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

Part 52 (of 89 parts) - Memories of Sutton Part 3

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
An Illustrated History of Old Sutton in St.Helens
Part 52 (of 89 parts) - Memories of Sutton Part 3
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
An Illustrated History of
Old Sutton in St.Helens
Memories of Sutton 3
Researched and Written by Stephen Wainwright ©MMXVII
Introduction: Memories of Sutton is a 24-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.

'Building the Sutton Parish Hall’ by Patrick Smith

'Building the Sutton Parish Hall' Slideshow (20 pictures) - Photography by Jim Lamb
Seated is Vicar of Sutton Rev. Reg Smith with curates Bill Harrington, Fred Cheal and John Lewis
Seated is Rev. Smith with (L-R) curates
Bill Harrington, Fred Cheal & John Lewis
My Dad was the Rev. J. R. Smith, the Vicar of Sutton between 1959 and 1966, who was always known as ‘Reg’ to his parishioners. I moved from Radcliffe at the beginning of September 1959 to start school at Cowley, where the headmaster was Mr. W. H. Wright. For the first three weeks I stayed with Billy Barton and his wife until Mum and Dad moved to the vicarage on New Street. Billy was the organist at All Saints church and he was a lovely man.

When we moved into the vicarage we found it was a huge house which was very cold and was also used for Parish meetings. It was 3 storey tall, although the top floor was panelled off. There was a big garden, with Fred Thomas (featured in the
Sutton Trivia page) living at the bottom of the garden in a hut! We always gave Fred Christmas dinner. Our phone number was 3976 and I was gobsmacked to receive exactly the same school number. No problem remembering either one and each day I took the number 6 bus to Hard Lane for school.

Seated is Rev. Smith with (L-R) curates Bill Harrington, Fred Cheal & John Lewis

During the next seven years we had the following curates:- Dennis Ryder, Bill Harrington, Fred Cheal, Jonathan Bailey, John Lewis and later Jeremy Howett. Dad had responsibility for St Nicholas, All Saints and St Michaels. We reckoned the parish as comprising 23,000 people and it was very lively. There were Schools, a Hospital where Dad was a Chaplain, Collieries, Farms, British Sidac, lots of life. There were choirs at all the churches and Mothers Union, Young Wives etc. etc. It was all go. But we were very fortunate in the curates that Dad had to support him.

The phone was answered day or night, that's the job and my sister Diana and I were part of the team. So we were in choirs and lots of things were going on. I played football, fairly badly for New Street Methodists, as I couldn't get in the St.Nicholas team for all the Catholics and Methodists, not to mention the atheists! Anyway, nothing lost as we just played the game in Sutton Park and other places, though nothing quite matched the footpath across the pitch that was frequently used by the public during the match. Priceless!!

Left: Sutton Vicarage in New Street; Right: Enjoying a trip to Earlestown - photos contributed by Patrick Smith

Left: Sutton Vicarage in New Street; Right: Enjoying a trip to Earlestown

Sutton Vicarage and trip to Earlestown

The above photo (right) was taken on a trip to Earlestown, with me smiling for the camera and Bill Thompson is behind me. Bill’s family had a newsagents in Waterdale Crescent.

There were ups and downs in church life with sudden deaths and accidents etc. All the normal things, it's just that our family were in the thick of it. We had good youth clubs and put on pantomimes and all sorts of entertainment, for example Gang Shows starring all the clergy and their families.

Rev. Smith doing some spade work in 1963 and silver trowel presented to the Vicar - contributed by Jim Lamb / Patrick Smith

Rev. Smith doing some spade work in 1963 and silver trowel presented to the Vicar

Rev. Smith in 1963 and the silver trowel which was presented to the Vicar

It became obvious that the existing Parish Halls were insufficient for all that was going on. So a decision was taken to build a new hall and do it all ourselves using volunteer labour. Could it be done? It certainly could and we paid for the steelwork and one gable end wall, the rest we just got on with and Dad was inspirational! We bought a Bedford 3 ton tipper from Liverpool Sewage Works and called it "Dorcas" after the disciple full of good works, which was a bit dubious! It was insured for six drivers and it carried bricks, sand, in fact everything that was needed. The parish ladies stacked bricks and worked like Trojans! They were fantastic.

Rev. Reg. Smith lays the foundation stone on the Sutton Parish Hall on June 4th 1963 - contributed by Jim Lamb

Money was raised and the building came together and finally it was opened. Dad had laid the Foundation stone and was given a silver trowel. I still have it and it records his "cheerful spadework". He was just so lucky in having so many loyal people behind him and they grafted. Oh boy did they!

Left: Canon Smith in his study; Right: Receiving an MBE at Buckingham Palace in 1997 with Thea - contributed by Patrick Smith

Left: Canon Smith in his study; Right: Receiving an MBE at Buckingham Palace in 1997

Left: Canon Reg Smith in his study; Right: Receiving an MBE in 1997

Then in 1966, Dad got a call to take on the Parish of Bury in Lancashire to become Rector, Rural Dean with responsibility for 26 parishes. He became Chairman of Bury T.S.B. and Chair of Governors at Bury Grammar, Bury Church School, Darley Dale Girls School and eventually Vice-Chairman of Bury F.C. We left Sutton in September 1966, and we never looked back as there was another set of problems and opportunities.

We had a local bobby, Ray Edgell, who took Holy Orders and he followed us to Bury, where he took on St Peters Church. Then there was a lovely Verger from St Nick’s called Lillian Anders and she also followed us to Bury, where she became Sacristan and Verger. She was a diamond. She was as tough as old boots and worked like a machine. About six months before Dad died in 1997, he was awarded the MBE and with my mother Thea (Dorothea) travelled to Buckingham Palace to receive his award. The people of Sutton were the best. We had other parishioners as good, but never better!
PATRICK SMITH

'The Sutton Bug Crush' by Bill Bate

I never knew the Sutton Bug's real name. I think it was the usual practice for most of the kids in Sutton to go on Mondays and Wednesdays plus Saturday mornings. An orderly queue would form about half-an-hour before the ticket office opened. However, as the opening time neared, the ones at the rear were worried that they might not get in. So it ended up with the ones at the back of the queue rushing forward and it was like a rugby scrum around the ticket office entrance! Poor Tom Waring, who wasn't a big man, became lost in the mob and the fact that the first fifty got in for half price, made things worse.

After that, providing that the film didn't break down, things went smoothly. One funny thing that used to happen was when there was snow on the ground. Kids with snow on their shoes stepped into the cinema and there was a 10 foot ramp covered with lino and a lot of them ended up on their bums. Watching them was sometimes as good as watching the films. "Happy Days"!
BILL BATE
'Trekking from the Manor for the Sutton Bug Tuppenny Rush' by George Houghton
Queuing outside the Sutton Bug Empire Cinema
Queuing outside the Sutton 'Bug' Cinema
As a boy in the 1930s I lived in Sutton Manor and the highlight of the week was the visit to Sutton Bug (Empire Cinema) in Junction Lane for the Saturday matinee tuppenny rush. In those days there were no buses via Sutton Leach, so it meant walking from Sutton Manor via Four-acre Lane, Leach Lane and over the Intersection Bridge. It was a regular weekly exercise for us Manorites, and a trek that we had to endure to see our screen idols. Part of the ritual was a visit to the Wooden Hut Shop near Leach Hall to purchase a catapult made from steel wire and cycle valve tubing or a water pistol, a lucky bag or some sticks of liquorice root, all for a copper or two. The catapult and the water pistol were to be used once inside the picture house to cause mayhem while watching Tom Mix, Gene Autry, The Mystery Riders or Flash Gordon.

To this day I don't know why I chewed the liquorice root because the flavour vanished in minutes and then it was just like chewing a dry stick. But all your mates did it, so you pretended to enjoy it. If we were lucky we could stand in the middle of the bridge and get enveloped in steam and thick black smoke from the steam trains passing below. The journey had a certain routine called 'Walk a Gaslamp - Run a Gaslamp' which speeded the journey up a bit and if you failed to jump over the largest york stone paving flag in Monastery Lane, you were certain to have bad luck come your way. Tom Waring the Cinema Fireman and his assistant must have dreaded Saturday afternoons, no wonder he drenched us with disinfectant spray! Happy days.

Queuing outside the Sutton 'Bug'

GEORGE HOUGHTON
'Marshalls Cross Memories' by Liz Mercer
I was born in one of the cottages pictured below at 220 - 226 Marshalls Cross Road. My family lived there from pre-war days and left when they were condemned in approximately 1966. They were situated on the edge of the park in between Eaves Lane and Elton Head Road. My Grandfather was groomsman on the Estate before it was Sherdley Park and he lived at no. 226. All the cottages were adjoined x 4.

The old Marshalls Cross Road Cottages in Sutton where Liz Mercer lived

The old Marshalls Cross Road Cottages in Sutton where Liz Mercer lived

Marshalls Cross Cottages where Liz lived

One story I remember well was that Dr. Eric Baker Bates, son of Henry Baker Bates, after rejection by his step-mother was fed by my Gran and Grandad. My Gran just took him in and fed him along with her three children, Ted, Lily and Austin.  He would say to them that if Lizzie hadn't fed him, he would have starved and he never forgot this. My Grandparents were Sam and Lizzie Spencer and if ever ill, Dr Eric Baker Bates would immediately get them into Providence Hospital and he gave them the best of treatment right up to their deaths in 1970. Whenever he visited Sam and Lizzie, he used to arrive with his house keeper in a Rolls Royce from Rodney Street. My Grandad had a signed caricature of Dr Bates in his doctor's coat in his Living Room, inscribed to Sammy and signed ‘Baker Bates’. He was a marvellous caring man who did so much for the working classes of St Helens in a town where industrial illness and disease was rife. He presumably could have left the area but gave all those years service to the Town and especially Providence Hospital.

My elder sister went to Marshalls Cross Infants ‘little school’ from 1945-50ish when Mrs Finch was headmistress. When I went there from 1958 it was Miss Bithell as headmistress and Mrs Cook was the other teacher. Just two classes over the two years. I remember well Lucy Bath’s shop/post office near by and Mrs Lamb's too. She was a blind deaf lady and with her sister Evelyn ran the general shop that is still there. Whenever our family went into the shop she would ask us to come behind the counter and serve people and we took ages to get out of the shop.

What great memories and a perfect childhood to be brought up on the edge of Sherdley Park which was our playground. The farm land around it that is now Sutton High belonged to Arthur Fenney from Lea Green Farm and my Dad Ted Spencer farmed for him. The farm too was our playground. Perfect childhood! We had nothing but could just run wild and be safe. Marshalls Cross was a small community and everyone knew everyone. Great days.
LIZ MERCER (formerly Spencer)
N.B. Eric Baker Bates (1905-1986), spent his youth living with his father and step-mother at Sutton Hall until the family were forced to leave after a dispute with Col. Michael Hughes. Eric had a medical practice at 68 Rodney Street in Liverpool and was a consultant at Broadgreen and Southport Hospitals. However he is remembered in St.Helens for his work at Providence Hospital and Eric has a memorial in Sutton parish churchyard.

The illustration of Dr. Eric Baker Bates mentioned by Liz Mercer in her article - contributed by Merrick Baker-Bates

Illustration of Dr. Eric Baker Bates mentioned by Liz Mercer in her article

Illustration of Dr. Eric Baker Bates

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
This website is written and researched by Stephen R. Wainwright ©MMXVI  Contact Me
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