St.Helens
Memories of Sutton 24
Researched and Written by Stephen Wainwright ©MMXVII
Introduction: Memories of Sutton is a 25-part series of recollections of Sutton's past contributed by visitors to this website. If you have any memories or personal experiences that you'd like to share, do please get in touch.

‘My Childhood in Sutton’ by Ellen Hackett (née Keenan)

I was born in Fisher Street in Sutton in 1947 and started schooling at Sutton Nash when I was nearly 5. Miss Hawley was the headmistress of the infants school and my first teacher was Mrs Humphries. In the afternoon after lunch we used to have a sleep on little camp beds with blankets decorated with motifs that matched our cloakroom pegs; although mine was very mundane – a clothes peg! I remember pretending to be asleep and watching the teacher's legs walk past. We had an old air raid shelter in the playground that looked like a hill, which we used to play on and outside toilets (not nice in winter). On some summer afternoons when we went to play on the "tip", we had to carry the teachers’ chairs for them and we used to go past the plots to get there.

a) Ellen Hackett née Keenan; b) Sutton ‘Nash’ Teacher Mrs. Rogers; c) Sutton National School in Ellamsbridge Road


Ellen Hackett née Keenan, Mrs. Rogers and Sutton National School


Ellen Hackett née Keenan & Mrs. Rogers

Miss Woodward was my next teacher who became Mrs Hall and finally in the infants school we had Mrs Rogers, who used to live in New Street. She was an inspiration to me and it was through her and the rest of the Sutton Nash teachers that I wanted to go into teaching. We then went to the juniors where Mr Anderton was headmaster and he always rode a motorbike to school.
There was a cloakroom that connected the infants and junior schools, although we were not supposed to use it. The junior school had two storeys with a big hall on each floor; the one on the top floor was where school dinners were served (they came in big metal containers I think from Robins Lane). The stock room was here too where all the tins of biscuits were stored. Each Friday the tins from each class were replenished for sale at playtime during the following week.

Sutton National School

My mum was always willing to help at school and often took some coal for the staff room fire. When my younger brother and sister were born there was a visit from the teaching staff to see the new arrivals. Every week we would be bussed to Boundary Road baths for swimming lessons and when we came back to the school had hot orange juice. We also used to walk to All Saints church each week for a service and religious instruction and I can still remember the bible quotes and hymns. The church was near the Sutton Library in Carnegie Crescent and I spent a lot of time in the library reading. I particularly loved the story hour when Miss Marshall, one of the librarians, would read to us. Our class had good results in the eleven plus exam, with eight girls and four boys going onto Cowley and one girl going to Grange Park. The teachers were very pleased.
I remember the games that we played out in the street and round the lamppost on the corner of the street. These included British bulldog, hide and seek, tin can bung off, double ball and loads of others. On the stinky brook we used to play stepping stones, where we used to throw stones into the water so we could cross over and not get our shoes wet (they might rot so we had an incentive to keep them dry). We never knew what the colour of the water was going to be. It could be anything from yellow to purple to green, in fact any colour of the rainbow. It all depended on what colour cellophane the Sidac were making on that particular day, not to mention the stink, hence the name.

Carroll’s shop at 12 Taylor Street and looking down Fisher Street towards the railway line at the bottom of Ellamsbridge Road c.1960


Carroll’s shop at 12 Taylor Street and looking down Fisher Street


Carroll’s shop at 12 Taylor Street and Fisher Street

The local shops were Arthur Halliwell’s shoe shop in Fisher Street and Billy and Maggie Carroll’s shop on the corner of Fisher Street and Taylor Street, where the Legion was. Us kids used to think it funny to go and ask how much the penny bars of chocolate were! They later moved to Station Road. On the corner of Fisher Street and Peckers Hill Road there was the McLoughlin brothers’ fruit shop and then within Peckers Hill Road there was the Red Rose electrical shop, Donohue’s butchers, Royle’s cake shop and Royle’s grocery shop, Nevins, a chip shop, Marie Williams’ hairdressers, Lennon’s, Hunters and the Co-op. In Junction Lane there was Mallinsons, Spencer’s chemist, a chiropodist, Miss Brownbill’s, Todds butchers, Twists, bakeries, Pearson’s, sweet shops, corn stores, O’Hares, a chip shop, Winstanleys and Sunshine dairy, although I have forgotten quite a few.
The families who lived on our side of Fisher Street up to Taylor Street were named Ellis, Wilcox, Towey, Keenan, Woods and Mason and on the other side were Egan, Walsh, Ashton, Halliwell, Johnson and the Grices. None of the houses were locked and the keys were always in the door and our mums used to sit outside to watch us kids play and jangle to the neighbours or people going past. When it had been raining hard and had flooded we used to go to the railway bridge in Robins Lane near the step houses. We also played over the tip, the moss and the bonk and the show field which was behind our house in Fisher Street.
My grandad was Joe Dixon and I remember him being the steward at East Sutton Labour Club until he died in 1956. My great uncle Jimmy was also the steward later and my mum was a barmaid there for a very long time. I can remember at Christmas time the club committee used to organize a trip to the pantomime for all the members’ children. This involved a charabanc trip, toffees and an ice cream at the interval; it always amazed me that nobody got lost and we all got on the right charabanc and then we would be singing all the way home. The club was always full and often had queues waiting to get in. I don't know if there was a big Polish community but the club sold a lot of Polish cherry vodka. My grandad told me that he sometimes let the Americans from Burtonwood in early to keep warm.
My grandad Joe and Jimmy, one of his brothers, married two sisters who were Nellie (my grandmother) and Ada Meadows. There were quite a few Dixons including Lizzie, Liza, Hannah, John (I’m not sure if I have missed any!). My great uncle Jimmy lived in the unadopted part of Hoghton Road right next to the railway line and boy did the house rattle when the steam trains went past! St Helens Town ground was just down the road and we often went to watch Town play.
Streaming a banner in Junction Lane
The congregation from Herbert Street Independent Church used to hold street meetings on the corner of Peckers Hill Road and Junction Lane and a lot of us kids would go and listen. The other churches would all have walking days, where all the congregation and school children would walk round the streets with new frocks on and carry flower baskets. Everyone wanted to stream the banner and we then walked to the field where we would get our "bags" with a sandwich, cake and other goodies. On the field there would be sideshows and races and everyone enjoyed the day. It was usually in Sherdley Park but I do have a memory of going to St Anne’s field on one occasion. My frock was made by a dressmaker at the bottom of Peckers Hill Road, round the corner from Ellamsbridge Road. I think her name was Annie Houghton and she used to have all the dresses that she was making hanging up on the picture rail in her front room.
My dad used to talk about his time in Powell Street and about an Italian ice cream seller called Sciboni and the Sutton Bug when the silent movies were on. Also about playing two up on the bonk and looking out for the police coming and all the men scattering. He also had a friend who worked the signal box at Sutton Oak and we sometimes went and watched him change the signals and see the steam trains go past.
Our houses in Fisher Street were all condemned and we were moved to Parr in 1958 along with some of the other families. My mum continued working at East Sutton and used to catch the 27 bus to get there. I went away to training college, got a teaching job at Knowsley Road school, had met my husband in my final year at school, married him, had two children and then emigrated to New Zealand in 1975. But my mum and dad moved back to Sutton and are both buried at St Nick’s.
ELLEN HACKETT (née Keenan)

’My St Joseph’s Schooldays’ by Margaret Longworth

Although I went to several different schools in St Helens, depending on where my family lived or which school my brothers attended, I was always unruffled by the change. I settled in to each new school easily and made friends because I was a chatty child. When aged 6 or 7, I attended St Joseph’s infants school in Peasley Cross.
The above photograph supplied to me by my old school friend Sheila Callaghan (née Campbell) shows the children in the nativity, in which I was an angel. I recall it being a wonderful event with beautiful costumes, although I can remember feeling very cold walking across the playground in winter with just a cotton sheet on me! The children’s names with one or two missing are Michael Ledwith, John Heyes, Valerie Bradshaw, Jennifer Woods, David Wilson, Patricia Hall, Valerie Hitchen, Eileen Lord, Dorothy Fairhurst, Margaret Bates, Marie Leach, Arthur Rethin, Margaret Longworth, David Cotton, Mary Leather, Sheila Campbell, Theresa Fradley, Hilary Twist, Eileen Dooley, Bernadette ?, Keith Horkin, David Joyce, James Rankin, Ray Cunningham, Frankie Melia, Billie Gordon, David Jackson and Tony Troillet.

What I enjoyed most in my year at that school was arranging the farmyard animals in the model farm at the back of the class. This fascinated me, although I had no knowledge of any country farm or animals and probably didn’t know that milk came from cows! One girl who died a year later used to chew pencils and eat plaster off the wall. She was always much better dressed than me. My mam had a big family and so she was permanently busy cooking and shopping at the Co-op, which was just across the road near the library. I used to help with the shopping on a Friday by going to the Co-op with a list of rations that were needed and Dolly would parcel them up. My mam got a divi on these and at the end of the year it mounted up and helped with the housekeeping.

My dad was on nightshift six nights a week but I’m afraid he burned the candle at both ends by going into the Bull’s Head in Worsley Brow after dinner. Then he went on the nightshift leaving the house about 9 o’clock. Our garden where we lived in Granville Street was lovely, using a cold frame box that Dad made. This held a great variety of flowers including chrysanthemums, dahlias, marguerites, polyanthus, pansies and he grew lettuce, potatoes, cucumbers and strawberries, which my young brother Peter and I had a habit of eating before they had ripened!
The photographs (above) show St Joseph’s infants’ school in Appleton Street. My friend Sheila’s uncle lived in one of the nearby houses and I remember that the toilets at the back were communal. I then left St Joseph’s and went onto Windleshaw School at the top of Denton’s Green Lane, a school that I hated. I was once caned there by a teacher, who I’ll call Mr B, for simply chatting in the line on my way back from the dining hall. I was a small child aged about 8 and can still remember my fingers swelling up after being struck with a ruler. My older brother Keith recalls Mr. B as being a bully. The head was a Mr. Kitts and he was a stickler for getting us to pick up litter in the playground. I went there because my brother Keith was at the school and after he left I went back to St Joseph’s.
I was now 9½ and in the Standard 3 class of the junior school, which bordered Cleveland and Beaufort Street. Miss Hall was my teacher, who I remember used to sit on the side of her desk and by contrast to Mr. B at Windleshaw, was a gentle teacher. There was a piano in every classroom and in class 4 in the juniors I had Mr. Henerbury, who could play the piano and I did love his singing lessons. He was a very devoted teacher but at the end of that year he moved to Windleshaw School.
It was Mr Henerbury at St Joseph’s who coached me and a few others for the 11+ exam, which I passed. I was told that I was the first to do so for four years. Dinnertimes, looking back, were hilarious. My mam had to complain about the inedible dinners that tasted of soap. My mother felt sorry for St Joseph’s church, which was short of funds to repair the organ. One Sunday she gave them 10 bob, which was a lot in the early 50s, when my sister was only earning a few pounds each week.
We had a few naughty boys in school who would climb out of the window and in singing lessons would change the words of the songs. So when we sang: ‘There was a little drummer and he loved a one-eyed cook. He loved her yes he loved her though she had a cock-eyed look. With her one eye on the pot and the t’other up the chimney (you can imagine what they sang!!), ending with a bow wow wow fa la la dow a diddy bow wow wow.
There were two playgrounds at St Joseph’s, one for the boys and one for girls. We played lots of skipping games in the playground and were always excited when a dog came onto it. The girls’ toilets were next to the coke heap and behind the church. The field days that the school organised were wonderful and very well organise, with everyone dressed in their best for the walk to Sherdley Park carrying banners. In the park games were organised and there was lovely food for us children.
This photo (above) of St Joseph’s with its altar bedecked with flowers I think is beautiful and reminds me of the feast days, which were celebrated in May. The church was decorated with flowers and we would sing ‘Flowers of the fairest, Queen of the May’. The perfume of the flowers was strong and wafted throughout the church.
In the school there were partitions between the classes for the primary aged children, although the partitions were opened up for Xmas parties and other events in which I had a jolly time. The seniors were in an adjacent building and in a prefab. The primary children only went in there for nit inspections and I usually had some. I can only recall one girl Mary Leather not having any nits, as her mam was a nurse. I recall Mr Henerbury telling me that a girl like me shouldn’t have nits. I wasn’t too bothered but I’ve never forgotten it. I really enjoyed mental maths, where we had to quickly calculate answers to sums. Mr Henerbury divided the class into houses and we got points for what we did.
Later on in my last year at college, I hastily married at St Joseph’s during my Easter holidays. The priest didn’t bother with the banns and I can’t even remember if we had an organist. I do remember the best man, my husband’s friend Brian, saying: “I don’t remember seeing her at college”. We went into the registry afterwards to sign the civil contract. I didn’t like the priest’s quote from St Paul about the woman being the chattel of the home. This would never apply to me – I hoped!
Years later I was upset to learn that St Joseph’s church had been pulled down because of subsidence and moved temporarily to a field near what we called the Stinking Brook, because it was polluted from the works at Sutton. Now I see it is a clear waterway with a nice path alongside.
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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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