town in Merseyside, England, UK

St Helens is a town in Merseyside in England, 14 miles northeast of Liverpool. It was historically part of Lancashire, but in 1974 became a separate metropolitan borough. It's industrial and in 2021 the borough had a population of 183,200.

Two famous families from St Helens are the Beechams, who established the pharmaceutical company and who included the conductor Sir Thomas Beecham, and the Pilkingtons who manufacture plate glass.

Understand Edit

Transporting plate glass

Industry and population boomed in this area in the 18th century. The four towns of Sutton, Parr, Windle and Eccleston grew together and became known as St Helens, from St Elyn's chapel-of-ease in Parr. A town hall was built in 1839, and in 1868 St Helens was incorporated as a borough. The big drivers of its growth were coal-mining and glass, especially plate glass. These marched together because you need coke from coal to achieve the very high temperatures of glass furnaces, approaching 1600°C.

Glass has been made for over 6000 years and the Romans introduced the technology across Europe. Early manufacture produced an uneven puddle, so when it was carved into squares to fill windows, glaziers naturally placed the thicker end at the base. This led to the misconception that glass is a weird kind of liquid that flows over centuries. Plenty of counter-examples disprove this, where the thicker end is at the top, and it is in fact a solid. That said, the precise nature of the transition from flowing liquid to glassy liquid to solid glass remains an unsolved problem in physics.

Only small glass plates could be made, so the Victorians peered out of their homes or into shops through their characteristic partitioned windows. Making larger plates necessitated something clean and flat to lay the molten glass on, that could withstand the intense heat. Baths of molten tin were used from the 19th century, but it only became a viable mass-production method in 1960, thanks to Alastair Pilkington and Kenneth Bickerstaff in St Helens. Their "float-glass" process was licensed and used worldwide. Shops installed broad store windows and changed the face of the High Street, offices opened out their architecture, and "plate-glass universities" sprang up on greenfield campuses.

The process patents expired in the 1980s but Pilkington Brothers tried to maintain a monopoly until busted by US anti-cartel legislation. The company now faced the chill winds of competition. They still manufacture plate glass but have been taken over by NSG, a Japanese company.

Get in Edit

Map of St Helens (England)

The area around St Helens is criss-crossed by motorways. M6 east is the usual approach from London and the Midlands. M62 south connects Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds. M57 southeast, effectively Liverpool ring road, connects Widnes and Kirkby, for Formby and Southport. St Helens is 14 miles from Liverpool (with John Lennon LPL IATA airport) and 22 miles from Manchester (with the much better connected MAN IATA airport).

By train Edit

Trains from Liverpool Lime Street run every 30 min via Edge Hill, Eccleston Park and Thatto Park, taking 30 min to St Helens Central. They continue to Wigan North Western, and some go on to Preston and Blackpool. From London Euston change at Liverpool or Wigan, either way takes 2 hr 45 min.

1 St Helens Central has a staffed ticket office and machines, toilets, and a waiting room on each platform. There is step-free access to both platforms. Plusbus tickets are available.

Trains from Manchester Piccadilly and Victoria run hourly via Newton-le-Willows towards Liverpool Lime Street, and stop at St Helens Junction and Lea Green three miles south of town.

2 St Helens Junction has a staffed ticket office and machines but no toilets. For step-free access to the Liverpool-bound platform you need to call ahead, no barriers Manchester-bound. Plusbus is available, and you'll want the bus to reach town centre.

By bus Edit

The major bus lines no longer have regular services to St Helens.

Arriva Bus 10 / 10A runs every 20 min from Liverpool Queen St, taking 70 min. Don't take the 10B, which branches off to Huyton.

Bus 329 runs every 40 min from Warrington, taking 35 min. Bus 352 runs every 20 min from Wigan, taking 45 min.

Bus 35 runs every 30 min from Junction railway station to the rugby stadium and bus station, then west to Gillars Green.

Bus 17 runs every 30 min from Widnes via Sutton Manor, Lea Green railway station, Sherdley Park and the rugby stadium.

St Helens bus station is 100 yards west of Central railway station.

Get around Edit

Most of the attractions are within walking distance.

Bus 12 circles every 30 min between the bus station, Central railway station and the shopping centres.

Taxi operators include AtoB (+44 1744 600600).

See Edit

World of Glass Museum
"... a township unpleasing to the eye, where the natural amenities have been replaced by everything unlovely that man could devise" - St Helens circa 1905
  • Town Hall is a rambling 19th-century sort-of-Italianate building on Corporation Street and houses the municipal offices.
  • St Helens Parish Church is on Church St 200 yards west of Central station. It's Anglican, completed in 1926 after its predecessor burned down.
  • North West Museum of Road Transport, Old Bus Depot, 51 Hall St WA10 1DU (100 yards north of Central station), +44 1744 451681. Su 11AM-4PM. Great collection of old buses and cars, many built at Leyland Motors not far north. Dog-friendly. Adult or conc £4, child £2.50.    
  • 1 World of Glass, Chalon Way East WA10 1BX, +44 1744 22766. Tu-Sa 10AM-5PM. Museum demonstrating the town's history of glass manufacture. Adult £8, child or conc £6.
  • 2 Carr Mill Dam originally just impounded a mill pond, but was enlarged in 1750 to create a reservoir for Sankey Canal. So it's a mile-long lake used for angling and competitive powerboating. Lakeside trails lead into Sankey Valley.
  • Sankey Valley Country Park stretches for 7 miles southeast from Carr Mill Dam along the line of Sankey Canal, which is joined by Sankey Brook and flows to Newton-Le-Willows. There are footpaths and cycleways. The canal is disused.
  • 3 Colliers Moss Common is a reclaimed brownfield site, on waste from a power station. It's been landscaped with parkland, lagoons and pathways.
  • 4 Sherdley Park   is an extensive green space yet was once very much greater, owned by the Hughes mining dynasty, lords of all they surveyed. In the 20th century it was sold off piecemeal, and its mansions were demolished, until after the Second World War the Borough bought the remnant as a park. The north end is Sherdley Park Golf Club, the south has formal gardens, woodland, ponds and play areas. It's sometimes used as an event space.
  • 5 Sutton Manor is a park, centred on "The Dream", a 66 ft sculpture. From 1906 to 1991 it was a colliery, one of the deepest on the Lancashire coalfield at 2000 ft, and the colliery gates still stand on Jubits Lane its western boundary. There was never a pit disaster, but some 60 workers died in accidents, and the mine often struggled for profitability. It fell victim to an NCB "review" and the site was cleared and landscaped. The park has a mix of woods and open lawns and is accessible 24 hours.
  • 6 Windleshaw Chantry is a ruin, all that remains of an abbey; it was built in 1435 so it is by some distance the oldest building in St Helens. A chantry was where monks chanted prayers for the illustrious dead - especially their patron's ancestors, if they knew what was good for them.
  • 7 Smithy Heritage Centre, Kiln Lane, Ecclestone WA10 4RA, +44 1744 730744. Apr-Sep: Su noon-4PM. Small industrial history museum in a former blacksmith's smithy. Free.

Do Edit

"The Dream" at Sutton Manor
  • What's on? Read Liverpool World.
  • Theatre: Theatre Royal is on Corporation St (Box Office +44 1744 756000). The Citadel is on Waterloo St (+44 7821 659962).
  • 1 St Helens RFC, McManus Drive, Peasley Cross Lane WA9 3AL, +44 1744 455050. The Saints play rugby league (13 a side) in the Super League, Britain's top tier. They often win it and qualify for European tournaments. Their home ground is Totally Wicked Stadium (formerly Langtree Park), capacity 18,000, half a mile south of town centre. The women's team likewise play in their top tier at the same stadium, which in 2022 hosted matches in the Rugby League World Cup, postponed from 2021. The RL playing season is Feb to Sept.    
  • Cineworld, Chalon Way WA10 1BF, +44 330 333 4444. Chain multiplex cinema showing mainstream releases.
  • Golf: nearby courses are Sherdley Park and Grange Park, with another dozen further out.
  • 2 Knowsley Safari Park, Prescot Rd, Prescot L34 4AN, +44 151 430 9009. Daily 10AM-6PM. You drive 5 miles through parkland enclosures for lions, tigers, zebras, rhinos, baboons, ostriches and camels. The baboons maybe grew up in a feral neighbourhood of Skelmersdale as they're notorious for vandalising cars, so you might prefer to take the Baboon Bus through that section - though they don't say which primate species is driving. Adult or child £12.    
  • Go to the races but set off early. Haydock Park is in Ashton-in-Makerfield north of Newton-le-Willows, with flat-racing in summer and jumps in winter. Aintree north edge of Liverpool is a winter jumps course, where the premier event is the Grand National in April.
  • Reminisce Festival in September celebrates 1990s music. The next event is in Sherdley Park on Saturday 10 Sept 2022.

Learn Edit

  • St Helens College has academic and vocational courses for school leavers and adult learners. Main campus is Water St in town centre.
  • Carmel College has courses for 16-18 year olds and 18+. It's on Prescot Rd 3 miles southwest.

Buy Edit

Windleshaw Chantry
  • Church Square Shopping Centre is half a mile west of Central station. It has two arcades built around the parish church.
  • St Mary's Market is within Church Square Shopping Centre and has small market shops.
  • Hardshaw Centre was the other central mall, but it's set to be demolished and replaced by office blocks.

Eat Edit

  • La Casa Vieja, 6-12 Library St WA10 1DH (50 yards from Central station), +44 1744 454613. Th-Sa 5-10PM. Relaxed restaurant with tapas and other Spanish cuisine.
  • The New Era Greeks, 35 North Rd WA10 1TW, +44 1744 808840. Tu-Th 5-10PM, F Sa 5-11PM, Su noon-10PM. Friendly informal place serving Med staple dishes.
  • Limassol on 17 Baldwin St has similar Greek-Cypriot fare plus occasional belly-dancing.
  • Colours Restaurant, 39 Waterloo St WA10 1PX, +44 1744 623155. W noon-1PM, Th F noon-1PM, 6:30-8PM. This is run by St Helens College as a training restaurant for the catering trade. It gets good reviews, which tend to improve from Oct to May as the trainees gain skills.
  • Phoenix Plant-Based Eatery, Bridge St WA10 1NU (within Church Square Shopping Centre), +44 7947 696016. F Sa 10AM-4PM, Su noon-4PM. Quirky vegan cafe.
  • Bruno's Rodizio, Rigby St WA10 2JX, +44 1744 20400. M-Th 4:30-10PM, F Sa 4:30PM-1:30AM, Su 3-10PM. Brazilian restaurant, meat-oriented but with veggie choices.
  • The Glass House (JD Wetherspoon), 5 Market Street WA10 1NE (within Church Square Shopping Centre), +44 1744 762310. Su-Th 8AM-midnight, F Sa 8AM-01AM. Usually a reliable Spoons for food and drink, but many visitors find standards have slipped.
  • Palace Balti, 59 Duke St WA10 2JF, +44 1744 25000. Daily 5-11PM. Friendly reliable Indian restaurant, and the banquets are very good value.
  • 1 Red Cat, 8 Red Cat Lane, Crank WA11 8RU, +44 1744 882442. Tu-Su noon-9PM. Country pub serving trad northern fare.

Drink Edit

Baboon in Knowsley Safari Park
  • Ice Bar, 58 Ormskirk Street WA10 2TF, +44 1744 616641. A small bar, with good drinks, nice atmosphere, karaoke weekend nights and live acts on Sunday afternoons.
  • The Sefton, 7 Baldwin St WA10 2RS, +44 1744 22065. Su-Th 10AM-11PM, F Sa 10AM-2AM. Reliable place for pub meals.
  • Market Tavern, 26 Bridge St WA10 1NW, +44 1744 757313. M-Sa 9AM-m-dnight, Su 10AM-midnight. Sound trad pub with TV sport and beer garden.
  • Westfields Bar, 37 Westfield Street WA10 1QJ. M-F 10AM-3:30PM then F Sa 8PM-3:30AM. Friendly town centre bar, night club at weekends.
  • Glass Horse, 80 Sherdley Rd WA9 5DW (junction with Linkway), +44 1744 29991. Daily 8AM-11PM. Family-oriented pub with food just south of rugby stadium.
  • Distillery: Monk Isidore Spirits make vodka on North Mersey Business Park near Kirkby.

Sleep Edit

Napoleon feared he was being exiled to St Helens
  • 1 Hotel Mercure, Linkway West WA10 1NG, +44 1744 453444. Slick comfy place, central, part of the Accor-Ibis chain. B&B double £90.
  • Parkview on Prescot Rd gets poor reviews.
  • 2 Travelodge, A580 Piele Road, Haydock WA11 9TL, +44 871 984 6145. Handy for motorists on East Lancs Road, but several guests had to hold their nose. B&B double £70.
  • 3 Mercure Haydock Hotel, Penny Lane, Haydock WA11 9SG (jcn 23 of M6), +44 1942 559940. Good mid-price hotel in Accor chain. B&B double £80.
  • 4 OYO Lakeside Haydock Hotel, Garswood Old Road, East Lancs Road WA11 9AB. Decent mid-price place if they honour the booking, but they sometimes don't, and no phone if you're locked out. No dogs. B&B double £120.
  • Premier Inn is some way south on Linkway to M62, so it's convenient for passing motorists but not for town centre. There's another nearby at Rainhill on A57.

Stay safe Edit

Usual common sense around traffic, safeguarding valuables including in parked cars, and avoiding idiot drunks. Some outlying estates are rough at night but you have no reason to be there.

Connect Edit

As of Aug 2022, St Helens and its approach roads have 4G from O2 and Vodafone, and 5G from EE and Three.

Go next Edit

  • Liverpool is a lively city needing a few days to explore.
  • Formby is the closest beach resort, with sand dunes and pine woods with red squirrels. Genteel Southport is a few miles further north.
  • Warrington is another industrial stronghold of Rugby League, as is Wigan
  • Chester is a charming historic walled city.

Routes through St Helens
Liverpool  W   E  WarringtonManchester
Liverpool  W   SE  WidnesWarrington
merges with   and    SW   NE  WiganBolton

This city travel guide to St Helens is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.